- Created on 05 September 2011
NCH Audio Essentials is described by the software house as ‘The Most Comprehensive Audio Suite Available’. Containing six major self-contained programs, all Audio related; also a number of programs included free that may be of help to those using the major programs. The main programs are:-
‘Wavepad Sound Editor’ – a full sound editor, edit and add effects to music and recordings.
‘Mixpad Multi-Track Mixer’ – mix recordings, including music and voice.
‘RecordPad Sound Recorder’ – Record audio (including voice) for presentations, announcements or messages, save as ‘wav’ or ‘mp3’.
‘Golden Records Vinyl Converter’ - convert records and cassettes to CD or mp3 files. Includes audio restoration facility to remove ‘pops and cracks’.
‘Switch Audio File Converter – Switches audio files into different formats quickly. Over 30 formats supported. Also extracts audio from video files, which is quite unusual.
Finally Zulu DJ Software - Basically a music mixer with automatic beat detection.
When the major programs are registered, free download access is also offered to other programs, and there are quite a few interesting ones to look at!
The Suite retails at £54.99, but shop around, you can get a good deal!
Now to get down to business! What you need to know is that when ‘Audio Essentials’ is described as a ‘Suite’ , what it really means is that it is a collection of audio related programs that function independently of each other, and you utilize each one in turn dependent upon the end result you are looking for i.e. they don’t really ‘talk’ to each other. The benefit of having the applications as part of a suite as opposed to a single standalone software is that each can be dedicated to individual tasks, allowing greate customisation over the editing process. Individual standalone software, in our experience tends to have a more complicated interface and less flexibility.
Although (once installed!) we were impressed with NCH Audio essentials, we found that when trying to install the suite (and we tried on both Desktop PC and Laptop) that the CD would not ‘Autorun’. (A note on the bottom of the box tells you to ‘open StartWindows.html or StartMac.html’ - not too explicit for those who aren’t too used to starting from the ‘My Computer’ area!). In fact we found the whole process of installing these programs rather tedious and would suspect that again, someone who was not too computer literate would definitely have trouble with the process of downloading the updates, registering their software (after receiving activation codes by email which have to be printed out etc. etc.). After this has been done, you then have to ‘backup’ each program to disc or other storage device. Obviously we have sympathy with NCH as they are trying to protect themselves against illegal use of their software, but as they have such a good product couldn’t they iron out the really annoying initiation rite it’s necessary to go through, before you can even use the software? Granted, they soften the blow because when you have gone through the process you are offered the chance to try more free software!! Oh Yes, and could we omit the annoying option of the ‘Ask Toolbar’ that invites itself at every installation?
OK, the complaints are over! Well the programs work easily, although some are so technical that we obviously haven’t been able to try them out to their full potential. There is always a ‘simple option’ offered so a less adept user can get good use out of each program. The excellent ‘User Manual’ impressed us and as such was one of the best we’ve seen. At first the manual looks quite daunting, but don’t get put off, the authors have taken a lot of trouble to explain, not only the workings of the programs, but also quite a bit about how audio sound works. It follows a clear layout and is easy to follow. Also there is no need to feel ‘lost’ or ‘out of your depth’ whilst using any of the programs because again, you just press the help button and you have a wealth of guidance available, containing the same very well thought out ‘step-by–step’ information (see below) as that found in the Manual. The program has clear and (mainly) simple to understand dialog boxes. All areas are flagged well as you run over them, which is something that often seems to be lacking in similar programs.
What is really well thought out is that when a piece of kit such as an input source (such as a microphone, tape deck, amplifier) has to be added for use, a handy wizard is offered to take you right through the set up. This is offered right at the beginning of the process, not when you find yourself half way through and you’re wondering what to do to get the thing working! These are available for various tasks.
The main programs included are:-
WavePad Sound Editor
MixPad Multi –track Mixer
RecordPad Sound Recorder
Golden Records Vinyl Converter
Switch Audio File Converter
Zulu DJ Software
Given the clear dialog boxes, the good signage and the very good manual, and also the plus of many extra free and trial programs available with this Suite, we think this is a good package. So, in summary, ‘Audio Essentials’ offers a very good range of audio tools for those wanting to work with audio files, mixing, tracking, all types of presentation. Also good for musicians who want touch up tracks, demos; and the free tuning, tempo and music notation software would be an extra bonus for them. Lastly, we liked the ‘Golden Records’ Vinyl Converter’: It's very simple to use actually works very well and although it doesn’t have quite the same sensitivity as some dedicated programs, it cleans tracks up quite well, for burning onto CD or mp3.
In summary, NCH Audio essential offers a good deal for the money, and if the registration and installation processes were slighly less confusing for the un-initiated, it would get the full 5 stars, instead of 4.5 stars!