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Peak performance

Macintosh users know what a coup it is to come across an application that does its job better than its Windows counterpart. Version 4 of Peak might just prove the Mac addicts correct.

Macintosh users know what a coup it is to come across an application that does its job better than its Windows counterpart, and devotees of Bias’s Peak series of waveform editor swear that’s the case with that product. Though ProTools fans might have something to say about it, version 4 of Peak might just prove the Mac addicts correct.

Peak 4 comes with a solid array of the usual tools associated with sound editors (fade in/out, normalize, gain envelope, reverse, invert, sample rate conversion, mix paste, pitch change, panner, and so on), but it’s the out-of-the-ordinary features that will make Peak 4 worth its price ($499 MSRP, $149 to upgrade from previous versions) for armchair producers.

Take Convolve, a feature that might be familiar to users of previous Peak editions. The feature assigns the dynamic characteristics of one piece of sound to another–in other words, if one sound file sounds tinny to you, find one with a richer sound, copy it and apply Convolve, and listen as Peak applies the spectral character you were after. It’s great for adding eerie, ethereal textures to a track. It might sound gimmicky, but it’s hard to appreciate how cool it is until you try it.

My favorite functions might be the various looping tools. I love making, mixing, and matching loops, but I’m pretty clumsy at it. Peak 4 removes much of the flailing about with a Guess Tempo function, which assigns, with remarkable accuracy, a beats-per-minute figure to a selection; a loop tuner, which helps resolve pitch conflicts; and Crossfade Loop, which impressively smooths clunky transitions between the start and end of a loop.

Other nice features of Peak 4 are Impulseverb (a reverb function with hundreds of room sounds), Peak’s proprietary Sqweez compressor, POW-r dithering (which lets you maintain audio quality when saving a file at a lower bitrate), and reverse boomerang (which precisely mixes a backwards piece of music with its forward counterpart, with often bizarre results).

A couple of quibbles: Peak 4 is a powerful piece of equipment, and is consequently a space hog. A 300MHz processor is recommended, and 256MB of RAM is required. That might not seem like much if you use Peak 4 in your profession, or if you have a nicely souped-up G4, but if Peak is only a just-for-fun app, you won’t like the slowdowns it causes. (For users still working with Mac OS 9, or who want a somewhat lite version of the application, Bias includes an optional Peak 3.5 OS 9 installer.)

Also, the toolbar sports dozens of icon shortcuts, but no mouse-over hint windows. While you’re getting up to speed with Peak 4’s array of functions, you’re going to have to either go to the pulldown menus a lot or guess which function you’re calling up.

Thanks to products like Peak, the line between the audio professionals and audio enthusiasts is getting blurrier by the day. If you’ve got some leftover holiday dough burning a hole in your pocket, your Mac home studio would love an upgrade in the form of Peak 4.

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