Hard-Disk Recording Software Package: Sonic Foundry®’s Vegas Pro™
Suggested retail price: US $599.00*
As home digital recording begins to make its way into the mainstream in both popularity, and cost-effectiveness, today’s home recording phenoms and garage bands have more and more access to high-quality, low-cost recording packages than ever before. No longer do we have to rely on the simple analog tape-based four-track machines, or the trusty old two-track Panasonic tape deck; no, now we can achieve high-end studio-quality recordings for a mere fraction of the cost of a professional studio.
The heart of many such home recording setups is the multi-track software package. Currently, many companies offer such packages that run the gamut from very entry-level (around $100.00) that offer very limited functionality and a small number tracks, to the high-end products such as ProTools® that can cost upwards of $10,000.00. Today, LegendaryTones will be taking a look at Sonic Foundry®’s Vegas Pro™ multi-tracking software with the optional XFX 1 and XFX 2 effects plug-ins for reverbs, delays, compressors, etc.
*Sonic Foundry recently unveiled Vegas Audio 2.0, Vegas Pro’s successor; however, Vegas Pro is still available both as a bundled option as well as on closeout from various dealers. As a result, Vegas Pro is not only still a valid application to examine, but it may be found for a comparative good deal in today’s marketplace. Also, for those considering Vegas Audio 2.0, (which LegendaryTones hopes to examine and report on soon), Vegas Pro should be thought of as the fundamental base program that will also provide insight into the overall functionality of the updated Vegas Audio 2.0.
The first thing we noticed when we opened the box was the 86-page user manual. Upon thumbing through the manual, we found a comprehensive, yet simple to read and understand layout that included plenty of graphical illustrations and a great quick start guide to get up and running in no time. After installing the software, it was necessary to register the product before we could use it. This could be accomplished in two ways; register by telephone, or by email. We chose the phone route, which took no longer than two minutes. After that, we were on our way.
Our first time booting up the software, we were pleasantly surprised by the clean, easy to figure out user interface. Even without reading the manual, the basic features of the software were very easy to figure out.
To test the software, we decided it best to actually put it in a ‘real-world’ situation and record a live band.We figured this would be the best way to actually test the limits of the software’s recording capabilities in real-time. Below, you will find a detailed description of our recording system.
*500MHz Pentium® III with Windows 98
*256MB PC100 SDRAM
*18GB Ultra 2 Wide SCSI Seagate® Cheetah™ hard disk drive
*Mackie® 1604 VLZ mixer
*M Audio® Delta 1010™ (8 in/8 out)
*Sonic Foundry® XFX 1 and 2
Using our test system, we set out to record a four-piece band, which required the use of all eight inputs on the Delta 1010 unit, as well as use of eight Vegas Pro tracks simultaneously. We were sure that this would at least crash the computer within the first ten seconds of recording, but alas, we were wrong… and pleasantly surprised again. We were able to record the whole band’s basic tracks at the same time, without a hitch. The tune we recorded was a long one at 7 and one half minutes, and it froze up every other software package we have personally evaluated to date.
After the initial recording was finished, we set out to complete the overdubs. This section would be the true test of the software in terms of whether it would be able to accommodate such a large amount of tracks including effects without problems. Surprisingly again, we were able to record a total of 36 tracks at 44.1KHz with no problem. The next and final step of our experiment was to actually mix the track down and add all of the effects, which is traditionally a very CPU/RAM taxing operation. Everything went really well. We added the initial track compression on the drums, guitar, bass and vocals. There are two separate ways to do this within the program: use each separate track’s effects (compressor, noise gate and delay), or use the effects in the XFX packs in a master effect bus configuration (you can apply the effect to any of the tracks through a semi effects loop type method).
After adding the compression, we added the EQ, which added another 6 effects busses. At that point, we were shocked that there was no stuttering due to CPU and RAM taxing. The final step was to add the reverb, and this was the only point that we encountered any problems. After adding the reverb effect bus, we finally heard some of the audio stuttering that we had expected at the compression stage. Readers should note though, that this is not usually an artifact of the software, but rather a limitation of the processor itself. To prove this, we actually ran the same test on a PIII 933MHz machine, and found that we were able to squeeze two reverb channels on the recording without the stutter problem. One more thing we noticed (and really liked) about the software was the fact that an effect could be applied immediately to any given track, and we did not have to wait for it to render.
After the mix down, we converted the song to a .wav file. The rendering process took roughly one minute, and we were left with an excellent quality mix down copy of the recording. Note that Vegas also copies files in the .aif, .avi, .mp3, and .txt, as well as the proprietary .veg format.
In the end, we were amazed at the functionality, ease of use and quality recordings that Vegas Pro afforded us, and would heartily recommend it to any musician looking to create their own high-quality recordings. Although the price is a little higher (SRP $599.00 US - see note marked * earlier) than other packages, the features more than make up for that. This is a great software package for beginners and professionals alike, and LegendaryTones awards it a strong 9 out of 10 points, thereby making it an Editor’s Choice product for our "Recording" section.
* Pentium 200 microprocessor (400 MHz microprocessor recommended)
* Microsoft Windows 9x / NT 4.0
* Windows-compatible sound card
* DirectX Media Runtime 6.0
* Internet Explorer™ 4.0 or later
* At least 32MB RAM (128MB recommended)
* At least 20MB free disk space