As I was eating breakfast just now (at about noon, like any self-respecting musician), I noticed this little block of text on my Shredded Wheat box. It read: “Look! We’re on the Web!”

Okay, let’s ask ourselves: Who is so starved for entertainment out there that they have to go and look up their breakfast cereal on the Internet? And does anybody actually have that much extra time on their hands? If I ever get that bored, will someone out there promise to come and just shoot me?

Seems to me that everybody and everything now has a Web site. Well, everyone except me, that is. Actually, let me clarify that: I have one, but there’s nothing on it since I haven’t had time to figure out HTML. What with my duties for Sweetwater, my sound design business, writing articles for national publications, designing and producing full color ads, working on my novel (I’m up to Chapter 11), doing a bit of freelance photography on the side . . . well, you get the picture.

Anyhow, one day I’ll have my own Web site. Meanwhile, those of you Web surfing might want to drop in and check out all the new pages in Sweetwater’s Web site (now over 3,000 pages total, I believe). Everytime I go there I find tons of stuff I’ve never seen before. So skip the breakfast cereal site and go directly to www.sweetwater.com. Unless, of course, you have some odd cereal fixation. In that case, I just suggest you seek help . . . fast!

As if I don’t have enough to keep me busy, I just got a pre-release copy of Peak 2.0 from the nice folks over at Berkeley Integrated Audio Software (better known as BIAS), and let me tell you, if you’ve used Peak in the past, this new version will really blow you away! For those who are unfamiliar with Peak (where have you guys been?), it’s basically the most full-featured, easy-to-use, two-track digital audio editing program available - according to me anyway.

Wait, you’re thinking: “What? Just two tracks?” Yes, there is a need for two-track digital: For your final mix, for CD, video, film and even audio for the Web. With support for AIFF, SDIl, .WAV, QuickTime Pro Tools-style dual mono files, RealAudio Internet sound files, multiple compression formats (including QDesign, IMA, µ-Law and others), as well as support for files all the way up to 32-bits, Peak is a real powerhouse. What’s more, it’s one of the few remaining Mac-based sample editors around, something I can’t live without. Need to zap files from your Akai, Kurzweil, Yamaha, etc. over to your Mac for some quick fixes or some sophisticated processing? Peak’s your best friend.

Peak already had a very user-friendly interface, but 2.0's re-designed interface is a breeze to navigate with a new customizable tool bar and a floating palette. One feature I’m really excited about is that left and right channels can now be independently processed (it was one of the only features about previous versions that had me gnashing my teeth). For you video guys out there (and I know there’s a lot of you), Peak's new QuickTime support lets you import digital video movies and synchronize your audio to video with better-than-single frame accuracy.

Of course Peak 2.0 includes support for up to 24- and 32-bit audio files, Digidesign DAE recording and playback, real-time Adobe Premiere audio plug-ins, plus support for TDM and Audiosuite plug-ins, CD burning directly from the playlist, SMPTE/EBU timecode synchronization, and tons more. We’d be here for a good chunk of the day if I gave you a complete list of everything this program does.

By the time you read this, Peak 2.0 should be shipping and we’ll have more information for you (along with some screen shots) in our next issue. Meanwhile, I suggest (as I always do at this point) that you contact your friendly, incredibly knowledgeable Sweetwater Sales Engineer for availability and your special low pricing on this outstanding software package.

Speaking of software, I have to mention a great product that I’ve been meaning to tell you about for a couple of issues now: Retro AS-1 from BitHeadz. Now I wasn’t at the marketing meeting when they came up with this, but I’m guessing that the “AS” in the product name refers to analog syhthesizer, which is what the Retro AS-1 really is, a software clone of a vintage analog synth. If you 1) love the sound of analog synths and 2) love to tweak sounds, get yourself a copy of this software - it’s probably as much fun as you’ll ever have on a computer (legally) for $249. That’s list - your Sweetwater price will, of course, be lower.

I just took a test drive on the Retro AS-1 and I can tell you that there are a number of sounds that immediately inspired me and made me want to turn on my ADAT and lay down some tracks. Among these are “Beautiful Cello” (which is nice and cello-like in the lower ranges, but really evocative in the upper octaves, though you’d never say it sounds like a cello up there), “Electric Oboe”, “Alaska” and “Soft Flute” (which is so pure, you might, at first, think it’s a sample). Of course, all the fat analog sounds are great (“Keith Brass” is just one example).

I don’t know who did the programming on these and many of the other great sounds (I’m guessing it was a committe because there are about 1,000 presets bundled with the AS-1 software), but my hat’s off to them. And even when I heard something that just didn’t initially impress me, it was easy to go in and make some quick edits and end up with a sound that I really liked (see Edit Window screen shot above).

To give you some idea as to how deep this synth is, there are two programmable filters (one, two or four pole low pass and high pass plus resonant and even state-variable high, low, bandpass and band stop) which can be applied to any program (each of which can have up to three oscillators). In addition, FM (that’s frequency modulation, as was so popular in the old DX7) can be applied to any oscillator to give you a tremendous amount of expressiveness beyond what is possible using just analog synthesis.

And, oh yes, as if all that wasn’t enough, it has editable effects that actually sound pretty darn good. Plus it has a killer manual in PDF format that is intelligently laid out and very readable. There are a few manufacturers out there who could really take a lesson from these people.

Just as I originally had trouble viewing my computer as a recording setup, I initially had problems viewing the Mac as a synth module. That is changing more and more each time I fire up Retro AS-1 and find some cool new sound. I’m pretty sure that you know the drill by now: Call your Sweetwater Sales Engineer for additional information and your special pricing.

Finally, as another year winds down (gee, wasn’t it just January?) I want to say thanks to all my readers for their positive (and yes, sometimes negative) comments and feedback. But most of all I want to say thanks to Chuck and Brenda and my extended Sweetwater family for seven and a half years of great memories. My best to you all. Stay healthy, enjoy the holidays and I look forward to meeting you all back here safe and sound in 1999.