I had a little bit of an awkward moment the other day. Well it was the other day but with hosting problems intervening, it is now a month or two back – forgive me. Anyway, I had a very quick and dirty job to do for Good Friday. I was putting together a video using music from The Plymouth Music Series album Witness, and very good it is too. I had spent some time looking for a suitable version of the old gospel number ‘Were you There?’ and having enjoyed everyone from Sam Cooke to Mavis Staples, I had settled on the more trad choir approach of the Plymouth version. However I had a problem, the excellent recording has a considerable dynamic range and I needed to make some simple gain changes to enhance audibility.
And so I pressed the button on Wavelab 8.5 which is pretty much my go to toolbox for single file jobs. However Wavelab stuttered and died, like a petrol engine sucking too much air. And again, and again. I popped over to the Steinberg page and carried out an update/reinstall still no joy. I pulled the string on the outboard to no avail. I was about to fire off an email to support when I noticed a hot fix on the same page as the latest release that I had installed. On closer examination it seems there is a problem for 64 bit versions of Wavelab when Microsoft OneDrive has been installed. And guess what I had recently installed said OneDrive.
Good news for Wavelab owners this fix is included in the latest version of Wavelab 9 – check out my review of the Lab V9 – very good it is too.
But what is the point of this rambling? Well I needed a quick fix and it jogged my memory. Rather than do another install, ‘hadn’t those nice people at Rogue Amoeba – rogueamoeba.com – sent me a review copy of Fission, their lossless editor for OSX?’ Yes they had. And had I not installed it with all good intentions to give it some attention when a moment arose? Yes I had. And had I done that? No. Shame on me.
So pass the OSX machine and let’s fire up Fission. Rule one – Fission is not Wavelab. On the Fission tin it says – ‘Crop and trim audio, paste and join files, or just rapidly split one long file into many. If you need to convert formats, Fission can do that too! You can rapidly export or batch convert files to MP3, AAC, Apple Lossless, FLAC, AIFF and Wave formats.’
And one thing they don’t say on the on tin, Fission has some simple gain tools. You can normalise a file or if you live in the States you can normalize it. For a finer grained approach you can apply gain changes to a range, or you can normalise a selected range. Simple stuff but enough to get the dynamic range of “Were You There” under better control.
The general Fission experience is very nice indeed. A well designed interface, simple clearly labeled controls and a speed of operation that makes everything pretty slick.
And while I had Fission out of the box I had a good look round. One of Fission’s claims to fame is the lossless nature of its editing. No big deal if you are editing uncompressed files like wavs, why would you lose any data in Wav world? But much more significant if you are swimming in the lossy soup of the files most of us have on our media players. Then your talking about editing mp3 and AAC formates, and doing that natively is kind of a big deal. Of course most DAWs can edit these files but they often go through an uncompress/edit/recompress loop to get there. So your Cheeky Girls Greatest Hits get converted to uncompressed wav for editing and then once edited recompressed to mp3 – a process that will undoubtedly not improve the sound of “Hooray, Hooray, It’s a Cheeky Holiday.”
In Windows world I usually turn to mp3DirectCut for mp3 editing and while it has a few more features,it is a little clunky next to the smooth easy on the eye operation of Fission. And it doesn’t quite support the range of file types that Fission does. So if you are on OSX and editing lossy files and don’t want to lose anything else Fission seems like a great place to start.
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“But what about effects?”, I hear you cry? ‘Where’s me multi-band convolution based ffr spectral retro modelling dorkerlizer?’ inspired by Alan Parson’s famous rack? Well there aren’t any, apart from changing the gain of a segment or adding fades you have nary a bell nor a whistle. Which is probably a good thing, I know a single VST plugin would be jolly handy, I know. But a single plug in is just like ‘just one more whisky’, there’s no such thing. Of course Rogue Amoeba may repent and add some stuff in future versions, but for the moment, this is a tool that does edits, gain stuff and batch format conversion. It does chapterization or for those of us in Dorking, chapterisation. And those things are well worth doing in a cheap, high quality package, that loads in the blink of an i.
That doesn’t mean Fission is perfect – I’d like more keyboard control, some sort of gain ramp and and an edit preview function. But I’m not complaining. And next time we can discuss Audio Hijack – Rogue Amoeba’s recorder, for that too is a wonder to behold.