Peak's customizable tool bar. QuickTime support alows users to import digital movies and synchronize audio to them.

 

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Review: BIAS Peak 2.1
Sound-editing software for Macintosh

by Paul D. Lehrman

Four years ago, a small Northern California company called Berkley Integrated Audio Software (named for its president, not the city), or BIAS, came out with what might be called the first modern audio-design and editing program for the Macintosh. It was a product that was sorely needed. Digidesign's Sound Designer, by then 10 years old, was getting awfully long in the tooth, and the only comparable program, Donny Blank's Alchemy, had dropped out of sight when the last of a series of publishers, Passport Designs, discontinued it not long before they themselves bit the dust.

Alchemy (while still in many respects a very cool program, with an honored place on my hard drive) is today long gone, but Sound Designer, despite regular reports of its impending demise, is still available. For some of us, particularly those using older Digidesign gear, Sound Designer remains useful for quick and dirty editing, file format changes within a small universe, and other such straightforward tasks, and I for one would not give it up quickly, either as a production tool or a teaching tool. (Its visual FFT displays still give me goose bumps.)

Peak started out by deliberately filling in the gaps left by Sound Designer. Whereas Digidesign's product was entirely disk-based and performed most of its functions by literally chopping up disk files and moving them around, Peak, recognizing that people have a lot more disk space and RAM than they used to, uses a combination of disk access and RAM processing to manipulate sounds more quickly. It also does so nondestructively, even when it's using hard disk space, thanks to its inclusion of a “scratch disk” feature. So it's hard to make a mistake with Peak, since nothing gets carved in stone until you tell it to.

From the outset, Peak could do sample transfers from the Mac to hardware samplers, using both the impossibly slow MIDI Sample Dump Standard and the much more useful SMDI. Sound Designer (which, historians will recall, actually began life as a visual editor for the Emulator II) had dropped that particular ball, and so the new software immediately gained a loyal following within the sampler community.

Other features that Peak brought to the table were a far larger choice of file formats to save to and load from; unlimited Undos with an Edit History window, which lets you travel back in time through your editing operations and at any point change your mind and choose the road not taken; digital extraction from audio CDs (actually part of QuickTime, but made easy in Peak); batch processing; AppleScript support; and, since it couldn't easily use Digidesign plugins, support for Premiere plugins, a format that started out as a “kid brother” to Digidesign but now boasts some pretty impressive tools.

The latest revision, version 2.1
Filling the gaps left by Sound Designer is no longer a priority—a greater challenge to the designers of Peak has been keeping pace with the formidable progress made on the PC side of the audio world by programs like Cool Edit Pro and Sound Forge. Which they've done: Peak remains a thoroughly modern program, with a terrific feature set.

In fact, it is now three programs: Peak LE ($99) is the entry-level “lite” edition, which can also be found bundled with a number of other programs like Adaptec's Jam and Macromedia's Director; the “professional” version is just known as Peak 2.1 ($499); and Peak 2.1-TDM Edition ($699), for Pro Tools owners who want to be able to keep using their collection of TDM plugins. Except for the LE version, Peak supports Digidesign's DAE (the audio engine used by Pro Tools hardware) and AudioSuite plugins. So in an atmosphere in which other manufacturers, in an effort to save money, are withdrawing from Digidesign hardware support, it's good to see BIAS working to keep all of its user base happy. All three versions support the now-healthy family of Premiere-compatible plugins, like Peak's own SFX Machine, a very comprehensive suite of processors, a demo version of which is included. They also support Steinberg's ASIO protocol.

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Copyright © 2000 by Intertec Publishing. Reprinted with permission.