SonicFire Pro 3.0
Company: SmartSound Software, Inc.
Price: $299 full purchase, upgrade $79
You probably think Apple was the first company to offer a decent way to buy music over the Internet. Well, you’d be wrong. Shortly before iTunes 4 was released SmartSound boxed up Sonicfire Pro 3 and offered it to the masses. And, as you can guess, the most significant difference between Sonicfire 2 and Sonicfire 3 is a feature allowing you to search for and purchase royalty free music via the Internet.
You might be wondering: Hey will we have world peace in my lifetime? Or how does that new search function work? Well if you’re wondering about the first question you’ll need to ask someone else. If you’re puzzling over the new search feature (called Maestro) you’ve come to the right place. The Maestro (not the one from Seinfeld) works by kind of guessing what you want and typing the name into a search box. You are then presented with a series of choices that you can preview. It’s slightly addictive and pretty fun. It’s also not perfect. Say you want some music for a dream sequence (as I did) and you type “Dream” into the search box. You’ll get presented with the titles that contain the world dream. This is a predictable search result but I wanted music for a dream sequence, not a selection called “Dreamy Candy bar” So I typed in “harp” (after all aren’t harps and dream sequences synonymous?) Bingo, there it was! The perfect bit of music I was looking for was playing through my speakers and I could purchase said nugget online. How much was it going to set me back? Well, SmartSound is a for-profit company so they wanted a reasonable $19.95 for the harp music. I would’ve ponied up the dough but I knew once my credit card got into their system I’d be buying music willy nilly (I’m a sucker for anything movie-ish) like a junkie turned loose in a crack factory. Smarter, thought I, to save my dough for something a little more substantial than music, stuff like food. All this to apologize to my readers for not be able to report on the actual buying experience.
There’s more to Sonic Fire 3.0 than the tempting music search. As always you can import your CDs into SFP and manipulate them a bit. In fact with SFP 3.0 you can do a lot more than with previous version. You can now use Smart Razor to hack up your fave songs and use them like any SFP music. This makes it possible to take a Beck song, say Novocaine, hack it up into blocks and make it seem as though it was composed with your movie in mind. Keep in mind if you try the above exercise and charge for the result you might be paid a visit by the lawyers retained by Beck’s publisher. Still, for personal use it’s a nice feature and plenty of fun to play with. The rest of SmartSound SonicFire Pro 3 is pretty well unchanged from the previous version. You’ll find the interface nearly indistinguishable from SFP 2 and the ease of use is still an excellent selling point.
Is the new Maestro worth the price/danger of an upgrade? Well if you’re a professional and you get paid to use SFP I’d say you need to run out and get the latest version. Imagine the timesavings gained if you don’t have to wait for delivery of the needed track. If you’re a hack like I am, the price is still worth it if you’re blessed with self-control. If you’re hands are a little too familiar with the path to the credit card you may want to stick with SFP 2 because the music-buying feature can very addictive. Let me explain: Imagine you are looking for a tune to drop in on Aunt Lula’s bunion removal surgery. You type “blood” into the Maestro and the list of matches pop up. You listen to the first choice and realize it’s completely inappropriate for bunion removal. As you were listening the music inspired you to think of a shot that the clip would be perfect for, you figure “I’ll grab it why I can.” By the time you find the perfect bunion removal track you’re several hundred dollars behind but you have all kinds of inspiring tracks. I was listening to previews and lusting after every bit of music I heard so consider yourself warned.
On the other hand the price of the upgrade is a mere $79. I think the ability to purchase tracks online is worth seventy-nine bucks unless you have huge SmartSound libraries. Either way I find SonicFire Pro to be one of the more fun programs at my disposal. Any program that adds creative ability without too steep of a learning curve is going to get high marks in my book, add in the fact that it’s actually fun to use and you can’t go wrong.
MacMice Rating: 5 out of 5
Cue the update music: Shortly after I finished this review SmartSound slashed prices. Professional CDs have dropped thirty bucks to $99.99 and the price on a multimedia CD has dropped to $49.95. The Professional CD’s are 44 kHz while the multimedia CD clocks in at 22 kHz. Single tracks, which can be purchased over the Internet, go for 19.95 (44 kHz).