Adobe Soundbooth CS4 beta is appropriate for content creators who have had little experience with audio editors, but has enough new features to entice those with more-advanced audio editing needs.

Designed for those who didn't require (or wouldn't comprehend) a full-blown digital audio workstation (DAW) application, last year's Adobe Soundbooth CS3 erred on the side of ease-of-use. It offered an intuitive interface, solid noise filtering, and a handy AutoCompose feature for generating customised background music.

But Adobe Soundbooth CS3 lacked the kind of more-advanced features - multitrack editing and the ability to place more than one AutoComposed score in a project - that audio pros or even advanced dabblers would desire.

This week's release of the Adobe Soundbooth CS4 beta demonstrates that Adobe has its ears open to the needs of those who demand more from an audio editor. Not only does Soundbooth CS4 include multitrack editing and allow you to place multiple AutoComposed scores into a single project, it also offers some compelling new features. Highlights include non-destructive editing, the ability to create snapshots (restore points) that you can later return to, automatic volume matching, MP3 compressions preview, and a speech-to-text feature that attempts to transcribe the contents of an audio track (or a selection within it) and then lets you navigate that track by choosing words within the transcript.

Moving to multitrack

The inclusion of multitrack editing will make Adobe Soundbooth CS4 far more attractive to both video- and audio editors. And it works very much like multitrack editing in other audio editors.

From the File menu's New command, you now have the option to create not only a new empty audio file (which generates a mono or stereo document - you choose which - at the resolution of your choosing from 8- to 96Kbps) or a file from the contents of the clipboard, but also a new multitrack file.

The resulting workspace contains a single empty stereo track with a large expanse of space below. You can add more tracks simply by dragging them into the main Editor window or by choosing Add Audio Track or Add Video track from the Tracks pop-up menu at the top of the Editor. Once in the Editor, you can drag tracks around to move them ahead or back in time in relation to the other tracks in the Editor.

Each track has its own Volume, Pan, Mute, and Solo controls, much like you find in Apple's GarageBand. And, just like with GarageBand, you can insert volume keyframes - by inserting these keyframes and adjusting them up or down, you change the volume curve of each track individually. (Soundbooth doesn't support pan keyframes, as GarageBand does. Nor does it have an auto-ducking feature for dropping the volume of one track when the volume of another increases.) Each track within a multitrack file can have its own selection of up to five effects at once.