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Software Review: SpectraLayers Pro From Sony Creative Software

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SpectraLayers Pro is the latest product from Sony Creative Software. It is a revolutionary product for audio engineering and sound design. It gives you some remarkable capabilities and tools for unprecedented sound shaping and remixing. In short, what it is capable of doing to audio sound is truly amazing.

What SpectraLayers does is to let you un-mix audio files into discrete component layers using a variety of smart editing tools and process the extracted layers individually in an unlimited number of ways. You know those crime shows where the chief says can you isolate that voice from a crowded room to the tech person? Now you too can isolate that sound. To find out what you need to run SpectralLayers Pro, just check out their requirements page.

SpectraLayers Pro

SpectraLayers is going to be a very useful tool for engineers, sound designers, audio-for-video editors, archivists, and other professionals who have the need for deep audio analysis tools. Keep in mind that SpectraLayers is different from a waveform editor – such as Sound Forge Pro that displays time vs. amplitude or volume, this is a frequency editor that shows time vs. frequencies. So the shapes that you see in the images are frequencies of sound over time.

SpectraLayers works on the ability to take those sounds, based on their frequencies, and isolate them to separate and discrete layers. That is done through the process of extraction. SpectraLayers contains a number of extraction tools that predict what the selection you are trying to make and really works to make the process easy.

The first type of extraction tries to isolate sound based on frequency. This tool tries to isolate the frequency of the sound so that it can be moved to a new layer. Once the sound is isolated then the sound can be inverted which when apply against the original sound produces an effect called phase cancellation.

When you have two identical sounds that are just the opposite in wave form they will cancel each other out and thus eliminate the sound. So when you need to isolate and hear that voice the chief wants, you just eliminate all the other sounds that muffle it using these techniques.

SpectraLayers Pro

The second tool is the Extract Harmonics. This tool explores all directions in a user-defined area, highlighting targeted sounds along with their associated overtones. Then, one click will transfer an entire selection to a new layer. This is useful when the sound has multiple harmonics such as a tone. This will allow you to select the base tone, and it will automatically try to find any associated harmonics for that sound. Again you put it on a layer, invert and it is gone.

The third tool is for Extract Area. This tool can be used for getting rid of areas of sound. You can use this to remove a large area of sound all at once and put it on its own separate layer. Finally there is a noise removal tool called Extract Noise(Manual Gate) that will help you remove bands of high-amplitude hum and noise from a recording.

SpectraLayers Pro

Other tools that come with SpectraLayers include tools to zoom, copy and paste, and creating displacement views. You can also amplify sounds so that if one sound is too low or too high in a mix you can turn it up or turn it down. You can clone a sound or even erase a sound.

What this means is that if you have a sound that comes in too early in an audio track, you can isolate it and just move that sound to a later point in the track. Or if there is a conference that you recorded, and at some point there is some disruption that you cannot hear what the speaker is saying, you can go in and clean it up without losing the speakers voice.

VST effects can be applied to individual layers. SpectraLayers Pro can also pass whole layers, and even bandwidth-limited selections from within layers, directly to other dedicated audio editing programs like Sound Forge Pro.

Now keep in mind that some things clean up easier than others. If you have a sound in a mix that is out of the range, it will clean up pretty easy – say a siren over the recording of birds singing. The problem that can arise is when you have two sounds that blend too well with each other – say for example a vocal and a lead guitar run where they are hitting the same frequency, which will be much harder to separate.

SpectraLayers Pro

What I really like about SpectraLayers is that you get total control with regard to isolating certain frequencies over extended time periods. What is really cool is that SpectraLayers is able to isolate the harmonically related patterns as well and that means that you don’t have to spend a lot of time matching up these components.

Who do I see this being a benefit to? Certainly to sound and audio engineers who need to clean up a track or remove some unwanted noise or artifact – say you recorded some voiceover and there was a bird chirping in the background, you could remove it. Other uses would be someone who wants to extract a vocal from a recording to use as a remix, or you could remove the vocal from a song, to practice your own vocals against the original. You can clean up conference recordings to eliminate distracting sounds, as well as many other uses.

I have included a demonstration video below that shows how easy it can be to work with a file. If you have the need to clean up audio sound on a regular basis, then I very highly recommend SpectraLayers Pro.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.