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IntroductionThis is the first version of Fx Audio Editor that runs on the Windows Vista operating system. That said, when I installed it on my Vista Home Basic system, with McAfee for virus protection, I received a warning message recommending I not install it. Given the nature of the cautions, I’d have stopped there if I didn't know the software had been purchased from a trustworthy source.
If you’re curious about the title of my review, it came to me after searching the Web for info and reading other reviews. Everything was so positive that I wondered if I was reviewing the same software. I was expecting the best but didn't find it.
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Price to ValueRating What's Not:
At $40, Fx Audio Editor falls short when you compare its features and performance to comparable software. Your money is better spent elsewhere.
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Installation & SetupRating What's Hot:
I installed Fx Audio Editor on an XP Media Center Edition system as well as on a Vista Home Basic one, both notebooks. The app installed to a new C:\Program Files\Fx Audio Editor folder in both cases.
Fx Audio Editor's system requirements are reasonable enough: you'll need a Windows 2000, Windows XP, or Windows Vista machine with a minimum clock speed of 500 MHz and a minimum of 32 MB of RAM, though 128 MB is recommended. You'll also need a DirectX-compatible audio capture device and DirectX version 9 or higher installed.
I was uneasy about the software automatically replacing files in the system32 folder, and seeing some Windows Media stuff in the names flashing by. As a Microsoft MVP in the multimedia space, my systems are more up-to-date than most, so I feared it might be rolling back some files to earlier versions, possibly affecting other software. I let it finish and then took a look.
As if to compensate me a bit for my general uneasiness, the software provided an INSTALL.LOG text file with details. Checking the logs shows:
Even with the details in the logs, I was left with an uncomfortable feeling about what might not work well in the future because of the files the app swapped out, or because it wasn’t able to "self-register" something it needed.
- On my XP computer, it replaced the mscomct2.ocx, comct232.ocx, MSCOMCTL.OCX, comct332.ocx, msvcrt.dll, TabCtl32.ocx, msvcr70.dll, scrrun.dll, and atl.dll files in the system32 folder.
- The log said it couldn’t self-register C:\Program Files\Fx Audio Editor\bin\AudioDecompress.dll, or the msvcr70.dll and scrrun.dll files in the system32 folder.
- In the Fx Audio folder, there was a backup folder with copies of two DLLs and three OCX files it replaced. The only thing I had a serious question about was, why it would replace the 4/3/00 version of the ComCt232.ocx file in the system32 folder with an older 6/24/98 version? Maybe it’s OK for Fx Audio, but what does this do to other apps that use the file?
- On my Vista system, it put copies of the atl.dll, msvcrt.dll, and scrrun.dll files in the backup folder, but the same versions were still in the system32 folder--did it effectively make any changes to these?
The Setup CD Burner tab defaulted to No CD Burner; manually changing it to use the integrated CD burner was all that was needed, but I received no prompts to do this.
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User InterfaceRating What's Hot:
Fx Audio Editor can only open one file at a time, but the data about the currently open file includes the full path and name--a nice touch.
I went through a set of test files, opening each and saving them to new WAV files. Most of the supported file types made it through the checks fine, including:
• AVI (video): It handled the older type II DV-AVI files, and the newer type I is limited to the first eight minutes or so (see the Performance and Scalability section of this review).
• MPEG1 audio
• MPEG2 audio
The disk-making interface was especially intuitive and effective.
During my initial startup on the Vista laptop system, I received this error message: "Can’t get CAPS from the audio card." What does that mean?
Vista offered to help look for a solution, and took me to the Sound settings of the Control Panel. That actually helped, showing that my settings did not include a recording device--now I understood that message. My laptop doesn't have an internal microphone, and I hadn’t plugged in an external mic. It was trying to tell me it won't open until it sees a microphone it can use. It's a typical error message that means well, but it should be expressed better.
Plugging in an external mic was all I needed to do for the app to open. Since I don’t usually have my mic as handy as my earbuds, I found I could satisfy the app by plugging the earbuds into the mic jack. Beyond that, once Fx Audio Editor was open, I could move the earbuds back to the normal listening jack as the editor didn't need them plugged in any longer. Not only does the missing mic not affect the app at this point, but I can press the record button and record silence, as the software assumes the mic is plugged in.
Dragging a file with a file manager to Fx Audio Editor's desktop icon opens the app, but without the file in it. And Fx Audio Editor doesn’t support dragging a file from a file manager into an empty workspace. The File -> Open route is the only way in.
Fx Audio Editor can handle some AVI files but not others. The AVI file type is a container for many different files within it, so that's not surprising. In my tests, I found it was not able to handle an AVI from a Canon hard drive camcorder (a Motion JPEG file). It opened and saved, but the WAV file was only one second long, lacking most of the data. The one-second segment played well.
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Product FeaturesRating What's Hot:
The Toolbox in the Tools menu lets you mix and match effects and filters in a script file and save the script for future uses. It is easy to use and works well.
Your choices of effects and filters include the standard ones you'd expect to find in audio editing software.
Another nice feature includes mixing from a file or from other audio that is currently playing or being recorded.
This guidance from the help struck a chord with me--good advice:
“Since trial and error is the rule of thumb, even with 999 chances to undo and redo, the best practice is to load your file, save it to a copy, and work with the copy until you have what you want. That way, if things go very wrong you can abandon the copy, reload the origina,l and start over. If you save, overwriting your original, there's no way back.”
Fx Audio Editor's effects and filters don't have any tools for automatically fixing audio issues such as snaps, crackles, or pops.
The CD burning features worked poorly on my first day of testing. I could only burn discs with WAV files, and when I used other file types I received an error message that there wasn't enough disk space. But I was able to burn CDs just fine the next day with all of the supported file types, and even with a mixture of them. Weird. As often is the case with computers, the processes are too complex to know exactly what’s happening. Until I know differently, I always assume it’s me, the user, not doing something I’m supposed to.
There’s also no project saving feature to let you save your work at any arbitrary point, but you can easily save an audio file to a new one.
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PerformanceRating What's Hot:
Fx Audio Editor with an open file uses a modest 30 MB of memory. All actions I checked were quick and responsive.
The help says: "Please note that you must have at least 2097153 KB of free drive space on the drive where your temp folder is located." That seems like a lot of space needed. Fx Audio provides a table to help you determine file size maximums. Using a typical DV video file recorded at 16-bit stereo, 44 kHz, the limit is a bit over eight minutes.
To check it, I tried opening a couple of full one-hour tape files in DV-AVI formats. It started to build the wave patterns, but shortly into the process, closed without a note. The limit the help mentions no doubt came into play.
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Help & SupportRating What's Hot:
The help contains lots of great instructional information about topics such as file types, filters, and effects. Fx Audio Editor offers a searchable online knowledge base, but not a browseable one. There’s free email support with the promise of a quick response. I did not check on actual response time.
I didn’t find any tech support or peer support forums. The CD burner page of the help started with a reference to an unsupported plugin needed to do disk burning. But as my features and options were visible and functioning, I assumed it was an obsolete note.
The date of the help indicates it hasn’t been revised in over two years. Maybe that’s why the CD burning info didn’t align with what I was experiencing. The help's contents list is unstructured (no expandable folders), and is not in alphabetical order. At least it’s not too long, so it’s fairly easy to find a subject, such as the CD burning information I mentioned earlier.
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Alignment with Video Editing AppsRating What's Hot:
Fx Audio Editor opens some AVI files to support editing the audio track with as much ease as possible. Saving Fx Audio Editor files in WAV format makes them ready to use in movie editing apps.
The file size limit of eight-plus minutes from a DV-AVI file is pretty restrictive. Most video file formats are not supported, including the DV-AVI type I that I use the most--it’s the standard file type for captures and saving in Movie Maker 2 in XP. This isn’t necessarily a negative of Fx Audio Editor; it's just that those doing video editing need to take steps to rip audio files and convert them to a format that Fx Audio Editor can handle.
My test of the auto-recording feature from a video file playing in Windows Media Player wasn’t successful.
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Suggested FeaturesI'd suggest that Fx Audio Editor change the mic checking feature so it performs that check only when the record button is pressed. There are many times when users may want to use the app without recording something via the mic.
As any multimedia software becomes more robust, a project saving feature is a helpful addition; it allows users to save their work at any point and go back to it later.
The YouTube limit is ten minutes for a video file. Fx Audio Editor should match or exceed that number so users who make online movies can tweak their audio channels for a file of that size ripped from a DV-AVI file.
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ConclusionI looked closely at four audio editing packages over the course of a month, and Fx Audio Editor clearly takes the bottom rung in terms of setup and performance. Searching the Internet shows lots of positive comments and reviews, but after careful testing and analysis, my assessments and conclusions are on target. It's possible some of the positive reviews reflect marketing buzz more than hands-on critical analysis.
I’ll close with a trivial item, but another clue that the software could use some attention: the tooltip for the AGC (Automatic Gain Control) icon has a spelling error. The letter “G” is missing.
I would not recommend this product when others such as Acoustica and Goldwave are available at the same price.