There are literally dozens of audio editing products available on the market these days ranging from very expensive down to very free. In that lineup of software one product seems to stand out not because of what it can or cannot do, but because of the fact that what it does it does better than any other piece of software that this reviewer has ever used. The Song Surgeon audio editor is not a swiss army knife application. The company has focused its attention on doing some very audio editing tasks, and doing them very, very well.
Extremely Good Speed and Pitch Shifting of Audio Recordings
Slowing down a piece of music is something that almost every program out there can do these days. Even free audio editors like Audacity can time shift, but the problem is that with many editors the more a piece of music is slowed down the more artifacts and distortions creep into the audio stream. These artifacts, even on the best of recordings, still leave traces that make our minds realize that hey, something just isnâ€™t right here. Song Surgeon seems to have solved this problem, and in every one of my tests it was almost impossible for me to notice any obvious hints of distortion in musical passages slowed down even as low as 30-40% of their original speed. The software does its best job, in my opinion, on instrumental pieces of music, especially electronic music. Acoustic music is also pretty good, but the only files that seemed to suffer any quality loss when slowed down were those that included choral vocals.
At the same time Song Surgeon also allows the user to change the pitch of files independently of the speed shifting. In other words, you can take a song down a few steps to make it easier to sing or play along with plus slow it down or speed it up at the same time, again with no noticeable distortion or audio artifacts.
Other Important Features of Song Surgeon
One of the more interesting and useful features of Song Surgeon is one that a user might not expect from an audio editing program. The new 3.0 version of Song Surgeon includes a service they call an A/V sniffer that watches your web browser for audio or video files and allows you to download the audio from those files directly to your hard drive. As a teacher I have had many problems finding reliable, high quality ways to use YouTube videos or other files due to unreliable Internet streaming connections and bandwidth issues. Using the sniffer part of Song Surgeon now allows me to download the audio ahead of time so that when class comes in I never have to worry if the Internet is going to conk out in the middle of a lesson. It found all of the YouTube videos I visited immediately and offered to download and play the audio from them. It wasn't so perfect on all of the sites I visited though. I had hoped to be able to use it to grab useful snippets of songs my band is working on from places like JWPepper.com but the sniffer did not recognize the embedded player for them. In general though the sniffer does pretty well, and the Song Surgeon web site claims that around 90% of sites work well with it.
Who Should Use Song Surgeon?
While this review was done from the perspective of a musician and professional music educator, Song Surgeon seems to be equally appropriate for almost anyone that needs a solid, easy to use audio editor. Other products, although possibly cheaper, do not come close to the quality of sound that Song Surgeon provides when slowing music down or changing the pitch of the entire song. Music teachers and musicians in general should definitely check it out for that feature alone. The other added features like the previously mentioned audio sniffing feature are just icing on the cake.
Negative Aspects of Song Surgeon
In my testing of the product there were very few negatives that I feel need to be mentioned. The first, and probably most important to me as a busy teacher is that at first the control interface was not as intuitive as I thought it should be. I tend to be the type of person that launches into using something without reading the manual, and in doing so with Song Surgeon I found it difficult at first to move around the editor window, setting start and end points and adjusting the settings the way I intended. Once I read the help files and watched the video tutorials things were much simpler, but some things that I had assumed (clicking and dragging to select start and end points for example) were not as simple as clicking and dragging. Still, once I found out how to do these things the right way Song Surgeon did as it promised and provided me with some very nice practice recordings, slowed down perfectly for my students to use in their lessons.
Song Surgeon Pricing
At the time of the writing of this review the newest version (version 3) of Song Surgeon is being sold for the PC in two forms, standard ($50) and pro ($90). The differences between the two versions are detailed in a chart on their web site but in general the standard version offers all of the time and pitch features but without the ability to cut/paste/edit the actual wave form. For Mac users Song Surgeon is also available, but only in the standard version for $44.
Song Surgeon is one of the easiest and highest quality time shifting and pitch shifting applications available. If you are still in doubt they do offer a free trial version on their web site and they also offer a 90 day money back guarantee after placing your order. With the first file you slow down or edit you will see why Song Surgeon is worth every penny.