Record, mix, and create music

Sony ACID Music Studio 8 offers a host of features for recording live music, remixing existing tracks, and creating songs from a library of loops.

If Sony ACID Pro is a little too rich and advanced for your blood, the slightly simpler and much cheaper ACID Music Studio may be right up your alley. Version 8 of the program builds upon the already robust music recording, mixing, and creation tools with several new features and enhancement, and yet the $64.95 licensing fee won't break the bank (you can try it for free for 30 days). But don't be fooled by the lack of a "professional" designation in the title: ACID isn't geared for newbies but for serious music aficionados with some experience with music production software.

ACID Music Studio 8's look and feel is similar to that of the Pro version. A multitrack editing window dominates the screen at the center top, while a dual-tabbed Explorer/Plug-In manager resides below, just to the left of the mixing console. The interface is tidy and utilitarian overall, but it will likely overwhelm newcomers. The good news is that Sony includes a host of tutorials, including seven that are new to this version, such as "how to use the mixing console" and "how to use tempo change markers." Those unfamiliar with ACID would be wise to make use of them.

As would be expected, ACID Music Studio includes all the standard audio production features. There are tools for recording, editing, and mixing live vocals, instruments, and MIDI input. Plus, you can create all-digital songs with over 3,000 music loops. You can also output to a variety of formats, including CD, PSP, iPod, iPhone, and MP3, and the program allows for easy online sharing.

New features in ACID 8 include a new audio- and MIDI-mixing console that offers the appearance of a traditional hardware-based mixer, which provides an integrated view of all tracks as well as time-stretching and pitch-shifting tools. In addition, you get enhanced remixing tools, including Beatmapper, which automatically finds the tempo of a completed song. There's also cross-track drag-and-drop for greater efficiency; Zplane elastique Pro and Efficient time-stretch methods for dramatic pitch shifts; a metronome count-off feature; and AAC and FLAC format support.

In all, the latest update for ACID Music Studio offers a compelling array of new additions for an affordable price point. The ACID-faithful should be pleased.

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