ACID Music Studio by Sony Creative is one of the few audio production and MIDI software programs to be almost entirely self-contained. Equally viable for experienced and beginning producers, ACID Music Studio provides user resources for every stage of the production process–and then some. With the aid of built-in tutorials and how-to guides or simply through experimentation using the organized, intuitive interface, producers of all experience levels and musical backgrounds can quickly gain a handle of the program and get on with their production.
Composition & Sequencing
Though ACID Music Studio’s sole function isn’t MIDI-based, it does offer some powerful tools and features for recording, editing, sequencing and composing MIDI files. In fact, ACID Music Studio offers a “complete MIDI environment,” which, while is perhaps a liberal use of the term, is very thorough and feature-rich. The graphic displays and user interface could stand some improvement; however, even visually-driven features and displays, including the inline note editor and drum grid.
ACID Music Studio features some of the standard sequencing displays and features, including piano roll, step sequencer, inline editor and others. Though the user interface and various composition, sequencing and effects lack the graphic polish found in other MIDI software programs, they still make a strong argument for themselves by remaining intuitive and easy to use, not to mention precise and powerful.
MIDI sequencers tend to fall into two camps: feast or famine. The former type of MIDI sequencers are simple and, for the most part, easy to use, but lack the MIDI, note, chord or other information necessary to make accurate and precise compositional decisions. On the other hand, the latter category can often provide too much information making it difficult for musicians and producers without the proper background in musical theory (or some serious experience with sequencers) to compose without clutter and complications. ACID Music Studio, for the most part, manages to steer clear of the simple, bare-bones architecture that can spend its merit in the time it takes to learn how to use it. The inline note editor is simple-yet-powerful, giving musicians and producers a chance to make subtle changes without guesswork. Also, ACID Music Studio’s MIDI track envelopes make it possible to adjust select channels, loops or sequences for editing, with permanent markers for additional edits and edit reversals.
While the MIDI setup and mapping process could use a little work, the recording and editing processes for ACID Music Studio are surprisingly easy to initiate. Recording begins at the press of the button, with MIDI sequences, controllers and other instruments simultaneously syncing up, which can save a lot of time in the editing process. ACID Music Studio also features input monitoring. This recording feature allows you to hear your recording signal and hear it with real-time track effects.
Speaking of the editing process, ACID Music Studio, while by no means an innovator in regards to its editing features, manages to score big with its MIDI track envelopes, processors and filters. Most MIDI and audio production software programs provide the simple tools to crop, transpose, delete, fade, and so forth but few provide the “big picture” tools, such as quantize, velocity, duration and others, which make it possible to make near-automated adjustments of entire regions of MIDI data without destroying bits, parts, regions and even entire tracks.
Recording & Editing
ACID Music Studio doesn’t have an audio/MIDI manager feature, which can make properly setting up audio/MIDI paths more complicated. Nevertheless, it makes up for this with its support of and compatibility with a variety of MIDI file types (I and II), VSTi and DirectX plugins as well as ASIO and compatible drivers.
As for audio file format support, MIDI file-types I and II are supported, as are a host of compressed, “lossy” file-types, which in spite of the negative associations of “loss,” are actually the most widely used audio file formats. ACID Music Studio can import and export finished and unfinished audio and MIDI projects to CD-A, WAV, MP3, WMA, ATRAC and others. Audio can also be output to external MIDI devices, giving ACID Music Studio the potential for use in live performances.
Though its help resources are as good as they get, ACID Music Studio still stands to improve in its overall ease of use. This is largely due to its interface, which is simple and well-organized, but graphically-undernourished, making precision and accurate tool/feature use somewhat difficult. Interface aside, however, the various features and functions are almost self-explanatory (or explained in step-by-step detail should that be desired) and the customizable workspace allows users to make their production environment as simple–or complex–as they desire.
Few MIDI and audio production software programs’ technical support and user resources compare to ACID Music Studio. In addition to the built-in help features that can guide new or unfamiliar producers through every stage of the MIDI and/or audio production process, Sony Creative hosts several help and support features online, including a FAQs section, knowledgebase and user forum among others. Technical assistance can also be obtained via email and telephone. Also of note, Sony Creative has a comment portal for ACID Music Studio, which often gives developers cues as to what features to develop, improve upon or maintain in future updates and overhauls.
ACID Music Studio is one of the few MIDI software programs that strives to make “ease of use” and overall “usability” its prime concerns. Equally suited for new, learning and experienced producers, ACID Music Studio enables its users to customize the program’s workspace and workflow to be as simple or complex as they need it. With built-in tutorials and rich offering of user resources, ACID Music Studio takes the trial, error out of learning a MIDI or audio production program, ensuring that all its powerful tools and features can be used by everyone.
Ease of Use