In all walks of commercial life, brands and products come and go, particularly when economic times are challenging. Music technology is not exempt from these harsh realities. We have, for example, just witnessed the apparent death of Cakewalk’s Sonar only to see it resuscitated by BandLab Technologies. Not all such stories have happy endings.
There’s another Windows‑based music production platform whose users might have had more than the occasional moment of doubt over the last few years: Acid Pro, originally developed by Sonic Foundry and later by Sony Creative Software. I’m a long‑term Acid user, and have reviewed various releases of the program for SOS over the years. However, the most recent of those reviews appeared back in the April 2009 issue when Acid Pro 7 was released. Apart from a few maintenance updates, that’s remained the current version — until now.
A further change in Acid Pro’s ownership took place in 2016, when Magix acquired the former Sonic Foundry product range from Sony. Sound Forge and Vegas have already received major updates under Magix’s ownership, and now Acid Pro has received the same treatment. Some 20 years after it was first released, and nearly 10 years since the last major update, Acid Pro is here. Of course, the world of DAWs, sequencers and other music production tools has not stood still over the last decade, so where does Acid now stand in what is a very crowded music production software market?
For those with somewhat fewer music technology miles on their clock, it might be difficult to imagine the stir that Acid made when it first appeared. Its unique selling point was its ability to match the tempo and pitch of pre‑recorded audio loops, in real time — at a time when mainstream sequencers such as Logic and Cubase had only recently added audio recording to their core MIDI feature sets. Acid brought a completely new paradigm to computer‑based music‑making, and although some rather uncharitably described its loop‑based approach as the musical equivalent of painting by numbers, it made a significant impact.
Acid’s incredible ease of use meant that it offered a means of music production that almost anyone could get creative with, and the ‘Acidized’ audio format, in which audio loops were saved as files containing tempo and root‑note metadata, soon became a standard with sample library developers. Sonic Foundry, and subsequently Sony, gradually added to the core feature set with ever‑better pitch and tempo‑manipulation algorithms, an excellent groove‑based audio quantising system, and ReWire support. Eventually, as other sequencers started to acquire their own tools for pitch‑shifting and tempo‑matching audio loops, Acid struck back with DAW‑like features such as audio recording, MIDI sequencing, plug‑in support for virtual instruments and effects, expanded mixing capabilities and automation. By the time, Acid Pro provided an all‑round music production environment, albeit one that still retained a loop‑based focus.
Despite its age, Acid Pro has continued to work well under different iterations of Windows. Elsewhere, however, things have moved on: loop‑based options are now present in most popular DAWs, and there is direct competition from the likes of Ableton Live, Bitwig Studio and FL Studio. So, while Acid Pro was the undoubted king of the loop castle for the first few years of its life, anyone coming to this way of working more recently will have been faced with plenty of choice.
Long-term users will be relieved to see new life given to Acid Pro. The first release from Magix is evolutionary, but adds considerable value in terms of the bundle of plug-ins included. Either as a loop-based music-production environment or as a full-blown DAW, Acid Pro 8 offers good value for money.