Testing Sony Acid Music Studio 7.0
My search for a suitable GarageBand for Windows product is in the testing phase now. My first few tests with MixCraft 3.0 were very positive. Unfortunately, MixCraft doesn’t support MIDI. I found a spot on the Sony site to download a 30 day trial of Sony Acid Music Studio 7. The install was pretty painless.
Sony Acid gives you the impression that it can do a bit more based on a busy and complex interface. The interface is less friendly, less like GarageBand than MixCraft is. You quickly get the impression that you have a many more options to fiddle with as well. Click on this thumbnail to see a full view of the interface. (images are from the Sony site.)
Where are the Loops?
This was challenging. I couldn’t find much in the help or the “show me how” tools. I looked on the web for help and found people had similar challenges. The answer was that the loops are not automatically installed with the product. The are on a couple of other discs that are included with the purchased product. This doesn’t help someone that downloaded the trial version. The product page at the Sony site claims that Acid comes with 3000 loops. I couldn’t find them at all. I downloaded a free loop that I found via Google and started testing the controls.
The interface for editing loops is pretty straightforward. You paint them onto the track with your mouse. From there, you have numerous edits and changes that you can apply. Bottom line, not as friendly as MixCraft, but equally, if not more capable. I liked how you could change the key for a loop pretty easily.
Following the loop effort, I decided to give the MIDI a quick try. MIDI support is part of GarageBand, but not part of MixCraft. The first thing you need is a way to work with MIDI signals and your PC.
M-Audio MIDISport Uno
I took the plunge and bought the MIDISport Uno by M-Audio. Guitar Center had it for $39.99. The MIDISport Uno is a USB to MIDI cable. It has a USB plug connected to a little egg shaped thing that has both a MIDI In and a MIDI Out plug attached.
There are some tricky elements to working with MIDI in Sony Acid. When adding tracks, you can add normal audio track, or a MIDI track. I added an audio track by mistake, armed it for input, and my MIDI keyboard was able to play normal piano audio into an audio track. This was a bit confusing when I was then trying to figure out how to adjust the instrument that was playing the track.
With a MIDI track, you can change with virtual instrument used to render sound for the MIDI signal. This virtual instrument capability works well in Sony Acid and was part of my initial goal for a suitable GarageBand for Windows product. I spent some time trying out the various instruments. I found the slap bass effect fun to play with. Some of the instruments seemed a bit weak like the various instruments on a toy keyboard. Others sounded appropriate.
The MIDI bottom line…
Bottom line for MIDI. I think it will fit the bill. If you need MIDI support, Sony Acid Music Studio 7 can be your GarageBand for Windows. If you just need just normal loop support and MP3 support, then MixCraft seems to be easier to manage. From a price perspective, I’ve seen ads for Sony Acid at a slightly lower cost than Mixcraft (about $5 less).