Test Drive: BIAS SoundSoap Pro

by Steve Cunningham

I do a fair amount of remote recording. Now while that sounds exotic, it usually isn’t anywhere close — I’m in a conference room recording a group of business types having a roundtable discussion, or in a furniture store interviewing the owner in the hopes of getting a useable sound bite for a spot, or in some other equally pedestrian environment. Unfortunately, background noise is a constant companion in these situations. Refrigerators, air conditioners, noise from air movement in the room, cell phones ringing (of course), noisy cables, and electrical hum are just a few of the noise criminals that can plague an otherwise great remote recording.

Those background noises have got to go, but without trashing what’s left or leaving any nasty audio droppings in its wake. Early last year I reviewed Waves’ Broadcast and Production bundle, which includes their four Restoration plug-ins. This month we look at BIAS’ SoundSoap Pro, a plug-in for both Mac and Windows that combines the four basic noise-reduction processes into one plug.

LOAD EM UP

SoundSoap Pro is a follow-up to the company’s VST-only SoundSoap product. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the installation CD includes both Mac and Windows versions of the program, and it comes in all my favorite plug-in flavors — VST, DX, AU, and RTAS. Installing the program loads all appropriate versions in one go. Nice.

The noise reductions algorithms in SoundSoap Pro perform their magic using complex calculations that require a fair amount of computer power. While the system requirements aren’t ridiculous, they are substantial. For the PC you’ll want a Pentium III or Pentium IV desktop or laptop with at least an 800mhz processor, Windows XP Home or Pro, and a compatible RTAS, DirectX or VST host application from which to call up the plug-in. On the Mac side, SoundSoap wants to see G4 or G5 desktop or PowerBook with better than a 500MHz processor, Macintosh OS 10.2 or later, and a compatible RTAS, AU or VST host application. In either case you’ll need at least 128MB of RAM, 20MB of hard disk space, and an open USB port for the included USB key.

Yeah that’s right, SoundSoap is copy protected using a HASP USB dongle, along with a serial number that registers the program with BIAS online. The program installation process is easy and the online registration is painless, but the dongle is a drag... this makes four of them for me. It’s particularly galling when several of my plug-ins for Pro Tools live on a single iLok USB dongle, but to run SoundSoap Pro from within Pro Tools I have to add the second dongle. Why didn’t BIAS go with Pace’s iLok?

Once loaded, the interface appears with five tabs at the bottom: Launch Area, Hum & Rumble, Click & Crackle, Broadband, and Noise Gate. The Launch Area contains a scrollable text panel with a brief sort of Getting Started guide, while the other four tabs show the controls for each of the noise reduction sections, and these have several controls in common (from here out we’ll ignore the Launch Area).

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