Test Drive: Sony Vegas 7 - To Upgrade or Not?

by Steve Cunningham

It’s been nearly five years since we looked at Sony’s Vegas multitrack audio editor (and video production suite). Back then we reviewed Vegas Video 3.0, produced by the boutique-sized Sonic Foundry company. Media giant Sony bought the Vegas product line in 2003, along with Acid Pro, Sound Forge and others, and they’ve released regular upgrades for all of them. Vegas Video 3.0 is also the last version installed on my laptop, so it’s high time we took a fresh look at an editor that’s still widely used in the production community.

If you’re an old hand with Vegas, you will be right at home with the new version. Those using version 6 will find a few improvements, most of which are designed to make the program substantially faster on newer hardware (see WRAP UP for features new specifically to version 7.0). Those of you using older versions should read on and prepare to spend money!

Vegas is a simple and elegant multitrack audio recording and editing package that also handles loops well, thanks to its sibling relationship with Sony’s Acid. The program’s strong point has been and still is its simplicity — everything can be done from Vegas’ single session display with tracks in the upper half, and file management, plug-ins, and metering in the lower half. It still has no permanent, dedicated mixing window, but trust me, you won’t miss it.

Vegas 7 comes with over 30 audio effects, supports VST plug-ins, and works with 8-, 16-, or 24-bit digital audio at sample rates up to 192kHz. It fully supports the ASIO driver standard, so you can use most any high-quality audio interface with it including multi-output interfaces for 5.1 surround. The maximum number of tracks in Vegas 7 is limited only by your CPU and RAM, as is the available number of Undo’s.

Vegas 7’s minimum system requirements are an 800MHz P4 or better processor running Windows 2000 SP4, XP Home or Pro; 256 MB of RAM and 200 MB of hard disk space; a Windows-compatible sound card and a DVD-ROM drive (the installation disk is a DVD — no install CDs are available). Like all modern audio editors, Vegas will be much happier on a more powerful machine with at least 512 MB of RAM and a big hard drive.

INSTALLATION

I bought the downloadable version of the update from sonymediasoftware.com, so all the files I needed were immediately available; you can also buy the upgrade in a boxed version for a few additional shekels. After the downloads were done, I ran the Vegas 7.0 installer on my 2.4GHz Pentium IV laptop running Windows 2000 SP4. The installer informed me that DirectX version 9 was required, then automatically downloaded and installed it along with all its updates. It required a restart which left me looking at Windows Desktop again, so I had to start Vegas’ install again afterward. A window appeared telling me that some program had installed an older version of “CDDB ActiveX Control” and that this would create problems, so I chose the button to “override the previous installation”.

Next it installed the Sony Media Manager version 2.2 software, and Microsoft’s “Data Access Components v. 2.8”. The latter required yet another restart, and then announced that it was installing Microsoft’s SQL Server Desktop Engine to power the Media Manager installation. The entire business ate up half a gigabyte of hard disk space on my machine, although the official requirement for Vegas is 200 MB. In fairness, the SQL server and its associated files ate up 200 MB on their own, and if you’re running XP you may already have the extras that my Win 2000 machine required. Nevertheless I found the process somewhat nerve-wracking. On first starting Vegas up, I was prompted to register it using the serial number provided in an email I received after my purchase. You’ll have 30 days to register Vegas online before it stops working, and that part of the process was certainly the simplest of the entire install.