MacDirectory Magazine

Summer-Fall 2008 (#38)

MacDirectory magazine is the premiere creative lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts featuring interviews, in-depth tech reviews, Apple news, insights, latest Apple patents, apps, market analysis, entertainment and more.

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100 MacDirectory REVIEW | MUSIC For years, audio engineers have been playing with your mind as well as your ears. It's subtle, but sometimes you may notice that the sound from a TV commercial seems to be coming from your room and not just your TV. The technology moves the sound from the plane of your speakers and puts it quite literally in your face. The effects can, to some degree, be recorded into a soundtrack. However, they're even more effective when applied during playback. That's where Hear comes into play. The new program by JoeSoft (the software- for-the-rest-of-us division of Prosoft Engineering) can fine-tune your Mac's audio to give you the sensation of being immersed in audio environments as varied as a cozy night club or a live fire fight (or both, if Grand Theft Auto ever gets ported to the Mac). Hear can reprocess the sound from any program on your Mac enhancing it to take full advantage of your specific sound system, whether it's a high- fidelity desktop setup, the little speakers on your MacBook or a pair of earphones. Combining a little patience with the program's well-designed, graphically rich interface and well-written documentation will produce results that are as rich to the ear as HDTV is to the eye. Getting Set Hear's main interface is the Mixer panel. This will display all the programs you have running and let you designate those Hear will either enhance or ignore. A panel at the top of the window lets you toggle Hear on and off, mute all sound and, most importantly select from a huge number of effects presets supplied with the program. These are categorized by genre (styles of music, types of games, and videos, etc.). In some cases, the preset will indicate whether it is designed for speakers (S) or headphones (H). It may take some trial and error, but when you hit the right preset for your system, you'll definitely know it. Note that the presets are only really a starting point — suggestions that will get you in the general ballpark. The trick to getting the most out of Hear is to fine-tune the presets to your specific system and environment. The General tab gives you an overview of the effects that are enabled as well as the ability to make some overall change to the more significant ones. Until you get familiar with the program, this panel will make some broad-brush changes and toggle the various effects banks on and off (a good way to learn what they do). Like most of the other controls, these are set up as either sliders or knobs. (Knobs are "twisted" by dragging up or down.) The FX Chain menu controls the order in which the layers of effects are applied. Although both the General and Equalizer panels provide volume controls, we were surprised to discover that there was no left-right balance adjustment —something fairly important when you're dealing with spatial effects. When it's set up correctly, Hear won't color the sound; it simply brings back the nuances that are lost in recording, compression and playback. The effects layers themselves range from the conventional to the truly arcane. For example, the multi-band equalizer and compressor/limiter function very much like their pro audio counterparts. Other effects, such as the Brainwave Synthesizer, come out of the sublime world of psycho- acoustic research. The Space and Fidelity effects fall somewhere in between and both help provide the sensation that you're immersed in an audio environment. Once you learn a bit about how the various controls affect the sound, you'll get even better at fine-tuning the presets for your system and your ears. When you have everything dialed-in, you can save the settings as your own custom preset. Hear will continue to enhance your sound with these settings, even when the program isn't running. JoeSoft offers a free, fully functional 30- day demo of Hear, more than enough time to find the best settings for your system. Once you do, you'll probably decide that the $49.95 price tag is a lot less than that $400 speaker system you've been eyeing. HEAR > ENHANCING YOUR AUDIO ENVIRONMENT WORDS BY RIC GETTER Product Hear Made by JoseSoft Price $49.95 (download) Pros Remarkably enhanced 3D listening experience Cons Takes some time and experimentation to set up correctly Rating HHHH

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