n-Track Studio 6

By mic on 6/23/2009

n-Track was the first piece of software that I used for recording. I used it for one song only around the time when n-Track was at version 2 or 3. I was curious how far the software had gotten from these versions to its current version 6.

Here are the basics: n-Track Studio is a Windows based multi- track recording and mixing software that has pretty much everything you need to build a complete song. It is published by FASoft (i.e., Flavio Antonioli Software, I think) and you can find it at ntrack.com. It allows for a virtually unlimited number of audio tracks and MIDI tracks. It comes with a standard set of effects (delay, echo, chorus, reverb, compression, etc.) and allows for DirectX, VST, and ReWire effects. Effects are real time, but can be applied destructively. It supports various audio formats, including wav, wma, ogg, mp3, sng, and so on. It supports 16-bit and 24-bit audio and various sampling rates up to 192 KHz. It allows for the standard operations on tracks and files that you may think of: volume, panning, envelopes, cross fading, muting, soloing, dragging, and so on.

n-Track also includes a few more miscellaneous options, such as a metronome, CD burning, DVD project preparation, a video window (if you want to synchronize your audio soundtrack to a video), markers, and punching in and out. Some options are even more esoteric: support for Properllerhead’s ReWire, which means that n-Track can work together with FruityLoops and Reason; support for EDL files and so supposedly sessions can be moved to and from other multi track programs; synchronization with other programs through SMPTE; 5.1 surround sound; 64-bit waves; sending and receiving of tracks over internet; and voice activated recording.

The good

First and foremost, the best thing about n-Track is that it costs only about $64.

Second, as you can see above n-Track has a great amount of functionality. At this point I cannot think of anything that n-Track may be missing. Frankly, I am not that interested in a lot of this functionality, but someone else may find it necessary.

Some of the functionality that I do find interesting is related to MIDI, the n-Track patch bay, its effects, and its drum synthesizer. n-Track’s MIDI and audio tracks are perfectly synchronized, which is something I still have not figured out how to do in Orinj. MIDI tracks can be converted to wave files. MIDI tracks are easy to edit at least for adding and removing notes. Thus, MIDI is fully integrated into the recording session. In terms of a patch bay, n-Track’s has a "signal path" window that is huge, a bit unnecessarily complex, and probably overly burdensome on the CPU, but the functionality is there if you need it. Previous versions of n-Track had some good effects. At that time, a few years back, I thought it had the best pitch shift ever designed. I am guessing that those are still as nice as they were then, but I could not really test them (more on that below). Finally, n-Track has a drum synthesizer, similar to the one in Orinj or FruityLoops, but on top of having the track of drum beats (the "step sequencer") though it has an actual drum pad (I have not figured out if the drum pad can be recorded).

Here is a note on n-Track’s previous versions: Compared to its previous versions n-Track has come a long way. First, its design is sleeker. Second, a lot of the functionality available now did not really exist before. Third, some of the basic functionality now works better. Previous versions had problems, for example, with the drawing on screen of large waves. Large waves in version 6 work fine. Also, n-Track was the first software that I used that had graphical round knobs, which at that point also did not work too well. Those seem to work fine.

The OK

n-Track has a few things that are not intuitive and make the life of the user difficult. I found it difficult, for example, to understand how to insert a MIDI file into a MIDI track. I managed to open the MIDI file in a new session and add tracks to that session later (with the Insert Wave File menu item under the Track menu, which in itself does not make sense). It took me a while to find that the command for adding a MIDI file to an existing session. It was actually quite obvious (Import MIDI File under in the File menu), but was placed in an unexpected place. It is under the File menu, whereas Insert Wave File is under the Track menu. This is not a big deal obviously. One can learn where certain commands are, except that there a number of those.

Finding the n-Track drum synthesizer module, for example, was not easy. I managed to get to it through the application’s track mixer once when working with the demo song provided with the installation. A drum synthesizer channel was already added to the session. I finally found the synthesizer next to the VST and DirectX plug-ins. As it turns out the n-Track drum synthesizer was treated in the application similarly to those.

In one last example, most commands needed to deal with tracks (such as removing tracks) are under the Track menu, but there is no command there for adding a new track. Adding a new track is done through the Add Channel menu or by right-clicking on the control panel to the left of a track.

Here are a few other minor annoyances: The installation stuck an icon in my Windows Start menu where I did not expect it. On startup, n-Track placed another one in the Windows taskbar that I do not even know what it does. n-Track started with a bunch of docked windows most of which I find generally unnecessary, and more windows popped up as I continued working.

All in all, n-Track can be a bit confusing during use, but nothing too difficult to handle.

The bad

n-Track is buggy. I am using the demo version of n-Track Studio 6 on Windows Vista Business. So far I have had problems with vertical scrolling when clicking on tracks and removing tracks, which if I remember correctly was a problem that existed in earlier versions as well. I have had a few issues with removing effects other than the last effect in the effect order, but that may be by design.

Most importantly, n-Track basically freezes every time the CPU was overloading. The first few times I simply forced n-Track to close losing all information. A couple of times I waited and received messages to increase the buffers in the application preferences, but that did not really work too well. I removed all effects to no avail. At any time that n-Track detects an overload of the CPU it never recovers unless it is restarted.

n-Track’s help also crashed. Ultimately, I just was not able to test n-Track properly. This post should have been larger, but this is about as far as I could take it.

Overall

Thus, n-Track has the complete functionality that one may want and more. For the most part it is intuitively designed, even though some of this functionality takes getting used to as it is placed non-intuitively somewhere in the application menus and screens. Unfortunately, some of n-Tracks basic functionality does not work properly. n-Track seems relatively light but its operation is apparently very computationally intensive. Enough so that I was not really able to test it properly. Perhaps it is all in my computer though and so given all the bits and pieces this application has it is probably still worth exploring.

authors: mic

Author
mic

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