My career in radio started back when music came on records. That was before video tape replaced film in TV stations; about the time that cart machines became a radio station’s best new technology. We live in the digital age which has done to video tape and cart machines what they did to film and live commercials. Enter Ambrosia’s Soundboard. A blast from the past. A digital cart machine without the cart or machine, yet the perfect audio clip tool for live broadcasts, podcasts, or even music.
That Was Then
Cart machines made the instant playback of audio—commercials, programs, announcements, even music—as simple as pressing a button.
The cartridge was similar to a cassette tape and could be reused. Plunk the cart into the playback machine, press a button, and out came whatever sound had been recorded.
The cart revolutionized radio production for a couple of decades.
The digital age brought compact discs to audio production, potentiometers were replaced by sliders and faders, carts almost disappeared as computer screens and keyboards became the norm in broadcast stations.
Point & Click
Our Macs are audio and video powerhouses capable of recording and mixing award winning music, television shows, even movies.
The cart machine may have disappeared, but it lives in spirit with Ambrosia’s Soundboard, a trigger happy, point and click reincarnation of the carts of yesteryear.
In recent years I’ve toyed with producing Podcasts (easy in Garageband) but prefer a live recording session, complete with sound effects, and other audio and video enhancements.
Digital point and click production isn’t so easy in a live recording session. There’s too much going on.
What the Mac needed was a simple, elegant audio utility that allowed a producer to create audio clips and play them back with a simple click.
Like the cart machines from broadcast radio days, Soundboard provides a quick way to enhance your podcasts or broadcasts with sound clips, effects, or musical accompaniment.
That’s what Soundboard does. It’s a digital cart machine on your Mac’s screen.
Soundboard was designed for live performances – the interface is intuitive at a glance, and in no time hitting your favorite sound effects will be automatic.
Instead of carts, Soundboard uses typical Mac drag and drop of audio files into cells. Click on the cell and the sound plays. Cells can be rearranged. Click and play, or click and hold, let it play, then unclick and the sound stops.
Seeing Is Believing
Onscreen, Soundboard presents you with two windows. One is an always floating window with controls for Master Output, left and right channel sliders, effects menu, and the current audio IO (built in output, mixer, whatever).
The other window features cells where you drag and drop up to 32 audio clips per Soundboard. Drag an audio clip to a cell. Soundboard converts the file. Each audio clip can be controlled in the cell.
Change the clip name, drag a cell to rearrange, click the down arrow for more options, mouse over to see an arrow to start the clip with a click, click the same place to stop the clip.
Multiple Soundboards can be added via a tabbed interface to extend Soundboard beyond 32 clips. I noticed some lag between click and audio, probably a result of how the audio clip was stored. In a future release I’d like to see the empty space on a clip automatically overridden so sound starts instantly.
The Edit control pops out an audio editor so you can trim audio selections.
Your Mac’s keyboard can also be used for playback and transport controls. The editor is limited basic fade in and out per cell clip, though duration can be changed, as can waveform colors, scrub duration, and more. Effects can be added via the floating controls.
Wait. There’s More
Soundboard can share boards with other users. Audio clips are stored in Apple lossless format for higher quality and instant start up.
Think of Soundboard as a point and click audio library of whatever sounds—voice, music, instrument, sound effects—your production needs. It’s multi-track without the tracks.
Soundboard can even be controlled by a MIDI device, which means that USB keyboard you bought can be a sound machine. Sound can be faded, cropped, filtered live, and non-destructive to your original audio file.
Each audio cell can be renamed, reorganized, and customized as needed. It can even stop and start as many clips as you can trigger (try that in the cart machines of old).
Soundboard is a fun utility with many audio and video production uses; especially live production. If your heart comes from radio of decades past, or you just want a flavorful tool that does more, Soundboard is highly recommended.