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PC - Steinberg WaveLab Review

Manufacturer: Steinberg
Product: Audio Editor, Audio Processor, CD Burner
Price: $499.00
System Requirements: Pentium 133, Mac/Windows 95/98/NT, 32 meg of RAM, 16-bit soundcard

I received the WaveLab for review with considerable anticipation. Its list of features indicated below leaves little to be desired in an audio editor. WaveLab proved to be worthy of my expectations as you will see in this review.

The feature set for Wavelab is far too extensive to reproduce here. Wavelab does provide a complete listing of features in .pdf format here.


Some of the more important features are included below:

  • 32-bit/64-bit audio processing
  • Unlimited Undo/Redo (space dependent)
  • Real-time CD burning
  • Native and DirectX effects plugins
  • Time Stretch
  • Batch processing
  • Standard editing - cut, paste, crossfade, etc.
  • On and off-line processing
  • Normalization

Wavelab 3.0 comes with a 637 page manual that is well-written, informative and helpful for users of all levels. In addition, there are FAQ and Forum resources on their website. The manual begins with a section on setting up and optimizing your PC to use Wavelab. Generally, their recommendations are sound for any DAW box. It is clear that considerable thought went into writing the manual and it progresses in a logical manner.

Tech support:

There is a significant amount of information about Wavelab at their site and the associated forums. In addition, two updates/bug fixes were posted to the site during my review process. Otherwise, I did not need any particular tech support for any problems that arose through use of Wavelab. It worked as advertised with no problems.


Wavelab comes in an attractive package - - a box that contains the manual, the CD and serial number/registration information. The installation is fairly regular fare, prompting you to input the serial number into appropriate boxes on the monitor screen. I followed the instructions as prompted and successfully installed Wavelab. One caution, depending on what you have in your computer is needed however.

The installation procedure asks you if you would like to "associate" Wavelab with .wav files? I said yes without thinking about it and Wavelab sought out all .wav files on my computer and renamed them with a Wavelab suffix. Unfortunately, I was using SAWPro extensively which uses an .edl extension for its wave files and stores multiple takes in "regions" in various folders. As a result of associating Wavelab with .wav files, Wavelab went in and took all the SAWPro regions and put them all in one file as if it were one successive .wav file. I was not able to load up sessions in SAWPro at all. I uninstalled Wavelab but it did not help, that is, did not restore the suffix previously made on the .wav files. I was able to eventually open up the files created by Wavelab from the SAWPro files but had to cut and paste the takes from my previous sessions. My suggestion is to not "associate" .wav files with Wavelab unless you are certain you want to.

First Impressions:

The first thing I noticed was how intuitive yet robust Wavelab was to use. There is a certain logic in its layout that makes it comprehensible at the outset where you need to go to accomplish a task. Much of the editing work on a wave file is performed in the display window depicted below.


As you can see from the waveform image above, there are a number of ways to control the appearance in this window. The top of the window features a display of the entire wave file. Below this is a expanded view of the same file. Slider controls at the bottom and far right provide for adjustment of horizontal and vertical zoom levels. The stereo file I was using is displayed as right and left sides, across the bottom is a slider bar to adjust time placement and across the top is a time reading.

Editing functions are performed in this window by highlighting the area to be edited and then applying the edit function to it. To select the entire file simply double-click on the center line and the entire file is selected. These include the standard cut, copy, paste functions. These are aided by snap-to zero crossing or snap-to time unit functions. In addition, fade in/fade out, crossfade functions are done here as well.


Among the tools available for use the familiar transport bar seen here.






Making tracks for writing to CD is very easy in the CD window. A pull-down menu is access by clicking on the upper left arrow and the menu shown appears. To add tracks, simply click on the add tracks button and the familiar Windows selection window allows the user to browse for tracks to add. These tracks are added to the CD window in the order selected. The user can then rearrange the order as needed. Markers and time spaces between tracks can be set at will. To write a CD, simply tell it to write a CD and off it goes. Wavelab supports a wide range of CD writers and maintains a list of them on its website.




Wavelab contains a flexible and robust dynamics function which can be used as a compressor, limiter, expander and/or noise gate. The graphic interface allows the user to specify via keyboard entry, just like a normal compressor. It the user checks the graphic editing box, the user can also "draw" the shape of the dynamics processor at particular points on the graphic interface. In any case, attack/release times, thresholds and ratios are set in the associated windows on the graphic interface. 





In addition, the user can start with a wide set of presets and make adjustments as needed. 







One of my favorite tools in this set is the timestretch function. Since I am essentially a one man operation, I use individual drum samples, loops and fills to create drum tracks for my songs. I build my tracks very slowly and methodically, calculating the time length of the measures down to less than a thousandth of a second. Oftentimes the prerecorded samples are set at a BPM that does not match the tempo of my piece yet the loop/beat may rhythmical ly fit. With this function, I simply open the drum file in Wavelab, highlight all of it, set the existing known BPM in the left window and the target BPM I have calculated (adjustable to the thousandth of a second) in the right window. Then, I select the quality level and process the file. The resulting file is lengthened or shortened with very little perceptible sonic signature of the process. Limits do apply to how much this function can transparently change a file. Nevertheless, for most purposes such as mine, it works terrificly.


The master window provides signal level and plug-in effects processor control over a final mix. The window displays a series of six slots on the left with pull-down menus. Wavelab supports its own effects processors, Cubase VST (VST-compatible plug-ins) and DirectX plug-ins. The pull-down menu in each slot allows the user to select any supported plug-in which is in turn displayed in the slot's window. The fx button opens the plug-in control panel and the On/Off button activates/deactivates the plug-in. The input signal is processed sequentially (1 -> 6) through each slot - - therefore careful consideration of the order of the effects applied should be forefront in the users mind. Solo and dither options are also available here. 


Other capabilities

Audio Montage:

This window is where the bulk of building a project occurs in Wavelab. This function creates a multi-track non-destructive editing environment composed of audio clips - - essentially "containers" which include audio settings and functions referencing the audio source file. In it, the user can arrange, edit, playback and record audio clips on separate and multiple tracks. Each Clip can be manipulated with clip-based effects, volume and pan changes, fade/crossfade functions, among others. It acts as a workbench or area wherein the user can assemble audio parts. It is non-destructive because each clip contains a reference to the source audio file on the hard drive - - the source file remains unchanged.

The montage window has a number of metering/analysis functions available. These include level meters, phase meters, and spectrum analyzers. All these give detailed and helpful information regarding the audio files used in the montage. Although the montage is not a multi-track recorder, the user can record audio directly into clips in the audio montage.

Basic rearranging of the clips can be done by using certain "mouse zones" - - divided into top clip, upper clip, lower clip and bottom clip areas. Dragging the mouse in the following areas results in:

  • Top clip area - - Copy clip by dragging
  • Upper clip area - - Make a selection range
  • Lower clip/Bottom clip - - Select clips and move clips by dragging the mouse



The default functionality of the clip areas can be changed to a variety of other functions at the user's discretion. In addition, if you wish to try variations on montage projects, cloning the montage is an option After the project is built, the user can save the results or burn to a CD as an CD audio file.




Nudging is another helpful function. Whole clips can be "nudged" right or left on a timeline for precise placement in a track. In addition, the edges of clips, fade in/fade out junctions points, crossfade points, cursor position, selection ranges and markers can all be nudged. This is very useful for looping, adding in previously recorded material at particular locations, etc. Default "nudge" increments can be set as indicated here and further adjusted by key strokes associated with the nudge. Such as, simultaneously press Shift and the default is multiplied 10x, press Ctrl the default is one-tenth, press Ctrl and Shift the default is 1/100th the default size.

Ease of use

Overall, I found Wavelab easy to use. Coupled with a very complete manual and even more detailed online Help files, answers to questions that were not immediately intuitive were readily findable. The Audio Montage is a powerful tool for constructing music files. It is somewhat reminiscent of SAWPro, one of my favorite tools. Where I found the greatest value in Wavelab was in its innate ability to assist me in making necessary changes to my tracks.

For instance, I recorded an acoustic guitar track and vocal in SAWPro. I then added a bass track using GigaStudio and a sampled fretless bass. I assumed that since the bass was sampled it would be in tune with my carefully tuned acoustic. I was wrong. The resultant tracks were off to a barely perceptible degree. In the old days, a retake of the bass would necessary. With Wavelab, I went into the guitar track and found a representative sample tone, highlighted it, and told Wavelab to analyze the pitch. It gave me a result that was very close to what I expected. I then found the related representative tone in the bass track, highlighted it and analyzed its pitch. I discovered that the bass was about 11% of a quarter note sharp. So, I then highlighted the entire bass track and applied a high-quality pitch reduction to bring it into line with my acoustic guitar. The result was amazing, in-tune, and sonically sound. The bass line did not sound altered in quality, only in pitch. Truly remarkable.


There are many other features of this program that I am unable to fit in this review. For my purposes - - a primarily solo musician/studio owner, Wavelab offers more than enough editing/processing/mastering power for any project I have tackled or intend to tackle. It has been extremely stable and in my opinion very easy to use. Its intuitiveness is ironically a bit of a contrast to its sister program Cubase, which I have had trouble getting to work well. The Wavelab team members have thought of the things a recordist needs and supplied them in this tool. In sum, Wavelab is a credit to Steinberg.