Does it do anything in audio post that RX does not do?
I answered a similar question over on Gearslutz with the answer below – I’ll cut and paste to here, since I think this is understandably going to be a very common question. This is just my personal take on it BTW… I don’t claim to be the expert on this, lol… others may think of SL differently:
Steinberg needs to release a demo to help show the difference and actually how they compliment each other.
So there’s plenty of overlap between RX and SL… and it’s easy to conclude that if you have one, you don’t need the other. But they work very well together and actually expand and enhance what the other does IMO.
Basically, the way I look at it, is that RX is a collection of very well designed algorithms for specific tasks… such as… breath control, de-clicking, de-reverberating, de-noising, etc., and general spectral repair with a basic set of spectral selection tools that work well for many restoration and scrubbing tasks. It’s a great tool, and everyone can probably benefit from it.
SpectraLayers Pro overlaps with several of those specific tasks that RX is designed for, but the key to understanding what makes SL special is the kinds of spectral selection and manipulation tools that it has, and how SL layers work. Just your ability to select spectral regions is vastly more flexible and advanced than RX… you have everything from a spectral magic wand to lasso, to polygonal selector, to harmonic selector, and more, all with Photoshop-like flexibility of blending/crossfading edges… and THEN you can manipulate your spectral selections… and do simple things like repairing/drawing/amplifying/extracting frequencies but also far more amazing things like cloning, transposing, time compressing, “spraying” those extremely precise spectral selections across layers just like you could do amazing things to graphics in Photoshop. And just like Photoshop, SpectraLayers Pro can be purely technical and forensic, but ALSO super creative and open-ended.
So where RX leaves off with a specific task, SL can take you into spectral sculpting and entirely new areas of sound design. But it can also be used for unique spectral alignment tasks, repair a performance instead of just clean it, brush away transients or noise or reverb, for example. It’s honestly like diving into the spectral rainbow of audio and playing with it in ways that are not possible with any other app. And yes, it can cover a lot of the bases of RX, but RX is fine-tuned for those specific tasks that it is designed for… SL is NOT as fine-tuned for those same specific tasks, but rather has much more open-ended tools. Sometimes you want to have both at your disposal.
Hope that helps a little. There’s not really a box you can put SpectraLayers in very well, since it’s unique, and that’s probably why it hasn’t thrived as much as it could have under Sony’s and Magix’ stewardship. One hopes that Steinberg will figure out a way to present SpectraLayers in a way that people will understand better.
Bottom line is that if you already have RX and you only need very specific tasks done and RX already covers those specific tasks, then RX will probably be just fine for you. BUT if you have ever wondered about exploring your sound spectrally in an organic and free-form way… and if you want to metaphorically control the size, shape and color of the “brush” you use in audio, and then paint and spray and clone and repair and scrub and transform your way through spectral elements, then SpectraLayers is something you’ll want to use.
Thanks for the info.
It’s a typical Steinberg thing then in a way. Very colourful with a lot of bells and whistles, open in many directions…
I see how the blurred selection function could help me, but then transferring from ProTools to RX and then to SL, back to RX and then back to PT does not exactly feel like a desirable workflow and since you mentioned that it basically lacks the fine tuned restoration plug in set of RX, that I use for many hours every day and know inside out, I guess as an audio post only guy with RX Advanced in the toolbox I probably won’t need it.
You describe it more like a creative playground rather than a straightforward audio post/audio restoration tool aimed at quickly getting the audio into shape for broadcast.
Like I mentioned, that’s entirely my take on it. I’m also coming from more of a sound design perspective, so I’m always looking at my tools for their creative potential… and SpectraLayers is insanely powerful in that department. However, some other user might consider it strictly as a forensic tool, at which it also excels IMO. I don’t mean to minimize SL’s potential for restoration, etc., but I consider RX to be very task-oriented… focused on one algorithm at a time. SL comes in and may be able to solve the exact same problem as well – or better (depending on the task) – but I feel it is far more flexible and open-ended, leading to perhaps different or more creative potential uses. I think that’s an advantage for some post and forensic workflows TBH. There are times when I’ve used RX and wanted to do more than just “fix” a problem in the audio file, but I’ve wanted to fix it and finesse it and sculpt it.
But again we come back to what I think is one of the challenges of marketing SpectraLayers Pro for Steinberg (and Magix and Sony before). It is very chameleon-like and covers a lot of ground for a lot of use-case scenarios. Since RX is the market leader in its own specific market segment, people will naturally want to compare SL to RX, even though they are different. I think a lot of people don’t quite know where to put SL in the market yet IMHO. But SL is actually unique out in the wilderness. So it’s one of those apples to oranges comparisons, and I think anyone who uses both will get a lot out of both. It’s not either/or IMO.
Anyway, in the end, I think a demo would be necessary to see if it fits in your workflow. Coming from a post perspective (but with more sound design process perhaps), I think it is a creatively brilliant and essential app, definitely a must-have. But if I were doing less sound design and more post/restoration/forensic approach, I’d STILL want it in my tool chest for the technical magic that it can do. There are times when RX is just not going to cut it. Again, I think people are still figuring out their own workflows with it. The analogy with Photoshop really is a good one. And Photoshop is used in everything from design, retouching, technical, artistic, forensic workflows, etc., etc. As always, YMMV. And as always, just my take on it.
I think where RX currently shines is what I think is machine-learned processing choices targeted at specific problems. Let’s face it, getting rid of noise specifically, or clothing rustle, often in TV requires a fast and effective workflow. No time to mess around and so RX tools are great because things sounding good enough quickly.
I’d love it if we could get that type of functionality here as an addition.
It does, indeed. There are mixing uses, too. For instance, how many times have you heard the advice that you should EQ tracks in a mix so that each instrument can have its own EQ space in a mix? How about being able to use Spectralayers to carve out the exact EQ space of a solo instrument, as it changes over time, and reduce/eliminate it from the background mix, thus improving clarity? Check this video:
There’s a little better explanation of exactly what it is doing in this example:
Of course, with ARA 2, all this functionality is available in clips directly on the Cubase timeline.
Another thing: I have to say, I am quite impressed at the layer morphing/blending (“mold” option). I’ve tried a lot of convolution and morphing plugins over the years, and this is by far the best I have come across. Everything sounds so clean and crisp.
So from a non user of either apps why would I spend on the super costly RX over SL? Especially coming from a never using this type of editing before
The apps are complimentary. It’s not really an either/or proposition. I think one of the biggest challenges that the developers and marketers of SpectraLayers Pro has is helping people understand what SL is really all about. It’s not really a direct competitor to RX, even though there is seemingly a lot of overlap.
My suggestion is to look at your use-case scenarios, workflow and projects and see how SL will help/enhance/inspire your work. Look at it as a powerful and unique tool that might make your productions, music, etc., better. Download the demo when it’s available in a couple of weeks.
Having said all that, if you still feel that SL and RX are in the same category of tool for you for whatever reason, and only ONE of them deserves your hard-earned money, I’d suggest that it comes down to specific tasks/needs that you uniquely have in your projects. And while they both overlap in some key areas that definitely blur the lines between the products, RX excels at specific repetitive tasks with its targeted algorithms that might be important to you, and SL excels at far more creative and free-form audio editing and manipulation with advanced tools that don’t exist in any other spectral app. YMMV.
And again, I personally think they compliment each other. Where RX lacks, SL makes up in creative potential and flexible tools. Where SL lacks, RX has specific targeted algorithms.
I am a long-time RX user and only became aware of SL as Steinberg was preparing to launch V6. That alone is a pretty big problem. For a product that has been out there for many years, there is surprisingly little information about it. The videos put out by the company are very superficial, as if the product was still in beta for its initial launch. The good news is that with an even mediocre marketing effort there should be great potential in increasing the SL customer base.
It seems to me SL makes 2 claims to fame:
- The selection tools are more flexible and powerful, modeled after popular drawing programs
- The layers concept allows you to work on multiple tracks simultaneously or even do transformations that create additional tracks
On that second point, the ability to work on multiple tracks seems rather significant. Considering how long SL has been out there, I wonder why Izotope has not added this capability to RX.
Sadly, that has been part of the challenge of marketing SL IMO, and the previous versions were published by Sony, and then Magix. Both not exactly the greatest stewards TBH. I don’t think Sony or Magix really understood what they had on their hands. So with the release of SL6 under Steinberg, let’s hope this gem gets the backing and support they need.
A lot of people still don’t know where SL fits in the market, unfortunately, part of the curse of being such a unique app.
But SL has been winning awards and fans for years… just flying below the radar IMHO. Let’s hope that now they’re at Steinberg, they can figure out how to sell a bunch of licenses and continue to build unique features. The long-term potential is really epic, if they get good support from Steinberg. It is one of the most misunderstood, brilliant apps on the market… and when it is compared 1:1 to RX, people don’t really understand the differences of approaches. Plus, everyone knows what RX is with the extreme endless marketing hype of iZotope blasting every week, aggressive upgrade cycles, and endless specials. And RX is very good at what it does, no doubt. I use it almost every day. But with SL, their under-the-radar approach has relegated SL to less visible status than it deserves.
And BTW I totally agree, that the SL team needs to post lots of example videos with real-world workflows and results in the various areas where it shines. And I also agree, the market growth potential is very large for them if they can overcome the marketing hurdles.
…can’t comment too much on this, but uarte pretty much summed the history and reasons to move SL to Steinberg
We hear you on example videos, it’ll be coming in the following weeks/months.
RX is very good at what it does
Agree absolutely, nevertheless here’s an interesting exercise: process in RX, then look at the spectrum in SL
I’m pretty excited about this whole situation… I think. I’m a prime example of someone that might love SL, but I still don’t ‘get it’. I use RX nearly every day for audio post. I see mention in SL for noise reduction, but how about declipping, filling ambience, removing mouth clicks/noises, wind noise, cloth rustle, etc. You know… all those repetitive ‘in the weeds’ tasks.
I recently got Nuendo in hopes that I can start getting more audio post work done as opposed to PTHD and it seems this has great potential.
For many common audio problems or disturbing noise, there are easy and fast plug-ins such as Noise Remover, DeClicker, DeCrackler, DeHisser, DeRumpler etc.
These spectrum tools are really meant for pure needlework: with a spectrum editor you can very deeply dive into the 3D view, no frequency undetected.
I have been working with the Spectrum Editors in Wavelab or in iZotopes RX for a while now. The results can be good to very good, depending on the audio condition and the work involved.
Sound design would also be a weighty point in terms of Spectral work, but: a certain training period is required.
These spectral things are not tools for quick results.
I think that’s the question. With RX, you can safely process entire files in a single pass and usually obtain good results. RX does allow “pure needlework” but its primary usage (I would think) is the ability to apply its algorithms to entire programs.
I don’t see any similar capability in SL. All the examples I have seen are the “pure needlework” things.
That’s the thing…, RX is great for ‘quick results’ (that also sound good/great) with its module design. I do a lot of broadcast work with quick turn arounds. No time to ‘deep dive’. I can send over (at most) 16 clips from PT to RX, rip through everything, and send back to PT with nothing but quick keys.
It’s good to hear SL has some similar tools. Steinberg should really take the time to show them off. Would be absolutely stoked if it had something comparable to RX’s ‘ambience match’.
Looking forward to a demo.
RX has more specifically-tuned algorithms for specific cases of course. That’s its core strength, and the workflow is very good for repetitive tasks, as has been mentioned many times. It’s a very good app to have in your arsenal.
But SL does have processes for the whole program if you want to use it that way – although it doesn’t have a big library of specific algorithms for specific cases. But go to the Process menu for noise reduction, for example. You can “register the noise” like other spectral noise reduction apps, then apply it to the whole file, and you get very good results similar to other top apps for typical spectral noise reduction, no surprise there. Process menu also has reverb reduction, and I hope they add many more here. Imprinting is especially unique and awesome, and can also be quickly used across a whole clip/file.
On the other hand, I have to note that a lot of the time I’m using the specific tools in RX, I’m targeting a specific problem like a bunch of clicks, pops, distortion, specific background or noise issues, etc… and frankly it’s super fast and easy to hit those manually and more musically/naturally right in SL, in context, with its Photoshop-like tools. So it covers similar use-case scenarios, but with a different workflow process.
BUT the magic happens with the whole concept of layers, which is unique to SL. It requires a new workflow compared to RX, but it can definitely be used for broad and quick problem solving. One way of using layers, for example, is that layers allow you to build a bunch of selections quickly with all the powerful selection tools in SL (which are the most comprehensive of these kinds of selection tools BTW), and then copy (or cut) the selection(s) to new layers. This, admittedly, takes practice until you get a good feel for what sounds best… but working with your eyes and ears this way can yield better results in many cases than the specific targeted algorithms in RX IMO. Then on the new layer, if you had copied, you could then invert the phase, for example, which will knock those selections out of the mix of course like a sledge hammer (or if you had cut, you don’t need to deal with inverting phase). But what a lot of critics of this approach don’t seem to be discussing (or perhaps realizing), is that you have volume sliders on each layer so you can very gently and precisely add/subtract/mix the material of the various layers! The layers concept makes for a great workflow IMO in terms of fine-tuning whole-track adjustments, and it can be done quickly and efficiently.
AND this is where it can get very interesting… you could then theoretically get as complex as you want (and still quickly once you have the workflow down) and create several layers of selected material to finesse – from noise to specific frequency selections, to problem areas, to corrections, etc… things that you might do one pass at a time in RX… and build them all into several layers and then fine tune the actual mix of ALL of them and get amazing results since you’re hearing EVERYTHING in context, with ALL selections and layers and levels at the same time. And I’m not necessarily talking needlework here… I’m talking broad brush strokes… BUT you can also get into needlework on any layer if you want to… Super easy to adjust and tweak until you have the perfect balance of elements. All in context.
So SL can definitely do things quickly across the entire program material, but the workflow is different and it can very easily get into needlework territory if you want to or need to. And when you factor in ARA compatibility and interoperability with WaveLab, for example, I’d say that SL greatly broadens your palette of what you can do quickly. And of course, it’s best IMO to use SL + RX + WL + an ARA DAW like Cubase/Nuendo together, and get the best of everything.
The volume slider on the layers you mention is a very interesting feature. Is it a real time playback property?
I could see that helping me a lot.
Yes, each layer’s controls – Mute, Solo, Phase Reversal, and Volume – are all real time during playback. So you can split/build your layers as you desire, then hit play, and adjust each layer as it plays back and hear everything in context, as you adjust it. And actually, the graphics representations, both the spectral and waveform display, are also updated in real-time. So as you hit any of those layer controls, what you hear is what you see. Very cool. Hope that makes sense. And actually, the Photoshop-like tools are also real time during playback… so you can literally be sculpting sound, visually seeing the results, and listening at the same time.