Shockwave-Sound Blog and Articles
Recording Sound for Perspective

Recording Sound for Perspective

A sound design tutorial by Paul Virostek

Why Record for Perspective?

I remember a time I first began editing when I was struggling to make a car door slam match the picture on film. I shifted the sound earlier, later, added and removed elements and it still didn’t fit. The editor who was mentoring me said:

If you’re trying too hard to make a sound fit, then you’re using the wrong sound.

He told me why: the car door sound effect should have been correct (it was the proper model and year), but it had been recorded inches away from the car. In the scene the camera was a few meters away from the car. This difference made the sound jarringly wrong.

In other words, no matter how you synchronize the sound with the picture, if the actual nature of the sound is wrong, it will never work. This taught me how important it is to use the proper sound:

• correct volume
• correct timbre
• correct perspective or apparent distance

Cheating the Effect

Of course, volume is easy to adjust. If the timbre is wrong, you can choose another sound from the same family. However if the sound’s perspective or apparent distance doesn’t match the picture, no matter what you try it will never completely fit.

Simply raising or lowering the volume of the sound may seem to make the sound closer or further away, but this is only a ‘cheat’. The match will be close, but will invariably seem subtly, disturbingly, off.

What About Using Reverb?

One common trick is to apply reverb to closely-recorded sounds to make them seem further away. Even the best reverb plug-ins cannot replicate perspective perfectly, however, and the result will sound slightly odd. How do we solve this problem? Read on.

What is Perspective?

Perspective describes how close a sound appears. Typically a sound’s perspective is described in four ways:

  • Close (anything under 10 feet/3-4 meters)
  • Medium Distant (roughly 10 feet/3-4 meters away)
  • Distant (anything more than 10 feet/3-4 meters away)
  • Background or BG (quiet and muted)


  • MCU or Major Close Up (inches away from the microphone, although this term is being phased out in favor of Close)

A close/medium distance mic setup

Here are some examples of a smoke alarm recorded at various perspectives. NOTE: it may help to wear headphones to hear the perspective or ‘space’ or ‘room’ properly (and have the volume down, the sound is sharp):

Notice how the Distant alarm has more echo, even though it is slightly louder than the Medium Distant alarm? The difference between these recordings is how much ‘air’ or space is apparent in the recording. ‘Air’ is created by a) the space where the recording takes place (also known as ‘room’) and b) the amount of reverb.

An Example: Woof

Imagine a dog barking in a city alley. A close recording will have prominent barks, and very little of the echo of the barks in the alley.

The further the dog is from the microphone, the more ‘air’ or ‘room’ will appear on the recording. The dog will seem quieter since it is further from the microphone. We will also hear more of the barks reverberating or bouncing off the alley walls.

It is exactly this aspect of the sound that we want. This distance, or perspective, will make it match perfectly with medium distant camera shots.
A recording of the close dog and one of the distant dog, although they are the same animal, will sound completely different.

Me, between a close/medium mic setup

Which Recording Perspective is Best?

So which perspective do you choose if you are going to record a sound effect? The short answer: all of them.

With today’s digital multi-track recorders you can record all perspectives at once. Patricio Libenson, the recordist for Hollywood Edge’s Explosions library, told me his set up involved multiple microphones, all at different distances and angled mathematically to account for phasing. The result is an incredibly rich collection.

Let’s return to our dog in the alley. We can set up one mic at the end of the alley, and have another next to the dog, both plugged into the same recorder. When the dog barks, we’ll have recorded both perspectives at once.

Match the Recording to Your Project

If you have to choose one perspective over the others, consider the project you are working on:

  • Multimedia or Radio – it is always best to record close perspective for these projects. The reason? Distance has little value when you won’t be using picture or visuals. Also sound designers like the immediacy and power of close effects.
  • Film or Television – most film editors prefer their effects recorded Medium Distant. The idea is that most camera shots are typically Medium Distant or further. Also, in a pinch you can fake a close perspective by raising the volume. In a perfect world they would like to have a Close version available as well.

Unfortunately, most commercial libraries are recorded close. Imagine you are trying to use a close dog bark in a scene where the dog is across the yard. It won’t fit.

That’s why at Airborne Sound we record two perspectives: close and medium distant, even if it requires multiple takes.


When you record sounds to match the requirements for your project, you’ll find the sounds fit easier, and require less editing. And, of course, it just sounds right.

About the author: Paul Virostek travels worldwide recording the sounds of cities and cultures. He shares his collection at, and writes about his experiences field recording, and sharing sound effects at He is also the author of “Field Recording: from Research to Wrap – An Introduction to Gathering Sound Effects“, which was published in 2012.

Three Ways to Build a Sound Library

Three Ways to Build a Sound Library

by Paul Virostek

What’s the best way for a new field recordist to begin building a sound library? How can a sound designer grow a folders of scattered samples into a collection with heft and weight?

Huge sound clip libraries roam the Web. Some have tens of thousands of sound effects. New sound pros are easily intimidated. Perhaps you want to sell your sound clips on the Internet. Maybe you just want to grow your collection to use in your own projects. How can you grow a similar sound library? Most of us don’t have thousands of dollars to spend doing so.

I know the feeling. I began building my sound library of with only a handful of DAT tapes. Now it numbers over 20,000 samples. You can do this, too.

So, today I’ll share three ways to start building a sound library. I’ll explain the difficulties, how to avoid them, and the pros and cons of each method.
What You Need to Get Started

What do you need to start a sound collection?

A good library demands endless intangible qualities: ideas, creativity, flexibility, and originality. We’ll look at things more directly, though. What tools do you need to begin building a good collection?

  • Gear.
  • Sound isolation.
  • Original recordings and copyright.
  • Cash.
  • Time.

Your choice of the following three options depends on how much of these you have, and want to use.

1. Do It All Yourself


The simplest way to get started is to do everything yourself. This means you’ll provide the gear. You’ll shape the recording space (whether a sound booth, or a clean atmosphere outside). You’ll find the cash to fund everything, and the time to get things done.

The major benefit of this option is control. You can record in your home at two in the morning. There’s no need to schedule studio time, or rely on assistants to show up.

And, since you produce every clip, you’ll own all of them. You can twist them, remix them, or even give them away however you like. Your collection will be perfectly legal and 100% yours.

Many recordists on a budget are able to find free software and plug-ins to achieve the same effect as commercial options. You’re free to adapt your home for the best recordings: shut off the HVAC, unplug the fridge, and so on.

Just the same, the recording environment won’t be as pristine as a studio. That may mean you’ll have to alter what you record. For example, you may not be able to record quiet props. Loud, more prominent recordings will work well, however. You may wish to focus on exterior atmospheres, too. Just ensure a substandard recording space doesn’t sacrifice the quality of your recordings. Sound isolation and quality are extremely important for a high-quality collection.

• You learn a lot.
• You improve your craft.
• You have complete control.
• The only expense is time.

• Lack of sophisticated equipment.
• Possibly a noisy environment.
• Takes longer.

2. Record in a Studio


Major cities will have dozens of recording studios. They’ll feature the latest software, and plug-ins. They’ll stock a mixture of modern equipment and classic vintage gear. These studios will be soundproof, and acoustically treated. This allows you to capture delicate, quiet sounds. This is a good choice to ensure you have clean recordings. You also have access to superior microphones.

However, this benefit comes with a cost. Studios are expensive. Research options. Big studios charge $200 an hour. There are cheaper, smaller studios that charge as low as $50 an hour. Weekend rates are cheaper. Night rates are cheaper still.
If you decide to work this way, make sure that you are fully prepared. Make a list of everything you want to record. Gather all your props beforehand. This means you will need less time in the studio to record what you need. That makes it cheaper.

It’s a good idea to explain to the engineer that you must own all recordings. Most of the time they don’t care. They’re selling the space, not the artistic work. It’s critical to have this discussion, nonetheless.
Do you have your own recorder? Comfortable choosing and arranging microphones? Record everything yourself. Inform the facility you don’t need an engineer. This will save a bit more in studio costs.

Remember to bring your own hard drive. Don’t use theirs. Others may use the studio later, and mistakenly use sound effects you own.
This option resolves the fragile recording process itself. Once the recordings are captured you can return to your home studio and master all the final clips yourself.

• Professional, modern equipment.
• Pristine recording space.
• Engineer’s expertise with acoustics, microphone quality, and so on.
• Creative advice from a sound pro. Collaboration.

• Need to pay whenever you want to record.
• Dependent on others.
• Must ensure ownership of files with studio.

3. Hire an Artist.


A third option is to pay someone else to build a sound library for you. There are hundreds of sound pros that are happy to record or design sound effects for your collection. These pros are highly-talented people that will deliver superior recordings.

In this case, you’ll send them a list of tracks you need. You may choose from a selection of existing tracks and “buy out” the rights to own them yourself. The fee for this will be based on an hourly rate, a bulk package, or a price based on quantity.

This is a quick, effortless way to build your sound library. An appealing side effect of hiring others is that they’ll provide a fresh take on sound recording.

There are two issues, however.

First, this is usually expensive. The cost of labour makes it a bit too pricey. You may never make up the costs of two days of artist labour in sound effect sales. You may find someone cheaply, though. That is key. Perhaps you can hire a talented film school student and a lower rate. The second issue is that your freelancer must sign a contract transferring ownership of the work to you. This is called work-for-hire. This ensures you own the creations, can use them in your own projects, and resell them if you like.

It’s important to realize that you’re working with creators, just like you. You have worked hard to create your own tracks, and they are precious to you. The freelancers you hire will feel the same. Most artists are reluctant to give up ownership of their creations. They’re usually emotionally invested in them. It’s completely understandable.

This arrangement certainly can work, however, you just need to make the issue of ownership clear. Tell them you are buying out the sounds, and that you plan to sell them later. Mention this before you begin the work. This ensures everyone is beginning the project with the same understanding.

• Fast.
• High-quality, professional work.
• Fresh recordings.

• Expensive.
• Creative ownership must be guaranteed.
• Must ensure freelancers own the copyright of the clips they are selling you.

Which Do You Choose?

No single option is better than the other. Instead, your best choice is the balance of cash, time, and availability to sound isolation and gear that works for you. Your choice may be influenced by people, too. Are you more comfortable working alone, or do you like bouncing ideas off of others? Perhaps you feel it’s easier to let someone else do all the work instead. Involving others can be inspiring. It adds expense, but saves time.

Be aware that beginning a sound library is a long journey. It takes time to record and polish sound effects. The initial up-front investment in time and cash is real, however it will pay off handsomely over the years of your sound career. Use these three options to begin your sound library now. Why?

A strong collection represents your skill and inspiration in every clip you record, master, and publish. As your sound library grows, it will become involved in every project you join, amplify it, and share your creativity with all that hear your work.

About the author: Paul Virostek travels worldwide recording the sounds of cities and cultures. He shares his collection at, and writes about his experiences field recording, and sharing sound effects at He is also the author of “Field Recording: from Research to Wrap – An Introduction to Gathering Sound Effects“, which was published in 2012.

Timeline of classical composers

Timeline of classical composers

by Paul Virostek for

Timeline 1 – Renaissance & Baroque period

Featuring the following classical composers: Cipriano De Rore, Giulio Caccini, Gregorio Allegri, Philipp Friedrich Boddecker, Diedrich Buxtehude, Johann Pachelbel, Henry Purcell, Francois Couperin, Tomaso Albinoni, Jeremiah Clarke, Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, Georg Philipp Telemann, Jean-Joseph Mouret, George Frideric Händel, Johann Sebastian Bach, Benedetto Marcelo, Francesco Geminiani, Jean-Baptiste Senaille, Sylvius Leopold Weiss, Joseph Bodin de Boismortier, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Cristoph Willibald Gluck, Georg Matthias Monn, Michal Kazimierz Oginski, Franz Joseph Haydn, Johann Baptist Vanhal.

Timeline 2 – Classical period

Featuring the following classical composers: Sylvius Leopold Weiss, Joseph Bodin de Boismortier, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Christoph Willibald Gluck, Georg Matthias Monn, Michal Mazimierz Oginski, Frans Joseph Haydn, Johann Baptist Vanhal, Luigi Boccherini, Carl Stamitz, Dmitry Bortniansky, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Luigi Cherubini, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Niccolo Paganini, Carl Maria von Weber, Gioacchino Rossini, Saverio Mercadante, Aleksander Gribodeyov, Gaetano Donizetti, Franz Peter Schubert, Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges, Vincenzo Bellini, Josef Lanner, Adolphe Adam, Louis Hector Berlioz, Johann Strauss I, Michael Glinka, Felix Mendelssohn

Timeline 3 – Romantic period, part 1

Featuring the following classical composers: Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Niccolo Paganini, Carl Maria von Weber, Gioacchino Rossini, Saverio Mercadante, Aleksander Griboyedov, Gaetano Donizetti, Franz Peter Schubert, Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges, Vincenzo Bellini, Josef Lanner, Adolphe Adam, Louis Hector Berlioz, Johann Strauss I, Mikhail Glinka, Felix Meldelssohn, Robert Schumann, Frederic Chopin, Franz Liszt, Guiseppe Verdi, Richard Wagner, Charles-Francois Gounod, Jacques Offenbach, Franz von Suppe, Giovanni Bottesini, Bedrich Smetana, Johann Strauss II, Ludwig Minkus, Luigi Luzzi, Anton Rubinstein, Alexander Borodin, Johannes Brahms, Amilcare Ponchielli, Charles Camille Saint-Saens, Henryk Wieniawski, Leo Delibes, Georges Bizet, Max Bruch, Modest Mussorgsky, Piotr Tchaikovsky, Antonin Leopold Dvorak


Timeline 4- Romantic period, part 2

Featuring the following classical composers: Jules Massenet, Edvard Grieg, Pablo de Sarasate, Paolo Tosti, Richard Franz Joseph Heuberger, John Philip Sousa, Anatoly Liadov, Edward William Elgar, Giacomo Puccini, Gustav Mahler, Anton Arensky, Paul Dukas, Alexander Glazunov, Dmitry Allemenov, Vittorio Monti, Alexander Scriabin, Gustav Holst, Ottorini Respighi, Reinhold Gliere, Pavel Chesnokov, George Gershwin
Review: Samson Zoom H4 Handy Recorder

Review: Samson Zoom H4 Handy Recorder

By Paul Virostek


For decades it seemed professional sound recording was limited to cumbersome tape-based Nagra machines or DAT recorders that required agonizing real-time transfers. I have been recording Hollywood sound effects for over 13 years. Often I’ve heard a rare sound and wished I had a recorder handy to capture it a moment’s notice. Neither a Nagra or even a portable DAT recorder had the combination of speed, portability and sound quality I needed for professional use.

So, when Samson released its Zoom H4 Handy recorder ($299.00), I paid close attention.


The Zoom H4 was not the first portable digital recorder. The initial recorder to catch the attention of professionals was M-Audio’s Microtrack recorder. It showed promise, but was not considered seriously by pros since it lacked true 48-volt phantom power needed for the best mics. Other recorders lacked crystal-clear 24-bit recording, or the professional XLR inputs jacks needed for pure, grounded signal transmission.

The Zoom H4 stood out. It offered many eagerly awaited pro features at a consumer price: 96k/24bit recording resolution, professional XLR inputs, onboard mics, 4 tracks of recording, and it could also function as an audio interface with your Mac or PC, all for under $300.

In addition to these features, the surprisingly small size and reports of a fair on-board condenser mic with good external mic preamps made me purchase one, then three more. It has become my solution for guerilla or stealth recording.

Now, after using the recorder for a year, I’ve come to see its limitations, more strengths, and its proper place in the blossoming market of digital recorders.

The Zoom H4 is marketed toward musicians. Although I have used it exclusively for sound effects recording, musicians will enjoy the 4 track recording, mic emulation, effects processing, as well as free Cubase software. As mentioned, the recorder also functions as an audio interface so budget musicians will find everything all in one package.


Initial Impressions – Software and Hardware

Two things about this recorder are apparent right out of the box: its construction and its size. The housing is plastic, and the recorder feels light and cheap. Although it hasn’t happened yet, I constantly fear that a short drop will shatter the thing. I was, however, delighted by its size. It fits comfortably in my hand and can easily be tucked into a blazer pocket.

After slipping in two AA batteries (providing about 3 hours of recording time) and a Smart Digital Card I powered it up. The start up time of about 15 seconds is long, and not nearly fast enough to capture that unexpected effect at a moments notice.

Shortly I was presented the home screen that displays battery life, recording levels, file name and duration. Initial incarnations of the H4’s firmware provided only sparse information on the screen, but Samson has been diligent with its firmware updates and additional display information, as well as other features, has been added. (Firmware updates can be found here:

A menu button on the lower centre of the recorder controls playback, and also returns to the home screen in a fashion similar to an iPod. A toggle wheel on the side of the recorder allows cycling and selection of menus options. The menus are simple, with charming icons, however it should be noted that file management and renaming is a tad arduous. It is best to save these things after you have transferred them to your computer.

I formatted the SD card, and take note settings are reset after formating, so you will have to reset your sample rate and preferences each time you format a card. The sampling rate, bit rate and file type (WAV or MP3) can be easily restored by pressing one of the four preset buttons on the left side of the recorder.


The H4 offers two recording options. You can use the on-board condenser mics, or connect an external microphone of your own via the XLR/1/4i inch jacks at the base of the recorder.

The on-board mics capture consistently fair recordings. The recordings are a bi thin but capture a decent stereo image with reasonable depth. The condenser microphone is useful only in interior locations; even the slightest breeze will overwhelm the mic and ruin a recording. Samson includes a foam ball as a windshield cover, but I found it is more useful as a cat toy: it is useless in preventing wind from ruining recordings. If you are holding the recorder in your hand any small movement will be transferred to the microphones. Thankfully Samson includes a basic mic stand and mic sled.

Recording itself is serviceable, although the recording button is a bit soft. You can’t tell when you have pressed it. However, it will flash when armed, and glow solid while recording. This is fine if you are able to have the recorder visible. It becomes a bit of a problem during stealth recording and you are unable to
look at the recorder. The headphone preamp is weak and it is difficult to monitor.

A major pitfall of the Zoom H4 is the recording level switches. Most recorders have a dial to set the input levels. While the H4 does have the ability to fine-tune the input levels, you have to dig down a few menu levels to get at it, which is not helpful under stressful conditions. Otherwise, you are at the mercy of the level switches on the side of the recorder, which have three settings: low, medium and high. This means that setting your levels will be coarse, and you will risk distorting your recordings. I’ve found that setting the levels one setting lower than appropriate works well. However the lack of a dedicated level knob is a major problem with the Zoom H4.

Exterior mics can connect to the recorder by the combo XLR/1/4 inch jacks. These jacks set the recorder apart from other recorders in its class. Since the best microphones use XLR connectors you can attach proper cables without having to string a line of adapters between your microphone and the recorder. One sadly overlooked aspect is that the jacks are not self-locking. Commonly (at least to me) a mic cable can slip out of the H4.

In the end, the true test of any digital recorder is its microphone preamplifier. No matter how good a microphone is, the recording will only be as good as the preamp you are using. I was pleasantly surprised by the H4’s preamp. I usually use a Sound Devices MixPre and while the H4’s preamp cannot match the quality of a professional preamp, it performed well. I have been able increase the gain of quiet sounds by 15db in Pro Tools without any serious hiss or chip noise being introduced.


I am a fan of the Samson H4, and would recommend it for both amateurs and professionals. It is especially useful for stealth recordings. I was recently in New York and while The Metropolitan Museum checked my larger recording bag at the door, I was able to smuggle the H4 past security. Also, the flexibility of the profession XLR jacks have allowed me to connect my Neumann 191 microphone directly to the recorder without using signal-degrading adapters or cables.

Overall, the H4 packs more features than its $300.00 price suggests, and is a useful tool for professionals, amateurs and hobbyists.

Summary/Bottom Line

If you can overlook a few user-interface shortcomings and the cheap construction, you will have an inexpensive ultra-portable consumer recorder packed with pro features.

Overall Rating: 4/5
Value Rating: 4.5/5

Used for: 1 year


– 96 kilohertz 24 bit resolution
– combo XLR/1/4 inch input
– small size
– can be used as an audio interface
– price


– plastic construction
– setting levels is coarse
– XLRs do not lock into jacks
– Wind on mic
– housing issues

Similar Products Used

Edirol R9
Sound Devices 722 and 744T
Fostex FR-2
Zaxcom Deva IV


About the author: Paul Virostek travels worldwide recording the sounds of cities and cultures. He shares his collection at, and writes about his experiences field recording, and sharing sound effects at He is also the author of “Field Recording: from Research to Wrap – An Introduction to Gathering Sound Effects“, which was published in 2012.

Asset Management: Keep track of sound clips with metadata

Asset Management: Keep track of sound clips with metadata


How to Choose Sound Library Management Software

by Paul Virostek

Are you a composer with a large music library? Do you plan to be one, someday?

Perhaps you’re a producer or editor who juggles music and sound clips daily, and are throwing your hands up to the sky trying to sort your samples strewn across a half dozen hard drives.

If this sounds like you, sound library management can help.

I’ve managed libraries of hundreds of thousands of music tracks and sound effects. At a certain point, the advantage of having dozens of folders of clips begins to work against you. You’ll find yourself, as I had, swimming through a sea of versions, underscores, and alts. In this situation, you’ll find your work becomes entangled in file management, instead of doing what you need to: create.

One way to evade this problem is to organize your collection of tracks with sound library management software, and metadata.

Today’s article explains this software. It will show how you can benefit from using it, and improve the quality of your work. And, finally, it will suggest current options available for you to organize their sound library so you will work better, and faster.

What is Sound Library Management Software?

Sound library management software is also known by the rather dry name of “asset management” software, or music jukebox software. I call it sound browsing software.

In our age of endless data accumulation, sound browsing software allows someone to increase their collection without worrying how they will find, use, or deliver the sounds they need.

What does it do? Sound browsing software has three main goals:

1. To allow all your sound clips to be browsed, searched, and auditioned in one place.
2. To add bonus metadata to each track.
3. To convert and export these sound clips into other formats, or send to sound editing software.

Each task is quite involved. Let’s look at them one at a time.

1. Browsing and Searching Sounds


More sound effects and music tracks are being created and delivered at higher resolutions. Of course, this requires more storage space. Inevitably, a composer will add many external hard drives, just to keep up.

Sound browsing software keeps track of all these files, whether they are all on one drive, or many. Some software can search across networks, or the Internet.

While the sounds may be in disparate places, they are all displayed together within a browser window. Tracks will stack tidily in columns, much like what you’d see in an Excel spreadsheet, or in the search results on the Shockwave Sound website.

Tracks can be sorted by duration, name, file path, and so on, with a single click. This means that your main tracks on hard drive 1 will be grouped neatly with your underscores on hard drive 2.

The software also allows complex searches to find exactly the tracks you need. And, when they’re displayed, your sounds can be auditioned side-by-side using non-linear scrubbing tools.

2. Adding Metadata

The most common way of describing a sound is by its file name. Often this isn’t enough. Some of us pair this file name with more information, such as categories, composer information, and more in Word documents, or spreadsheets. The information in the Word documents is not technically attached to the file itself. The sound file and the Word document live in two different places. This means it can be separated, however, losing your valuable descriptions and data.

In other words, the spreadsheet information is not part of the sound’s data itself. It’s data beyond the file, or metadata.

Metadata is a way of describing a sound beyond its filename. It can involve adding information about publishing societies, instrumentation, and keywords. Unfortunately, there’s only so much of this information that can be stored in the file name text itself. Most file names are limited to 255 characters, and long file names are hard to understand.

Sound browsing software fixes this problem. It writes this text data information directly into the file itself. It doesn’t damage the audio file. In fact, it will sound no differently. What the sound browsing software does is “wrap” the text information of composers, publishers, and categories around the sound file invisibly. Anyone playing the sound will not know the difference. However, when the sound is added to the browsing software, the bonus information is revealed.

Bonus metadata allows you to add endless information to the files. This provides more detail to the file, allowing for richer, and more accurate searches.

The best part? Once the browser software applies the metadata, it is permanently married to it. This bonus information will travel with the file wherever it goes, whether to other composers, producers, or customers. If they open the file in browser software, they’ll see the same rich, detailed data.

3. Exporting Sounds

If we look at the first two points, sound browsing software provides merely librarian services to collections. This keeps an unruly library in check, and adds bonus information for customers (or for yourself).

However, once the sound is within the browsing software, creative people often need to use it beyond merely finding and auditioning libraries. Sound browsing software allows individual clips to be used elsewhere. It has an ability to export tracks.

This means it save a copy to another location, often converting it in the process to another sampling rate or bit depth. It can export brief portions instead of the entire file. And, if you are editing, browsing software can export a track right into a Pro Tools bin, and drop the segment at the edit cursor in a track. The best apps can export tracks while applying plug-in effects such as reverb, compression, and so forth, even in bulk.

This makes an editor’s workflow close to seamless. It’s quite easy to search for a specific track within sound browsing software, press a button, and within a moment, edit it within your Pro Tools timeline.

The Benefits of Sound Browser Software

There are many ways to use this software. Because of this, the exact benefits depend on the projects you work on, and the method you use to create.

However, the main benefits are:

  • Organize vast collections of sounds, even across many drives, networks, or the Internet.
  • Find individual files, no matter their home location, by using complex searches, or metadata fields.
  • Effortlessly display and sort stems, underscores, alts, and bumpers for the same track.
  • Audition tracks, whether entire files, portions, or while previewing plug-in processing effects.
  • Embed tracks with metadata so text information will be assigned permanently to the sound file itself.
  • Use metadata to keep track of dozens of fields of text without worrying about accompanying text files or spreadsheets. This information will be buried within the sound itself.
  • Batch abilities: rename files, add categories, find and replace text.
  • Export tracks to different sampling rates and bit-depths, singly, or in batches.
  • Transfer portions of tracks, or entire files, into editing software.


What Features to Look For

Not all sound browsing software is created equal, however. They’re designed for different markets, and have prices to match.

The most basic ones offer simple librarian tools: adding, searching, and auditioning tracks. As the prices increase, the ability to add metadata appears. The elite applications support higher resolutions, more channels of audio, and the ability to export to more software.

I’ll list the more prominent options in a moment. First, let’s see the features that are common to sound browsing software:

  • Add files by “drag and drop” right from the desktop.
  • Handle various file formats in tandem (WAV, OGG, AIFF, MP3).
  • Keep track of multiple lists of files (e.g., music collections searched separately from sound effects).
  • Add, preview, and export multi-channel files.
  • Perform fast searches in immense collections.
  • Perform complex searches across many fields (e.g., category, name, composer).
  • Use Boolean operators for searching.
  • Embed metadata into a file.
  • Batch rename multiple fields.
  • Read existing metadata from other programs.
  • Import or export libraries from a text file.
  • Convert only portions of a sound file.
  • Send a file directly into a variety of editing software. Is your editor of choice supported?
  • Add plug-in effects to exported files (e.g., reverb, distortion, etc).
  • Search, audition, and import files across networks, or the Web.
  • Search remotely via a Web browser.
  • Album art support.

Which of these options do you need? It depends on your workflow. Keep them in mind while browsing the software below.

Sound Browser Software Options

I’ll list options in no particular order:

iTunes – A good free choice to get started. It doesn’t embed metadata (except for MP3s) or export into editing software, however.

Snapper – Inexpensive, and allows importing directly into a workstation’s timeline, but doesn’t provide search, or assign metadata.

Soundminer – The most feature-rich option. There are a half-dozen versions, each adding features. Soundminer began with the effects crowd but now actively adds features specifically for composers and producers.

NetMix PRO – often seen as the direct competitor to SoundMiner with server, Web, and desktop options.

Library Monkey – a flexible option that supports Mac OS all the way back to 10.4. The Pro option adds additional file formats.

BaseHead – Also full-featured, compatible with both PC and Macs.

Splat – an inexpensive option, designed with an archival slant. A simpler app. It lacks importing into other software.

AudioFinder – a visually attractive option that includes support for a vast array of file formats, and plug-in formats. It has cloud-connection features.

MetaDigger – a free app created by sound effects publisher Sound Ideas. It allows browsing of MP3 and BWAV metadata, and auditioning of files. It lacks importing into other apps, but makes up for it by allowing metadata editing, and exporting of text records.
Corralling Your Library

If you work in a creative field you know the importance of remaining inspired. The last thing you need is to be snarled in bureaucracy, administration, and paperwork. However, this is exactly the risk that occurs as sound libraries grow and technology becomes more complex.

Sound browsing software will allow you to find exactly the sound you need, and get back to work. It will help you do what your clients seek from you: deliver the most creative track possible.

About the author: Paul Virostek travels worldwide recording the sounds of cities and cultures. He shares his collection at, and writes about his experiences field recording, and sharing sound effects at He is also the author of “Field Recording: from Research to Wrap – An Introduction to Gathering Sound Effe