XO Wave is now discontinued
as we prepare to bring you the next generation
Digital Audio Workstation called
This site remains available for anyone who
purchased XO Wave in the past.
However, please keep in mind that as discontinued software:
- This site may not contain up-to-date information.
- Technical support is discontinued, though we will do our best to continue to provide
email support, especially to anyone who purchased recently.
XO Wave: CD Mastering Guide
If you have experience with other digital audio workstation software,
you will probably find most of XO Wave's interface quite
familiar. Regardless of your experience, you can use this
tutorial to bring yourself up to speed using XO Wave, but it you
may want to skim it if you are familiar with digital audio and
take it slow if this is your first time. We will start by
creating a mix CD, so grab a few of your favorite songs and
let's get started!
Note: This tutorial is intended for users of Mac OS
X. While it's generally relevant to other platforms, some
functionality is different, and some features are only available
on the Mac.
This guide assumes you have already installed XO Wave on your system.
Please see the Installation Guide for
help installing and running XO Wave.
To start XO Wave, simply double-click the XO Wave icon in the Finder.
After XO Wave has launched, you will be asked if you want to
create a new session, create a new CD mastering session,
open an existing session, or quit. Click
on Create New Session and select an appropriate name and
location for your session when prompted. We will call it
"Coolest Mix CD Ever", and place it on the Desktop. This tutorial
walks you through creating a session and importing audio manually,
as an introduction to XO Wave's features.
You could also select Create New CD Mastering Session
which will guide you through the process of creating a session
and importing audio using the
CD Mastering Session Wizard. The wizard also has an option to
automatically set levels.
After selecting "Create New Session", the
Edit window will
open. On top of it, a Session Setup window will
appear. The default session settings are fine for mix CDs, so
just click "OK."
A session in XO Wave is a folder containing all the
information needed to work on a given project. For more info on
sessions, see our reference
documentation on sessions.
XO Wave can import any file format that QuickTime can read, but it
may need to convert the format into one of the formats XO Wave
can handle directly. For movies, only the audio is imported.
XO Wave has several options for importing audio, described below. For
this tutorial, you will want to pick one of the options to
import all the files you have selected for your mix. Later you
may want to come back and try other techniques.
- Importing from an iTunes Playlist: To
import all the songs in a particular iTunes playlist,
select File:Import Audio:Import iTunes
Playlist.... After XO Wave scans your iTunes
playlists, you will be presented with a list of
playlists. Select one and click OK. When it is done
importing, XO Wave will present a window, explained
- Dragging and Dropping Files: If you want to
use the Finder to locate and select one or more files to
import, simply drag them to the Edit window's Track
Editing Area or Region Bin.
After that, you will be asked if you want to import the
files "as a playlist." For this tutorial, say yes.
Depending on the source of the audio, you may be asked
if you want to copy or move the files. Note that any
files which must be converted will be copied --
originals are not deleted even if "move" is selected.
When the import is complete, XO Wave will present a
window, explained below.
- Importing Multiple Files from a Window: If
you want to import a large number of files, select
File:Import Audio:Import Multiple Files as
Playlist... In the window that appears, select
the file(s) and folder(s) you want to import. The box on
the left shows you which files will be imported. If you
select one or more folders, all the files they contain
will be imported. When the box on the left shows the
files you want to import, select
Import. When the import is done, you
will be presented with a window, explained
- Other Options:There are several other
options for importing audio which are not described in
this tutorial, because the result of the import is not a
new track with a series of audio files. However, you may
want to experiment with the other options under
File:Import Audio. To use a file which
is imported without automatically creating a new track,
you will have to assign it to a track before the
file will become audible. To do so, find the desired
track in the Region Bin, on the right side of the Edit window,
and drag it into an existing track.
Like many other operations in XO Wave, importing audio files is an Offline Operation,
meaning it can be done in the background. This is enables you to
work on other aspects of the session while the import proceeds.
To monitor the progress of an import, or to cancel an offline
operation, select Window:Offline
Operation. Note that XO Wave only allows one import
operation at a time.
When an import operation completes, you will be presented with a
window which allows you to fine-tune how the audio is initially
used in your session. While you can modify everything later,
it will save time to get things set up right before you import.
First, put the imported songs in the order you want them in by
dragging them in the list. Then decide how many seconds you want
between tracks. In general, the more different your songs are,
the more time you will want between tracks, to avoid jarring
transitions. Keep in mind that tracks taken from commercial CDs
may include silence at the start and end of each track
After you have specified the amount of time between tracks, you will
have the option of adding "padding". Padding shifts the CD
Track Markers to slightly before the start of the region. This is
helpful because most CD players start playback just
after the track beginning, meaning they may
skip over the first fraction of a second of an unpadded region.
not be necessary if all your audio files already have a bit of silence.
For example, if the files came from commercial
CDs, which normally include padding, you won't need more.
XO Wave uses about 1/8 second as its padding amount. This
is very conservative and works even on most old CD players.
Newer CD players can generally start playback within 1/15 second
of the CD Track Marker.
Once you are satisfied with your settings, click Create New
Track to import the audio as a new track. At this
point, you can edit the audio in a wide variety of ways, or you
can simply burn the CD. To just burn the CD, skip to Burning a CD, below. If you are an audio
engineering beginner, you may want to skip ahead.
The term track has many meanings in the audio world.
On an audio CD, tracks are discrete recordings on the disc
(songs). In XO Wave, these are controlled through CD
Track Markers. XO Wave,
like in most other audio editing software, uses the term
track to refer to software components which are
comparable to tracks on a multi-track tape recorder or mixer. XO Wave
tracks are used to playback and edit audio regions. Tracks may
also have effects which alter the sound in some way. Multiple
tracks may be played at the same time and combined, or "mixed,"
to create the desired sound. For example, you may have a track
for your vocals and a track for your guitar. Mixing is the
process of combining these tracks to create a finished audio
project, such as a song. CD Mastering sessions typically use
only one of these types.
XO Wave allows you to view audio waveforms graphically. To make
this truly useful, XO Wave offers
several features for zooming in and out, and jumping
to different sections of the session. Here are some tips
for navigating around a session in the Edit window:
Toolbar at the top of the Edit window has a section
labeled View. At the bottom of this
section there are four buttons with different magnifying
glass icons. zooms in and
zooms out. zooms to show the current selection,
meaning whatever is selected will take up the entire
view. zooms all the way out, showing the
entire session from start to end.
- One of the easiest ways of moving around is with the Session
Overview, which lies between the
and the Track
Editing Area. Using the mouse, you can grab the
highlighted area and drag it left and right, or up and
down. Moving up zooms out and moving down zooms in.
- The arrow keys also move around: up zooms in, down zooms
out, left shifts the view to the left, and right shifts
the view to the right. The "," and "." keys can be used
to shift the selection left and right by one region.
More keyboard options can be found in the View menu.
- The waveforms can be made larger or smaller by selecting the
desired magnification level from the magnification pop-up
menu in the track's control panel. The track view can
also be made larger or smaller with the height pop-up menu.
The core of XO Wave is audio editing. Most editing entails
manipulating a whole track, a single Region, or
a selected part of a track.
The Region Bin on the
right side of the Edit window provides access to all the audio
files associated with a session. Files can be broken into
"regions", which represent a contiguous section of the file
(regions are not unlike "clips" in video editing software). The
Region Bin's pop-up provides control over regions, including
finding and removing unused regions, locating regions by name,
As you work, XO Wave automatically creates regions as necessary. All
these regions go into the Region Bin.
Here are some tips to help you get started editing.
- Use the right editing tool: The Edit
window's toolbar lets you select an editing tool to use.
While the Smart tool is generally all
you need, as it offers all the capabilities of the
others, playing around with the dedicated
Selection, Trim, and
Grab tools may help you get the hang of
the various tool capabilities. For more on a tool, point
to it and see the Help Area.
- Extending Selections: After you use the
Grab or Selection tool to select something, you may want
to extend the selection. To do so, simply use the
Shift key to make the selection longer.
You can also use the Shift key with the
Selection tool to shorten a selection. To extend the
selection end all the way to the session's end, use
Shift-/ (Shift and
slash). To extend to the beginning of
the session, use Shift-Return.
- Trimming: The Trim tool can be used to
change the start or end point of a region.
- Moving audio around: The Grab tool can be
used to drag and drop regions from one place to
- Cross-Fades: XO Wave offers powerful
real-time cross fades. These can be used to fade a
region in or out, or to have two regions fade smoothly
into each other. For example, to create a cross-fade,
bring two regions close together and use the Selection
tool to select an area including both regions, then
Edit Fade. In the Edit
Fade window that appears, set
parameters for the fade.
- Cut and Paste: Once you have a selection,
you can also Cut,
Copy, and Paste using
the standard key
- Edit Softening: If you are used to working with
other audio software, you may be worried about the clicking
noises that sometimes happen at edit points. You won't
have to worry about these clicks and pops in XO Wave because of
a feature called Edit Softening. During playback,
XO Wave automatically removes the discontinuities that
occur at edit points. If you prefer traditional editing,
you can turn this feature off and on, on a per-track basis
in the Track
- Learn Some Basic Sound Editing: If you have
never done sound editing before, you may be surprised at the
possibilities. Check out our Guide
to Basic Sound Editing for an example.
After you edit your audio, your CD Track Markers may be in the wrong
locations. To manually edit your CD Track Markers, first make
sure the pop-up list to the left of the ruler area shows a CD
icon. Now you can create and move CD Track Markers around by
clicking and dragging in the ruler. To remove a marker, simply
click on it and drag below the ruler until it disappears.
CD Track Markers can also be created automatically. To do so, select
Window:Memory Locations Manager, which will
show the Memory Locations
Manager window. This window is useful for exporting track
information and managing Memory Locations (including CD Track
Markers). To create CD Track Markers, click the button labeled
Auto Create... in this window. After deciding
on the appropriate settings, click OK. Then
you should review the locations of your CD Track Markers,
especially if you used cross-fades or want CD Track Markers in
unusual locations. Creating CD Track Markers automatically is especially
useful for automatically converting metadata from your audio files
into CD Text data.
You may notice, especially if you zoom in, that the CD Track Markers
are not triangles -- the point of the triangle is flat. The width
of the flat section signifies the "pause" before the track. The pause,
usually called the pre-gap or pre-roll, is simply a period before
the track proper begins, where the CD player counts down (usually with negative
numbers) instead of up. You can make this gap longer, but the default,
2 seconds, is the minimum allowed by the Red Book standard, so
XO Wave won't let you make it any shorter. In general, we recommend
using the default length as many drives and many versions of Mac OS
X won't support longer pauses. Usually it's a good
idea to leave the pause silent, though it's not required. There
are a very small number of drives in circulation that don't support audio during the the pause.
To start playback from a particular CD Track Marker, click
Option+##, where ##
is the CD track number you want, entered from the keypad. For
example, to start playback from track 5, press and hold the
Option key while you press 0 and 5 on the keypad.
Regions are the basic audio building blocks in XO Wave. Each region
represents a contiguous portion of an audio file. For example,
a particular region might represent the first 15 seconds of an
audio file or the segment from 30 seconds to 45 seconds from the
beginning. Because regions
represent portions of audio files, rather than actual audio
data, they can be manipulated quickly and easily, without
fear of destroying the underlying audio samples. This is called
Regions themselves appear in the Region Bin on the
right side of the Edit window.
The Region Bin organizes regions by their original source audio
files. Regions can be dragged from the Region Bin onto
existing tracks in the
Track Editing Area
in the center of the Edit window, or into the area below existing
tracks to create a new track containing the dropped region
in a single step.
As you edit, you will notice that regions are created automatically. These regions
can be dragged into tracks or removed from the session by selecting
Remove Selected Regions from the Region Bin menu.
The Region Bin menu offers a variety of options, including
searching for regions by name, removing unused regions and files,
and clearing the Undo list, which may be necessary to help identify
unused files and regions. You may also rename regions and files by
triple-clicking on them in the Region Bin, and typing in the
After importing tracks from different CDs, you may notice that some
of them sound too loud and others sound too soft. The best way
to correct this is to use volume automation. Volume automation
allows you to have the volume change during playback, so that it
can be softer at one point and louder at another. You can use
automation for things like fade-outs and fade-ins, for
controlling spikes in volume, and so on. Here we will just
describe how to use volume automation to adjust the relative
volume of several regions.
As you may have guessed, volume automation is just one of several
types of automation available in XO Wave. In
fact, every effect can have some or all of its parameters
"automated", meaning XO Wave will automatically change them over
time, during playback.
Once your audio regions are in sequence on a given track, select a
region whose playback volume you want to change.
To do so, simply click on it with
the grab tool or double-click with the selection tool. Next,
you'll need to actually change the volume. For this, first go to
the Edit window's Track Control
Panel (to the left of the Track Editing Area) and click the
Auto button. From the pop-up menu, select
Volume. After switching to the trim tool, you
can raise or lower the volume of the region by clicking inside
the selection and dragging the mouse up or down. If you are
using the Smart tool, be sure to click
somewhere in the top third of the track's editing area, where
the mouse looks like a horizontal line. You can also use the Q
and A keys when the mouse is over a track editing area, to cycle through
the effects and individual parameters.
Keep in mind that increasing volume can cause distortion; so XO Wave
provides meters to warn you when this is occurring. While
distortion can be a useful special effect, it is rarely desired
during CD Mastering. To monitor a track for distortion, first
select it in the Chanel Strip
Area. Then show the meters by clicking either the
Edit Effect in Edit window or Edit Effect in New
window button next to the Mtr box on
the left side of the Track Control Panel. When
the meter shows red LEDs, the signal is distorting and you
should consider reducing volume. To avoid distortion while
maintaining the relative volumes of all the regions on a track,
select the entire track and use the Trim tool
to lower the volume automation level across the entire
Adjusting volume this way offers control and flexibility, and leaves
the dynamics of each track intact. Another way of matching
levels, similar to the techniques used by radio stations to get
different songs to match, is to use an effect called a
Compressor. To learn about compression in
general, see our tutorial Using Compression. To
learn more about how to use XO Wave's Compressor effect, see our
documentation on XO Wave's
Once you like the way your new mix sounds, and you are happy with the
locations of the CD Track Markers, it is time
to burn your CD. Doing so is a two-step process. First, create a
CD Master, which is a set of files, inside your
session folder, that contain precise instructions
for burning your CD. After you've got a CD Master, you can easily burn
it onto a CD, or make multiple copies.
Like importing, creating a CD Master and burning a CD from it are
Offline Operations. To monitor or cancel an
offline operation, use Window:Offline
To create a CD Master, select File:Burn CD:Create CD
Master and follow the instructions in the
Create CD Master Wizard;
the defaults are fine for most cases.
If you select "Burn CD when done creating
master", XO Wave will prompt you to burn a CD as soon as your
master is created, as long as you haven't closed the session in
the meantime. Otherwise, simply select File:Burn CD:Burn CD
From Master later, which will bring up the
Burn CD Wizard.
Once you have a couple CD Masters, you may want to take a look at the
Manage CD Masters
window, which you can bring up with File:Burn
CD:Manage Saved CD Masters. From here, you can delete,
rename, and burn masters. Keep in mind that a CD Master can take
up a substantial chunk of disk space, so you may want to delete
old masters when they are no longer needed.
You now know the basics of using XO Wave, from importing audio to
editing, automation, and burning CDs. With these skills at your
disposal, you can continue to read the documentation, including
other tutorials, or learn XO Wave as you use it. Just remember
to have fun while you are learning!