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Important Notice: XO Wave is now discontinued as we prepare to bring you the next generation Digital Audio Workstation called Xonami. 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

Sound Editing

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.

Starting XO Wave for the First Time

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 Create 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.

Importing Audio

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 below.
  • 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 below.
  • 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.
burning a CD

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 already.

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. Padding may 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.

Tracks

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.

Getting Around

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:

  • The 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. ZoomIn24 zooms in and ZoomOut24 zooms out. ZoomTo24 zooms to show the current selection, meaning whatever is selected will take up the entire view. ZoomMin24 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 Toolbar 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 AdjustTrackMagnification magnification pop-up menu in the track's control panel. The track view can also be made larger or smaller with the AdjustTrackHeight height pop-up menu.

Editing Audio

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, and more.

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 another.
  • 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 select View:Create/ 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 combinations.
  • 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 Control Panel.
  • 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.

CD Track Markers

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.

Using Regions

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 "non-destructive" editing.

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 new name.

Setting Levels

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 EditEffect Edit Effect in Edit window or EditEffectInNewWindow 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 track.

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 Compressor.

Burning a CD

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 Manager.

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.

Conclusion

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!

--Bjorn Roche


Legal & Copyright This page was last modified January 2008.
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