SoundConverter: A New Tool in My Belt

  • Posted by Chris Brewer
  • December 20, 2011 11:17 AM PST
Do you deal with audio files that inevitably need to be converted between formats? In this app review, Chris Brewer takes a look at SoundConverter.

I'm a web and media developer by day, and a web and media developer by night.

As a digital warrior, I need a tool belt filled with easy-to-use, fast, and flexible tools.

The mix of tools in my belt has a few worn favorites that I've grown to really like. And then there are some tools that are there because I haven't found anything better.

But today, I found a tool that I think will become one of those old, worn favorites.

Aptly Named App

When you work with media files, you quickly find need for a tool that will convert audio files from one format to another. We live in a world with more than 100 active data formats — like wav, mp3, and m4a — so you're bound to run into a scenario where you have to transcode between two.

I recently hit that stumbling block, in manner and scenario, that revealed the deficiencies of my current app. Like a screwdriver that mars your work because of an imperfect fit, I tossed the old app aside and sought something new.

Enter SoundConverter, a $9.99 app that claims it can handle what I throw at it.

The Test Scenario

My projects usually consist of a large number of sound clips that need to be converted from one format to another, and rarely am I afforded advance notice to get it done on a reasonable timeline. You know the drill.

I decided to use my development machine — the latest most up-to-datest iMac (3.4 GHz i7) — and also a Mid 2010 Mac mini (2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo) to compare both ends of the spectrum.

It's Easy

I used Beck's great album Guero, which was ripped from a CD using the Apple Lossless setting in iTunes.

After locating those files on my hard drive, I opened the SoundConverter app. The app presents a large file drop zone, with very straight-forward grouping of options below.

I was able to specify the MP3 settings I wanted: 44100, Bit rate of 192, and VBR quality of 9.

First, I chose to convert a single song. I simply dragged the sound file onto the SoundConverter window — and voila — the file was converted.

About the Developers

SoundConverter is the brainchild of Steve Dekorte, who wrote the program out of frustration over available tools.

"My own experiences with audio conversion were terrible. There wasn't any good software with a GUI, the command line tools were impenetrable and bug ridden," he explains.

Steve studied physics at Florida State University. He left early to start an ISP. He began programming in 1989, back when OS X was NeXTSTEP.

In addition to SoundConverter, Steve works concurrently on a number of other projects.

SoundConverter version 20111118.0, is available on the App Store.

It's Fast

Beck's "Scarecrow" provides the listener 4 minutes and 16 seconds of sonic brilliance. SoundConvert takes only 15.2 seconds to convert it from Apple Lossless to MP3. And that, mind you, is on the Mac mini that is one generation old. Gasp! On my iMac, it took only 9 seconds.

Next, I needed to determine how well SoundConverter handled a group of files being dropped on it.

It's Really Fast!

So, I took all 13 tracks from the Guero album, and dropped them onto the converter interface. To my pleasant surprise, it began to convert the songs — in parallel! The app is multithreaded, which means it engages each core on the computer's CPU. So my old Mac mini with its dual core CPU converted two tracks simultaneously, completing the task in only 1:40. On my 8 core iMac, SoundConverted kicked of 8 simultaneous conversions. Those 13 song tracks took a total of 22.3 seconds to convert. Truly, a thing of beauty to behold.

It's Flexible

The number of formats that SoundConverter can handle is truly epic. Presently, the app provides conversion into 120 formats, ranging from AAC and AIFF to Vorbis and WAV, and nearly everything in between. It's intuitive and simple interface effectively masks the complexity underpinning it's capabilities, and does so in a very Mac-like way.