35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
The feature list sounds awesome, but there is a catch: the software often mistakes certain musical sounds for vocals, in some cases suppressing some of the most prized elements of the recording.
I tried out version 1.4.5 with a couple of audio CDs and several MP3s. The program's interface is very rich in controls, and it seems especially busy because there is a large information pane that changes as you mouse over different parts of the window. This is handy because you don't need to right-click or press F1 for help, but as you move the mouse around it can be quite distracting. (It would be nice if there were a short delay so that the info pane didn't update until you had hovered the mouse over a particular control for a few hundred milliseconds.) After inserting a CD, the program either will find the names of the tracks in its local database or can look them up on the web. The player controls are fairly straightforward and you can use the mouse-over help combined with experimentation to decide which "special effects" you like.
To suppress the vocals on the current track, click the "MyVoice" button (arm holding microphone). You're likely to hear the volume decrease a bit as similar frequencies also are suppressed. You also may hear a little echo or "ghost voice" in the background, probably added in the studio to enhance the richness of the singer's voice. To adjust the effect, you click the MyVoice button to pop up a small panel that lets you boost or reduce the bass portion of the track, and make other adjustments that partially compensate for change in the higher registers. This part of the program could be better documented, but from my experiments, while it can help to rebalance the musical portions of the recording, it can't restore lost instruments. The problem was especially acute on the Santana hit Smooth, where many of the distinctive guitar solos disappeared along with Rob Thomas' vocals. Even percussion sounds, which a human could distinguish from a voice, occasionally were suppressed and impossible to restore. Because performance varies, you really just have to try it and see whether the effect "works" for your favorite songs.
(The Ripper lets you apply these adjustments to the tracks on a CD, saving the "no voice" tracks for future play. I didn't test this.)
When you are ready to sing, you call up the Sequencer. This dialog/pane leads to the options to record your own vocals and then mix them with the original track. The settings you made for the musical track in the player will carry over to the Sequencer, and you can make further adjustments as you desire. When recording your voice, it is best to have the Music Effects controls visible because then the program gives you visual feedback on the volume of your microphone and stops recording when the song is finished (otherwise, you have to stop it manually). When you play back your recording, you may be distressed to find that it is out of sequence with the original track. There is no way to adjust that at this point, so you should try to focus on the relative volume of the two tracks and whether you want to add any reverb, echo or other effects to your voice. When you are ready to mix them together, you click "Creates the mix music+vocals." After the software imports the two tracks, you can "pre-listen" to the mix and adjust the synchronization. I found that the program had sync gaps of anywhere from 75 to 200 milliseconds for MP3s, but was perfect for audio CD tracks. If the relative volume needs further adjustment, you need to cancel out of this dialog and return to the sequencer (this is a little frustrating since it seems as though it should be such a simple adjustment). When your mix is perfect, you can save it as a WAV file and, optionally, burn it to audio CD.
All in all, it's a fun toy with a number of frustrations. Other developers could learn from the software's unique behavior when you click on a control that is not available because you have a dialog open: it move the pointer to the dialog's close button and highlights it so you know what you need to do to navigate to that control. On the other hand, this can happen when you click in the wrong part of a control that actually is currently available. (For example, when the Sequencer is open, you can drag the sliders on the Equalizer, but if you double-click a slider to enter a numeric value, the pointer moves to the Sequencer's Close button even though this is a perfectly appropriate function in that context.) Some quibbles arise from lack of compliance with Windows conventions. For example, the navigator to browse for MP3s has a tree view in the left pane, but cannot show subfolders in the right pane, just files. That should be easy to fix. However, the main problem is that the software simply falls short of the very ambitious project of removing just the vocals. In this, the developers may be ahead of the market (and available freeware), but they still have a lot of work to do.