How can you add metadata to your sound clip library? By using specialized metadata apps. Last week we took a first look at how sound browsing apps read, search, and apply this information, and work with sound. Today I’ll explore these apps in detail by:
- Sharing a comparison chart contrasting features and prices between apps.
- Describing each of these apps, their highlights, and notable differences between them.
Today’s post explores 15 apps. There a lot of information here. Scan the app categories and descriptions and explore the facts to help you decide what’s the best metadata app for you.
At the end of the post I’ll include tips to help you choose.
Metadata App Chart
Let’s start with an overview. I made a chart of metadata apps for you. It lists every app I mention in this article, its price, system requirements, a link to the app, and its features. I’ve placed them alongside each other so you can see how they compare.
You can view the chart in your browser, a pop-up image, or download versions to your computer.
View the pop-up image (make your browser window extra wide).
Download the chart in the following versions:
I pulled this information from their websites, and from app demos. I also emailed publishers. However, despite my best efforts, there are gaps. I’ve noted those with question marks. Notice discrepancies? Please contact me.
- Blank entries means the option isn’t offered, or isn’t applicable.
- Search style: do you access one clip at a time (“single file”), or are able to search, browse, and modify huge lists of sounds (“database”)?
- Playlists: the ability to organize lists of favourite sounds, and projects.
- Number of fields: some apps add metadata to variety of file types. The ID3 MP3 format has more metadata fields than the BWAV format. When a combination of formats are used, I note this with “varies by type.”
- Transfer to DAW: how sounds are sent to sound editing apps. I explained these types at the end of the last article.
- In-App Editing or Processing: the ability to modify and save files without leaving the app (fades, normalization, trimming, etc.).
- ReWire: ReWire is a protocol for transferring audio between apps.
The Variety of Metadata Apps
What about the apps themselves?
In the last article we looked at what metadata apps (or sound browsing apps) are, and what they do. That includes:
- Managing sound libraries.
- Auditioning sound files.
- Using metadata.
- Transferring sound files.
That’s a lot to do. In fact, each task is so involved that any of them would easily absorb an app programmer’s entire focus. And that’s precisely what many choose.
So, it’s important to note that many of the apps listed here perform one of these tasks, or two. The premium apps manage three, and only a handful provide all four. Some excel at one or two, and take a stab at the others. And that’s just fine. Many of these apps don’t pretend to offer the full suite of organizing, auditioning, transferring, and embedding metadata.
For instance, one app is primarily a DAW or sound editing app, with some metadata features. I’ve included software like this to cover as many apps that address metadata in any way. Many are “media management” apps, or what I call “sound browsing apps.” They are meant to organize sound libraries, and aren’t interested in meddling with metadata.
So, I’ll look at each app not in terms of the steps it lacks, but how well it succeeds at the steps it attempts. I’ll note the app’s highlights, its shortcomings, and how it stacks against the competition.
And a heads up before we get started. Each app description covers the broad strokes that are most important to helping editors and sound librarians use metadata. They have other cool features, too. Most have a free demo version you can test.
Comparison of Metadata Apps
Since these metadata apps perform so diversely, I’ve divided them by these steps.
- Full-featured metadata apps.
- Sound browsing apps.
- Metadata apps.
- Read-only metadata apps.
Let’s look at each category.
Full-Featured Metadata Apps
These apps offer the most options. They perform all four steps: organizing and browsing and auditioning sounds, editing metadata, and transferring clips to a sound editing app.
That’s where the similarity ends. How these apps get the job done varies. All of them sprinkle a variety of tempting features throughout, many of which are exclusive to their own app.
Soundminer, from $199.00 to $899.00 (Mac OS X 10.6.8+ and Windows XP, Vista, or 7)
Note: As of 2015, Soundminer has upgraded to version 4.5, with new features.
We may as well start with the heavyweight of metadata apps. Soundminer is arguably the most popular sound browsing app on the market. Why?
Well, it fits many roles. It is a full-featured sound browser, with powerful search functions. It allows for multiple databases of libraries, and extensive project management and playlists. Soundminer provides multi-channel waveform display and playback, complete with audio selection, pitch control, looping, all presented through the ReWire standard. It transfers portions of files in batches to workstations effortlessly, including the premium “spot to timeline” feature. Another highlight is the ability to apply VST plug-ins to transfers. And let’s not forget metadata: it reads ID3 and BWAV, and displays over 60 proprietary metadata fields, which it can modify and embed in batches. This metadata feature set is unmatched and continues to evolve. In fact, Steve Pecile of Soundminer told me that the metadata fields are “about to undergo another change.”
Soundminer offers almost everything everyone else has, and does it well. This comes with a price, though. The software is massive. I’ve used it for years and still discover new features weekly. Considering Soundminer as your first metadata app? Be aware that the app is incredibly complex. That means that the menus, overall design, and workflow take effort to get used to. As a result, while the app offers unrivalled features, it also has a steep learning curve.
In what I imagine is a way of resolving this, Soundminer has split out the software into different versions, each with its own feature sets and limits. Some have a sampling rate or channel limit, or prevent plug-in usage, for example. This a common approach. Library Monkey (below) and others do the same. Soundminer, however, has no less than four products in two lines. It also offers a server option, and a suite of supplementary software tools. Explore these differences on the product pages, in a blog post about product differences, a product comparison description and a product comparison chart.
Basically, it breaks down like this:
- The “V4” apps are the premium line for Mac OS X only. They feature ReWire, batch conversion, and extensive power in browsing, auditioning, transferring, and working with metadata.
- Despite its name, the “HD” line is not a high definition version of the V4 suite. Instead, it’s designed to be an economical choice for both Mac and Windows with only limited highlights from V4. It also features a more stylized interface.
Soundminer is a favourite of film and TV post sound editors. It is also making inroads with music supervisors. It is an unmistakably professional tool with an emphasis on extensive features and functional performance.
- ReWire support.
- VST plug-in support.
- Extensive transferring options.
- Ample metadata control, modification, writing, and export.
- Multi-channel compatible.
- One of the only apps that can apply metadata in batches (Library Monkey is another).
Basehead, $299.00 (Mac OS X 10.6+, Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8)
Note: As of 2015, Basehead has upgraded to Version 4 with new features.
Basehead is another metadata app that tackles all four steps of metadata apps. It is popular with game audio pros. It allows searching and browsing of large sound libraries quickly. It feels particularly slick and snappy. It organizes libraries and projects in playlists in a “Peek Tree” sidebar. The design is particularly appealing. Besides looking attractive, everything is presented simply and understandably in one main window, tucked behind four separate page tabs. It displays a waveform at the base of search results with transport, pitch, and pan controls. Selections can be transferred by drag-and-drop, bin copy, or spot-to-timeline in regions to pro sound editing apps.
Basehead allows for 42 metadata fields. It can see BWAV, ID3, and Soundminer V3 metadata (though not Soundminer V4). It is able to write to a single metadata field: description.
Basehead takes an open approach to metadata. Steve Tushar from Basehead explained: “BaseHead will never [encrypt our metadata]. Our version 4.x will write into open source iXML chunks that anyone could read. We don’t believe in locking people into our software, we believe in making software people want to use.”
Basehead is one of the most aesthetically pleasing apps on the market. It feels considerably more responsive than other offerings. The fourth version of the software is on the horizon, with new features. Tushar explained: “version 4.x will have VST processing being applied along with pitch shift and sample rate conversions on transfer.”
- Simple, attractive design.
- Easy navigation.
- Snappy, responsive performance.
- Extensive transferring features.
- Multi-channel playback.
- Broad organizational features: playlists, tagging lists.
Basehead also offers an online manual you may browse yourself.
Monkey Tools’ Library Monkey
Library Monkey is designed for flexibility. It handles a truly massive amount of file formats. It easily injects fresh metadata from file lists, including from Apple’s iTunes. The pro version can import metadata from a CSV file, complete with a tool that assigns new fields to their proper columns. It reads Soundminer V3 metadata. This allows browsing of an incredible amount of metadata columns. It is important to note that Library Monkey doesn’t write metadata: it saves changes to a database.
Drayson Nowlan of Monkey Tools shared the Library Monkey concept with me: “Our products are designed to retain the integrity of the original file. You can make the changes in the metadata and they are stored into the database. You can then use various settings to manipulate the metadata on export – including adding data to the file name! You can then bring the files back in if you want them embedded.”
Library Monkey scores well with organization in its sidebar “Master List”, grouping databases (named “Libraries”), playlists (“Sets”), dynamic “Smart Sets,” and displaying bins and recent searches.
A highlight is the app’s processing tools. It can copy batches of files while performing renames, sample rate conversions, format changes, normalization, and applying AU and VST plug ins (Pro only). This process can also embed metadata across the transfer in dozens of formats.
The Pro version can edit dozens of clips at once within the app. This displays a waveform view where editors can solo and mute tracks, apply fades, and more. Editors can send this work either offline to a hard drive folder (“Convert Session” function), or can drop the clips into a specified audio app timeline (Pro version).
- Extensive “Master List” organization features.
- Industrial-strength sound file conversion features.
- Dozens of formats supported.
- Flexible features, options, settings, and presets.
Iced Audio’s AudioFinder
AudioFinder, $69.95 (Mac OS X 10.3+)
AudioFinder appears to be aimed towards the music market. Many of its presets highlight music genres and MIDI features. But don’t let that stop you from using it with your sound effects library.
It organizes collections with a sidebar feature, where it gathers playlists, “scan sets” (watch a location, update, and display sounds there), and a “bin” (favourites, duplicates, play history). Like others in this category, it presents a waveform with transport controls at the base of the screen (the “Audio Quick Look”) with a cool twist: clips can be transposed via a graphical keyboard which can be clicked on screen, or controlled via a MIDI keyboard. Another cool feature: waveforms are also displayed inline to the left of each sound file entry in a “Miniview.”
Like Library Monkey, Audiofinder doesn’t write metadata back to a file. It too saves changes to a database. Most of its metadata focuses on single-word “tags” for categorization. The defaults are music-based genres, but you may easily create your own. These tags supplement a handful of BWAV metadata, and 20 user-defined custom metadata fields. There’s also a powerful find and replace function.
Searches can be performed by clicking tags in a sidebar, or an advanced search reminiscent of the Mac OS X Finder’s search. It also allows filtering of results.
As with Library Monkey, AudioFinder lets editors modify tracks directly within the app. This “Sample Tool” allows trimming, pitch analysis, fades, and looping in a pop-up screen. Sound selections can be transferred to editing apps via drag-and-drop.
AudioFinder supports Pro Tools, Logic and even DropBox, and SoundCloud.
- Custom metadata.
- In-line editing with AU plug-in support.
- Renaming features.
- MIDI control.
ifoundasound Standard is free, and Professional €69 (Windows XP, Vista, 7)
I can’t recall how I found this app, but I’m glad I did. This Windows-based app is a slick entry into this category.
Sounds may be gathered in playlists of clips (“collections”), in larger, more global “projects,” or master databases or “archives.” Interestingly, the app provides a floating Drop Box window meant to gather favourite sounds quickly, and be processed all at once later. The app reads ID3, BWAV, and iXML. Some metadata is assigned through single-word “tags,” which you can define yourself, and browse by later. Metadata is saved to a database.
The search results don’t display or playback in a waveform directly. Instead, waveforms are seen in the pop-up window “editor” view, where they can be trimmed, and pitched, similar to how Library Monkey and AudioFinder work. Entire sounds can be sent to editing apps’ file list or “bin”, or, alternatively, to a “work” folder on a hard drive.
“Note that ifoundasound was not intended to be a metadata editor, more a simple and easy tool to search your sound effects,” ifoundasound’s Nikolai Bergstrøm told me. “We are planning a new version, and better support for metadata is one of many things we would like to improve.”
ifoundasound offers two versions, the main difference being price, and the amount of sounds and databases allowed. Read a feature comparison.
- Slick Windows-based app.
- Inline editor.
- Extensive project organization.
Apple iTunes, free (Mac OS X 10.6.8+, Windows XP SP3+)
With a bit of care, Apple’s iTunes music jukebox software can perform many of the same features as others in this category.
It provides many options that help sound librarians on a budget. It organizes sound files in sidebar playlists, and also provides surprisingly detailed dynamic “smart playlists.” It can import and export playlists. The search feature is basic, but is able to find clips quickly from tens of thousands of files.
iTunes will save metadata to MP3 and AAC files. Metadata for all other file formats are saved to a database (only). And, when you’d like to transfer a file, simply drag and drop a clip into the Pro Tools timeline.
By subscribing to Apple’s iTunes Match service ($24.99 a year), up to 25,000 sound effects will be uploaded to the cloud. Then they can be accessed via a browser, or within any copy of iTunes. This remote sound library access has interesting potential for pros who find themselves working in a variety of facilities.
- Apply metadata to MP3 and AAC files in batches.
- Drag-and-drop transfer.
- Cloud hosting service.
NetMix Pro (Mac OS X 10.6 – 10.8, Windows XP, and 7)
This app is a bit of mystery. There isn’t much information on their website. I’ve reached out to the developers, without response.
Sound Browsing Apps
Our next category of apps aim at two tasks: browsing sound effects, and organizing them with a focus on project management.
Sound Ideas’ Metadigger
Metadigger, free, (Mac OS X 10.5+, Windows XP, XP Pro, Vista, 7)
Metadigger was designed by corporate sound library titan Sound Ideas to search collections, and organize selections into lists. While it seems a bit awkward to use at first, it’s not too bad once you get used to it. It reads both ID3 and BWAV metadata, and had a fair search function. Results can be organized and sent to project playlists, which can be saved, and merged (“appended”) with others.
Sound file lists can be imported and exported as CSV files.
- Import and export function.
- Reads ID3 and BWAV.
These apps have a single goal: to work with metadata. They read, compose, and write metadata.
Digital Confidence’s MetadataTouch
MetadataTouch Standard, $60 and Professional $80 (98, 98 SE, ME, 2000 SP3, 2003, 2008, XP SP2+, Vista, 7, 8 with .NET 3.5)
MetadataTouch is a Windows app designed to assign metadata not just to audio files, but a total of 23 file types. Because of this, the metadata fields are more generic (title, subject, author). There are helpful keyword and category fields, though, among others. It reads ID3, BWAV, iXML, and other audio metadata formats. The app allows users to import and export metadata templates, too.
The standard version can write to one file at a time, while the professional version applies changes in batches.
- Multiple file formats.
- Reads many audio metadata formats.
TwistedWave, $79.90 (Mac OS X 10.6+, iOS)
TwistedWave is an interesting app. It is a powerful and intuitive audio editing app that also has batch processing and metadata support. Because its main purpose is editing sound, it includes standard copying and pasting and multi-channel editing, and enhances that with detecting silences, fades, normalization, markers, etc. It supports both AU and VST plug-ins.
The app can read BWAV and V3 Soundminer. Like others in this category, TwistedWave only works on a single file at a time. Also, it cannot be sent to an editing app. After all, it is an editing app. TwistedWave also offers iOS versions, and an online editor, too.
Check out its online manual.
- Reads BWAV and Soundminer metadata.
- Editing functions.
- Plug-in support.
Sound Devices’ Wave Agent
Wave Agent, free with email registration (Mac OS X 10.4+ Windows 7, Vista, XP)
Sound Devices make some of the best audio recording hardware on the market. Wave Agent is a tool meant to help production sound mixers touch up sound file metadata recorded on set.
The app can view and modify BWAV metadata, which it saves back to the file itself. It can add BEXT and iXML data, then fit it into a BWAV format. In addition, it offers a non-embedded metadata format: users can create sound reports, enter data, and export that as PDF or CSV.
As a bonus, the app allows single file playback, complete with a mix desk and meters which can actually be arranged to control a 788T recorder. Wave Agent also edits recordings by splitting channels into new files.
- BWAV metadata editing.
- Sound report creation and export.
- Playback with mix desk control.
BWF MetaEdit is a free, open source app for Mac, Windows, Ubuntu, and many other operating systems. It allows users to view and edit metadata in a dozen BWAV standards I won’t pretend to understand, then export the results as iXML and CSV. Modifications must be done individually; there is no batch edit function.
- Extensive BWAV standards support.
- Export lists as iXML and CSV.
Splat Sound FX Database
Splat Sound FX Database, Free, Windows
I haven’t tried this app since it is Windows-only, but PC fans are encouraged to check it out. It’s free, after all.
Limit Point Software’s Commenteer
Commenteer $19.99, Mac OS X 10.6.6+ (Mac App Store)
Commenteer is a small Mac app that adds and modifies the Mac OS X Finder’s Spotlight comments. It can append or prepend comments, or fetch them from the clipboard. It can also import comments, and export them to a list. The comments are applied singly, or to a bulk set via drag-and-drop or tab-delimited reference file.
How can this help you? The Mac OS X Finder’s Spotlight is a fairly decent way of tracking down files. You can add metadata info to each of your sound effect’s Finder comments, then track them down using the Spotlight, or any other app that takes advantage of Finder comments.
- Able to apply Spotlight Finder comments both singly, and in batches.
Read-Only Metadata Apps
Audio Ease’s Snapper
Snapper, $79 (Mac OS X 10.5 – 10.9)
Snapper isn’t able to gather many files or search through them. That’s fine, though. It does the other work of metadata apps well: reading metadata, playing audio, and transferring it to an editing app.
Snapper runs in the background. When you click a sound file in the Mac OS X Finder, a small window appears at the base of the Finder window. That displays a multi-channel waveform, with markers, and mute and solo buttons. It also shows ID3 and BWAV metadata info in a sidebar. You can transfer audio anywhere via drag-and-drop, and spot a selected region of audio to a Pro Tools timeline. It also converts files to MP3.
So, while it cannot write metadata, it offers many of the features of metadata apps except for search and project management. However, you could use the Finder’s search function to mimic that. If you’re on a budget, and your sound files are named well, Snapper is a good choice to preview and transfer sound effects inexpensively.
- Drag-and-drop and spot-to-timeline transfers.
- Multi-channel playback and transfer.
- Transfer regions.
- Reads ID3 and BWAV.
How to Choose Metadata Apps
Here are the categories we explored today:
- Full-featured metadata apps.
- Sound browsing apps.
- Metadata apps.
- Read-only metadata apps.
Some tips for choosing software that is right for you:
- Pro sound editors need to transfer search results to other apps. The full-featured apps in category 1 are the best choice. Soundminer V4 Standard/HD Plus, and Library Monkey Pro occupy the same general initial feature space. Price increases as premium features are added, such as spotting to timeline, applying plug-ins, and embedding metadata back to files. Basehead and Soundminer V4 Pro are typical next steps.
- Casual editors don’t need every feature, and won’t likely have hundreds of dollars to spend. iTunes is a great place to start. Have a bit more cash? AudioFinder ($69.95), Library Monkey ($129.00), and Soundminer HD Basic ($199) are great next steps. Those will allow searching, organizational features, and sound fx transferring, although they lack rich metadata features.
- Pro sound librarians can focus on category 2, sound browsing apps. Those help sort and organize collections. If you have a bit more cash and want more features, upgrade to the full-featured apps in category 1. The ability to embed metadata is a primary reason to shift to category 1 from 2. Have well named files organized in folders? The read-only apps in category 4 may work. Just need to tweak metadata? The apps in category 3 will suit you.
- Budget options.
- Option 1: Mac users may use Wave Agent (free) to add BWAV metadata, iTunes (free) to add ID3 tags, or Commenteer ($19.99) to add Spotlight comments. Then, once sound effects are organized well in the Finder, use Snapper ($79.00) to preview and transfer multi-channel sound fx.
- Option 2: Windows users may use ifoundasound (free) to search, organize, audition and transfer their sound library, and MetadataTouch Pro ($80) to apply metadata in batches.
- Option 3: forego the waveform display and region selection and use iTunes (free) to organize and transfer your library with drag-and-drop.
Which app is best for you? Well, it depends on how you want to use your sound library. Working in game audio, or film sound? You’ll want all four steps, and you’ll likely pay the price to match. Less demanding productions can get away with other options. You may even prefer to use a combination of cheaper apps together instead of a single, more expensive one.
Feedback on this article? Know of other sound effects metadata apps that should be added to this list? Contact me.
We’re not done with metadata yet. The next article will share tricks and tips for adding metadata in Soundminer.
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