This week we’ll take a quick look at a relatively new entry into the field of sound management software: SoundQ by Pro Sound Effects.
What is SoundQ?
Released in March 2021, SoundQ is sound effect publisher Pro Sound Effect’s cloud-powered sound browsing app. Like the others we’ve looked at recently, SoundQ allows adding sounds to a desktop app, browsing them, and transferring them to audio editing software.
SoundQ also allows cloud access to Pro Sound Effect’s Cloud Library of 800,000+ clips including releases by Richard King, Ann Kroeber & Alan Splet, Mark Mangini, and others. The app also allows access to the Freesound.org sound effects collection.
Let’s dig a bit deeper into the details.
A Detailed Look at SoundQ
You may remember an app similar to SoundQ that was released by Pro Sound Effects (PSE) only a few years before, called simply Search. We had a first look at that app in 2019. Search allowed adding and browsing an unlimited amount of full-resolution sounds, including metadata writing and drag-and-drop support to almost any editing app. It was $99, which was a very competitive price for its feature set compared to other players in the sound browsing market.
Where is Search now? Well, it was retired when SoundQ arrived in March 2021. While existing customers can still use it, it’s no longer supported or available for sale.
Instead, SoundQ (Windows 10, macOS 10.12+) replaces it with a sound library subscription model. What do you get?
The free version grants 5 credits (PSE’s term for individual clip downloads) from the Pro Sound Effects Cloud Library, access to the Freesound.org collection, and 5,000 random search results from your local collection.
A $9.99/month ($8.25/month if paid yearly) subscription allows access to 30 credits/downloads and removes the local database limit. Need more Cloud Library downloads? A one-time top up unlocks more clips:
- $6.99 for 10 credits/downloads
- $9.99 for 30 credits/downloads
- $17.99 for 60 credits/downloads
Unused credits roll over to the following month.
While access to over 800,000 recordings from Oscar winners may seem tempting, it’s vital to note that after your subscription runs out, you can no longer access your downloaded sounds. This is in contrast to Soundly and the Creator Edition’s approach, which allows unlimited access to sound libraries after purchasing.
That said, if you’ve used SoundQ clips in projects, they’re still covered even after you’ve unsubscribed.
As far as everyday workflow is concerned, SoundQ ticks the typical boxes:
- Drag-and-drop transfers
- Spot-to-track transfers for Pro Tools, Adobe Premiere, and Reaper
- Real-time effects: varispeed, reverse
- Audition and export individual channels
- Read and write iXML metadata
- Supports up to 192 kHz/32-bit
Comparison with Similar Sound Library Managers
How does SoundQ stack up against other cloud-powered sound browsers?
SoundQ is an undeniably slick-looking application. I admire its smooth sign-up process and account management. While I did experience a bit of lag, the UI and UX are both well-polished. It’s obvious that great care has gone into making the app.
To what can we compare SoundQ? The closest match would have been SoundDog’s desktop app. That also allowed users to access a large cloud library from a sound website in a desktop sound browser. Since Sound Ideas purchased Sounddogs some time ago, it appears that app has been retired.
What remains in the field of cloud-powered sound library browsers?
While not an exact feature-set match, SoundQ’s cloud integration, sound search, and ability to transfer clips to DAWs would invite comparisons to BaseHead’s Creator Edition and Soundly.
Both Soundly and the Creator Edition are well positioned for beginning sound fans. While they do restrict the number of sounds you can add (2,500 and 6,900 respectively), one doesn’t feel shut out from features when using the free apps. Sound library marketplace add-ons, cloud storage (Soundly), more ample cloud sound libraries, and advanced features feel like bonus options there for whenever users want to take advantage of them. Until then, the apps are great library management apps on their own. In most cases, they are all new sound fans need for the first years of their career. This approach allows the apps to grow with their customers.
SoundQ’s approach is different. While it appears any amount of sounds can be added to the app (I ingested about 100GB and 15,000+ sounds), SoundQ’s limitation of accessing 5,000 local files is presented in a frustrating way: keyword searches return only a random selection of sounds you can actually use – not from the results at that time, but of all sounds from your local collection. All others are locked.
In one example, I searched for my local library for “hits”. The majority were greyed out. They couldn’t be auditioned or edited. What’s more, since unlocked clips are not sorted, I was forced to scroll down 10 pages (I have a lot of hits) before I found a clip I could audition. Here’s what it looks like:
For the free version, this affects sound editing workflow in a peculiar way: the more local sounds one adds, the more difficult it is to find results. Yes, if you add just 5,000 sounds, you’ll always get hits from your own library. However, any more you add returns diminishing – and inaccurate – results. If you add 100,000, you don’t know which 5,000 you’re permitted to use. Search results become unreliable. It makes it pointless to add large libraries – unless you subscribe. This is in addition to the exasperation of learning you’re locked out of your own libraries in a completely unpredictable way. It’s a bewildering approach: an app ostensibly made to specialize in browsing sounds actually makes it difficult to find anything.
What about when you search with the bundled cloud libraries? The Pro Sound Effects Cloud Library and the Freesound library will always return results, of course. So, when combined with a larger local library, you’ll receive more unlocked hits from the PSE and Freesound libraries than your own collection. As you might imagine, for those on the free plan, this pushes one more towards cloud libraries than to collections they actually own. To add to this, the free version is limited to a one-time download of 5 clips, thereafter you’ll need to upgrade. So showing results for 800,000 clips when you can only download 5 doesn’t convey any meaningful value to the end user. While the subscription library can indeed be excluded from results, it makes one question the point of showing everything when nearly all of the clips will never be available – until a subscription is purchased, that is. While placing limitations on a free app is reasonable, the implementation is not user friendly. Arguably, it would be better to cut off importing at precisely 5,000 clips to spare users the confusion.
Admittedly, the limitations of SoundQ’s free version keep it from being a fair comparison to the Creator Edition and Soundly. The app comes into its own when users subscribe. A paid plan unlocks 30 monthly downloads from a vast selection of sound libraries recorded by internationally respected field recordists. While that number is a good start, it is likely serious editors will need a paid top-up to have access to a reasonable amount of clips every month for a typical editing project. It’s a fee that must be paid in perpetuity, since once a subscription ends, users can no longer access any Cloud Library clips they’ve already used.
Because of this, SoundQ is an ideal fit for corporate customers who are happy with perpetual subscriptions. With SoundQ, a facility with deep pockets could instantly equip an army of editors with a sound searching workflow and access nearly a million carefully edited and curated sound clips.
Check out SoundQ.
- Read the SoundQ release announcement.
- Why Pro Sound Effects created SoundQ.
- What SoundQ Means for Search Owners.
- Browse the SoundQ user guide.