November, 2000 | In his 1979 cinema classic Manhattan,
Woody Allen gave one of his characters the line, "Gossip is
the new pornography." The statement, true enough then, is
undeniable in the current Age of the Internet. The World Wide
Web has become a powerful tool for spreading gossip and rumor
(not to mention pornography itself), and in the CD-R corner
of the 'Net, Macintosh division, rumors of the demise of Adaptec's
Jam recording software spread like butter as the year 2000
| synopsis: The new
release of Adaptec's Jam CD Recording Software for the
Macintosh (version 2.6) is available as a free download
for previous Jam users, or for $199 as a new product.
It removes a variety of bugs from earlier versions and
adds improved recorder support and new features, including
FireWire support, improved USB support, and direct import
of MP3 files. Jam, together with the newest version
of its familiar partner Peak LE from Berkley Integrated
Audio Software, continues to offer the best array of
audio features available to the audio-centric Mac user.
691 South Milpitas Boulevard
Milpitas, CA 95035
Nothing new about Jam, first introduced with that moniker
more than two-and-a-half years ago as version 2.1 [See
"Adaptec's Jam for Macintosh,"
EMedia Reviews, July 1998, pp. 63-64], had been heard
since the last downloadable product update (version 2.5)
was offered in November 1998. Version 2.5 boasted great
features and loads of promise, but was plagued by bugs ranging
from the minor to maddening.
The audio pro-specific Jam, like its sister product Toast,
gave Mac users plenty to shout about. It provided an intuitive
basic playlist interface with drag-and-drop functionality,
a dizzying array of tweaking bells and whistles, and, at
first, recorder compatibility that just about spanned the
market. But steadily, mysteriously, that compatibility started
lagging, and users were left wondering why so much time
was ticking by without announcements of new patches or updates.
The rumor mill started to turn: Adaptec was discontinuing
Jam, determined to integrate some of its groovy audio features
into Toast (surely with many lost in the transition), to
be sold as an all-in-one, middle-of-the-road product. Naturally,
that prospect didn't sit well with the audio enthusiasts
who had come to know and love Jam, and plenty of grumbling
was heard Web-wide.
Then, this past summer, Adaptec announced the imminent
release of Jam, version 2.6. [See "Adaptec Introduces
Long-Awaited Jam Update," EMedia Industry News, August 2000,
p. 11.] Unlike 2.5bug-ridden and out-of-date for
so longthe new version lives up to visions of the
mature Jam many of us Jam veterans had dreamed of all along.
The bugs have been exterminated and recorder support is
about as current as can be hoped. There are even a few new
featuresnotably playlist support of MP3 files; SCSI,
FireWire and USB support; and compatibility with Sonic Solutions'
surround sound-capable SonicStudio premastering digital-audio
workstationthat warrant more than a look.
what's new, pussycat?
Jam fans who have long suffered with version 2.5's bugs will
be more than pleased with the performance of 2.6. As detailed
earlier this year in my Waxing Digital column [See "Jeff's
Last Jam," EMedia, February 2000, p. 61], the earlier
version's normalization feature wasn't entirely trustworthy,
the software wouldn't record reliably at any speed above 1X
with certain system configurations, and Adaptec's lack of
update patches had left Jam incompatible with a variety of
newer recorders. (I eventually got a patch for my Yamaha recorder
not from Adaptec, but from Yamaha!)
Such problems have disappeared in Jam 2.6. My DVD player's
ability to play audio CD-RW discs allowed me to do some
normalization testing without sacrificing any CD-R media,
and Jam's recording-gain intuition had indeed matured. I
tested audio tracks that I'd remembered having problems
with thanks to Jam 2.5's inaccurate recording-level recommendations,
and Jam 2.6 performed much better. The resulting disc showed
no signs of digital audio distortion at any of the Jam-recommended
recording levels, and the sound-level meter at the top of
the Jam screen proved very helpful for fine-tuning.
Apart from the bug fixes and minor cosmetic alterations
(which will be notable only for old-time Jam users), the
MP3-ready playlist is probably the most newsworthy new feature.
The step of converting MP3 files into hard-drive-hogging
AIFF files is eliminated. This can benefit many users with
limited hard-drive space, but those with older systems should
take note: testing done on an aging Power Mac 8100/100 with
just 32MB of RAM proved that the system couldn't quite handle
the on-the-fly MP3 conversion during the burn process at
any recording speed faster than 1X. Tempting fate at 6X,
4X, and 2X invariably resulted in buffer underrunsalthough
recording at all speeds went remarkably smoothly with an
As for Jam's older, more basic features, they work better
than ever in version 2.6. The playlist offers all the familiar
flexibility in the areas of file support (including mono,
stereo, and split-stereo files; Sound Designer II playlists;
and disc images), track lead-in times, non-destructive cross-fading,
and recording-level adjustment. And, as stated, the normalization
featurewhich automatically finds the highest recording
level without distortion for an individual track or playlistworks
with much greater accuracy than in earlier versions. The
software still offers autoloader support (for models including
Optomedia Hawk, MediaFORM CD-2500, Kodak Disc Transporter,
and Glyph GAL-2500), including batch mode for unattended
operation. Jam also wisely continues to include Toast Audio
Extractor 1.1 for easy CD track extraction.
Jam remains a wonderfully handy tool for recording sound files
extracted from vinyl LPs and other analog media. Its Sound
Data Trim tool, accessible with a click on a track's playing
time, makes separating one long sound file (say, a vinyl LP
side) into individual tracks a cinch. One need simply import
the long file into the Jam playlist multiple timesfive
times, for example, if there are to be five tracksand
specify in the Sound Data Trim window at what points a particular
track should begin and end (say, from 3.13 to 6:49; then,
the next track can be picked up at 6:49).
In addition to the new Jam, the software CD-ROM contains
the latest version (2.10c) of Berkley Integrated Audio Software's
Peak LE, the useful sound-recording and -editing tool that
has always come with Jam. New features include a playlist
for CD recording right from Peak LE; encoding of ShockWave,
MP3, and RealAudio 5.0 files; and importing of multiple
CD-Audio tracks. As with its predecessor, the program does
not work with Virtual Memory turned on, which may prove
to be an annoyance for users who must turn it off and reboot
whenever they want to edit. (And, once again, testing on
the older Power Mac system revealed problems. The program
wouldn't work at all with only 32MB of memory and Virtual
Memory disabled, so users with older systems may want to
keep version 1.60 handy.)
Jam is indeed aimed at the professional audio market,
and Peak LE is even more specialized for it. But it can
also be a handy tool for the CD-R hobbyist. For example,
when including a selection from a live CD on a party mix,
one can use Peak LE to fade the applause in and out at the
beginning and end of the extracted audio file before burning.
More ambitious music fans can even recreate the three-minute
edit of their favorite eight-minute album track that they
first fell in love with on the radio. The software's interface
makes such jobs phenomenally easy, but Peak LE could be
even more useful to Jam users if a printed manual were included
in addition to Jam's thorough and informative one.
Unlike Jam, the new Peak LE boasts a completely overhauled
and improved interface. It continues to provide easy manipulation
of sound files and, as ever, it's a fine addition and a
wonderful complement to Jam.
rumors of my death
So no, Jam isn't dead, it just smelled funny for awhile. Here's
hoping we can look forward to a future of more of the sort
of development and improvement from Adaptec evidenced in version
2.6 of Jam. Good ideas for the future may be the inclusion
of analog-to-digital sound-file creation within Jam itself,
and perhaps even a filtering feature for files made from vinyl
records and other noisy sources (which has already appeared
in Adaptec's Toast, a much less audio-centric program).
And shame on those who bad-mouthed Adapteca company
that has more often than not served CD-R users on the Mac
platform remarkably wellin Internet chat rooms and
newsgroups for its temporary stasis in the Jam arena. Sometimesas
another Manhattan character says"you have to
have a little faith in people."
Companies Mentioned in this Article
Berkley Integrated Audio Software Inc.
1370 Industrial Avenue, Suite A, Petaluma, CA 94952; 707/782-1866;
Fax 707/782-1872; http://www.bias-inc.com
Sonic Solutions, Inc.
101 Rowland Way, Suite 110, Novato, CA 94945; 415/893-8000;
Fax 415/893-8008; http://www.sonic.com