Recently, a fellow sports DJ posted some pictures about a program called “Sound Byte”, so I decided to do some research on the product for use in the sports world. After quickly finding the website, there was a lot of information all right on the front page. At first look, you may write it off,
Recently, a fellow sports DJ posted some pictures about a program called “Sound Byte”, so I decided to do some research on the product for use in the sports world. After quickly finding the website, there was a lot of information all right on the front page.
At first look, you may write it off, however that’s typically a bad idea as some amazing programs come off some of the simplest of websites. Honestly, would you rather they spend their time coding and making the program better, or coding a website. Like we all know with announcing and play-by-play, it’s working on a computer, but two completely different animals.
On the website, Sound Byte claims,
With Sound Byte, the so-called “cart machine” used at commercial radio stations in the past is now available to anyone with a computer!
Whether you’re programming a commercial radio show (or amateur podcast), adding spice to the commentary at a local sporting event or simply organizing your personal playlist, Sound Byte beats the competition hands down at a great price. We’re so sure that you’ll love it that we’ll let you download a copy risk free!
We downloaded a copy by clicking on Download Now right on the front page. There are versions for both Mac and PC which will make Sound Byte attractive to a lot of sports DJs immediately. The program can handle MP3, WAV, AU, AIFF and AAC/M4A files, the typical sound files.
Each page or rack contains 75 buttons. The user interface will seem familiar as it has similar appearance to other sports software programs. You can assign hotkeys
, play multiple tracks, organize, set a timed playlist and use a auxiliary keyboard (MIDI controller) to also control sounds.
There are three versions of the software:
- Lite – 75 buttons ($39)
- Regular – 375 buttons or 5 racks ($79)
- Pro – 3750 buttons or 50 racks ($149)
After contacting Black Cat Systems, they were able to set up a Regular version for us to try out. This review will be written as we try out the software over the course of several sessions.
Upon opening the program for the first time, go to Edit and click on Enter Registration Code. This is where you enter the information to unlock the program from the trial version. You will then be prompted to restart the software, which we did and came back to a blank gray screen.
You will now go to “Racks” and click on one of the untitled racks. It is here you can also rename the active rack you are on. We renamed two of them to “First Test” and “Second Test” and found we could open all five racks at the same time. Keep in mind that you have to sift through the open racks to get between them so organization is key. You can also go back to “Racks” and click on the rack you want active. This could slow you down in a high-pressure situation like sports.
On the top of the screen is a box that says, “Drop Multiple Files Here To Add Them To Blank Carts”. So I did. This is an important feature when you’re just starting up, and again when you’re adding a couple of files here or there for special performances. You can easily add sound buttons without having to go in and find where you put them, especially now since a lot of music programs put the sound into the same folder.
After dragging over 24 files, it loaded them without a problem. At this point, we went to play a track and had an issue with playback. We contacted Black Cat Systems to try to find out what we’re doing wrong. It turns out that we should have Quicktime Version 7.7.6 running in the background to get the program to run. Since I don’t normally have programs I don’t use often running in the background, this was important to have running. Quicktime is a free download.
This made it simple to start playing songs, and now you just point and click. You can play as many carts as you want, but it gets really hard to understand all the songs after a few are pushed.
Now, to edit a sound button, simply right-click on the button where you can do everything from putting in a new sound, set the hotkey (which is interesting because you can use the shift key for upper and lower case letters), set the fade rate (the higher the number, the faster the fade, set up to 255), then you have a variety of options available to click on for each sound. We’ll look at a few of these to help you.
- Abort other sounds playing will stop any other sounds playing when you click this. Only use this with high-priority announcements or if you have a song you use to open the show.
- Disable after playing will make the cart unable to play back after it’s played once. This would work if you have pre-recorded announcements that you do once, or if you have your announcements set-up or have songs that you want to play only once. This is similar to stopped buttons in other programs, except in those programs you can play the song again.
- Fade out cart on click will allow you to fade out the sound by clicking on the cart again
- Play backwards could have been put in here just for fun, but it plays the track backwards at the same speed forward.
- Queue Playback allows you to set-up the button to play after the current track is playing, similar to a playlist function.
You can also set the button color similar to other programs, set the text color and style among other options.
My recommendations for sports would be to do the following:
- Organize your racks, separating songs and crowd prompts. For any song, allow it to be queued for playback so you can choose the next song quickly.
- Set button colors to differentiate between various songs
Sound Byte has a unique way to create playlists that is similar to Sound Director in that you open a separate window and add files from your library. This can be cumbersome if you have your music organized by genre, but if you organize your music prior to inputting it into software or you just drop all of your files into one big folder, this will be a little easier for you.
To add files to your playlist, you can drag the carts (by clicking the black triangle in the lower right of the cart) or drag from a folder and place right in the playlist.
You can create several playlists so you can have pre-game, win, loss, rain delay, kids day, etc. And these playlists do not have to take any rack space, however you can assign the playlist to a cart. The only issue we had was stopping the playlist, however you need to have the option “Open Playlists assigned to Carts” checked in the preferences menu under Edit.
You can set the playlist to do several things include the cross fade time (you can set it longer or shorter depending on what you want), loop each track, loop the entire playlist, and add pauses or delays to allow for live drops if necessary.
The playlist can be extensive to help fill just about any situation. To save, you have to close out of the playlist and then click on “Save As”. Find the correct folder to save your playlist.
- Show Play Lists Window to open the list of play lists you have created like mentioned above
- Show Timed Play Lists Window to open the list of timed play lists you have created
- New Play List (Control-N) to create a new play list
- Open Play List (Control-O) to open an existing play list
- New Timed Play List to create a new timed play list. Timed play lists are great for setting sounds to activate at a certain time of the day. In a sports environment, you could do this for gates opening, batting practice, etc. Any time you know the time of day you’ll start. Setting up a timed play list is similar to a regular play list but the windows are different. Simply drag and drop you want want in the “Timed Play List” window, then double-click on the “Start” time. This is based on a 24-hour clock, so if your gates open at 6 p.m., set this for 18:00:00 (or 17:58:00 to give you a little buffer in case the gates open early)
- Open Timed Play List to open a timed play list
- Close Window
- Save Rack
It is here you will find the Preferences menu which provides you with a lot of uniform options. There are many options here to choose from and none are chosen when you start. Our recommendation is to immediately click the following boxes:
- Arrow Keys Don’t Start Cart Playback is something I personally like because it gives you a redundancy in the event your mouse stops work. You can use the arrow keys and press “Enter” to activate a sound.
- Turn entire cart green when playing (makes it easier to see)
- Flash cart red near end (and set to 10 seconds) to give you time to choose your next track
- Track number of times a cart is played (it’s interesting to see how many times you play something)
- Space aborts playback gives you a hotkey to stop the music
- Log Files Played to log what you’ve played
- Mark played carts
In the picture you can see our options at work. However, you will notice that there is a solid black line along the bottom of each cart. That’s a preference that we like to use so you can move forward and back in a track as necessary. With the volume bar in each cart, you can see the times a song button has been played easier along with the watermarked “PLAYED” behind buttons that have been played.
Some other preferences that might be of use include:
- Play carts continuously basically starting a playlist of your active screen.
- Cart start aborts other carts playing will start the new cart and stop the cart that is currently playing.
- Click on playing cart pauses playback, not a bad idea to have active if you have crowd prompts
- Fadeout cart rather than stopping it, make sure this is active in a hockey environment
- Open Playlists assigned to Carts if you have playlists you want to put in a cart
Most of these are self-explanitory
- Change Cart Size to change the size of the carts depending on your screen size and resolution. Three sizes are available.
- Pause Playing Carts
- Fade Current Cart
- Max Volumes Mute
- Reset Disabled Carts
- Reset Played Carts clears the “PLAYED” watermark on all carts
- Clear PlayTimes clears the number of times a sound has been played
- Set Fade Rates… allows you to set the fade rate of all the carts at once
- Next Rack if you have other racks open
- Previous Race if you have other racks open
- Alphabetize Rack will alphabetize all the carts in the rack
- Lock Volume Sliders keeps the volume set on each individual cart so others can’t alter
- Disable Cart Clicks means you can ONLY use your key board or touchscreen. You can’t use your mouse to click on a button.
- Clear All Carts From Rack resets your screen, do not use this unless you want to rebuild everything.
- Insert Blank Cart allows you to insert a blank cart so you can add a new sound in the middle of your lists.
- Delete Cart
- Set Cart Colors To Default
- Show Volume Sliders shows the volume sliders on each cart so you can adjust the volume on the individual track
- Show Progress is what we prefer so you can scroll forward and back in the song and have an idea of how far along you are
- Show Nothing leaves the bottom half of the cart blank
- Copy Cart Color
- Reset Start Times
- Rack Spreadsheet produces a spreadsheet for you with all the options
- Setup MIDI Device…
Shows you your racks, allows you to choose from those available, and gives you the option to rename the racks.
Drops a menu to open a PDF instructional file.