Review: Toast 5.01 Titanium
Developer: Roxio (product page)
Price: $89.95 (direct from Roxio); $59 (upgrade from Toast Deluxe 4)
Requirements: PowerPC-based Mac with System 8.6 and QuickTime 4, 12 MB application RAM; CD Spin Doctor requires 128 MB RAM with Virtual Memory turned off, 2 GB hard drive with 800 MB available for digitizing audio.
Recommended: Internet connection to access FreeDB audio CD database (freedb.org)
Toast 5 Titanium software helps you record CDs and DVDs from your Power Macintosh. Toast 5 supports nearly every CD recording format. Toast Titanium also includes applications for recording sound from any source, for creating CD labels, and for organizing and cataloging multimedia files.
Changes from Adaptec Toast Deluxe 4
The biggest improvement is that CD recording now can be done in the background. You can write CDs while performing other tasks if you have adequate RAM. Another big improvement is support for DVD-R/RW formats and for Apple’s SuperDrive. Toast 5 can convert iMovie files and digital video streams to Video CDs or DVDs, and can also create CDs that work in MP3 CD-ROM audio players. Toast 5 now works with iTunes (but not seamlessly). New applications bundled with Toast 5 include QDesign’s MVP for playing MP3 audio files and an improved version of Magic Mouse Discus CD Labeler, for creating CD labels and jewel case covers and inserts. Toast now identifies audio CD titles and tracks using the FreeDB Internet service.
The one negative change is that Toast 5 no longer supports autoloader hardware for making multiple CD copies.
Double-clicking the “Toast Titanium 5.0 Installer” icon launches the Installer VISE application. You use a pop-up menu to select a drive or a folder for installation. You are given only two installation options: Full Install or Toast Only. I dislike the lack of a custom install option. I performed a full installation and then trashed the files I did not need. Installer VISE closes all open applications, and a restart is required after installation. A full installation requires nearly 200 MB of hard disk space, though Toast Titanium alone requires only 6 MB. All files are installed in the Toast Titanium folder.
Four extensions are also installed in the Extensions folder: Adaptec UDF Volume Access, Toast CD Reader, Toast FireWire Support, Toast USB Support, and Toast Video CD Support. Only the Toast CD Reader is required, unless you have a FireWire or USB CD burner.
Full Installation of Toast Titanium
Toast 5 sports a new interface that complements OS X. The four main buttons near the top of the window are for selecting the type of recording: Data (Mac OS standard or HFS+ or Mac/PC hybrid standard or HFS+), Audio (AIFF), Copy (CD only, not DVD), and Other (video CD, MP3 CD, DVD, disk image, Mac volume, ISO 9660, custom hybrid CD, CD-i, enhanced music CD, multitrack CD-ROM XA, and device copy).
Toast 5 Main Window
Creating Data CDs
For most formats, you select files for the CD by either dragging them onto the Toast window or by clicking on the Add or Select… buttons and navigating to the file or folder of interest. When setting up most types of data disks, you can create new folders (or subdirectories) and arrange files within them. Within a folder, files always appear in alphabetical order. When you have chosen all the files, you can do three things: save the configuration (Save menu or Command-S), run a simulation of the recording process (to confirm that the burn speed will work), or burn a new CD or DVD-R.
Toast’s Record Dialog Box
If you have appropriate blank media in your burner, clicking the red Record button brings up a dialog box where you select the burn speed from a pop-up menu (the maximum burn speed will depend on your hardware, media, and available RAM). You can choose Simulation mode by checking the button. If your recorder supports buffer underrun prevention, you can toggle that feature off or on. You start the recording (or simulation) process by clicking the “Write Disc” button. In many modes you may alternately click on the “Write Session” button. Using this recording mode allows you to write to one CD numerous times. Each session mounts as a separate disk. This feature is useful when you archive files to CD and only use a portion of the CD’s capacity each time.
Creating Audio CDs
Toast can create audio CDs from nearly any format: prerecorded audio CDs, MP3 files, other digital sound formats, and from analog sources such as phonographs or tapes. A nice feature is “Toast Greatest Hits.” You insert audio CDs into your CD-ROM drive and drag the tracks you wish to record onto the Toast audio window. If you click on the “Internet” button, Toast will access the FreeDB database and find the titles and track names for your prerecorded audio CDs. You can arrange the tracks in any order. When you start to record, Toast will prompt you to reinsert the appropriate audio CDs as needed. Another method for creating new CDs from prerecorded audio CDs is to use Toast Audio Extractor to copy audio tracks to your hard drive. You can burn new audio CDs from these AIFF files, or convert them to other formats such as QuickTime movies or Sound Designer II files.
Toast automatically converts MP3 files to standard Red Book audio CD format. You can drag individual MP3 files to the Toast audio window. You can also use Toast 5 in conjunction with iTunes. You can create a playlist of MP3 or AIFF digital recordings in iTunes. When you are ready to burn a CD, instead of clicking on iTunes’ “Burn” button, just drag the playlist onto the Toast audio window.
CD Spin Doctor
This application lets you record analog sound onto your hard drive. It will accept analog input from RCA ports, the external microphone, and the sound-in port found on some Macintosh computers or audio/video cards. CD SpinDoctor can also record analog sound from disks in your CD or DVD drive. A reason for using CD SpinDoctor on digital media is when the audio needs to be cleaned-up or filtered. After launching CD SpinDoctor you need to designate a destination hard drive for the sound files. You then choose an input source.
CD SpinDoctor has a vertical group of buttons with standard symbols for record, pause, play, stop, and loop. The two columns of small circles are left and right channel signal strength indicators. The circular buttons to the right trigger the following actions: send audio files to Toast, mute the audio input, pop-up a slider to adjust input gain, pop-up a window to select and adjust filters, and pop-up a slider to adjust volume. Most of these features are intuitive.
CD SpinDoctor Window
CD SpinDoctor Filter Window
The filter choices include noise and pop (used to eliminate background hums and phonograph clicks and pops), bass boost, “exciter” (for extrapolating “lost” harmonics), and width (for creating or widening stereo separation). Since the “Realizer” filters increase the sound signal strength, the Filters window also includes a slider for adjusting output level. After capturing sound with CD SpinDoctor, you can apply filters to selected sections of music (recommended for noise and pop filters) or to the entire recording (recommended for Realizer filters). Filters permanently alter your recorded files, so you may want to save a copy of your unfiltered files before running the filters. (Note: The filters are licensed from Arboretum System’s Ray GunTM noise reduction technology. You can purchase a full version of Ray Gun that has more powerful features, including the ability to filter sound as you record.)
Selecting a Track in CD SpinDoctor
CD SpinDoctor can automatically designate audio tracks while recording. This works best when there are a few seconds of silence between tracks and no moments of silence within tracks. You may also designate tracks manually, which is my preferred method. You zoom in on the sound amplitude display window that includes recording time. You select a track with the mouse by clicking and dragging to highlight an area. Typing Command-D or selecting Define Track from the Tracks menu creates the track. You can double-click on the “Untitled Track” entry in the track list window to enter the track’s title. After all tracks are assigned, you can delete the first “track” that includes the entire recording. This only deletes the track designation; all the recorded sound remains intact.
CD SpinDoctor can send its recorded sound files directly to Toast for burning audio CDs. Just select the tracks of interest and click on the Burn CD button. Toast will be launched and the selected tracks will appear in Toast’s audio window.
Creating Video CDs
The Toast Video CD Support extension must be active to create video CDs. You can create video CDs from QuickTime movies (most formats), MPEG-1 streams, and iMovie 2.0.1. In the main Toast window, you click on Other and select Video CD, MP3 Disc, or DVD from the pop-up menu. You then drag the QuickTime or MPEG-1 movie file onto the Toast window or use the Select… button to find the movie file. For all video files, you must choose either the NTSC or PAL format. QuickTime files are converted and saved to disk before Toast burns the video CD. MPEG-1 files can be burned without conversion.
Toast handles iMovie 2.0.1 files differently from QuickTime or MPEG movies. You start by opening the iMovie and choosing Export Movie from the File menu. You must export the iMovie as a QuickTime file. You then choose a Toast Video CD format from the Format pulldown menu. When you click on the Export button, the iMovie is converted to a QuickTime movie, Toast is launched, and the video CD is burned (remember to load the blank disk first).
QDesign MVP 1.2.38
MVP Player and Playlist Windows
This application plays digital audio (MP3, MP2, WAV, AIFF, QDMC, etc.) and video files, saves playlists, and can convert digital sound files to MP3, MP2, WAV, or QDMC formats at a variety of bit rates. Toast Titanium includes 17 MP3 songs you can play on MVP. I spent little time with MVP because it caused numerous freezes and hard crashes. I recommend using iTunes and QuickTime Player instead of the crash-prone MVP. An additional reason for using iTunes is that its playlists can be dragged onto the Toast audio window for recording. This feature is not supported by QDesign MVP.
iView Multimedia Catalog Window
Toast Titanium includes the OEM version of iView Multimedia. Toast Titanium owners can upgrade to iView Multimedia Pro for $25 (a $20 saving). The included version may meet your needs for organizing your digital photos, movies, and sound clips. You add items to a catalog by dragging files or folders to the catalog window or by selecting Import… from the File menu. During import, iView Multimedia will create thumbnails images at one of four sizes. You can rearrange files within a catalog by dragging them. Each catalog item can have associated captions, credits, keywords, and categories. You can use this information to select and sort catalog items. Pictures can be viewed individually or as a slide show. Captions can be displayed in slide show mode.
iView Multimedia can export images as QuickTime movies, contact sheets, HTML files, and video postcards. It can also export many types of files directly to Toast. iView Multimedia offers full AppleScript support and includes a script menu.
Magic Mouse Discus CD Labeler
This application sports a childlike interface that reminds me of KidPix. The application takes over your entire screen and features large buttons and wild background choices for your labels. Discus CD Labeler can help you create CD labels, jewel case lid and base sheets, and folding booklets that will fit in CD jewel cases. You can use the supplied backgrounds, create your own by switching to Paint mode, and add your own art or photographs in Photo mode. Discus CD Labeler can import audio CD track titles from saved Toast files. It does not do this correctly with data CDs. Discus CD Labeler has printer settings for 28 different brands of CD labels. I experienced no freezes or crashes with this version of Discus CD Labeler—a big improvement compared to the version bundled with Toast Deluxe 4.
Discus CD Labeler Window
Toast Titanium Problems and Bugs
I experienced no significant problems with Toast 5.01. Users have reported some problems burning DVD disks on the new SuperDrives, but some of those problems may be due to different firmware versions of the SuperDrive.
CD SpinDoctor works, but it needs interface and usability improvements. The program has not been upgraded since its release two years ago.
QDesign’s MVP crashed frequently. Roxio should include a different MP3 player. Perhaps Apple will let them bundle iTunes.
The Toast 5 Titanium User’s Guide is a 237-page, 5.5" x 8.5" softcover manual that describes the use of Toast 5 and CD SpinDoctor. Toast Titanium also includes a 20-page “Getting Started Guide.” All other documents are PDF files. Toast Audio Extractor, iView Multimedia, and Discus CD Labeler have short (8-19 pages) PDF manuals.
Roxio offers 90 days of free telephone support (via a toll call) in North America, Europe, and Japan. English language telephone support is available after 90 days for a fee. Webmail support (English only) is also free for 90 days. The Roxio Web site has answers to frequently asked questions, a searchable “Knowledgebase” database, a user-based e-mail discussion list, and an updates page.
- Can write CDs in nearly all formats.
- Can write CDs in the background.
- High reliability with ability to check burn speeds and simulate the burn process.
- No support for CD burner autoloaders.
- Mediocre MP3 player included.
- High upgrade cost for Toast Deluxe 4 owners.
- Less expensive Toast 5 Lite not available as separate purchase. (It is only bundled with new CD burners.)
Charis Mac’s Discribe 4 is the only significant commercial competition. Discribe 4 now costs less than Toast ($75 retail, $30 for competitive or version upgrade), but it has a clumsier interface and fewer features. It does not include bundled extras equivalent to iView MultiMedia or Discus CD Labeler.
Toast 5 is the best and most complete CD and DVD recording software available for the Macintosh. The Toast 5 Titanium bundle adds useful programs for analog sound input, cataloging media, and creating CD and jewel box labels.