The number ‘1.0’ strikes fear into the heart of anyone who’s tinkered with new software. You never know what you’re going to get: a wonderful, indispensable item to treasure, or a piece of junk. Ambrosia Software’s WireTap Studio falls into the former camp, and arrives on the back of relatively little hype, ready to battle it out with the somewhat similar Audio Hijack Pro. But although it shares some features with its more affordable contemporary, WireTap Studio has some neat tricks of its own.

Easy to use

Essentially, WireTap Studio is a tool for recording, post-processing, managing and exporting audio. For recording, the application offers a dinky floating controller window, which expands to enable you to select up to two sources from which to record. These can be hardware- or software-based (or a combination thereof), thereby enabling you to, for example, record something from the internet and add a voice-over via your Mac’s line-in input. Preferences settings enable you to amend gain level and file format, and the entire process is extremely straightforward.

So far, so Audio Hijack, although Ambrosia Software claims to trump Rogue Amoeba’s application by offering a cleaner, simpler method of grabbing audio, which doesn’t require an application restart or the installation of Application Enhancer. But then WireTap Studio whips out its trump card: LivePreview. This enables you to fiddle about with formats and compression settings on the fly before you begin recording. Presets can be saved and accessed with ease, and it’s an amazing feeling not having to guess whether something’s going to sound good before hitting the Record button.

Once a recording’s been made, it automatically opens in an editor window, ready for further work. And this is where the application’s major concept becomes clear: Ambrosia Software has largely done for audio what Apple did for imagery in iPhoto, in that manipulation is lossless. This works because WireTap Studio automatically records a lossless master track (which means the application even covers your back if you get your initial settings wrong).

You can play back recordings and listen live as you manipulate format and compression settings. You can delete selections within the audio and add effects with the knowledge that, even after saving your changes, the original audio remains safe on your hard drive.

The clear-cut editor interface makes it a cinch to revert audio – to bring back a deleted section, for example. The only snag is, this flexibility doesn’t extend to destructive editing. You can remove selections but can’t move anything. In other words, there’s no copy and paste. On the plus side, you can add visual markers to an audio track, and a fairly comprehensive tags section enables you to name your creations.

WireTap Studio’s other main component is its library, which you use for organising recordings. It resembles a stripped-down iTunes and enables you to store audio clips in user-defined groups, listen to stored recordings, and send a recording to various devices and applications. Unlike WireTap Studio’s other components, there’s nothing particularly remarkable here, but everything works well and the interface is clear.

Fully fledged

When an application has such exciting, innovative features, it’s easy to get carried away and ignore the shortcomings, but WireTap Studio appears almost fully fledged out of the blocks. Sure, destructive editing would be a major plus, and we were slightly irked that it doesn’t work with our Mbox.

But other than that, we only found some minor interface niggles that are sure to be ironed out as the application matures. Assuming Ambrosia Software can get updates out the door on a regular basis, Audio Hijack Pro may soon find itself in second place.