Soundly: An unofficial user's guide

This current version of the guide covers Soundly 2.0. I will do my best to keep it updated.

Disclaimer: I decided to make this guide because there are almost no resources online for Soundly and I thought it would be something that some people may find useful. This is not intended to be a strictly objective guide, I've included some of my own opinions and suggestions. I don't have any working or commercial relation with the creators of Soundly.

Introduction
Soundly is a audio library management software that lets you organise and tag your sound effects and add them to your projects in a fast and convenient way. It also includes an online proprietary library that you will be able to access in conjunction with your own local files. I'll be using the mac version and shortcuts. Any mac shortcut using CMD can be used on windows with CTRL.

Soundly Overview

Pricing and Accounts
Soundly uses a freemium model. Using the app is free with some limitations. You will only be able to import up to 2500 sounds from your local drive and you will only have access to a selection of sounds from the cloud based Soundly library.

The Pro version allows you to import unlimited local files and lets you access the Soundly online library in its entirety. Additionally, this version allows you to access other third party online libraries within the app. Some of these are free, like the whole catalogue from freesound.org, and others are paid libraries that you can buy via asoundeffect.com.

As you can see bellow, there is also a 24hr pass option that gives you all the pro features in case you just need them for a short period of time.

There is also a multi-user option for companies that gives you the pro features for multiple people and includes shared cloud storage so everyone in the team can access the same libraries. 

Audio libraries sources

Your sounds can come from three fundamental sources:

  • Local: These are the files that you have in your own computer.
  • Cloud: These are files that are always online and you can access from anywhere.
  • Network: These are files that are in your local network (but maybe not necessarily in your computer).

Let's see how you can manage files from these three sources.

Importing your local libraries

To import your libraries, you just drag and drop any audio files or folders. Make sure you drop them on the "Local" blue box. The best way to keep things organized is to have each of your libraries on individual folders and drop them all to soundly instead of just importing the parent folder of all these libraries.

This way, Soundly will list all your libraries one by one and you will be able to select which ones do you want to include in your searches. You will also be able to browse through subfolders within each library.

If you bring in loose sound files instead of folders, they will go into a "Loose sounds" folder that will be automatically created.

Managing your own sounds on the cloud

For now, this option is only available for multi-user accounts. When you drag and drop files or folder to Soundly, you will see that one of the blue boxes says "Cloud Storage". Once these files are uploaded you will be able to access them anywhere.

Managing third party cloud libraries

Soundly allows you to access some online cloud libraries with no need for you to have the files locally. If you are a pro user you will be able to access all the libraries listed bellow. In the case of a free user, only a selection of sounds from The Soundly Library will be available.

  • The Soundly Library: This is general purpose library built by sound designer Christian Schaanning. You will be able to access the whole set of sounds (currently around 10.400 files) if you are a pro user. Free users will just be able to access a selection of around 300 sounds. This ls a quite complete and well tagged library that will be probably enough for an editor or an student and a nice additional bonus resource for sound designers.
     
  • Freesound.org library: Soundly lets you access the huge catalogue hosted in freesound.org (around 300K sounds!). Is very handy to have this vast amount of material available to you without the need of jumping to your browser to search and download the sounds by hand. Having said that, freesound.org doesn't always offer the highest quality plus the content is under different creative commons licenses. Soundly will show all these different licenses and you can even set things up so Soundly will only show you creative commons 0 licensed sounds which is a great way to assure you that you are only using public domain material. To do this, just right click on the freesound folder (under "Cloud") and select Creative Commons 0 Only.
  • The Free Firearm/Medieval Weapon Library: These libraries were produced by Still North Media and financed via Kickstarter. You would need Soundly Pro to access them via the cloud but if you are a free user you can always download them and access them locally.
     
  • Paid asoundeffect.com Libraries: Pro users can browse, purchase and access third party libraries via the vast asoundeffect.com catalogue and access them anywhere on the cloud section.

So, as you can see, Soundly cloud capabilities are really about convenience. They give you the ability of searching on all these cloud based sources plus on your local files, all in a single place, saving time and improving your workflow.

Using shared network databases

The 2.0 version introduced this new feature aimed at companies or just groups of people using different clients of soundly locally. To use this feature, you will need the computers to be connected via a local network (LAN). Keep in mind that the database and audio files could be in one of the users computers or even just in a server or machine room computer that all other users will access.

So, why use this and not just local copies for each user? This option allows you to have an unified and centralised database that any user can access, edit and improve upon, instead of a fragmented database that is going to be different for every member of the team. Additionally, this database will update its metadata in real time, without the need for users to restart Soundly or re-import the audio libraries when another user makes any metadata change.

To set up a database, you will need to create it with Database > New shared network database. You will then see the following screen:

As the text above says, the database is stored in a .sdb file and this file should be stored on the same network disk as the audio files forming the library. Click on the folder icon to name the database and locate where do you want to save the database file. As mentioned, it should be saved on your library root folder and on the same disk where the audio files are. Then, you will find these three options:

  • Duplicate local database: This option will add to your local library folders to your otherwise empty network library.
  • Password protect: This lets you add a password that any users trying to connect to the database will need to know.
  • Restrict editing: If selected, unauthorised users won't be able to edit the database content or metadata. 

Once your database is created, any user can access it going to Database > Connect to shared network database. As mentioned before, the user will need to have access, via the local network, to the computer or hard drive where the files are. Once connected to the database, the user will be able to search within the library and see any new changes like new folders, files or metadata made by any other user with permission to edit.

Using Metadata

Having solid metadata is very important if you want to find the sound you need easily. It's no use to have a great sounding library if the metadata is vague or incorrect.

There are other audio library managing software with far more options to manage metadata but, in my opinion Soundly offers enough features to keep your files well labeled and easy to find. I think most users won't need much more.

When browsing local files you will see the following fields: 

  • Name: The name of the audio file.
  • Time: The duration of the file.
  • Format: Sampling frequency + Bit depth when browsing wav files. In case of other formats, it will show the name of the format.
  • Channels: The amount of channels. Very handy when you just want to see surround files, for example.
  • Library: The name of the parent folder containing the audio file. Ideally, it should be the name of the library. 
  • Description: Additional information about the file to make it easier to find.

If you want to change which fields are visible, right click on any of them to add or remove them. The only editable fields within Soundly are the "Name" and "Description". For my own libraries, I personally use the name field to just state what the sound is in terms of materials, moods and/or actions. I then use the description field to add any additional information that may help locate the sound when searching in the future, even if this information is very different to the original purpose of the sound.

Shortcuts:

  • CMD + E: Edit the name of the file.
  • CMD + T: Edit the description of the file.

If you select more than one file at the same time and do CMD + T, you will be able to access this following dialogue window. (See picture on the right hand side)

This window will allow you to modify the names, descriptions or originators of all the selected files at the same time.

The originator is an additional field that appears when editing a file's description and just indicates where the original metadata is coming from.

This are the commands accessible on this window. Keep in mind that any of this can be applied to either the name, description or originator field:

  • Add to start: Adds any text to the start of the field. You may need to end with an space to keep things clear.
  • Add to end: Adds any text to the end of the field. You may need to start with an space to keep things clear.
  • Replace with: Replaces occurrences of a determined chain of characters with a new one of your choice. Super useful for removing things like underscores and replacing them with spaces, as you will see bellow.
  • Replace whole: Replaces the whole field with a new text.

Here are some general tips and tricks to keep in mind when editing metadata. Not all of them are necessarily related to Soundly and some are definitely a matter of personal preference but they may be useful to you:

  • When possible, use wav and interleaved files. Metadata on some other types of files will be saved in soundly but not on the file itself, so it will be lost if the files are moved or renamed. In my experience, sticking to wav and interleaved is the safest option.
     
  • Searches are not case-sensitive but I like to keep everything lower case for the sake of simplicity.
     
  • You can use dashes "-", underscores "_" and commas "," to separate words (like sci-fi). Soundly will treat them as spaces.
     
  • Self-contained words: Looking for "cars" won't give you anything labeled as "car". But looking for "car" will give you both "car" and "cars". So, in general, is better to search for the shortest form of a word (usually singular). Another example of this would be "plane". It will give you words labeled as "plane", "planes" and "airplane" but also "planer" and "planet".
     
  • Establish a set of words used to describe certain sounds and be consistent with them, specially when two options are possible, like "impact and "hit". Choose one of them and stick with it.

Searching

Searching is very straightforward but I wanted to share some tips:

  • You can use the minus symbol "-" to remove results from your search. For example, if you search for "rock" you may also end up with results referring to rock music. You can then use "rock -music" and hopefully you will filter those unwanted results out.
     
  • You can see your search history (and go back to any previous search) clicking on the magnifying icon on the left the search box or using the arrows on the right of the search box.
     
  • When you do a search, Soundly will give you suggestions based on global sound effect searches.
     
  • If you want to do a search just in a group of libraries or folders you can uncheck the rest of folders and just leave those you want to search in.
     
  • If you want to search in just one library, you can use the "Search in this library" command that you will see by right-clicking on any of your libraries.
     
  • You can save a particular selection of folders  to be used while searching. To set this up, first select the folders you would like to be included and then click on the three dots on the right hand side of the SOUNDS tab (see picture bellow). Once on that dialogue, you can name and save your selection or delete previous selections. You can then access these selections using the shortcut CMD + Number.

Audio Operations

There are several audio operations that you can do to your sounds within Soundly. Keep in mind that you won't be affecting the original audio file when using these operations. Let's have a look at them:

  • You can change the sounds pitch and this will affect its duration too, so this is an old school pitch change where pitch and length are linked. You can do this by using the big slider on the bottom left hand side. There is also an amount setting that you can change to make the change bigger. This setting can be 2X, 4X and 8X. Note that if you change the pitch and then move the sound to to other app you will be moving the pitch shifted version of the file.
     
  • There is a volume slider next to the pitch control. This will just change your auditioning level and will not affect the sound's level when importing it into other software.
     
  • You can change the waveform size or zoom with a slider that is on the right hand side of the waveform display. Again, this will just change how you view the waveform, not the actual level of the sound.
     
  • Use CMD + R to reverse the audio file. This change will be carried forward to other software.
     
  • Use CMD + I to invert the channels on an stereo audio file. This change will be carried forward to other software.
     
  • Use CMD + N to normalize the audio file. This change will be carried forward to other software.
     
  • Use SHIFT + CMD + M to sum an stereo file to mono. This change will be carried forward to other software.
     
  • Use SHIFT + CMD + LEFT ARROW to use the left channel only on an stereo file. This change will be carried forward to other software.
     
  • Use SHIFT + CMD + RIGHT ARROW to use the right channel only on an stereo file. This change will be carried forward to other software.

Exporting sounds to other apps

You can export sounds to any audio or video editing software. To do this just select a section of a sound (or the entire file) and drag and drop.

You can also work on Dock Mode, this compact mode allows you to see Soundly and your editing software at the same time. To use this mode just click on "Dock Mode" on the top right hand side of Soundly's window.

Using Dock Mode

Using Soundly with Pro Tools

To spot sound directly to Pro Tools you can either use "S" to spot to the cursor or "B" to spot to the Pro Tools bin. This is the best way to ensure that the sounds are in the session's audio files folder. When spotting to the cursor, make sure you have selected to the proper track beforehand, since Soundly will spot the file to the selected track on Pro Tools.

When spotting a stereo track to a mono track, Soundly will first bring the left channel and then right channel on top of it, so you will end up with just the right channel which is OK if you just want a mono effect. If you want use to use the other channel you can either undo in Pro Tools (this will undo bringing the right channel so you will just have the left channel) or you can just use the commands explained above to just bring the left channel or a mono sum of both channels.

If your selection doesn't span the whole file and you spot to pro tools, you will just bring that particular selection but it will include handles so you will be able to extend the clip if needed.

Using Playlists

Playlists are a great way of saving your favourite sounds per category (Whooshes, Grabs, Night) or per client or show you are working on. In the picture on the right, you can see some of the playlists I'm currently using to give you an idea of categories you could use.

To create a new playlist, just click on "New Playlist" just bellow your libraries. Name your playlist and you can start adding sounds just right clicking on any sound and selecting "Add to playlist" and your desired playlist.

The Starred playlist is a somewhat special playlist that comes by default and you can use to tag your favourite sounds.

You can also share any playlist with other Soundly users. This is really handy for teams working on the same set of projects. Right click on any playlist and select share. You can then add any users using their emails. You can also choose to let them add files to the playlist and even give them permissions to manage it.

Settings Page

Access the setting page by clicking on "SETTINGS" on the up right hand side, going to Soundly > Settings or with the shortcut CMD + {COMMA}

  • Output Device: Your Audio output device.
  • Auto play: When browsing, selecting a new audio file will play it automatically.
  • Loop play: Files will be played on loop. Shortcut: SHIFT + CMD + L
  • Hide on drag out: Soundly window will hide when dragging and dropping a sound.
  • Auto resize search result column: When searching, columns will automatically resize to fit the content.
  • Window always on top: Soundly window will always stay on top, useful when using Dock Mode.
  • File name on export: You can choose if either the file name or the description will be carried when exporting to other software.
  • Output format: The format that exported files will have. It can be the same as the original file ("Same as input") or a custom one.
  • Reset local database: Deletes the local database.
  • Offline License: This options allows you to export and import an offline license if you need to work on a computer not connected to the internet.
  • Audio storage location:  If you work with video editing software, Soundly will not automatically save the audio to the project audio folder when exporting. With this feature, you can manually set that path to the project's audio folder.
    Soundly will save the files you export to this folder whenever your editing software 
  • File transfer quality: If you have a slow internet connection you can use the low quality settings to load the files faster.
  • Update: Checks if you are using the last version of Soundly.
  • Networking: Use this option if you are accessing the internet through a proxy server.
  • ReWire: Rewire lets you audition Soundly through a track in your DAW. Specially useful if you use Pro Tools HD.

Soundly shortcuts

  • CMD + E: Edit the name of the file.
  • CMD + T: Edit the description of the file.
  • CMD + Number: Activates a saved folder selection preset.
  • CMD + [COMMA]: Preferences page.
  • CMD + R: Reverse an audio file. 
  • CMD + I: Invert the channels on an stereo audio file. 
  • CMD + N: Normalize the audio file. 
  • SHIFT + CMD + M: Sum an stereo file to mono. 
  • SHIFT + CMD + LEFT ARROW: Use the left channel only on an stereo file. 
  • SHIFT + CMD + RIGHT ARROW: Use the right channel only on an stereo file. 
  • SHIFT + CMD + L: Toggle loop play on and off.

Features for the future

This just a compilation of ideas from myself and other colleagues that we would love to see in Soundly in the future. If there is anything that you think is missing here, leave a comment and I'll add it to the list. As you can see, some features were added!

  • Being able to use "" to search for concrete words but not words containing them. So, if you search for "car", you won't find cartoon or cardboard.
  • File descriptions get updated in real time between different users accessing the same files. Added in version 2.0
  • Being able to edit more than rule at once for a certain field. For example, we would want to add "speed" to the end of the description and also replace all instances of "vehicle" with "car" within the description too. This would be very handy when re-naming big libraries.
  • Search statistics. Being able to see what you search the most would be awesome.
  • Multi-edit is great because of the replacing tools and sometimes I'd love to be able to do it on just one file.
  • Sort playlists in folders and share those folders.
  • More boolean logic for searches. Like look for anything with the words "dog" or "wolf".
  • More metadata fields or even custom metadata fields.
  • Ability to spot to pro tools with handles. Added in version 2.0
  • A button allowing you to "Go back" to previous page. Added in version 2.0
  • Being able to do conditional formatting on metadata. For example, being able to tell Soundly: within this selection, if you see the term "wind", add "ambience".
  • Add local tags tied to your account to cloud libraries.
  • Spell correction in search bar. Added in version 1.2
  • Being able to add tags in a particular time along a file's waveform.
  • Right click on a Freesound track has an option to open that sound's page on a browser.