It might be wishful thinking, but we'd like to see Toast, Jam, and all their included helper apps wrapped up into one interface as well. The Toast interface is simple enough for a child to use, but Jam and the others launch separately and have their own looks. The suite would be easier for new users and more convenient for everyone if the apps were better tied together.The big news with this version of Toast with Jam is its improved audio capabilities, including the ability to create DVD music discs that can store up to 36 hours of tunes. That's a lot of music to wade through, but Toast automatically sorts it into albums and makes a friendly onscreen menu. We give the feature points for automatically importing album art from iTunes for the onscreen menu.
Both Toast and Jam now offer Dolby Digital sound, which is a major improvement not only in sound quality but also in compression. Because Dolby Digital offers superior compression, you can fit more onto your discs. With the previous release, Toast 6.0 Titanium, you could fit only 90 minutes of video onto a DVD, but now you can get up to 120 minutes on one disc. That matches what you can do with Apple iDVD.
With this release, Jam gains a variety of smaller improvements that give you more control when creating a custom music CD. For starters, you can now add custom fade-ins and fade-outs to the first and last song, respectively, in your compilation. You do it by dragging a graphical representation of the fade-in or fade-out in Jam's controls. Jam can also now use higher-quality audio files--up to 192KHz, 64-bit tracks--and can finally burn discs independently of Toast.
Audiophiles will like that this suite comes with version 4.0 of BIAS Peak Express, the helper app for editing and saving tracks. Unfortunately, Peak Express requires a free component download to save to MP3. The instructions for doing this are on the installation disc. We had some minor snags after installing the component and needed tech support to bail us out. That only reinforces our view that MP3 support should be available out of the box.
While the emphasis in this release is on audio, Toast remains the best all-around burner for the Mac and can handle a great variety of disc types. It can create video or storage discs and copy discs with ease. Included helper applications let you import audio from old records and tapes, produce customized slide shows with audio tracks, and create disc labels. The label creator is more versatile than the one just integrated into Apple iTunes. Roxio has announced a downloadable update that will give Toast with Jam the ability to burn to double-layer DVDs, but the update wasn't ready in time for this review.We've faulted Roxio before on its support for Toast, and the options haven't improved. Phone support is available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET and costs $35 per call, which doesn't seem fair. For a $199 product, you should get at least 30 days of free support. Roxio has an online help system called RoxAnn that didn't provide us with nowhere near helpful answers in our testing and gave the impression of a technical-support person who was bafflingly dim. You can also e-mail a question; we've heard of people waiting two days for an answer, but ours came within a day. Given that, you might be better off using the online forums.