Sonnox Fraunhofer Pro-Codec Review

Oct 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Brandon Hickey



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In this era of ever-changing and ever-increasing Web-based media distribution, many of us have become accustomed to a workflow that involves bouncing a mix or a mastering job, encoding it to MP3 or AAC, hearing the result and then going back to apply changes due to deficiencies of the perceived outcome. This can be an irritating and time-consuming dance. The idea of instantiating a plug-in across the master fader during mixing or mastering, which could allow you to monitor the effects of encoding, is an obvious solution, and that is precisely what the Sonnox Fraunhofer Pro-Codec does: It provides the means to audition these codecs pre-bounce, accompanied by an incredible amount of analysis, allowing you to apply any given codec with absolute confidence.

The interface tabs through three main windows, according to the functions that the processor performs: online encoding, offline encoding and offline decoding. Online encoding is the most exciting feature of the software, where you can choose up to five different encoding settings and toggle between auditioning each of them while listening to the mix in real time. Ultimately, the preferred result can be recorded into a new file of the chosen format. The offline encoder allows you to import premixed material in WAV or AIFF format, choose up to five different settings and batch-process the imported file, and then export the newly encoded files. The offline decoder is useful in instances where a DAW cannot import a file because it is currently encoded with a Fraunhofer codec that is incompatible with that DAW. In this case, the end result is an uncompressed WAV or AIFF file that you decide the format and bit depth.

The large, easy-reference input meter displays peak and VU in 1dB steps down to -36 dBfs, then 3dB per “LED” below that. Underneath this meter is a button that provides access to the Export Settings, where you control the destination and file-naming format used by any of the processing to be exported to new files. Here, the default file name for exported files can be built from a number of components, including the name of the codec employed, the quality setting and time stamp, as well as a “custom string” field that can be used to identify that particular file to the user, once exported. This information is automatically included as ID3 metadata.

The Sonnox

The Sonnox "Encoded By" tagger

As complete as this product is for creating Web-ready MP3 media, I was disappointed that there was not an option for additional metadata tagging, such as artist name, song title, album, etc. Also, AAC metadata is not supported. At the bottom of the Input window is a display indicating total delay imparted by the plug-in, which automatically, and instantly, updates when changes are made in any area of the online encoder, though not always immediately conveyed to ADC in a given DAW.

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