Plug-in developers Sonnox and German research organisation Fraunhofer IIS (pioneers of the MP3 format) have teamed up to create a unique and extremely useful-looking plug-in, called Sonnox Fraunhofer Pro-Codec. Intended for use on your DAW’s master bus, Pro-Codec allows you to audition different audio codecs (MP3, MP3 Surround, AAC-LC, HE-AAC, MP3 HD and HD-AAC) in real time, so you can chose the one that best suits the music you’re working on. What’s more, you can set different bit rates for each codec, to help you achieve the best compromise between fidelity and data reduction.
A high-resolution FFT (fast Fourier transform) graph in the middle of the UI displays the plug-in’s input signal, the output difference (the distortion added by the MP3 codec), and a “unique graphical indication of the audibility of codec-induced noise”. And because the plug-in works in real time, it is also capable of providing peak levels for the decoded audio. Should you find your programme material clipping, you can lower its level via a Trim control.
Next to each codec slot (of which there are five) is a record arm button. Pressing the large record button to the right of the UI will write the outputs of all record-enabled codecs to files on your computer (the names and locations of which can be set by the user). The plug-in also allows you to edit the metadata for recorded files, including ISRC number, track name, artist, and so on.
With its real-time encoding and decoding, the ability to audition codecs, and the option to input metadata, Pro-Codec looks set to become an invaluable tool for mastering engineers, or anyone preparing audio for online distribution. The plug-in was on display at the recent NAMM show, and will apparently be available until the spring, in AU, VST and RTAS formats. Pricing information was unavailable at the time of writing.