Minnetonka Audio Software discWelder Bronze

DiscWelder Bronze is aeasy to use $99 utility that enables a PC with a writable DVD drive to burn high-resolution audio discs compatible with commercial DVD-A players supporting the DVD-R/RW format. The software accommodates stereo tracks at sample rates up to 192 kHz and surround tracks up to 96 kHz. It fills the need for a simple, inexpensive way to make accurate refs of high-resolution projects.
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DiscWelder Bronze is aeasy to use $99 utility that enables a PC with a writable DVD drive to burn high-resolution audio discs compatible with commercial DVD-A players supporting the DVD-R/RW format. The software accommodates stereo tracks at sample rates up to 192 kHz and surround tracks up to 96 kHz. It fills the need for a simple, inexpensive way to make accurate refs of high-resolution projects.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, post production

Key Features: Windows software; DVD-A format; 5.1 surround sound at 48 kHz; up to 192 kHz sample rate stereo

Price: $99

Contact: Minnetonka Audio Software at 952-449-6481, Web Site.
Features

DiscWelder Bronze is about as easy to use as it gets. The screen divides into an Explorer-like browse window showing sources, and an "album" window with the compilation for the DVD-A disc under construction. A readout is always present at the lower right corner of the screen indicating how much of the 4.7GB maximum DVD-R/RW capacity has been used. A single DVD-A album can contain both stereo and 5.1 surround tracks as well as tracks of different sample rates. Files are added by double-clicking or by dragging-and-dropping from the browse window. Bronze supports only one "group" per DVD-A but up to 99 tracks of any permissible type can be included. The allowable source formats are WAV and AIFF at word lengths of 16 bits, 20 bits and 24 bits.

As you build your playlist, double-clicking on a stereo file in the browse window creates a corresponding stereo track in the album, while double-clicking a mono source defines the corresponding album track as surround. In the latter case, the program designates the first file chosen as L and opens blank lines in the compilation for R, C, LFE, LS and RS. Subsequent selections fill the blank lines in that order. This arrangement makes building the compilation quick and easy. Surround tracks with fewer than 5.1 channels are specified by leaving the unused lines blank in the compilation (C and LFE, for example). A nice feature is that size, format, bit-depth, and run-times are shown for all WAV and AIFF files in the browse window. Making replacements in the compilation is as simple as highlighting the file to be changed and double-clicking its replacement. Intertrack gaps must be set numerically by right-clicking the track name and entering the gap value in milliseconds up to a maximum of 10 seconds. A gap value of 0 is allowed permitting seamless play between tracks, except where the subsequent track requires the player to change sample rates.

Bronze makes an uncompressed DVD-A disc. Stereo files up to 192 kHz are permissible and are burned onto the disc without altering their sample rate and bit depth. The same holds true for surround tracks of up to 48 kHz sampling. For 5.1 tracks at 88.2 kHz/96 kHz 24-bits, the DVD-A standard calls for mandatory compression with MLP (Meridian Lossless Packing) that Bronze does not support. If this is a requirement, Minnetonka's discWelder Chrome edition provides a solution. Bronze will accept 88.2 kHz/96 kHz 24-bit sources for a 5.1 track, however the files will be down-converted on-the-fly to 44.1 kHz/48 kHz. It appears that Bronze will actually allow 88.2/96 kHz files to be included without down-conversion in a surround track as long as the total data rate does not exceed the DVD-A maximum of 9.6 MBps, though this capability is not specifically noted in the manual.

A variety of secondary utility features are included such as test and verify drive, display media properties, erase disc, select recorder, open/close drawer, etc. An option is also provided for specifying the drive and directory location of a temporary folder required to hold a disc image of up to 4.7GB in size.

In Use

I ran discWelder Bronze through its paces on my mastering PC DAW with an internal Plextor PX-708A IDE DVD-R/RW drive. Simplicity is good and my first DVD-A compilation was made with a learning curve of just about zero. I was preparing a disc to demo two different high-resolution A/D converters at 88.2 kHz and 176.4 kHz. Selecting tracks was quick, as was naming them for later identification on the player's visual display. The resulting disc played fine on an inexpensive Pioneer DV-563A universal player and sounded just as it should. In fact, the differences between the converters being demoed were quite apparent. The Pioneer also correctly displayed the track names, sample rates, and bit depths of the source files. Navigating between tracks worked just as with any DVD disc.

I included a few surround tracks on the album and all channels came up at the correct speaker. I also tried adding a 5.1 track comprised of 96 kHz 24-bit mono sources and Bronze put up a dialog letting me know that these sources would be sample rate converted to 48 kHz before burning. The built-in down-convert is convenient, but for mastering quality, a standalone SRC utility would be preferable. Overall, I was quite satisfied with the resulting DVD-A disc and the ease of creating it.

As an experiment I compiled a disc with a 4.0 track (L, R, LS, RS) and a 3.0 track (L, C, R) with all channels at 24-bit/96 kHz. Both tracks require less than the 9.6 Mbps data rate and discWelder Bronze burned the disc without down-converting the files to 48 kHz. A 5.1 track with all the channels at 16-bit/96 kHz also burned without a hiccup. A 16-bit/96 kHz file properly dithered from 24-bit is very hard to tell from the original.

The program will burn only a single DVD-A disc at a time. However, at the completion of the run, the AUDIO_TS folder containing the audio data image and an empty VIDEO_TS folder remain in the user-specified temporary directory. I found that burning these two folders to a blank DVD-R with a utility like Nero creates a playable DVD-A disc and provides for an easy way to make multiple DVD-A copies.

The only glitch occurred when I tried to burn a DVD-A while my system's external FireWire CD-RW drive was connected and powered up. The process hung during the DVD burn. With my external CD drive powered off, everything worked without a problem.

Summary

DiscWelder Bronze provides an easy, low-cost way to turn out high-resolution DVD-A discs. Its no-frills operation and interface make the job simple and quick. If you own a DVD-A player, it's a great way to bring better-than-CD quality stereo and surround audio home from the studio.