Minnetonka Audio Software discWelder Bronze DVD-Audio Software

Last spring, Minnetonka Audio Software released its PC version of the discWelder Bronze, a shockingly, low-cost software that allowed pros or home studio operators to burn DVD-Audio discs that could be played on any commercial DVD-A player.
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Last spring, Minnetonka Audio Software released its PC version of the discWelder Bronze, a shockingly, low-cost software that allowed pros or home studio operators to burn DVD-Audio discs that could be played on any commercial DVD-A player.
Product PointsApplications: Project studio, post production

Key features: Mac; 24-bit/192 kHz; high-resolution stereo DVD-A format; DVD burning

Price: $99

Contact: Minnetonka Audio Software at
952-449-6481, Web Site.
Alan Silverman took a look at the PC version in the August issue and concluded the software was ideal for professional one-off recording/authoring of high-bit-rate, linear stereo PCM (up to 24-bit/192 kHz sampling rate) as well linear 5.1 48 kHz tracks. Studios can now make quick, high-res DVD-As that could be used for client playback, track storage, etc.

Now finally comes the long-awaited Mac version of Bronze, which I tested in various beta versions during fall. And as I found, it was as equally as impressive the PC version, especially if you are using the high horsepower of an Apple G5.

Features

Bronze 1.0 is an easy program to use offering just enough features to assemble finished tracks and burn them. On-screen menu items include an "album" window where the project is created. You simply just drag or click on audio files that are built into tracks -- either stereo or 5.1 tracks. Uses are numerous from demo samples of a client's high resolution work to archiving LPs, cassettes, 78s, etc.

Since Bronze is lean version of DVD-A authoring, all the tracks are automatically placed in a single Group, Group 1. The DVD-A standard allows multiple Group creation.

Bronze allows burning of up to 24-bit/192 kHz linear PCM stereo files and 24-bit/48 kHz 5.1 channel files. To author 5.1 in high resolution, the Meridian Lossless Packing (MLP) coding scheme is necessary, which Bronze does not support. Minnetonka's full-featured Chrome DVD-A authoring package does work with MLP and is offered as part of a software bundle. A project done in Bronze can be finished in Chrome with MLP.

In Use

To try Bronze I prepared a bunch of tracks recorded and edited in BIAS Peak 4.1. They were of varying numbers of tracks, word lengths and sample rates to see how flexible the program was. When you want to create a 5.1 channel track, you simply drag each file to the channel track; the order is L, R, C, LFE, LS and RS. A stereo file is simply dragged into the album window and recognized automatically as stereo track. All audio files in the track, must be of the same sample rate.

Like Alan Silverman in his PC version of Bronze review, I found that Bronze would not burn 5.1 channel tracks with 24-bit/96 kHz sample rate audio, but would burn them if you utilized four or fewer channels. If you proceed with the burn of the 24/96 tracks, Bronze will automatically downsample the 5.1 24-bit/96 kHz sample rate track.

Interestingly, Bronze will burn 16-bit/96 kHz 5.1 channel tracks, which -- with only the best converters -- can you hear the difference between the 24-bit/96 kHz and the shorter word length version.

I used Bronze with an Apple 2 GHz G5 with a built-in DVD burner and a 1 GHz single-G4 with an external FireWire Plextor Drive. The burn process was as simple as clicking the record button and away it went. The software automatically burns at the maximum rate allowed by the recording device. But in my set up, the process was not as fast as burning the equivalent time onto CD. In fact, Minnetonka warns in advance that it can take as long as 15 minutes to burn a DVD-A.

On my G4 with Bronze and the Plextor burner it took more than an hour to burn 4GB worth of tracks. Maybe it had something to do with the drive and the computer speed for such high data rates, but it sure was slow.

The G5 seemed to burn them a bit faster, but even with a few tracks, I always had time to get a drink and check my voice mail.

Even with the slower-than-CD burn rate (there is a lot more data to put on the disc), Bronze is just a blast to use. It's totally intuitive, and I seldom needed a look at the supplied PDF manual. And on my two Macs, the software was rock solid stable - none of the beta versions ever crashed.

It was great to be able to burn in high resolution some of my Gibson L5CES archtop recordings done on an Alesis MasterLink or from Peak at 24/96 and play them back on a regular DVD-A player. Only the MasterLink allows similar separate machine playback of 24/96, but that playback is from a CD data disc that plays in only the computer or the MasterLink itself.

Not only did I use premium-priced DVD-A blanks, but I burned the DVD-As with the cheapest discs I could buy at an Office Depot to see if there were any glitches or compatibility problems with the players. In four different players ranging from $150 to $6,000, the playback never hiccupped and the playback quality was 100 percent high res.

Summary

In my opinion, whether your computer is a PC or Mac, Minnetonka Bronze may be the most significant pierce of software released this year. For the first time, the end-user now has a low cost way to put high-resolution stereo PCM files onto media that can be played outside the workstation computer -- on a consumer DVD-A machine that sells for a low as a $100.