New York, NY (May 16, 2013—-New Jersey-based mastering and mixing engineer Dave McNair recently worked on David Bowie's first album in 10 years, The Next Day. Warmly embraced by critics and fans alike, the album has accrued universally positive reviews, strong sales and extensive YouTube viewing thanks to its avant-garde look and sound.
McNair's process found him using numerous tools to achieve the required sound, including a Sonnox Fraunhofer Pro-Codec: "I've been using the Pro-Codec to preview encoded files in real time since it was introduced," says McNair, who has worked with producer and mixer Tony Visconti, a long-time Bowie collaborator, on several previous projects. "It's become invaluable in previewing various codecs on the mastered higher resolution files for clients who will be making MP3s or lower-resolution files for digital distribution. I've found that the higher the bitrate, the less overs are created when making an MP3 or AAC."
McNair uses the Pro-Codec via his Sequoia mastering rig. It enables him to hear (and visualize) exactly how an encoded file will sound. "A miniscule amount of red in the NMR (Noise-to-Mask Ratio) display in the FFT window, or no red at all if I back the Bitstream level down, means there's less or no audible distortion created in the encode stage," explains McNair, whose credits range from Iggy Pop and Rod Stewart to Los Lobos and Tina Turner.
The Pro-Codec was reportedly particularly useful on Bowie's album. "This recording was captured at 96 kHz and also encoded for the Mastered for iTunes format," McNair reveals. "The CD target level for Bowie was -0.6 dB for the 96k session. After sample rate conversion to 44.1 kHz, it probably ended up closer to -0.1 dB. Based on what I was seeing with the Pro-Codec and a later check using the Apple Mastered For iTunes software, the 96k files sent to iTunes were delivered at -0.8dB.