If you are in the business of producing audio, in the majority of cases this will be consumed online in some form or another. Even vinyl or cassette only releases will most likely have an online streaming preview uploaded somewhere. The trouble with streaming music online, is there is a myriad of services, many of which use different compression codecs (mp3, AAC etc) and more recently, incorporate loudness normalisation. This means your ultra-compressed loud dance track may get attenuated by the playback service (iTunes Radio or Spotify for example), so making your tracks ‘louder’ does not necessarily work to your benefit in these contexts.
Luckily, the clever folk at NUGEN have created a tool to effectively prepare for such scenarios with their Master Checker Pro software.
The first feature I found extremely handy, is the Peak to Loudness Ratio meter (PLR). This gives you a real time measure of the dynamic range in your track. Next you can select which codecs to monitor your playing track with. All the main streaming services, from Spotify to Youtube are available as presets, with the option to create your own. Even settings for digital TV channels are on there, a feature I will find very useful for my day to day composition work.
As a plug-in, it has been out for a couple of years already. But this month they announce two new flavours to of codec to reference; FLAC and Opus. Opus is one of the YouTube formats and FLAC is a lossless format used to compress audio without any audible degradation. So whilst I previously assumed FLAC would not affect the quality of the audio, it appears it certainly could. In NUGEN’s own words
“when audio exits a DAW destined for FLAC; for FLAC is usually used to encode at 16 bit, but this conversion from 32 to 16 bit is not guaranteed lossless. Looking into it further, FLAC also uses integers while DAWs deploy floating-point representations, so there is an additional complication even when producing a 32-bit FLAC stream. “
So, to sum up. Whether you produce music, podcasts or youtube videos. Perhaps you mix or master other peoples music, work in post production or sound design.. Basically any area of audio production! There is most likely a scenario where Master Check Pro will come in handy and in some cases save yourself a LOT of grief. For example, it would suck having to re-upload a 1hr 4k youtube video because the codec sounds terrible on your audio track, this could be avoided with a quick reference on Mix Checker Pro and subsequently avoid such headaches.
Available to buy direct from NUGEN Audio (£126 +VAT)