The Practical 5.1 Web Codec

With the Internet becoming an increasingly important delivery medium for music and moving images it was only a matter of time before the emergence of a practicable 5.1 Web codec. At Surround 2004, David Frerichs, VP and U.S. general manager of Coding Technologies, presents the company’s aacPlus audio compression software and host demonstrations of its Webcasting capabilities.

“We’re doing a couple of broadcasts, one live and one of a sample set of content, from Herbie Hancock and BT, respectively,” Frerichs reveals. “Herbie Hancock is running a 5.1 tutorial session at the show and we’re going to be broadcasting that initially live, in conjunction with AOL and Orban.”

Hancock and his engineer will be discussing and demonstrating their approach and philosophy to the use of surround in live performance and on DVD. Electronic producer and musician BT will be presented with the 2004 Surround Maverick Award for his unique approach to 5.1 production at the SMA ceremonies.

“Before the show, we’re going to start doing some promo broadcasting of BT’s content. We’re going to be doing a stream of his 5.1 content, also in conjunction with Orban and AOL. We have a nice selection of tracks that are going to be put up on the Winamp and Shoutcast sites, custom-made for the promo,” Frerichs reports. “Orban is well known in the radio space for their compressors and pre-processors in FM radio stations. They’re now in the aacPlus encoder business.”

The broadcasts will be archived and available throughout the following month. “People will be able to go to,, as well as, to get links to those broadcasts.”

The aacPlus codec has seemingly exploded onto the scene. Only recently, it was announced that Coding Technologies’ High-Efficiency AAC (HE AAC) codec would be the mandatory codec format for the new Compressed Audio Zone in DVD-Audio. More commonly known as MPEG-4 aacPlus, HE AAC supports stereo and 5.1-channel content at sampling rates up to 96 kHz and enables the inclusion of high-quality pre-compressed audio on DVD-A discs.

“That will be for the labels and publishers to put pre-compressed audio onto the DVD that can them be transferred to portable players as well as home jukeboxes and the like,” Frerichs explains. “The benefit is that it will be done in a rights-managed way such that you won’t have to be breaking the law to get your DVD-Audio onto a portable device. The labels can premix and make sure the mixdown is exactly what they want it to be.”

Frerichs reports that the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has tested aacPlus 5.1 against DTS and Dolby Digital. “The standard Dolby Digital quality for DVD in the video format is 384 kbps, 5.1. The EBU has tested aacPlus and found that 160 kbps is equivalent to that 384 kbps. That means that you can broadcast DVD-quality audio over the Internet.”

The audio format for all of EBU media services will reportedly now be in the Nullsoft Winamp format, which now incorporates 5.1-channel decoding. “It’s an adopted part of MPEG-4, so it’s not proprietary, it’s an official open standard. It’s also part of different 3G deployments, part of the Digital Radio Mondiale standard, it’s part of the DVD Forum, it’s being included in ISMA, and folks on the Internet are adopting it, such as RealNetworks and AOL.

“It’s quickly becoming this common denominator for content distribution, whether consumer electronics, broadcast, Internet download, satellite radio. It’s really got a broad range of applications, because of its unparalleled efficiency.”

Surround Professional Magazine