AES San Francisco

Dec 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By the Mix Editors

CAN'T TOP THIS

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It's hard to imagine a more enjoyable audio trade show than the 117th AES Convention, held in San Francisco from October 28-31, 2004. The weather cooperated, the parties were awesome, the food was unbelievable (leading one to actually believe that you can't find a bad meal in this town) and the extracurricular diversions of the Halloween weekend provided lasting memories for everyone. And the TEC Awards (see winners on page 30) — highlighted by appearances by George Lucas, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Janet Jackson, Elliot Scheiner and the Walters (Becker and Murch) — may have been the best ever. Meanwhile, the Moscone Convention Center rocked with a near-record 16,153 eager attendees and plenty of neat audio toys from 415 exhibitors to check out.

CONSOLES!

Consoles took center stage at AES. Clearly the most talked about product at the show, and certainly worthy of a turn on Capt. Picard's bridge, the Smart Console Elite 96 control surface from Smart AV (www.smart av.net) boasts a groundbreaking ergonomic design that offers control over a bevy of DAW features. The brainchild of Aussie designer Michael Stavrou, it currently works with systems from Pyramix/Merging, Emagic/Logic, Yamaha/DME 64N, Fairlight/QDC and Klotz Digital/Vadis. It's distributed in the U.S. by the ATI Group.

Euphonix MC Intelligent Application Controller

Unveiled in concept form at last year's AES, the MC Intelligent Application Controller from Euphonix (www.euphonix.com) is a sophisticated worksurface for use with pro PC applications. The MC gives users high-speed control of not only EuCon-aware applications such as Nuendo and Pyramix, but also PC applications via keystroke commands programmed into the MC's LCD SmartSwitches. MC includes a 7.1 monitor section, dual trackballs, a keyboard, eight programmable knobs, four touch-sensitive moving faders — or optional twin joysticks — and 56 programmable LCD SmartSwitches, together with a small touchscreen for fast access to features.

Solid State Logic (www.solid-state-logic.com) now offers a Total Recall option for the AWS 900 analog workstation system. TR memorizes the position of analog pots and switches, allowing them to be reset later.

SPL's (www.spl-usa.com) $35,900 MMC2 mastering console puts the punch of its flagship MMC1 board into a compact rackmount unit offering source connection, track assignment, speaker management and master/monitor level setting. The discrete, all-analog console is based on SPL's unique 120-volt op amps for unprecedented dynamic range, headroom, bandwidth and audio purity.

Smart Console Elite 96

Designed for the mid-market analog user, the Trident (www.oram.co.uk) Dream Series puts pro touches such as five auxes and individual meters reading the balanced direct outputs with Oram EQ. Pricing is from $10,995 (16 channels) to $28,995 (40 channels). Based on the popular Series 24, the new anniversary model Series 4T commemorates designer John Oram's 40th year in audio and is priced from $27,900 to $42,700 for a 48-channel version.

HARDWARE

Get more Plugzilla for less: Manifold Labs' (www.plugzilla.com) flagship stand-alone plug-in player now ships with eight channels of audio I/O and software enhancements (including Princeton Digital's 2016 Stereo Room plug-in) for a reduced price of $2,995. TC Electronic's (www.tcelectronic.com) PowerCore Compact ($995) is a lightweight, portable FireWire box packed with a dozen TC plug-ins (including reverbs, compressors, EQ, voice channel and guitar amp simulator), plus room for more. PowerCore packs a punch with two 150MHz Motorola DSPs and a 266MHz PowerPC, and is VST/AudioUnits-compatible.

Mackie's (www.mackie.com) Onyx 400F is a 10-channel, 192kHz FireWire interface with the company's new flagship Onyx mic preamps, and it offers onboard DSP matrix mix for latency-free headphone mixing independent of the DAW software. Features include a control room output pot, dual headphone outs, two instrument ins, word clock I/O, MIDI I/O, S/PDIF I/O, two FireWire ports and a software suite with Tracktion audio recording/MIDI production software and the Final Mix mastering toolkit. Retail: $899.99.

At Wave Distribution (www.wavedistri bution.com), Paul Wolff showed his new audio venture: the Tonelux line of discrete rackmount gear, including a parametric EQ, remote-controlled discrete mic pre with DI, stereo and surround mixer modules for DAW mixdowns and support modules. Up to 16 units can fit into a 3U rack. Professional Audio Design (www.proaudiode sign.com) showed its 8-channel remote-controlled Reso Pre 873 mic preamp. Built using a vintage 1073 analog circuit design, it is controllable directly from Pro Tools, a MIDI control surface or the front panel.

Throughout the show, attendees kept saying, “You gotta hear InnerTUBE Audio's (www.innertubeaudio.com) Atomic Squeeze Box Dual,” a stereo/dual-mono version of the original Atomic Squeeze Box. This tube-based unit is designed to avoid the sonic artifacts of traditional compressors and limiters, with the ASB acting like a skilled assistant riding the faders.

The PreSonus (www.presonus.com) ADL 600 is a hand-made, Class-A, 2-channel tube preamp from renowned designer Anthony DeMaria. Featuring instrument input, line input and selectable mic impedance, the ADL 600 utilizes extremely high-voltage power rails (600V peak to peak) delivering 75 dB of gain and wide (5 Hz to 80 kHz, ±0.5dB) flat frequency response. Universal Audio's (www.uaudio.com) 8110 and 4110 multichannel preamps offer new, Class-A, all-discrete designs and three-way “Shape” switching for a versatile tone palette. The 8-channel 8110 and the 4110 (4-channel unit with DI) will list for $5,295 and $3,195, respectively.

A complete mastering studio in a rack, the Masterpiece from Legendary Audio (www.leg endaryaudio.com) was conceived by veteran mastering engineer Billy Stull, with circuitry designed by audio legend Rupert Neve. Retailing at $19,000, the 6U frame offers peak and shelving EQs, dynamics, authentic tape texture (thanks to a real tape drive circuit), incremental phase rotation and other functions, including Image Control. The latter can increase/decrease the stereo sound image width, enhance/reduce a recording's natural ambience and even alter the the sound stage, such as sending vocals forward, backward or completely out of the mix.

Aviom (www.aviom.com) previewed its A-Net Pro networking protocol. For more, turn to page 76.

Supplied as a turnkey system, Version 2 is the latest generation of CEDAR's (www.cedar-audio.com) Cambridge audio restoration/noise-suppression processors for film, mastering, post and forensic applications. Version 2 now offers disk-to-disk and disk-to-world file processing, which lets users analyze/process selected partial or entire .WAV and .AIFF files, rendering the results back to a hard disk in a fraction of the time required in real-time processing.

Aurora from Lynx Studio Technology (www.lynxstudio.com) puts eight ($2,195) or 16 channels ($3,295) of 24-bit/192kHz AD/DA conversion into a single rackspace. Features include simultaneous analog and AES/EBU I/Os; remote Mac/PC control via Lynx AES16, MIDI or wireless infrared using compatible laptops and pocket PCs; SynchroLock™ jitter reduction; and an expansion bay for ADAT or FireWire interfacing.

Sign of the times: Yamaha (www.yamaha.com) created a new Music Production department to align its home recording and digital studio production products into a single entity. Its emphasis on the hardware/software approach was demonstrated by V. 2 software for the 02R96 and 01V96 digital mixers, offering advanced DAW integration with Nuendo and Cubase; and five add-on effects plug-in packages for the mixers built on Virtual Circuit Modeling (VCM), which models the exact analog circuits of studio classics.

SOFTWARE

Cakewalk's (www.cakewalk.com) Sonar 4 Producer Edition features multiformat surround mixing/editing (30 configurations supported), intuitive surround panning, Lexicon Pantheon Surround Reverb, Sonitus Surround Compressor and FX Suite processors, SurroundBridge (for using stereo plug-ins in multichannel environments), Video Thumbnail track, POW-r Dithering and more. Price: $959 (new), with upgrades available from previous Sonar products.

Nuendo 3 from Steinberg (www.stein berg.net) is a major upgrade with features aimed at post users, including AAF support, a new set of media management tools, Pinnacle X-Send integration and Warp-to-Picture functionality. Other features include a pull-up/down 0.1-percent option in the QuickTime video player, direct integration of external hardware effects processors into the VST audio mixer and MixConvert, a plug-in capable of translating from one surround format to another.

Spectrasonics' (www.spectasonics.net) Stylus RMX (Real-Time Groove Module), the first plug-in super-powered by the Spectrasonics Advanced Groove Engine, ships with a whopping 7.4GB groove/sound library (triple that of the original Stylus) and features the Chaos Designer to introduce evolving musical variations (chaos) into the groove, plus a real-time auto-sync and built-in effects rack. Waves (www.waves.com) was in full-on convolution mode showing a new version of its IR-1 convolution reverb (reviewed in last month's Mix), a lite version and a new surround version: IR360. Waves also launched www.acoustics.net, an online library of downloadable Impulse Response samples. Pluggo for Windows, from Cycling '74 (www.cycling74.com), offers more than 100 native audio processing plug-ins for Windows XP host applications supporting the VST and RTAS formats. Cycling '74 also showed an OS X version of its free Soundflowerbed audio routing utility.

Version 2 of BIAS' (www.bias-inc.com) SoundSoap audio restoration package adds Remove, Click & Crackle and Enhance features, plus broader plug-in compatibility to the $99 app's audio “cleaning” functions. Virtual Katy (www.virtualkaty.com), the brainchild of The Lord of the Rings sound effects editor John McKay, lets sound editors track picture changes with auto-conforming features, eliminating the need for changing notes. Digidesign (www.digidesign.com) showed Synchrionic, a new loop-editing plug-in with effects. Octiv (www.octiv.com) introduced the Octirama surround multiband dynamics processor for Pro Tools, and Universal Audio demoed the Plate 140 Reverb emulation for the UAD-1 and announced that its TDM plug-ins are available for Windows XP.

The Sony (www.sonyplugins.com) Oxford Reverb Plug-In for Pro Tools|HD, HD Accel and Pro Tools LE offers 5-band EQ, more than 100 presets and dual independent paths for early reflections and reverb tails.

RECORDER WORLD!

Field/effects recordists will be impressed by Edirol's (www.edirol.com) R-4 lightweight, portable recorder/editor. Equipped with a 40GB drive, the unit offers 4-channel recording at rates up to 24/96 with wave editing for $2,000, a fraction of the cost of most location recorders. There's talk of a timecode version, too. Tascam (www.tascam.com) unveiled its DV-RA1000, a clever approach to recording two channels of high-resolution audio — up to 192 kHz/24-bit — to inexpensive DVD media. The two-rackspace, $1,500 unit also includes Sony's DSD protocol, the basis for Super Audio CD, as an available recording format. It can also operate as a stand-alone CD recorder. Don't forget analog! Until December 15, Studer USA (www.studer.ch) is offering its revered A827 Gold Edition 2-inch, 24-track (with a stand-mounted remote/auto-locator and 24-channel meter bridge) at a special AES price of $29,995 — nearly half of its original $58,000 list.

MONITORS AND MORE

Designed to translate mix stage and exhibition theater systems to a smaller scale for sound design and screening rooms, the JSX (www.jsxaudio.com) Sound Design Series is a modular monitoring system featuring Class-A amplification, horn-driven HF, three-subwoofer array, proprietary DSP algorithms and innovative hinged baffelette panels between the enclosures that adjust to create a pseudo screen wall or soffitt environment.

Wave Distribution now distributes France's acclaimed Focal powered digital monitors, including the SM11 full-range surround sound system and the compact SM8; both feature beryllium tweeters, Class-D amps, 24-bit/96kHz conversion and control of the onboard DSP (including FIR filters) via PC/Mac Focal Manager software, PDAs, MIDI or a hardware remote.

NHT Pro (www.nhtpro.com) demoed its Xd Series of high-output, low-distortion near-fields with DSP-corrected EQ control for placement compensation that provides a wide, accurate soundstage from anywhere in the listening environment. The powered, two-way M-20 monitors are $3,000/pair. The larger ($5,000/pair) M-80 tracking monitor has twin 8-inch woofers, two 2-inch-dome midranges, a 1-inch-dome tweeter and an included sub, all with system amplification and calibrated DSP processing.

Big sound, small price: Blue Sky (www.abluesky.com) debuted its mini MediaDesk 2.1 system, with ultracompact two-way satellites, powered sub and bass management at $499; a 5.1 upgrade is an additional $499. Dynaudio Acoustics' (www.dynaudioacoustics.com) BM 5A is a self-powered, compact pro monitor delivering high performance that translates to larger Dynaudio systems at a low $1,250/pair. And just when you didn't think you could afford Roger Quested (www.quested.com) speakers — his HM415 system is $70k! — the company debuts its compact H108 near-fields at just $895 each.

MICS, MICS, MICS

AES wouldn't be AES without new mics: Earthworks (www.earthworksaudio.com) rekindled the less-is-better miking approach with its DrumKit™ system, which uses three proprietary 25kHz mics with fast impulse response to capture full percussive attacks. The system comes in live or studio versions, priced at $2,095 for the two DK25 overheads and SR25 kick mic. DPA's (www.dpamicro phones.com) 4041-T2 large-diaphragm tube mic combines an omnidirectional capsule with a pentode tube driven as a cathode follower in a Class-A unity-gain output stage for performance that equals the company's legendary 4040 mic. Neumann (www.neumannusa.com) is now shipping the N248 power supply that brings phantom power to its TLM 127 mic and adds remote switching of five polar patterns. At the other end of the price scale, Audio-Technica's (www.audio-technica.com) AT 2020 is a rugged, side-address cardioid condenser with a low-mass, mid-size diaphragm and a street price of $99.

MORE TO COME!

AES had plenty of other cool products (turn to page 62 for Mark Frink's “Top 10 Live Sound Products”), and we'll present many of these in our regular new product columns. Meanwhile, the 118th AES comes to Barcelona, Spain, from May 28-31, 2005. Adios, amigos!

Some Hits You Might Have Missed…

Frontier Design Group's (www.frontierdesign.com) Tranzport is a slick, compact wireless 2.4GHz remote for your DAW. The battery unit operates with most popular DAWs, including Pro Tools, Logic, Sonar, Digital Performer and Cubase, and includes a footswitch jack for hands-off punch-in/out.

FDG Tranzport

Lectrosonics' (www.lectrosonics.com) TM400 Digital Hybrid Wireless measurement mic system uses a proprietary algorithm to encode 24/88 digital audio information in an analog format with higher immunity to noise but without compansion artifacts, and providing flat response to 20 kHz. The “cube” UHF transmitter powers any measurement mic with 5/18/48V phantom power.

Radial Engineering's (www.radialeng.com) HotShot momentary footswitch is a simple passive unit that lets performers switch their dynamic vocal mic over for private communication to monitor or house or broadcast techs.

StudioPanel's (www.studio-panel.com) SpringTrap is a self-standing, stackable pistonic bass trap. Highly efficient from 100 Hz down to 40 Hz, SpringTrap is a ported MDF enclosure with a spring-loaded MDF internal mass and is stuffed with mineral wool. The triangular corner unit measures 25.45×18×48 inches (W×D×H) and is wrapped in flame-retardant fabric.






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