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AES 2009 Show Report

Oct 15, 2009 3:39 PM


It’s been awhile since analog signal processing hardware was a big deal at AES, but hardware is back, big time! Here are just a few. The new m103 channel strip from Grace Design offers a preamp, 3-band EQ and optical compressor in a single-rackspace chassis.

Elysia’s museq discrete Class-A analog EQ offers optimally matched parameters so you can get the desired results fast and precisely. Each of the two channels has three parametric bands with switchable Q.

Dangerous Music expands its rackmount mastering suite with the BAX EQ, offering stepped controls for repeatability and identical stereo tracking; broad-Q shelving with a Baxandall character; and high/lowpass 12dB/octave Butterworth filters.

Charter Oak’s new PEQ-1 stereo program EQ has a range of cool features for putting those finishing touches on a mix, including a 50kHz shelving EQ and other interesting nonsurgical frequency tweakers.

The 2A3 tube EQ from Retro duplicates the Pultec EQ curves and additional high-boost frequency selections chosen to provide seamless control. Other features include a subsonic filter, four LF cut/boost settings, 10 HF boost settings and three HF cut settings.

More Hardware!

Tascam introduced 14 new products, ranging from the compact HS-P82 (an 8-track, 24-bit, 192kHz recorder) to the even more compact DP-008 (an 8-track, 16-bit, 44.1kHz recorder). New USB audio interfaces include the 2-in, 2-out US-100 and the 16-in, 4-out US-2000. For stereo recording and playback on the go, the BB-800 is a stereo recorder with built-in mics and speakers—a digital boombox that records to SD cards.

The OctoPre MkII from Focusrite is an 8-channel mic preamp with a 24-bit, 96kHz ADAT Lightpipe output and two channels for recording guitar and bass. If your needs are more modest, the Saffire 6 USB interface has two balanced TRS/XLR combo inputs and four RCA outputs, with separate levels for mixer, monitor and headphones.

Korg was on hand with a few recent offerings, including the SV-1 Stage Vintage Piano, the microSAMPLER and the 21st-century version of the Wavedrum. Throughout the show, the SV-1 never got a moment's rest from cranking out classic sounds, and just everyone who played the Wavedrum said they planned to buy one.

Another big hit was the Launchpad, the product of a collaboration between Novation and Ableton. This 8x8 matrix of illuminated buttons was designed as an interactive hardware controller for Ableton Live. The Lexicon PCM92 stereo reverb and effects processor delivers more than 700 factory presets comprising the latest delay and modulation effects and classic Lexicon reverbs at sample rates as high as 96 kHz. Lexicon has also crossed over from hardware to software with the PCM Native Reverb Plug-In Bundle, a suite of AU, VST and RTAS plug-ins that emulate seven vintage reverb units.

Workstation World

It just wouldn’t be AES without DAWs. Cakewalk’s SONAR Producer Version 8.5 offers new beat-creation and arrangement tools, a new drum instrument, enhanced audio quantizing and new multistage effect plug-ins for vocals and percussion. Among its VST plug-in compatibility improvements is BitBridgeXR that lets you run 32-bit plugs in 64-bit environments.

This Mac-based restoration suite just keeps getting better. SoundSoap Pro 2, from BIAS, adds super-intelligent adaptive noise reduction, with four comprehensive restoration tools in a single plug-in. Also from BIAS, Pitchcraft EZ is an affordable pitch-correction plug-in that repairs out-of-tune tracks and simplifies popular pitch- and formant-shifting effects.

Sonnox Restore

Sonnox Restore

Sonnox new Restore plug-ins (Oxford DeBuzzer, Oxford DeClicker and Oxford DeNoiser) feature advanced algorithms for fast, effective removal of pops, clicks, crackles, scratches, hum, buzzes and extraneous background noise. Supported formats include Pro Tools (RTAS), AU and VST platforms.

After analyzing vintage and modern classics from Neve, API, Ampex, EMI, Thermionic Culture and more to create accurate models of high-end studio gear, SoundToys created its Decapitator plug-in, which models the saturation or distortion created when driving professional analog studio equipment. SoundToys also released its PanMan plug, which features random, ping-pong, and triggered- and LFO-styled panning.

Alloy from iZotope is a completely configurable and self-contained plug-in suite with six essential sound-shaping effects: Equalizer, Exciter, Transient, Dynamics, De-Esser, Exciter and Limiter. More than 150 macro-presets handle specific mix situations.

Waves showed a number of new plug-ins, but we were intrigued by Vocal Rider, which automatically matches your vocal level with the rest of the song by busing an instrumental mix into the sidechain. As a plus, it also writes and editable automation track, but definitely had the feel of a veteran studio engineer providing a little gentle “finger-limiting” as the vocal plays.

And In the End

If there was a word that described this AES, it was optimism.

Some exhibitors were saying “what downturn?” Others shook their heads at the current state of sales. But no matter what side vendors fell on, the general feel was upbeat about attendance and the future of audio. Hopefully, next year’s AES in San Francisco (November 2010) brings more exhibitors and support for this great show that raises the bar for everyone and builds on this sense of community.

Euro AES makes a long-awaited return to London, May 20 to 23, 2010, after a 23-year absence.

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