Willkommen zu Mnchen!Highlights of the 112th AES Convention

May 29, 2002 12:00 PM, by George Petersen

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Welcome to MunichFrom May 10-13, 2002, thousands of audio professionals rolled into Munich, Germany, for the the 112th convention of the Audio Engineering Society. Typically, any AES show would be filled with dozens of hot new technology debuts, but arriving on the heels of the Musikmesse, NSCA and NAB shows, this particular convention had less sparkle, especially with the debut of major new digital recording and broadcast consoles from AMS Neve, Calrec, Euphonix, Harrison, Soundtracs, Solid State Logic, Studer, Wheatstone and Yamaha just weeks earlier. To be fair, there were some hot new products at AES Munich, but you had to dig a little to uncover the gems. Here are a few that caught our attention:

Consoles

StageTec AurusClearly, the most talked about product was Aurus from StageTec (www.stagetec.com), the creators of the well-known Cantus digital console and Nexus routing systems. Nicknamed the "Direct-Access Console," Aurus is a large-format 24-bit/96kHz board with up to 256 buses, 300 inputs and as many as 96 channel strips. The board is designed with an analog feel, based on nimble ergonomics with large TFT screens, and its 11 concentric rotary encoders per channel strip (for one-knob-per-function operation) are accompanied by dual-fan LED displays and multiple alphanumeric readouts offering instant visual feedback at the source; it’s ideal for working in fast-paced situations, such as live, on-air broadcast or theater applications.

Aurus is based on a cool-running, fanless control surface that connects to all audio processing electronics via fiber optics up to 1,000 meters away. Additionally, multiple mixers (and/or console surfaces) can operate and access the signal chain via Nexus for sharing DSP, files, I/O converters, routing, etc., in a true digital audio network. The TFT displays offer high-res metering (with switchable peak or VU characteristics), as well as detailed views of console parameters or configurations. Other features include snapshot and dynamic automation for all console parameters, 28-bit TrueMatch A/D conversion on mic inputs with 150 dBa typical dynamic range, 24-bit ADCs on line inputs (133 dBa typical), onboard or external sample rate conversion and support of multiple digital audio formats: AES/EBU, AES 42, S/PDIF, Y2 (MEL2), SDIF-2, MADI, ADAT and SDI.

Having seen many of the AES exhibitors at other shows just days before, I often asked "What's new since last week?" Usually they laughed and gave me a quick update on shipping dates or first installations, without going into a detailed dissertation on a product I'd already seen. Not so with the new Studer (www.studer.ch) Vista 7 Digital Mixing System, which has numerous software additions and new features since its NAB 2002 debut in April. Vista 7's new layering option allows for the integration of Soundmaster ION hardware with control of up to eight transports, including large recorder-style transport keys, sync offsets, track arming, calculator and more–all with fingertip touchscreen access.

Speaking of transport control, Brainstorm (www.aidinc.com) unveiled "The Remote," a console-top controller for up to eight machines, with track arming, looping functions, jog/shuttle wheel, 100 memory registers, offset calc, GPOs for ADR beeps, and 9-pin and MIDI I/O. Price? About $2,000.

Workstations

Another major AES showing was Cube-Tec's (www.cube-tec.com) AudioCube5-Dell530, which packs the punch of the company's earlier custom dual-Pentium III systems, but is based on Dell's affordable, off-the-shelf D530 workstation. With the price of the new audio mastering/archival/restoration system dropping from around $27K to $12K, it's little wonder that the company has sold 24 systems worldwide in the past few months, with more than half going into the U.S. market. In addition to eight new and/or improved VPI plug-ins for mastering/restoration, Cube-Tec also unveiled Quadriga Tape-24, with ample inputs for capturing up to 24 tracks of analog session tapes directly to disk at up to 192kHz rates.

Co-developed with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., and slated to begin shipping last month, DVD-Audio Creator LE from Sonic Solutions (www.sonic.com) is a Windows 2000-based system for authoring, creating and developing masters in the high-res DVD-A format. Price is $6,000, well within the range of most studios or mastering facilities.

Fostex (www.fostex.com) is the first licensee of Digigram's (www.digigram.com) EtherSound™ technology. EtherSound enhances established technologies to easily (and economically) create low-latency audio networks using standard Ethernet cabling and components, connecting digital audio sources to networked audio devices. Up to 64 channels of 24-bit digital audio at 48 kHz, plus bi-directional control information, can be transported to virtually any number of networked audio devices. Fostex plans to show EtherSound-compliant P.A. and pro sound installation products by year's end.

FAR TsunamiStudio Monitors

Belgium-based F.A.R. (Fundamental Acoustic Research www.far-audio.com) took the prize for coolest speaker at AES. The Tsunami-10 is an innovative loudspeaker that combines a radical look, a clever design and a great sound. The triple-layer front baffle places a resilient material between two 22mm MDF slabs to eliminate unwanted vibrations, sophisticated internal bracing locks the entire enclosure into a single, nonmoving block and a huge rear port reduces air compression and lowers distortion. A 10-inch woofer, 1-inch soft-dome tweeter with symmetric waveguide, 220 watts of onboard biamplification and an optional remote control complete the package.

Last year, A.D.A.M. Audio (distributed in the U.S. by McCave Intl., www.mccave.com) wowed me with its three-way S3-A active monitors and their ultrasmooth folded ribbon tweeters. Now the company debuts the S2.5A, a nearfield that also uses the ribbon tweeter technology, but in a compact two-way system. An unpowered version is also available.

Not enough bass? KRK (www.krksys.com) demoed its M118 (128 dB peak) monitors and offered a sneak preview of the M218 dual-18 active four-way monitors coming this fall at AES L.A. The integrated 14kW of amplification ensure that the M218s will move some air. With these installed, who needs air conditioning?

Signal Processing

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Quantec (distributed by HHB, www.hhbusa.com) showed two new models in its Yardstick line. Both the digital I/O-only MC-2404 (about $4,320) and the analog and digital I/O MC-2405 ($6,480) are 8-channel, 24/96k units offering surround reverbs, delays, IIR/FIR flters, EQs, flange, chorus, gates, companders, and the classic room simulation that made the company's QRS a hit back in 1982.

Portugal's Sintefex Audio (distributed by GPrime, www.gprime.com) demoed two new 24/96 digital units designed to replicate the sounds of classic analog gear. The CX2000 has samples of actual UREI and Fairchild compressors; the FX2000 takes the CX2000 sounds and adds samples of actual Pultecs and various console EQs.

Dr. SennheiserMicrophones

For the past few years, trade shows have been overwhelmed with new large-diaphragm condenser models. This time, however, the small-diaphragm mics took center stage. Beyer's (www.beyerdynamic.com) cardioid MC 930 condenser is optimized for piano, percussion, brass and overheads, and offers high-end performance at a low price. Keep this quiet: We can't say more about it now, but Sanken (www.sanken-mic.com) will unveil a new small-diaphragm condenser at AES this fall. No stranger to small-diaphragm mics, DPA (www.dpamicrophones.com), whose origins go back to the days of B&K's pro audio division, celebrated ten years of providing no-compromise products for discriminating users worldwide. And speaking of manufacturers of great studio mics, the Audio Engineering Society awarded its Gold Medal to 90-year-old Sennheiser founder Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser in recognition of his lifetime achievements in audio and microphone technology. Congratulations!

More to Come...

Perhaps the biggest news at AES was AES itself. Based on a survey of visitors and exhibitors, the AES has decided to expand the current Amsterdam-Paris-Munich European show rotation to include new cities such as London, Berlin, Barcelona, Vienna and possibly Rome or Milan. Next year's show returns to Amsterdam from March 22-25, 2003–a week after NSCA, less than two weeks after Frankfurt Musikmesse and 11 days prior to NAB. Given the reality of today's economic climate and the logistics of shipping exhibits over great distances, the situation leaves many exhibitors with tough choices ahead on which shows to attend. But in the meantime, see you in L.A. this October!






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