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AES Swings into Action

Strong attendance for San Francisco show By Frank Moldstad

More than 400 exhibitors and 18,000 attendees descended on San Francisco for the 117th AES convention (Oct. 28 Oct. 31), attracted by a strong lineup of seminars and special events and the latest in professional audio gear.

One of the highlights was a presentation on Saturday evening at the Moscone Convention Center by Academy Award-winning film editor/sound mixer Walter Murch (Cold Mountain, The English Patient), billed as ?an assessment of the technical and cultural implications of early cinema sound technology.

Among the other AES attractions was a series of ?technical tours of leading Bay Area audio facilities, with Skywalker Sound, Electronic Arts, and Fantasy Studios among the venues. And Paper and Poster Sessions were held all four days of the convention, with presentations on topics ranging from Lossless Audio Coding to Multichannel Sound. An ambitious schedule of Tutorial panels was also held. A complete schedule of events is available on the AES website.

With all technical and educational events at AES, its a wonder anyone had time to walk the show floor. But somehow, they did. And what attendees saw this year was a range of products representing the evolution of the audio business as it becomes more in touch with its analog and digital sides. For instance, one hot new product category was high-quality compact analog line mixers designed for external signal routing in conjunction with a DAW. Introductions at the show included products from Aurora Audio, Tonelux, Chandler Limited, Nautilus Master Technology and Speck Electronics.

Chandler Limiteds 16x2 Mini TG modular rack mount mixer is designed with original circuit drawings from Abbey Road and EMI, tracing its lineage back to the TG 12345 MKIV recording console used to record Pink Floyds "Dark Side of the Moon" and other classics. Aurora Audio designer Geoff Tanner was at the Pro Audio Design booth demoing his GTM-822 mixer, a rack-mount unit with eight channels and four busses and direct outs and insert sends and returns on every channel.

Speck's LiLo
Tonelux introduced a new line of discrete rack mountable audio products distributed by Wave Distribution, including a Fully Parametric 4 band Equalizer, Remote Controlled Discrete Mic Preamp with a Direct Input and a special 1 knob EQ for the DI input, Stereo Mixer modules for DAW mixdowns, and a Surround Mixer modules for DAW mixdowns. And Speck Electronics bowed LiLo (short for Line In, Line Out), a desktop analog line mixer for blending external audio gear into a DAW.

Nautilus Commander from Nautilus Master Technology (founded by mastering engineer John Vestman) is a discrete Class-A 12 channel stereo mixer, available at a suggested list price of $3,995.

Yamaha announced a new Music Production division for computer-based production studios, with workstations, small format digital consoles, computer peripherals, and related partnerships with Steinberg, AMD and WAVES. The other half of its booth is devoted to commercial and live sound products.

In recording and mixing software, there were significant revisions of several packages, including Sony's ACID 5, Apple's Logic 7, Steinberg's Nuendo 3, Digidesign's Pro Tools TDM 6.6, and Cakewalks SONAR 4:

  • SONAR 4 bows with extensive surround recording, editing and mixing capabilities, and new tools such as Freeze, Enhanced comping and editing features, a Video Thumbnail track, and the TTS-1 DXi multitimbral GM2 synth, based on Roland sounds.
  • Digidesign's Pro Tools TDM 6.6 was unveiled at the show with capture and playback for Avid video on Mac OS X with the Avid Mojo.
  • Steinberg announced Nuendo 3, shipping in late November. The upgrade includes new features for audio post production including AAF support, a new set of media management tools, Pinnacle X-Send integration and Warp to Picture functionality.
  • Logic 7 includes new software instruments, mastering plugins, built-in Red Book CD burning and a networking technology called Distributed Audio Processing. The new software instruments include UltraBeat, a drum machine with up to 25 independently modifiable drum voices and an integrated step sequencer, and Sculpture, a component sound modeler that can shape sounds.
  • Sony's ACID 5 now allows users to mix in 5.1 surround, and features new  'search and tag' tools for quick loop finding, more than 1,000 new loops from the Sony Sound Series: Loops & Samples collection, plus the Native Instruments Xpress Keyboards VSTi soft synth bundle, and real-time pitch and tempo matching.

Digidesign, which introduced its ICON integrated production envirnment for Pro Tools at NAB, is now turning its attention to the live sound category, a booming area. Digidesign debuted a live sound reinforcement mixing and processing environment called Venue, which is designed to provide a high-end live sound mixing system at an affordable price. In addition to its booth on the show floor, the company also celebrated its 20th anniversary with DigiWorld 2004, where attendees toured Digidesigns facilities, met the staff, took ProTools classes and demo'ed the companys products.

Benchmark's ADC1
Other product highlights included the long-awaited introduction of Benchmark Medias ADC1, a two-channel, 24-bit, 192-kHz analog-to-digital audio converter. The companion piece to Benchmarks DAC1 digital-to-analog converter, the ADC1 carries a $1,795 list price. Volume shipments are expected to begin in December.

Another highly anticipated hardware product debuting at AES was Manleys TNT (Tube/No tube) mic preamp, a two-channel unit that the companys designer, Hutch, reportedly has been working on for three years.

Mercury Recording Equipment sponsored demos in Studio D at Hyde Street on Friday and Saturday nights of new equipment designed to recreate the sonic characteristics of sought-after classic recording gear. Products include the Mercury 66, a tube compressor designed sound like a Fairchild, EQ's designed to sound like Pultecs, and the new M76m  microphone amplifier module. The products are distributed by TransAudio Group.

And finally, speaking of classic recording gear, one of the deans of audio designers, Rupert Neve, has designed a new mastering processor called the Masterpiece that was introduced by Legendary Audio at AES. The unit was developed in collaboration with Billy Stull of Masterpiece Mastering.

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Related Keywords:AES convention, San Francisco, Aurora Audio, Benchmark Media, ADC1, Tonelux, Chandler Limited, Nautilus Master Technology, Speck Electronics

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