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Feast for the Ears

A few of our favorite things from AES By Frank Moldstad

Making sense of the thousands of professional audio hardware products filling the halls of the Moscone Center at the 117th AES Convention was a Herculean task. They ranged from innovative new category-defining devices to painstaking recreations of vintage legends, and from me-too products piling onto a trend to new engineering designs using time-honored principles.

Here are a few of our favorites, broken down into four categories: Unexpected Surprises, Vintage Recreations, Possible Classics, and Designed for DAWs. In the days ahead, well bring you more comprehensive looks at all the new gear from AES, but in the meantime we hope this group will whet your appetite.

Unexpected Surprises:

Smart AV's 

Smart Console Elite
Smart Console Elite
Smart Console Elite with Arc bridge technology brings unique ergonomic workflow to large format mixers. Demos on the show floor elicted murmurs of approval from audio engineers for the Smart Console's ability to quickly move channels and busses to convenient fader locations without requring users to wade through multiple menu layers. www.smartav.net

Martinsounds Martech MSS-01 Direct Box is designed with both active and passive stages for transparent passthrough of a wide variety of instruments and sources -- including guitars, keyboards, active basses and instruments with Piezo pickups with wide bandwidth and phase coherency. It can connect any high impedance source to a mic preamp via the High Impedance ActivePath input (+48 volt Phantom Power) and the Low Impedance XLR output. The inputs can handle input signals of up to +24 dBu. The MSS-01 US Pro User Net price is $595. www.martinsound.com

Grace Design's m902 Reference Headphone Amp builds upon the previously released M901,  adding a new 24-bit/192kHz D/A converter to the Grace Design s-Lock dual stage PLL for low-jitter performance. Among the digital and analog inputs is USB, and the m902 adds stereo analog line outputs for use as a monitor controller. www.gracedesign.com

Presonus ADL 600 is a high-voltage two-channel Class A tube preamplifier designed by Anthony DeMaria that uses three vacuum tubes per channel to ensure plenty of headroom. It includes analog VU and LED meters, selectable mic input impedance, switched gain and variable fine trim controls, and has Microphone, Instrument and Line Inputs. www.presonus.com

Josephson C700S Practically an entire mic closet in one enclosure, the C700S is a stereo mic with two pressure gradient capsules at right angles to each other, with an omni in the middle so that any coincident-stereo pickup can be assembled from the signals. www.josephson.com

Rosendahls Bonsai drive is a beefy little field recorder with professional features, including Word clock, TimeCode generation and DC power capability. It records 10 uncompressed embedded audio channels (48 kHz/24bit, two analog, eight digital in ADAT-format) and uncompressed 4:2:2 PAL or NTSC video. The Bonsai uses standard ATA-133 IDE drives (not included) and is future-proofed to accept a maximum drive size of 2199 GB, which does not exist yet. The Removable front panel can be used as remote controller. Expected availability is January 2005, with a list price of around $2,250. www.sennheiserusa.com/rosendahl


Designed for DAWs:

Speck Electronics

Speck's Vince Poulos with LiLo
16/32 channel line mixer is designed as a desktop analog front end for DAWs, with a friendly approach toward external audio gear. For users who already have a complement of software plugins and hardware devices, LiLo is an ideal companion because it includes no mic pres, EQ, or compressors to duplicate what the user already has just a high quality signal routing and mixing environment. The A and B input paths on each of the 16 channels allow LiLo to handle two independent inputs simultaneously, for monitoring 32 inputs on the 16-channel mixer. www.speck.com

Frontier Design Groups Tranzport wireless DAW remote control works with Pro Tools, Cubase, Digital Performer and SONAR, among others, and its range extends to adjoining rooms using high-frequency RF. Buttons/Controls include REW, FWD, STOP, PLAY, RECORD, CHAN LEFT/RIGHT, RECORD-ARM, MUTE, SOLO, UNDO, IN, OUT, PUNCH, LOOP, SHIFT, PREV, ADD, NEXT, Battery, Backlight, Data Wheel (24 pulse/rev). Bi-directional ability provides feedback on signal levels, timecode position, and track names. www.frontierdesign.com

John Vestman
John Vestman with Nautilus Commander (top) and Nemo monitor controller
Nautilus Commander from Nautilus Master Technology (founded by mastering engineer John Vestman) is a discrete Class-A 12 channel stereo mixer for DAW users seeking better sound through analog summing. The mastering-style features include precise level-matched A-B comparisons. List: $3,995. www.nautilusmastertechnology.com

APIs DSM (Discrete Summing Mixer) is essentially a mini API console in a 19-inch studio rack with roll-around casters, designed to complement DAWs with analog summing, mixing, control room switching/monitoring, patchbay, and studio I/O connections. It comes in three versions --  the DSM 24, DSM 48, and DSM 72 with 24, 48 and 72 output channels respectively. Included are an API two-rack space meter bridge panel; API 2500 discrete two-channel stereo buss compressor; API 7800 discrete four-buss console master; API  8200 modules each with eight inputs, level and pan controls, mute, AFL solo, aux send 1 and 2 level controls and an insert in/out button; full TT patchbay; and a complete set of I/O connections on the rear. www.apiaudio.com

Tonelux Mixer modules
SPLs MixDream provides high-definition 16x2 analog summing for DAWs with 16 inserts in a 19-inch/2U format that includes a stereo expansion control, an analog peak limiter, master inserts and switchable output transformers from Lundahl. www.spl-usa.com

Tonelux introduced Stereo Mixer modules and Surround Mixer modules for DAW mixdowns as part of a new line of discrete rack mountable audio products by Paul Wolff available from Wave Distribution. www.tonelux.com

Aurora Audio introduced the GTM-822 eight channel rack-mount mixer, designed for DAW mixdowns. The master section features aux masters and a stereo aux return, transformer-balanced mix outs, two sets of loudspeaker outs, a mix insert send/return, headphone jack, and a two-track monitor. The GTM-822 also has a Monitor/Meter section with custom Sifam phase. Each channel includes a 10-segment, three-color bar graph VU display. Distributed by Professional Audio Design. www.auroraaudio.net

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Related Keywords:AES Convention, Smart AV, Martinsound, Josephson, Grace Design, Rosendahl, Presonus, Speck Electronics, Frontier Design, Nautilus Commander, API, Tonelux, Aurora Audio, Chandler Limited, DW Fearn, Manley


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