10/31/2012 8:51 PM
While the big hit last weekend for San Francisco natives was the World Series, it was game-on for thousands of Audio Engineering Society members and pro-audio enthusiasts from around the globe who attended the 133rd AES convention at Moscone Center. In addition to attending an overflowing schedule of seminars and panels, many visitors were hoping to get their hands on a wide range of innovative products being shown in the trade hall. While 2012’s event had notably fewer exhibitors than in recent years, most of the companies that came had something worthwhile to show. Here are a few highlights from the floor.
The “Concept Car” of this year’s AES was the Slate Pro Audio Raven MTX, a large touchscreen DAW controller with integrated hardware controls and metering, which the company demonstrated with a Pro Tools 10 session. In addition to the normal Pro Tools Mix and Edit views, the device has its own Raven Mixer view that can track six fingers simultaneously. The hardware frame includes built-in laptop speakers and 3-way monitor switching. There was no info about price or ship date available. However, the Raven MTX was intuitive to use: It’s fun to mix on a surface the size of a large screen television, though it would be great to have haptic tactile feedback so you can feel the faders and knobs under your fingers.
Speaking of head-turning prototypes, Chris Estes of Endless Analog showed me another showstopper—the Daytripper “analog tape realtime audio interface.” Imagine having a 2-channel version of the CLASP hybrid DAW/tape system as an audio interface on your desktop. I’m down with that! The Daytripper uses a standard audio cassette as the tape medium and sports two mic preamps and VU meters—very, very exciting!
Izotope demonstrated its new Trash 2 distortion app and Insight metering software, along with Iris, the company’s spectral-based softsynth. Insight gives you a suite of metering and analysis tools such as peak level metering, loudness meters and history, a stereo vector scope, a spectrum analyzer, 2D and 3D spectrograms, and quite a bit more. Best of all, you can create your own custom layout for the metering. Insight will be available on its own and bundled with Ozone 5 Advanced.
Trash 2 shows a lot of promise, particularly with its new formant filters and convolution module. However, it was Iris that knocked me out. You can load up to four sound files and then select and play individual parts of the frequency spectrum of each file. Moreover, it’s very easy to use. A free trial version is available and worth a visit.
Sony Creative Software demonstrated two new releases. I’m told that Sound Forge Pro for Mac was rewritten for Mac OS from the ground up, and it certainly looks like it, with it’s array of browsers and windows that can be easily reconfigured to suit your needs. It’s tailored for users looking for an audio editor that includes mastering and restoration features.
I was very impressed with Sony Creative Software’s SpectraLayers Pro, which provides intelligent spectral-based editing tools that can be used for restoration, extraction, and creative applications. It supports a wide range of audio files and hosts VST plug-ins. I highly recommend checking out the trial version of this, as well.
Moog unveiled another hit of the weekend, the 500 Series Analog Delay. With 40-800ms delay time, the module offers better S/N and dynamic range specs than the company’s Moogerfooger pedal-based delay, as well as pro-level I/O, MIDI and CV inputs, and a plug-in editor (AU/VST/RTAS). In addition, the Analog Delay is stereo linkable, so yeah, you’ll want a pair of them. It’s a very flexible module that sounds fantastic, and there’s nothing else like it in the world of 500-series modules.
Speaking of the 500-series, I was excited to see a few new supporters of the format. SSL, for example, revealed its E-series EQ and Dynamics modules based on the designs found in the company’s SL 4000 E console.
Aphex has also made a strong push into the 500 format, and it now offers three mic preamp modules, an optical compressor, a parametric EQ, and an Aural Exciter/Big Bottom module. The standout for me was the 2-channel Dual RPA 500 mic pre, a tube/solid-state hybrid with a built-in limiter.
Other 500-series modules I hope to give a critical listen to include the Crane Song Falcon tube compressor, the Wunder Audio Cobalt Pre, the BAE 1073D mic pre/EQ (a 1073-style module, of course), and the Helios F760 type-69 FET compressor/limiter.
So what do you do after you’ve successfully repackaged one of your rackmount preamps in 500-series format? You re-reissue it as a 1U rack! Witness the Millennia Media HV-37, which puts two HV-35 preamps into a single-unit device, complete with the 80Hz lowcut, 15dB pad and DC-coupled 10dB ribbon-mic boost. Nice!
Radial Engineering showed two new 500-series racks—the Powerhouse 10 Channel Power Rack and the Six Pack workstation—along with a handful of new 500 modules and other bread-and-butter hardware devices, such as the PZ-DI Orchestral Acoustic Direct Box. However, it was the Gold Digger mic selector and Cherry Picker preamp selector that caught my attention. The Gold Digger allows you to audition four different mics with one preamp, and it provides phantom power so there is no switching noise. The Cherry Picker, on the other hand, also provides phantom power but lets you send a single mic to one of four connected preamps, so you can see how the mic sounds in each situation. Very handy!
Mics and Wireless
Sony unveiled its DWZ series of digital wireless products in the 2.4 GHz spectrum, starting with affordable mic and instrument systems. All four DWZ systems offer 24-bit linear PCM resolution and 3-way parallel audio output. The DWZ-M50 mic has interchangeable capsules and uses AA batteries, while the transmitter features a digital 5-band graphic EQ. The instrument transmitter also uses AA batteries, and it includes a mute feature for tuning. The higher-cost M70 and B70HL systems include automatic feedback mitigation technology, which was very effective during the trade show demos.
Audio-Technica also showed a new low-cost wireless system in the 2.4 GHz range. The System 10 includes a single-channel receiver that can be paired with either a wireless mic or body-pack transmitter. The system promises instantaneous channel selection and synchronization with an overall easy setup.
Audio-Technica also surprised everyone with a new mic series. The first product in its 50-series is the AT5040, a side-address cardioid condenser with an unusual element made up of four rectangular diaphragms. The result is intended to achieve a smooth high-end and fast transient response. The frequency chart that was provided didn’t show the large presence boost you might expect from a large-diaphragm condenser. The mic is intended for use on vocals and other demanding instruments such as acoustic guitar and piano.
Best Schwag of the Show
Genelec handed out the Acoustitape, a tape measure that includes feet/inches and metric measurements on one side, and wavelengths from 10kHz to 115Hz on the other (including quarter wavelengths, which represent the predicted cancellation dip when a speaker is placed at a specified distance from the front wall in a studio). Besides its use for studio analytics, it’ll be perfect for discussions about acoustics with students. It’s available online, in fact! Just in time for the holidays.