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NEW GEAR GALORE - A report on the 2003 AES Show

October 22, 2003
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In 2001, the AES show had to be postponed due to theunfortunate events of September 11. When the show finally did takeplace, attendance was way down, and many companies decided not toexhibit. The 2002 show was better, but the audio industry was stillfeeling the economic aftershocks of 9/11.

By contrast, this year’s show—which took place at theJacob Javits Convention Center in New York City from October10-13—was decidedly upbeat. Attendance was over 15,000 (attendees+ exhibitors), which was about 1,000 higher than last year. But itwasn’t just a matter of numbers. “There was an excitingbuzz, which I haven’t felt on the floor for three or fouryears,” said Roger Furness, AES’s executive director.

“A number of people said that this show in a way marks thebeginning again,” observed Furness. “The feeling, perhaps,that confidence is coming back and people are saying,‘There’s been so much garbage in the world for the lastcouple of years, let’s just get on with our lives, andlet’s do it.’”

And judging by the large numbers of new products on display, themanufacturer’s were indeed feeling renewed confidence. The areaof software was especially busy. It seemed like there were new plug-insand soft instruments everywhere you turned. But hardware was inabundance as well, and there were plenty of new preamps, processors,mics, and recording interfaces on display.

EM editors scoured the exhibit hall looking for products ofinterest to our readers. Here are some of the highlights, alphabetizedby company.

Ableton announced the release ofLive 3.0 ($399, $69 upgrade from Live 2.X, $99 upgrade from Live1.X) a new version of its popular loop sequencer. A partial list of newfeatures includes Clip Envelopes (which allow non-destructiveprocessing within individual samples), MIDI Key Mapping and VelocitySensitivity, improvements to the audio recording function, newquantization values, improvements to the handling of VST plug-ins, andmuch more.

ADesigns released Atty ($95), a line-level audiosignal controller. The unit features a pair of Neutrik combo inputjacks (XLR and 1/4-inch), and two XLR outputs and features true-stereooperation. Atty was designed to offer control over powered speakers andother amplified gear that has no output controls.

ApogeeMini-MP

Apogee displayed its Mini-MP($995), a two-channel, analog mic preamp designed for both vocal andinstrument applications. The unit offers two combo (1/4-inch and XLR)inputs with phantom power, two XLR outputs, Middle-Side mode (for M-Srecording), and a phase switch and high-pass filter for eachchannel.

ArturiaCS-80V

Arturia

was showing it’s new CS 80V($249), a software emulationof the Yamaha CS 80 synth, which can run as a standalone program or asa virtual instrument on the Windows, Mac OS X, and OS 9 platforms.

AudientASPOO8

Audient

introduced the ASP008 ($1,355), an 8-channel mic prefeaturing high-quality preamps similar to those in the company’sASP8024 recording console. Each channel has switchable input impedance,48V phantom power, XLR and instrument inputs, and a 20-dB pad. Optionaldigital I/O is also available.

BIAS was showing a beta version ofits soon-to-be-released audio restoration plug-in, Soundsoap Pro(price TBA). Compatible with Mac OS X and Windows XP, Soundsoap Prooffers four restoration tools—Hum & Rumble, Click &Crackle, Broadband, and Noise Gate—and an intuitive userinterface.

Broadjam introduced Metajam ($199),a software package that offers independent musicians help withmanagement, promotion, and distribution. The software is available forWindows, and a Mac version is scheduled soon.

CMLabs MotorMate

CMLabs had its new MotorMate ($1,495) control surfaceon display. Features include a jog/shuttle wheel, 80-character backlitdisplay, 8 touch-sensitive motorized faders, a built-in monitorsection, a fader flip function, and the ability to link up with up tothree MotorMix controllers. According to CM Labs, MotorMate issupported by most DAW applications.

CoreSound displayed the Mic2496 ($499), a two-channelmic preamp and A/D converter. The company demonstrated how it could beconnected as a front end for recording into a PDA, allowing forultra-small-footprint, high-quality recording. The Mic2496 runs on a 9Vbattery, and offers 48V phantom power.

Cycling’74 unveiled version 3.1 of its popularPluggo software ($199), which runs under Mac OS X, andintroduces Apple Audio Units compatibility. The company also wasshowing a new version of it’s Radial ($199) loopingsoftware, that also adds OS X compatibility.

DigidesignImpact

Digidesign was showing a number ofproducts designed for its new HD Accel systems. The FocusriteForte ($595), is a channel-strip TDM plug-in based on the FocusriteForte console, and features EQ, compression, de-essing, and noise gate.Impact ($695) gives you “console-style mix buscompression” in the form of a TDM plug-in. It offers fourselectable compression ratios, variable Attack, Release, Threshold, andMake-up Gain controls, a side-chain input and more.

Earthworks displayed its new QTC30($800), an omni condenser mic. The company says the QTC30 is designedfor ambient room miking, and for close pickup of “delicate”sources such as acoustic instruments. The mic is designed to providemaximum transparency and minimum coloration.

Electro-Harmonix was showing an earlyproduction unit of its soon-to-be-released Bi-Filter ($TBA). The unitfeatures dual sweepable filters, an envelope follower, an LFO withsweepable waveforms, a mixer section, and an effects loop in betweenthe envelope follower and the filters. According to Electro-Harmonix,the device should be shipping in the first quarter 2004.

Eventide unveiled a new TDM harmonizerplug-in called Octavox ($695) that features eight-voice diatonicpitch shifting and delay. The plug-in also has what the companydescribes as a "notation-meets-step-sequencer" feature, which showspitches on a musical staff with quantized grids.

FxpansionBFD

Fxpansion announced its new VST to RTASAdapter ($99), which runs on OS X and Windows XP. In addition, thecompany is now shipping its BFD Drum Library plug-in ($299),which is available for Mac OS X (RTAS, Audio Units, VST, ReWire, andstand-alone) and Windows 2000/XP (RTAS, VST, DXi, ReWire, andstand-alone).

GrooveTubes displayed a new a tube preamp for mics andinstruments called The Brick ($499). The unit offers micand instrument inputs, an XLR output, phantom power, and 55 dB ofavailable gain.

JBL offered demos of itsLS6300 Series, a new line of powered monitors thatcontain three different technologies—Linear Spatial Referencetechnology, RMC Room Mode Correction, and boundarycompensation—specifically designed to minimize the affects ofroom acoustics on the monitor’s sound. The series includes threemodels: the LSR6328P ($1,339), which is a bi-ampedmonitor featuring an 8-inch woofer and a 1-inch tweeter; theLSR6332 ($1399), which offers a 12-inch woofer, 5-inchmidrange and 1-inch tweeter; and the LSR6312SP($1,499) subwoofer.

Lawson was showing its new Air mic($895). This large-diaphragm condenser is one of the company’smost affordable mics, but promises to offer top-quality results onvocals and other sources.

LexiconOmega

Lexicon ’s Omega DesktopRecording Studio ($529) was one of the most talked about productsat AES. The USB audio interface offers 8 inputs, 4 simultaneous recordchannels, 24-bit/96 kHz recording, 2 DBX mic preamps, 2 insert points,48V phantom power, and MIDI In and Out ports. Also included isProTracks Plus digital-audio-sequencing software, and Lexicon’sPantheon reverb plug-in. The ProTracks Plus software is for Windowsonly (and is based on Cakewalk technology), but DBX says that the Omegainterface is also compatible with the Mac.

Little Labs Multi ZPIP

LittleLabs introduced the Multi Z PIP ($600), apreamplfier, reamplifier, and direct box in a single unit. Featuresinclude transformer-isolated outputs, a separate onboard reamplifier,summing inputs, a Pre-transformers insert, an expression pedal input,and an instrument-pickup emulation transformer.

M-Audio showed off its Solarismicrophone ($359.95). The large-diaphragm condenser mic featurescardioid, omni, and figure-8 patterns; a 10 dB pad; a low-frequencyrolloff switch; a 20 Hz-20 kHz frequency response; and Class A FETelectronics. The mic comes with a shock mount and an aluminum case.

McDSP introduced a new TDM plug-in calledChrome Tone ($495). Shipping in November, Chrome Tone offers asuite of performance effects including distortion, compression, gating,chorus, flange, EQ, wah, tremolo, spring reverb, and tape delay. Thecompany is also offering new versions of its FilterBank, AnalogChannel, and Synthesizer One plug-ins.

MSR, Inc. the manufacturers ofStudioPanel announced a new system to make it easier forcustomers to get the acoustic treatments that they need for theirpersonal studios. The company offers a do-it-yourselfkit—including measuring tools—to help customers determinewhich StudioPanel products are right for their space.

MOTU unveiled the MX4($295), a new virtual instrument synth plug-in that’s compatiblewith the MAS, RTAS, and Audio Units standards of OS X. The MX4 offers anumber of different synthesis types including subtractive, wavetable,FM, AM, and analog emulation. MOTU also introduced the 896HD($1,300), a new Firewire audio interface that supports recording atrates up to 24-bit-192 kHz. The unit offers 18 inputs and 22 outputs(including 8 mic/line inputs, and ADAT optical and AES/EBU digitalI/O), two Firewire ports, Word Clock in and out, and MOTU’sCueMix DSP latency-free monitoring system.

MuseReceptor

MuseResearch debuted its first product, the Receptor($TBA), a hardware-based audio plug-in player that’s compatiblewith VST-format plug-ins. The 2U device, which the company expects toship in the first quarter of 2004, comes preloaded with an assortmentof plug-ins, features MIDI I/O, balanced audio I/O, digital I/O, and a1/4-inch guitar input.

Native Instruments announced a new bundlecalled NI Komplete ($1499), which offers full versions of thefollowing NI software products: Reaktor Session, Kontackt, Battery,Absynth 2, Vokator, NI-Spectral Delay, FM7 B4 Organ, and Pro 53.Compatible with both Windows and Mac (OS 9 and OS X; an update will beneeded for OS X for Pro-53, Battery, and NI-Spektral delay).

NeumannTLM127

Neumann introduced the TLM-127($1,499), a large-diaphragm condenser that features cardioid and omnipatterns, a switchable pad (-14 dB), a high-pass filter, and 20 Hz-20kHz frequency response. In 2004, Neumann will release an optionalremote control unit that will increase the available polar patterns tofive and provide external power to the mic.

Presonus announced that it has startedshipping its Eureka ($699) channel strip. The unit features acompressor with adjustable threshold, attack, release, and makeup gain;three-band EQ with overlapping bands, XLR and TRS outputs, and anoption for a digital output card that supports 24-bit/96 kHz recordingand playback.

SoundToys introduced Phase Mistress ($249), a newfull-featured phase shifter plug-in that will ship in early November,and will be compatible with RTAS, HTDM, and Audio Suite (a TDM versionwill follow).

SRSCircle Surround VST Pro

SRS offered Circle Surround VST Pro($499), a surround-sound encoding and decoding plug-in that’sscheduled to ship in November. The software allows you to encode asurround mix to two tracks, which makes it possible to save such a mixto CD-R.

Studio Electronics showed off itsWolftone Helium and Chaos pedals ($299 each). The Heliumgives you distortion and adds in high harmonics. It offers Drive,Volume, Mix, Octave, and Texture controls. According to StudioElectronics, the Chaos creates not only distortion, but “richflavors of ring modulation, filter sweeps, octave andhigher-overtones,[and] synth-like timbres. It features Drive, Volume,Entropy, Hair, and Dimension controls.

Studio Electronics Helium andChaos

Tascam

was demonstrating GigaPulse ($299), its new convolving reverbVST plug-in for Windows XP. GigaPulse is a sampling reverb thatincludes features like mic modeling, selectable room position, and tailextension. The company also introduced the SX-1LE ($3,999), astandalone digital audio workstation that offers 16-tracks of 24-bitrecording, touch-sensitive moving faders, surround mixing, 128-trackMIDI sequencing, built-in CD-RW drive, four realtime effectsprocessors, and a VGA output for connecting an external display tosupplement the built-in 320 X 240 LCD.

TascamSX-1LE

TerraSonde introduced a new hardwareutility box called The Studio Toolbox ($899). Based on thecompany’s Audio Toolbox, the new product functions as a tuner,pitch-pipe, click-track generator, VU meter, sound-level meter, cabletester, MIDI analyzer, signal generator, time-code generator,phantom-power generator, and much more. It features a 64x128 LCDdisplay, built-in mic and speaker, and XLR, 1/4-inch, RCA, and MIDII/O.

Universal Audio displayed the2-1176 ($2,800), a two-channel version of its 1176LN limitingamplifier. The 2-1176 features dual mono/stereo operation, matchedside-chain FETs for stereo tracking, and Master Bypass and MasterAttack/Release in Stereo-Link mode.

WaveArts debuted Tracksync ($299), a synchronizationplug-in that’s designed to correct audio/MIDI timingproblems.

Waves was showing two new bundles. TheTransform Bundle ($1,200 native, $1,800 TDM) includes SoundShifter, a time- and pitch-shifting plug-in; The Doubler, which offersdoubling, exciter and harmonization effects; TransX, a dynamics shaper;and The Morphoder, a feature-rich vocoder. The other new product is theDiamond Bundle ($3,800 native, $7,000 TDM), which gives you allthe plug-ins from the Transform, Restoration, and Platinum Bundles.

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