It's day two of the 139th AES Convention, the first day of roaming the show floor while also trying to drink coffee, take photos and carry two bags worth of gadgets, product info and swag. The good news is that your feet still have no idea of the atrocities that are about to befall them and are operating at near 100% for the first half of the day. And that's all the time it took for us to spot our next batch of show highlights, a collection of mikes, monitoring gear and a lot of good news for Pro Tools users.
Avid Pro Tools | Dock - $N/A – Shipping Q1 2016
If you needed any further proof that mobile touchscreens are steadily transitioning from gimmicky music toys to indispensible studio tools, the new Avid Pro Tools | Dock may finally convince you. This new piece of eye candy works with a user-supplied iPad and the free Pro Tools | Control iOS app to approximate the touchscreen workflows of the grand Pro Tool | S6 control surface and Avid's sublime Artist Control compact surface. Pro Tools | Dock users will have access to every bit of a large project from the iPad screen.
Like the Artist Control and the Pro Tools | S3 desktop control surface, the Pro Tools | Control provides tight integration with Pro Tools software from its push-top rotaries, soft keys and other controls. It's also enabled with the high-speed Ethernet EUCON protocol, so it can communicate directly with other compatible software, such as Logic Pro X, Cubase, Adobe Premier Pro, etc.
We're very interested in the price point of the Pro Tools | Dock, because if it's accessible to home and project studios, this could be one of the most exciting new developments from Avid for such users in quite a while.
Waves Audio and Hear Technologies Hear Back Pro - $699 MSRP Mixer, $1,585 MSRP Hub – Shipping November 2015
Hear Technologies is stepping up its monitor mixing game with the new Hear Back Pro 16-channel personal mixing system, this time incorporating Waves' Ethernet-enabled SoundGrid technology, which lets sound engineers use Waves plug-ins in the monitor mix for outstanding sound.
The Hear Back Pro system is completely modular and expandable. The two available units include a 1U rackmount Hub and the 16-channel Mixer (pictured). There will also be a four-pack bundle that includes one Hub and four Mixers.
Audio-Technica AT2020USBi - $199 street – Shipping now
Audio-Technica BP40 - $349 street – Shipping now
It seems that every year, an Audio-Technica microphone either wins an EM Editor's Choice award or is in the final consideration for one. Yes, the company has established a pattern of making killer mikes over more than 50 years. So this year's AES announcement of the AT2020USBi cardioid condenser USB mic spells great news for the musical everyman. The 24-bit/96kHz brings its users iOS compatibility and high-res audio at a reasonable price. It even comes with a Lightning cable—which iPad users know is a significant perk—as well as a tripod desk stand, carrying pouch and mic stand adapter.
We can't wait to get our hands on one these mikes modeled after the excellent AT2020.
But that's far from all from AT this show. Ohio's great audio company has another big mic-drop: the BP40 large-diaphragm broadcast microphone designed for radio, podcasting, vocal overdubs, etc. AT optimized the capsule placement to maximize vocal presence even at a distance, with a hypercardioid polar pattern and a multistage windscreen to provide internal pop filtering. It comes with a mounting clamp, and the compatible AT8484 shock mount is available separately for $99.
TransAudio Group Bettermaker C502V - $N/A – Shipping N/A
We love us some analog gear, but we really, really love it when top-end physical products work hand-in-hand with software components, so we can have modern conveniences along with them. So the TransAudio-distributed Bettermaker won our hearts with its new C502V module, a 500-series compressor with a boutique analog signal patch and a plug-in companion that provides complete parameter automation and recall. Even when it's not DAW integrated, the C502V has almost 400 presets and different modes that mimic the classic 160A compressor, British VCA buss compressors or take on a unique attach behavior that TransAudio says is ideal for mastering or for drum and mix busses.
Prism Sound MDIO-HDX - $N/A – Shipping N/A
At AES shows, there are a lot of heavy hitters in the professional audio world, so perhaps moreso than any other trade show, Pro Tool | HDX users rule the roost. So it's not surprising that a lot of big announcements come out from that area. For example, Prism Sound has announced the first expansion module for its Titan and Atlas professional USB audio interfaces: the MDIO-HDX. This expansion card allows Avid Digilink connection from multiple Titan or Atlas units, for a direct connection to Pro Tools | HDX or HD native systems.
Now high-end Pro Tools users have access for the first time to Atlas and Titan's critically acclaimed mic preamps, and all of the key software controls will be available with storable settings. That's in contrast to some other third-party interfaces that don't allow storable settings and/or require extra software or hardware.
Shure KSE1500 Electrostatic Earphone System - $2,999 street - Shipping
Shure QLX-D 900MHz Digital Wireless System - $973 starting price – Shipping X52 band December 2015
What would half the bedroom producers of the world do without Shure, sing into a Styrofoam cup? Well sure enough, there a couple more Shure-shots at this year's AES, but apropos of this high-end show, they display a lot more than Shure's affordable mic greatness.
We've all seen people walking around in public with giant headphone on, because apparently they are serious audiophiles who have to have top sound wherever they go, no matter what, and only way to get that is with big-ass cans, right? Not anymore. The Shure KSE1500 is the first Shure Sound Isolating electrostatic earphone and amplifier system, for experiencing serious audiophile sound out of any Mac, PC, iOS or Android device. It took years of research for Shure to come up with electrostatic earphones, and don't you just wish you were at AES to hear them?
Pardon us while we ascend to our soapbox for a moment, but The Man is about to auction off more of the supposedly public airways, so Shure is adapting to what's becoming smaller bands of available RF. Now, Shure QLX-D Digital Wireless Systems are available in the unlicensed 900 MHz band, also known as the X52 band or the UHF "TV band." (Someone please name your band UHF TV this instant.) This 900 MHz band is best suited for indoors, and Shure is also adding a new site survey tool to its Wireless Workbench software, which will have usability reports for the 900 MHz band (also a pretty good name for your new group).
Jensen Iso-Max DI boxes – Shipping November 2015
Jensen Iso-Max GLX line isolator - $59.99 (street) – Shipping now
Jensen JIK-DB1 Iso-Kit direct box - $125 – Shipping now
Known for low-distortion and low-noise transformers, Jensen Transformers's direct input boxes are some of the most popular out there. A series of four new Jenson DI boxes add new features and connectivity: the Concert-1 ($199 street) and Concert-2 ($299 street) are for instruments, while the Media-1 ($219 street) and Media-2 ($319 street) target laptops and other consumer electronics. All four utilize Jensen JT-DB-EPC transformers.
Concert-1 (mono) and Concert-2 (stereo) are made for acoustic and high-output electric instruments and have an 1/8" TRS connector for inputting laptop and other devices, which the DI box sums to the output. The Media-1 (single-channel) and Media-2 (stereo) are similar to the Concert-1 and Concert-2 except that in addition to ¼" and 1/8" inputs, they also have RCA inputs and a variable pad so you can adjust the input level for all manner of DJ gear, tablets, video players, etc.
Here's a product that almost everyone needs but may not know it. The Jensen Iso-Max GLX is a simple, one-purpose balanced line isolator for eliminating the buzz and hums coming from ground loops in an audio system—without degrading audio quality. It has standard XLR I/O, and inside the box, a custom transformer blocks stray DC currents and is effective in the 20Hz-18kHz range.
Jensen also announced the easy-to-assemble JIK-DB1 Iso-Kit direct box, available exclusively to educational facilities teaching pro audio. By soldering these kits together, students learn the importance of transformer isolation for solving ground loops.
Back tomorrow with more from AES 2015!