The 139th AES Convention kicked off today in New York City's Javits Center, with its traditional full day of workshops and master classes. So even though everyone's sitting in horribly fluorescent-lit conference rooms listening to ponytailed guys talk about polar patterns and multi-band limiting instead of out on the conference floor, there is still a lot of big gear news dribbling out of the AES hype pipeline. Here are our six picks for AES day one. (Want more gear? Read our Quick Hits from Day Two, Day Three, and Day Four.)
Arturia AudioFuse - $599 – Shipping Q4 2015
Arturia's compact, metal-chassis AudioFuse audio interface is made to go anywhere and work with anything: Mac/PC/Linux/iOS Android. Everything is hands-on and immediate; each function has a button or dial associated with it—no menus. The 2-channel USB interface uses combo XLR/1/4" inputs with Discrete Pro custom mic preamps and two sets of stereo ¼" speaker outputs, as well as S/DIF and ADAT connectivity and MIDI I/O over breakout adapter cables. And it has something that absolutely should be standard in 2015: a three-port USB hub!
Arturia successfully expanded from software to hardware several years back. Although it has a good track record, it will be interesting to see how Arturia's first audio interface performs. The price is a bit high for a 2-chanel interface, but Arturia is clearly putting quality and comprehensive features ahead of a cut-rate price.
GIK Acoustics 4A Alpha Panel - $85 each or $340 for four - Shipping now
When you want to scatter and diffuse sound in your studio, you want highly complex and precise math going into the design of your acoustic panels and bass traps. But what if you could have all that… plus wood?! The GIK Acoutstics 4A Alpha Panels put all the science behind their acoustic treatment, and a healthy dose of aesthetics, as well. They come with attractive wood veneers and your choice of colors for the trim, so you can have acoustic treatment that good for ears and the eyes.
Plugin Alliance 100% AAX DSP bundle - $2,895 – Shipping November 2015
Plugin Alliance Brainworx bx_console – $299 – Shipping now
After a busy year of adding new developers to its stable, Plugin Alliance wants to be the go-to distributor for high-end plug-ins, and its new 100% AAS DSP bundle packages all 41 of the AAX DSP plug-ins its distributes in a bundle that cuts the costs off of the individual MSRPs by 57%. By catering directly to the exclusive plug-in format of Pro Tools | HDX users, it is telling pro uses that they need look no further for high-end plug-ins.
Plugin Alliance also has a brand new marquee product to show off from one of its top developers, and its original developer, Brainworx. Tons of audio pros swear by the sound of Brainworx plug-ins and its famous mid-side processing baked into many of its products. Now, the new Brainworx offering, bx_console, models the company founder's personal Neve VXS 72-channel mixing console with a whole new method. The company's new Tolerance Modeling Technology (TMT) aims to make the plug-in emulation of analog gear more realistic by not only modeling the components in a circuit, but also models individual component tolerance difference. Those different component tolerances are some of the reasons why analog gear like synthesizers of the same make and model still often have slight differences and nuances in their sound and behavior.
Antelope Audio Orion 32+ - $3,495 – Shipping mid-November 2015
Antelope Audio Orion Studio - $2,795 - Shipping December 1
We've seen Thunderbolt finally gain mass acceptance in the audio market this year, and now one of the go-to names in high-end audio is further expanding the Thunderbolt options. The Antelope Audio Orion 32+ bolsters the company's flagship 32-channel AD/DA convertor with Thunderbolt compatibility. Antelope advertises zero-latency monitoring for the 24-bit/192kHz Orion 32+'s 32 simultaneous channels. It also connects over USB or MADI, and incorporates S/PDIF and ADAT throughput.
The Orion Studio is also a single rack space 32-channel interface emphasizing on high-end conversion and low latency. However, the Orion Studio focuses more on analog combo XLR/1/4" inputs rather than comprehensive digital connectivity.
SPL Expansion Rack for Phonitor 2 – 379 euros – Shipping now
SPL has released it first accessory for the highly manipulatable Phonitor 2 monitor controller. The Expansion Rack can sit on a desktop, but it also includes a 19" rack enclosure for storing both units in two rack spaces. It adds three additional stereo speaker outputs to the Phonitor 2, which are also subject to the main unit's comprehensive controls (L/R phase reverse, L/R solo, mono, mute). With the Phonitor 2 and Expansion Rack combined, producers and engineers can monitor up to four stereo speaker pairs and listen to three stereo input signals through headphones. The Phonitor 2 bundled with the Explansion Rack will cost 1979 euros; US dollar prices were not yet available.
Focusrite RedNet AM2 - $N/A – Shipping spring 2016
Users of the Dante audio-over-IP system products will have the Focusrite RedNet AM2 as an option to monitor stereo Dante audio starting early next year. The compact unit has non-slip feet for flat surfaces or can mount to a mic stand. A two-channel Dante receiver outputs to stereo XLR monitor outs, as well as a high-output headphone jack. Each output has a fat volume knob on the top face, and the unit receives power over Ethernet or included wall power supply.
Radial Engineering McBoost signal booster - $199 – Shipping Now
Radial Engineering BT-Pro Bluetooth direct box- $229 – Shipping November 2015
You gotta love ribbon mikes, but their relatively low output—particularly from older modesl—can cause headaches at the mixing desk, most of which boost the signal by 50-60dB. That's often not enough for ribbon mikes and certain low-output dynamic mikes, like the Shure SM7.
That's why Radial Engineering sent the McBoost to market. Connect it between the mic and your preamp for phantom power and up to 25dB of cleat boost, variable from the front-panel control. It features a dual FET class-A circuit and a 3-value high-pass filter.
Radial is all about fulfilling unmet needs, and with the proliferation of Bluetooth enabled audio devices, there is a dearth of solutions for making a Bluetooth audio stream into a balanced line signal. Enter the Radial BT-Pro Bluetooth direct box. Bluetooth enabled laptops, tablets and smartphones have hit the stage, and if you need to send that signal to a PA, the BT-Pro accepts the Bluetooth audio and converts it a balanced, stereo line output with up to +4dB boost. It's powered by USB either with a power supply or from a laptop port, and it has a built-in headphone amp.
BAE Audio G10 Graphic EQ - >$1,000 – Shipping spring 2016
BAE Audio 10 DCF Compressor - $N/A – Shipping N/A
For the uninitiated, BAE Audio makes analog audio gear by hand in California, and its new products continue their ambition to make only the best around. The G10 is BAE's first graphic equalizer, a 10-band EQ housed in a 500 series enclosure. It features balanced I/O, a dedicated high-pass filter, and Jensen transformers. BAE says its perfect for guitars and drums, which to us means that you should definitely try it on everything else, too.
The 10 DCF compressor/limiter expands on BAE's 10 DC unit with a new bypass filter function and an inverter borrowed from the BAE 1073.