Show Report: AES 2016

Exciting New Products for Studio and Stage
Image placeholder title

Exciting new products for studio and stage

From September 29th through October 2nd, the 141st Audio Engineering Society International Convention took place in Los Angeles amid mild temperatures and surprisingly clear skies. But despite the event being scheduled earlier in the year than usual, AES LA 2016 was smaller, in terms of manufacturer booths, than the previous year in NYC, with a number of major companies sitting it out entirely. Nonetheless, those who did show up had some very exciting new products to announce.

AEA showed the RPQ2, the updated dual mic-preamp with Curve Shaper EQ that includes front-panel DI inputs, an increase of impedance to 63,000 ohms, and redesigned controls. They also showed the single-channel RPQ500 for 500-series racks, which also includes mic and line inputs, 81dB of gain, the Curve Shaper for increasing the air-band, low-frequency shelving, and the new knob design.

Audio-Technica introduced several ATM350a Instrument Microphone Systems, which begin with a new version of its popular ATM350 cardioid condenser mic with an added switchable highpass filter (at 80Hz). Moreover, A-T now offers a line of UniMount components, which include clip-on mounts—for violin, woodwinds, brass, and drums—that fit the ATM350a, and the handy Magnetic Piano Mounting System. The mounts are available with 5" or 9" goosenecks for positioning, either individually or in a variety of System configurations that include a carrying case.

Image placeholder title

Audionamix demonstrated its soon-to-be-released ADX Speech Volume Control (SVC) software during the show. Following up on its Cloud-based processing software, ADX VVC 3, that lets you adjust volume and panning of lead vocals or melody in mono and stereo files, ADX SVC is optimized for speech and lets you control the level of foreground and background elements, as well as stereo positioning.

We also had the opportunity to hear the Bock Audio Soundelux USA U195 large-diaphragm FET-based condenser mic. Described as having an optimized U87-style capsule, the cardioid patterned mic has an active lowcut, a switchable voltage-divider pad (rather than a capacitive pad), and a fat/norm switch that adds low/mid bass EQ. The mic is designed for use on vocals as well as amps and instruments.

Cloud Microphones introduced its Cloudlifter Zi, a phantom-powered DI for high-impedance instruments such as electric guitar and bass, as well as acoustic guitars and gear that is amplified with piezo pickups. The most exciting feature on the Cloudlifter Zi is a knob that allows you to vary the input impedance from 150 to 15,000 ohm, giving you control over tone color. Utilizing Class A circuitry, the unit also offers variable highpass filtering via the impedance knob, and three switchable gain levels. As a bonus, the Cloudlifter Zi can also be used with microphones in the same way as the company's other Cloudlifter products.

Image placeholder title

Focusrite continues to extend the range of its Red product line with the announcement of the Red 8Pre. In addition to 8 digitally controlled mic preamps (with the company's Air effect) and a pair of front-panel DI jacks, the Red 8Pre can handle 64 channels of I/O (including 16 analog inputs and 18 analog outs). The 24-bit/192kHz interface also provides Dante network connectivity and supports Pro Tools | HD DigiLink and Thunderbolt 2. Focusrite also introduced RedNet Control 2.0 software for remote control over the company's Dante-enabled audio-over-IP systems.

TheHafler brand is going strong, and it showed the CI-series multi-channel amplifiers aimed at the custom-install market. The line includes the 6-channel CI-6120, the 8-channel CI-855, and the 12-channel CI-1255, sporting features such as Class A/B amplification, the Hush-Tone fan cooling system, Euroblock speaker connectors, back-panel level controls, and power saving ecoSystem technology.

Image placeholder title

Mic manufacturer MXL gave us our first peek at the DX-2, a dual-capsule dynamic mic with an onboard knob for variable control between the two elements—a larger capsule offering a super-cardioid pattern, and a smaller one with a cardioid pattern. Designed for use on guitar amps, as well as brass and drums, the DX-2 is a side-address mic with a flat face for easy positioning, and the manufacturer says it's designed to handle high SPLs, whether in concert or in the studio.

Image placeholder title

The latest digital mixer in the QSCline is the TouchMix-30 Pro, a compact, 32-channel deck with a 10" multi-touch screen that can be used for patching. It provides 16 outputs and can handle 24 mic/line channels as well as 6 additional line-level channels, stereo via USB, and 8 subgroups with 6-band parametric EQ. Other features include 32-channel direct-to-hard drive record and playback capabilities, two real-time analyzers, anti-feedback and room tuning functions, and a DAW interface for Apple Mac computers.

Image placeholder title

We finally got our first look at Radial Engineering's new stompbox-sized, 4-channel keyboard mixer, Key•Largo. Like all Radial products, it's a sturdy, stage-ready box, this time with 3 analog input channels and 1 digital channel, plus a switchable mono/stereo effects send, monitor and main outs with ground-lift switches, MIDI I/O and USB ports, and a sustain jack. Portable and seemingly roadworthy, we're excited about trying one out!

Shure is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of its ubiquitous moving-coil vocal mic, the SM58, with a limited edition commemoration model. The SM58-50A adheres to the specs of the classic model but has a silver finish and comes with classic '60s-era packaging, a commemorative certificate and other cool goodies. And it's priced only $10 more than a normal SM58.

Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title

Another talk of the show was the Soundtoys Sie-Q EQ plug-in, based on the venerable Siemens W295b hardware equalizer. Lauded for it's smooth high-end air band, it has a semi-parametric mids section and a Drive control. Best of all, it's a free download until October 13, 2016—what are you waiting for?

The Tascam DR-701D is the company's latest 4-channel linear PCM recorder/mixer designed for use with DSLR cameras. In addition to having XLR inputs, it provides HDMI sync, has built-in microphones, and a timecode generator that can be jam synced. Multiple DR-701Ds can be cascaded to increase the track count.

Waves knocked us out with two of their latest product releases. First, the SoundGrid Connect platform lets you use a SoundGrid server for plug-in processing via any audio interface that supports ASIO or Core Audio. This just opened up you favorite DAW to SoundGrid networking, which provides a lot of power for a number of studio situations: This news is really going to shake up the competition.

Image placeholder title

We also got a demo of Waves' new Abbey Road Vinyl plug-in, which models the mastering and cutting gear from the iconic recording studio. In addition to adding traditional record-related artifacts such as noise, crackle, wow and flutter, you can choose between the sound of a lacquer master or factory-pressed vinyl, select between two types of turntables and three playback cartridges, add the TG12410 mastering console into the signal patch, and even pick where the needle is placed on the record itself. And as you would expect, the plug-in offers a realistic slow-to-stop effect.

The Hits Kept Comin'
Other standout products from the show include the Josephson C725 hybrid tube/solid-state microphone; the David Royer-designed Mojave Audio MA-1000 Signature Series tube microphone with 251-style capsule; the RTW MM3 MusicMeter, a compact yet feature-rich audio meter; Telefunken's new line of Direct Boxes; and the aluminum-based products in the Triad-Orbit line of stands, which are lighter weight and lower priced.