Live Sound Comes Alive at AES 2009

The Audio Engineering Society show returns to New York from October 9 through 12, and from all indications, this 127th AES Convention will be a great event. Some 300 exhibitors will display their wares on the show floor, while the education, seminars and workshops offer a continuing emphasis on new technologies across all aspects of the industry, appealing to recording, broadcast and live sound engineers, as well as the contracting professional.

“Four years ago at AES, we started a live sound track to reach out to the live sound community, even though we had been offering individual sessions on these topics for many years. We’re trying to be aware and not ignore the various constituencies within audio,” says AES president Jim Anderson.

Sound reinforcement, touring and installation technology have all shown exponential growth as significant components of the industry. With that in mind, the live sound co-chairs of the 127th AES convention, Henry Cohen and Mac Kerr, have devised a broad program of critical events ranging from a timely assessment of white spaces wireless issues to innovations for meeting the increasingly urgent need for compliance with the green movement.

Henry Cohen

Henry Cohen

“Without any doubt, live sound is a mature industry in both technology and as a business, and as live sound chairs, Mac Kerr and I have endeavored to address both aspects in this year’s AES convention,” Cohen says. “Despite the relative success of online pro audio forums and listserves, AES remains the premier technical event for professional audio, and live sound in particular, where face-to-face tutorial sessions and discussions take place among industry veterans, pioneers, users, manufacturers, experts and novices. The dynamics of this kind of interaction, and the resulting networking opportunities, are invaluable to individuals and the live sound industry as a whole.”


Having one’s toolset honed on current applications is important, but keeping watch on emerging technologies is equally important. “With the connectivity theme of the 127th AES Convention, we’re presenting a special workshop on audio transmission and control over IP networks. The emergence of audio over IP has made a huge impact on the installed sound and radio businesses, and it’s just now making inroads in the live sound market,” Kerr explains. “The widespread acceptance of the exciting, new [Audio Video Bridging] AVB and Dante standards will facilitate the expansion of audio transmission and control over IP networks in the live sound industry. An AES workshop addressing these issues will feature representatives from major manufacturers discussing how audio over IP will impact their markets.”


The national DTV conversion is behind us, yet issues for dealing with wireless spectrum reallocation remain. In “White Spaces and TVBD Update,” Sennheiser’s Joe Ciaudelli and Shure’s Chris Lyons and Edger Reihl will discuss the status of the 700MHz spectrum and equipment. Other topics include dealing with interference from Television Band Devices (TVBD) and examining recent FCC decisions on the subject.

Mac Kerr

Mac Kerr

In another session, wireless authority James Stoffo presents “Practical Advice for Wireless System Users.” Designed for small to medium venues—such as houses of worship and community events that rarely have the benefit of dedicated technicians or sophisticated frequency coordination—the panel will address elements of component selection and system design/setup to minimize interference and maximize performance.

Less technology-driven, perhaps, but fitting people with mic elements and wireless transmitters is a detail-oriented art form, whether in a worship sanctuary or on a proscenium stage. Challenges include ensuring the user is comfortable, keeping the electronics safe, and providing optimal sound with minimal muddle while maintaining the visual illusion. In “Microphone Dressing,” Mary McGregor, a widely recognized artisan in this field, will provide hands-on demonstrations of basic techniques and insider secrets.


AES is also offering a variety of programs intended specifically for contractors and SR pros. “Sound System Design and Installation Considerations for Churches and HOWs” focuses on issues from initial budgeting through the design/install phase on to training/system operation from the perspectives of the client, consultant, contractor and operator. “Automixing for Live Sound” examines the pros and cons of automixer topologies and algorithms (both analog and digital) with an emphasis on real-world applications.

Other live sound–specific workshops include “State of the Art Loudspeaker Design for Live Sound,” “Microphone Selection and Techniques for Live Sound,” “Networking Digital Audio in Live Sound,” “10 Things to Get Right With Sound Reinforcement Systems,” “Measuring and Aligning Subwoofers” and the always popular “AC Power and Grounding”—with the latter hosted by experts Bruce Olson and Bill Whitlock. Whitlock will also present “The Design of High-Performance Balanced Audio Interfaces,” an intensive master class delving into transformer and IC-based circuits; trade-offs in I/O system designs; cabling issues; and avoiding problems from ground voltage differences, magnetic fields and electric fields.


With technology comes responsibility that goes well beyond the venue itself. Today, many top artists—such as the Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, Barenaked Ladies and Sheryl Crow—are incorporating practices to reduce the environmental impact of touring. In “The Greening of the Band: Green Touring Solutions for the Live Engineer,” hosted by AES education committee vice chair John Krivit, a panel of experts, advocates and artists will discuss ways to reduce a tour’s carbon footprint.

“We are extremely pleased with this year’s live sound events schedule,” says AES executive director Roger Furness. “It is comprehensive, authoritative and boasts a particularly strong lineup of high-level presenters. The recommendations made by co-chairs Henry Cohen and Mac Kerr echo the invaluable insights they have acquired during their own years on the road. The program reflects an enormous amount of labor-intensive work for which we are most appreciative.”

Find out more information from the AES Website. Get a free AES exhibits pass, courtesy Mix magazine.

Mix executive editor George Petersen is definitely going to AES. Catch him occasionally at AES booth #746.
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