A Literal Feast for the EarsPRODUCT HITS FROM AES BERLIN 7/01/2004 8:00 AM Eastern
Springtime in Berlin has much to offer: sunshine in what is now being referred to as the new cultural center of the European Union. Inside Messe Berlin, the city's new state-of-the-art fairgrounds center for the 116th AES Convention (May 8-11, 2004), there was a slew of new product offerings. Most European countries still support a thriving state-owned network of radio and TV stations, and as in previous years, the broadcast community outnumbered attendees from the music recording, post and film industries, yet there was plenty to interest everyone.
There was ample activity surrounding the Euro debuts of new consoles, such as SSL's AWS 900, Studer's Vista 8 and the Lawo mc
AMS Neve (www.ams-neve.com) announced the MMC Aquarius Digital Console for stereo and 5.1-channel music production. It features new 24/96 DSP, updated operational features and a new I/O matrix capable of accessing more than 600 channel paths. High-resolution TFT meters and GUIs complement an enhanced monitor panel with automation control and displays. Also new: The Model 1073 DPD Preamp comprises a dual-channel mic preamp section from the vintage Neve 1073 Channel Amplifier; analog and optional DSD and PCM outputs are available.
The new Rosetta 200 2-channel AD/DA version of Apogee's (www.apogeedigital.com) much-respected 8-channel Rosetta 800 features standard 192kHz sampling frequency, sample rate conversion and MIDI control I/O. Optional X-Series (Pro Tools|HD and Mix) and FireWire expansion cards are also available, in addition to core Apogee technologies such as UV22HR and SoftLimit. Rosetta 200 features the new CODA Processing Engine — a new proprietary tool, Aptomizer, is said to maximize levels without increasing noise or distortion — and Intelliclock, full channel metering and S/PDIF I/O. List price: $1,995.
CB Electronics (www.cbelectronics.co.uk) spotlighted a new PEC/DIR controller that brings familiar, video/film-style button and paddle control to digital audio workstations. Currently, the new panel provides plug-and-play control of Digidesign's Pro Tools and Merging Technologies' Pyramix; other DAWs are in the works. Simple-to-use keystrokes enable setup for eight master groups, 16 stem assignments and 64 record tracks, with full track-arming and I/O switching. Future plans call for downloading/recalling system setup as metadata via a 9-pin serial port that can be saved with the DAW's project data.
Digital Theater Systems (www.dtsonline.com) introduced a new suite of PC/Mac-compatible encoders to create DTS soundtracks. Claimed to provide the only 96kHz solution for both DVD-A and DVD-V projects, two of the encoders are said to comprise the first commercially available solutions for creating 96kHz and 6.1-channel discrete DTS material. Two stand-alone encoders for Mac and PC are now shipping: a 48kHz/5.1 package and a 48kHz/5.1-channel and 96kHz/ES encoder unit. And the new DTS X Encoder for Apple's Xserve RAID provides for up to 99 different users on either Mac or PC platforms to remotely access and encode information via company Intranet and LAN, or the Internet.
Euphonix (www.euphonix.com) organized a fascinating demonstration of EuCon connectivity. A System 5 surface was controlling not only the firm's Core Engine and a Steinberg Nuendo DAW via the Ethernet-based protocol, but also the new 128fs Oxford Mix Engine from those talented Brits at Sony Pro Audio Laboratory (www.sonyoxford.co.uk), the group responsible for developing the Sonoma DSD editor/mixer and OXF-R3 console. The device provides up to 48 channels of EQ, dynamics and mixing, and features SuperMAC I/O; conventional PCM operation and Direct Stream Digital are supported. The Euphonix demo comprised 16 DSD channels feeding six buses controlled from the System 5.
Attendees were wowed by demos of Genelec's (www.genelec.com) much-anticipated 8000 Series studio monitors. The 8030A, 8040 and 8050A active bi-amplified trio (which replace, respectively, the 1029, 1030 and 1031) feature a new Minimum Diffraction Enclosure with rounded edges and curved front and sides. According to designer Harri Koskinen, “This specially shaped and very smooth surface is integrated with the enclosure. Its area has been maximized to achieve an astoundingly flat on- and off-axis frequency response.” The new design provides a wide and consistent listening window while minimizing early room reflections and other colorations, an assessment that was confirmed during extensive listening sessions. Price per unit: 8030, $595; 8040, $1,150; and 8050, $2,050.
Merging Technologies (www.merging.com) unveiled the new OASIS (Open Audio System Integration Solution) Command Protocol to integrate its Pyramix DAWs with digital consoles. OASIS is similar in concept to Euphonix's EuCon protocol and provides a range of application-specific commands for communicating between console control elements and Pyramix DAW functions via a high-speed Ethernet port. “Integration should be based on a worldwide open protocol,” stresses Merging Technologies' president, Claude Cellier. “It would then allow customers to select their preferred equipment based on what best suits their needs without being locked into a proprietary, closed, single-manufacturer solution.” The company reported joint development agreements with Harrison and DiGiCo. Also shown was a Native version of Pyramix that runs on any laptop or desktop PC; prices start at $550 Euros (about $650 U.S.).
PMC's (www.pmc-speakers.com) new DB1-A and TB2-A studio monitors feature integral digital power amps. The self-powered monitors house Flying Mole (www.flyingmole.co.jp/en) digital Bi-Phase Fusion reference amp modules, each weighing just 1.1 pounds and supplying 160 watts into 4 ohms. Proprietary LF drivers and cabinet design, along with hand-built crossover electronics, are said to ensure ultralow distortion and compression characteristics, enabling consistent performance at high SPLs. Both units incorporate PMC's 5.5-inch and 6.7-inch LF drivers, respectively, with the same 1.1-inch soft-dome tweeter used in the company's larger mid-fields. Flying Mole also showed its range of compact DAD-M100pro digital power amps.
The new compact BB2 and BB2-J portable workstations from SADiE (www.sadie.com) connect to a host laptop or desk PC via a USB 2.0 connection. Designed into an injection-molded casing, the portable units are said to be simple to install and provide a cost-effective solution for location applications; the BB2-J version adds a jog wheel controller. Connections include analog and digital I/O, headphone and a stereo mic input. A simplified user interface is concentrated into a single window and allows recording/editing of up to eight tracks with level and pan controls, transport, clip selection and master output level controls. Full data interchange with SADiE Series 5 DAWs is offered. Preliminary pricing: BB2, $1,155; and BB2-J, $1,695.
A new XL A/D Converter Module for the popular XLogic SuperAnalogue Channel from SSL (www.solid-state-logic.com) runs from 44.1 and 192 kHz at 24-bit resolution, and provides a short signal path from preamp to ADC. The module offers two channels of conversion at multiple sample rates, including allowances for varispeed and conventional pull-up/down ratios; a single unit can be shared between a pair of XLogic Channels.
And, finally, AES Standards (www.aes.org) spotlighted practical uses of the AES47 standard for carrying digital audio over ATM networks at the BBC and Capital Group in the UK. Using off-the-shelf Asynchronous Transfer Mode hardware, both broadcast organizations are transferring multichannel AES47-compliant signals between remote studios and transmitter sites. ATM offers extremely low latency (around 1 ms), mixed sample rates and bit depths, and offers a routing structure that can be set up as one-to-one or one-to-many. The BBC, for example, is using 155Mbit/second ATM highways to carry up to 40 channels of AES-format signals in each direction; two unused pairs on each Cat-5 cable carry a backup stereo signal and a dedicated multirate sync reference.
In the formerly divided city of Berlin, it was heartening to see the worlds of broadcast and music/pro coexist so harmoniously — yet why so few live sound manufacturers decided to support the AES Convention still remains a mystery. Next year's European event will be held in mid-May in Barcelona, Spain.
Mel Lambert operates Media&Marketing, a consulting service for pro audio firms and facilities. Visit him at www.mellambert.com.