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AES San Francisco: Can’t Top This!

It's hard to imagine a better, cooler or more enjoyable audio tradeshow than the 117th AES held in San Francisco from October 28 to 31, 2004. The vibe was right-on: The weather in everybody's favorite city cooperated, the parties were awesome—and plentiful, the food unbelievable

It’s hard to imagine a better, cooler or more enjoyable audio tradeshow than the 117th AES held in San Francisco from October 28 to 31, 2004. The vibe was right-on: The weather in everybody’s favorite city cooperated, the parties were awesome—and plentiful, the food unbelievable (leading one to actually believe that you can’t find a bad meal in this town) and the extracurricular diversions of the Halloween weekend provided amusement and lasting memories for everyone. Best of all, the joint was packed with both eager attendees and plenty of neat audio toys to check out. We’ll provide more complete coverage of the AES highlights in the December Mix and on, but in the meantime, here are 10 of our faves on the recording side, listed alphabetically


Aviom previewed the technology behind its new line of networking products based on the A-Net Pro protocol and its Pro 64 ASIC. The chip has the full power of the new protocol and will allow other audio manufacturers to easily integrate the A-Net Pro technology into their own product lines. Features include up to 64 audio channels over an uncompressed 24-bit data stream with plug-and play simplicity.

Cakewalk‘s Sonar 4 Producer Edition grows ever closer to becoming the “do-everything” audio production tool. Features include multiformat surround mixing/editing (30 configurations supported), intuitive surround panning, Lexicon Pantheon Surround Reverb, Sonitus Surround Compressor and FX Suite processors, SurroundBridge (for using stereo plug-ins in multichannel environments), Video Thumbnail track, POW-r Dithering and more. Price: $959 (new), with upgrades available from previous Sonar products. More at

Unveiled in concept form at last year’s AES, the MC “Intelligent Application Controller” from Euphonix is a sophisticated worksurface targeted for use with pro PC applications. The MC gives users high-speed control of not only EuCon-aware applications such as Nuendo and Pyramix, but also PC applications via keystroke commands programmed into the MC’s LCD SmartSwitches. MC includes a 7.1 monitor section, twin trackballs, a full-sized keyboard, eight programmable knobs, four full-throw touch-sensitive moving faders—or optionally twin joysticks—and 56 programmable LCD SmartSwitches, together with a small touch screen for fast access to the unit’s programmable features.

Certainly one of the buzzes of the show, the TranzPort from Frontier Design Group is a slick, low-profile wireless 2.4GHz DAW remote. TranzPort uses four AA batteries and will work with most popular DAWs including Pro Tools, Logic, Sonar, Digital Performer and Cubase. It also includes a plug for a footswitch, allowing the user hands-off control over punch-in/out.

Throughout the show, attendees kept returning with their friends, saying, “You just gotta hear InnerTUBE Audio‘s Atomic Squeeze Box Dual,” a stereo/dual-mono version of the original Atomic Squeeze Box. This tube-based unit is designed to control an audio signal’s amplitude while avoiding the sonic artifacts of traditional compressors and limiters, with the net effect of the ASB acting like a skilled assistant riding the faders.

NHT Pro‘s Xd Series is a small, high-output, low-distortion monitor system with DSP-corrected equalization control for placement compensation that corrects for response and phase anomalies, and provides a wide, accurate soundstage from anywhere in the listening environment. The powered, two-way M-20 near/mid-field monitor ($3,000/pair) features four presets for different boundary conditions. The $5,000/pair M-80 tracking monitor has twin 8-inch woofers, two 2-inch-dome midranges, a 1-inch-dome tweeter and an included sub, all with system amplification and calibrated DSP processing. More at

Professional Audio Design was showing its 8-channel, remote-controlled Reso Pre 873 mic preamp. Built using a vintage 1073 analog circuit design, it is controllable directly from Pro Tools, a MIDI control surface or the front panel. Each channel has phantom power, phase and mute controls, and a separate power supply. More at

Clearly the most talked-about product at the show, and certainly worthy of a turn on Capt. Picard’s bridge, the Smart Console Elite 96 control surface from Smart AV boasts a groundbreaking ergonomic design that offers control over a bevy of DAW functions. The brainchild of Aussie designer Michael Stavrou, the control surface currently works with systems from Pyramix/Merging, Emagic/Logic, Yamaha/DME 64N, Fairlight/QDC and Klotz Digital/Vadis. It’s distributed in the U.S. by the ATI Group.

Steinberg was showing Nuendo 3, a major upgrade with features aimed at post users, including AAF support, a new set of media management tools, Pinnacle X-Send integration and Warp-to-Picture functionality. Other features include a pull-up/down 0.1-percent option included in the QuickTime video player, direct integration of external hardware effects processors into the VST audio mixer and MixConvert, a plug-in capable of translating from one surround format to another.

Tascam unveiled its DV-RA1000, a clever approach to recording two channels of high-resolution audio—up to 192 kHz/24-bit—to inexpensive DVD media. The two-rackspace, $1,500 unit also includes Sony’s DSD protocol, the basis for audiophile Super Audio CDs, as an available recording format. I/O includes balanced XLR connections, AES/EBU and SDIF-3, and it records standard CD-DA, WAVE and DSDIFF files to CD-R and DVD-R discs. The DV-RA1000 can also operate as a stand-alone CD recorder.