Willkommen zu Mnchen!Highlights of the 112th AES Convention

There were some hot new products at AES Munich, but you had to dig a little to uncover the gems. Here are a few that caught our attention...
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FromMay 10-13, 2002, thousands of audio professionals rolled into Munich,Germany, for the the 112th convention of the Audio Engineering Society.Typically, any AES show would be filled with dozens of hot newtechnology debuts, but arriving on the heels of the Musikmesse, NSCAand NAB shows, this particular convention had less sparkle, especiallywith the debut of major new digital recording and broadcast consolesfrom AMS Neve, Calrec, Euphonix, Harrison, Soundtracs, Solid StateLogic, Studer, Wheatstone and Yamaha just weeks earlier. To be fair,there were some hot new products at AES Munich, but you had to dig alittle to uncover the gems. Here are a few that caught ourattention:

Consoles

Clearly,the most talked about product was Aurus from StageTec (www.stagetec.com),the creators of the well-known Cantus digital console and Nexus routingsystems. Nicknamed the "Direct-Access Console," Aurus is a large-format24-bit/96kHz board with up to 256 buses, 300 inputs and as many as 96channel strips. The board is designed with an analog feel, based onnimble ergonomics with large TFT screens, and its 11 concentric rotaryencoders per channel strip (for one-knob-per-function operation) areaccompanied by dual-fan LED displays and multiple alphanumeric readoutsoffering instant visual feedback at the source; it’s ideal forworking in fast-paced situations, such as live, on-air broadcast ortheater applications.

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Aurus is based on a cool-running, fanless control surface thatconnects to all audio processing electronics via fiber optics up to1,000 meters away. Additionally, multiple mixers (and/or consolesurfaces) can operate and access the signal chain via Nexus for sharingDSP, files, I/O converters, routing, etc., in a true digital audionetwork. The TFT displays offer high-res metering (with switchable peakor VU characteristics), as well as detailed views of console parametersor configurations. Other features include snapshot and dynamicautomation for all console parameters, 28-bit TrueMatch A/D conversionon mic inputs with 150 dBa typical dynamic range, 24-bit ADCs on lineinputs (133 dBa typical), onboard or external sample rate conversionand support of multiple digital audio formats: AES/EBU, AES 42, S/PDIF,Y2 (MEL2), SDIF-2, MADI, ADAT and SDI.

Having seen many of the AES exhibitors at other shows just daysbefore, I often asked "What's new since last week?" Usually theylaughed and gave me a quick update on shipping dates or firstinstallations, without going into a detailed dissertation on a productI'd already seen. Not so with the new Studer (www.studer.ch) Vista 7Digital Mixing System, which has numerous software additions and newfeatures since its NAB 2002 debut in April. Vista 7's new layeringoption allows for the integration of Soundmaster ION hardware withcontrol of up to eight transports, including large recorder-styletransport keys, sync offsets, track arming, calculator andmore–all with fingertip touchscreen access.

Speaking of transport control, Brainstorm (www.aidinc.com)unveiled "The Remote," a console-top controller for up to eightmachines, with track arming, looping functions, jog/shuttle wheel, 100memory registers, offset calc, GPOs for ADR beeps, and 9-pin and MIDII/O. Price? About $2,000.

Workstations

Another major AES showing was Cube-Tec's (www.cube-tec.com)AudioCube5-Dell530, which packs the punch of the company's earliercustom dual-Pentium III systems, but is based on Dell's affordable,off-the-shelf D530 workstation. With the price of the new audiomastering/archival/restoration system dropping from around $27K to$12K, it's little wonder that the company has sold 24 systems worldwidein the past few months, with more than half going into the U.S. market.In addition to eight new and/or improved VPI plug-ins formastering/restoration, Cube-Tec also unveiled Quadriga Tape-24, withample inputs for capturing up to 24 tracks of analog session tapesdirectly to disk at up to 192kHz rates.

Co-developed with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., and slated tobegin shipping last month, DVD-Audio Creator LE from SonicSolutions (www.sonic.com) is a Windows 2000-based system forauthoring, creating and developing masters in the high-res DVD-Aformat. Price is $6,000, well within the range of most studios ormastering facilities.

Fostex (www.fostex.com) is the first licensee ofDigigram's (www.digigram.com) EtherSound™ technology.EtherSound enhances established technologies to easily (andeconomically) create low-latency audio networks using standard Ethernetcabling and components, connecting digital audio sources to networkedaudio devices. Up to 64 channels of 24-bit digital audio at 48 kHz,plus bi-directional control information, can be transported tovirtually any number of networked audio devices. Fostex plans to showEtherSound-compliant P.A. and pro sound installation products by year'send.

Studio Monitors

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Belgium-based F.A.R. (Fundamental Acoustic Researchwww.far-audio.com)took the prize for coolest speaker at AES. The Tsunami-10 is aninnovative loudspeaker that combines a radical look, a clever designand a great sound. The triple-layer front baffle places a resilientmaterial between two 22mm MDF slabs to eliminate unwanted vibrations,sophisticated internal bracing locks the entire enclosure into asingle, nonmoving block and a huge rear port reduces air compressionand lowers distortion. A 10-inch woofer, 1-inch soft-dome tweeter withsymmetric waveguide, 220 watts of onboard biamplification and anoptional remote control complete the package.

Last year, A.D.A.M. Audio (distributed in the U.S. by McCaveIntl., www.mccave.com) wowed me with its three-way S3-Aactive monitors and their ultrasmooth folded ribbon tweeters. Now thecompany debuts the S2.5A, a nearfield that also uses the ribbon tweetertechnology, but in a compact two-way system. An unpowered version isalso available.

Not enough bass? KRK (www.krksys.com) demoed its M118 (128 dB peak)monitors and offered a sneak preview of the M218 dual-18 activefour-way monitors coming this fall at AES L.A. The integrated 14kW ofamplification ensure that the M218s will move some air. With theseinstalled, who needs air conditioning?

Signal Processing

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Quantec (distributed byHHB, www.hhbusa.com) showed two new models in itsYardstick line. Both the digital I/O-only MC-2404 (about $4,320) andthe analog and digital I/O MC-2405 ($6,480) are 8-channel, 24/96k unitsoffering surround reverbs, delays, IIR/FIR flters, EQs, flange, chorus,gates, companders, and the classic room simulation that made thecompany's QRS a hit back in 1982.

Portugal's Sintefex Audio (distributed by GPrime, www.gprime.com) demoedtwo new 24/96 digital units designed to replicate the sounds of classicanalog gear. The CX2000 has samples of actual UREI and Fairchildcompressors; the FX2000 takes the CX2000 sounds and adds samples ofactual Pultecs and various console EQs.

Microphones

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For the past few years, trade shows have been overwhelmed with newlarge-diaphragm condenser models. This time, however, thesmall-diaphragm mics took center stage. Beyer's (www.beyerdynamic.com) cardioid MC 930 condenser isoptimized for piano, percussion, brass and overheads, and offershigh-end performance at a low price. Keep this quiet: We can't say moreabout it now, but Sanken (www.sanken-mic.com) will unveil a newsmall-diaphragm condenser at AES this fall. No stranger tosmall-diaphragm mics, DPA (www.dpamicrophones.com), whose origins go back tothe days of B&K's pro audio division, celebrated ten years ofproviding no-compromise products for discriminating users worldwide.And speaking of manufacturers of great studio mics, the AudioEngineering Society awarded its Gold Medal to 90-year-oldSennheiser founder Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser in recognition ofhis lifetime achievements in audio and microphone technology.Congratulations!

More to Come...

Perhaps the biggest news at AES was AES itself. Based on a survey ofvisitors and exhibitors, the AES has decided to expand the currentAmsterdam-Paris-Munich European show rotation to include new citiessuch as London, Berlin, Barcelona, Vienna and possibly Rome or Milan.Next year's show returns to Amsterdam from March 22-25, 2003–aweek after NSCA, less than two weeks after Frankfurt Musikmesse and 11days prior to NAB. Given the reality of today's economic climate andthe logistics of shipping exhibits over great distances, the situationleaves many exhibitors with tough choices ahead on which shows toattend. But in the meantime, see you in L.A. this October!