121st AES Convention SF

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006 | 9:09 am and filed in Friends, AES, Gear.

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The 121st Convention of the Audio Engineering Society met at the Moscone Center in San Francisco last week, and I managed to make it in to check out a few of the lectures and see all of the goodies. I love gear, and have way more than i need, so normally, i’m not overwhelmed with gear lust these days. However, there were some things at the show that raised my blood pressure. I met up with GW at the show. This is the first I’ve seen him since he’s finished writing his book, Creating Music and Sound for Games. Published by Thompson Course PTR.

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GW introduced me to his tech editor, Orren Merton, author of many books on Logic/Logic Pro. Unfortunately, they sold out of them before I could get him to autograph it :-/. There were a couple of new Reason titles which looked really cool. Two different books in a series focused on certain sections of the application. Reason Sequencing by Steve Nalepa, and Reason’s Virtual Instruments by Matt Piper.

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I met up with my friends (and fellow Reasoners) Carson who was on the prowl for Shiny Box ribbon mics, and Deborah who wanted to corner some MOTU person about DP. Unfortunately MOTU was absent at this show. Deborah and I have been working on a project for several weeks; more news of this coming next week.

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This is the first time i’ve had a chance to see the cool little Creamw@re Hardware emulations of some classic synthesizers. These just look really cool with the knobs, switches, and wood paneling. Somewhat like the originals, but digital :-)

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Over at the M-Audio room, I ran into Chachi Jones, doing a demo of Ableton Live 6. He was showing some very cool video sequencing features including strategies for setting warp markers on your quicktime video tracks. Also demonstrated was the Combinator-like macro tools in Live 6. The Cross fade modulation feature is fantastic.

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Cruising down the boutique audio row, I came across the booth of Digital Audio Denmark. They had a presentation on a little screen saying, “Hear a Demo of 352.8 kHz Sample Rate”. So i thought, I’ll bite, even though there’s no way i’m going to be able to really distinguish super high def audio in the noise of a convention hall. They had a laptop connected to their AX24 multichannel AD/DA converter box and played two recordings of the same piano piece. The first was at 44.1 which sounded great. The recording was of a piano in a hall recorded with a couple of DPA omnis. Then they played the DXD audio 352.8… I was literally blown away by the depth and clarity of the sound - yes even through headphones with the background din of a convention hall. The stereo imaging was so clear that you could hear individual hammer noises move in the stereo field, whereas the 44.1 recording sounded like a piano was just somewhere in the stereo field. It’s not often one gets a sneak peak into the future of technology, but this is definitely where things are headed. It’s digital audio that will finally reveal the glory of analog.

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Fairlight had some cool futuristic looking workstation consoles on display, but the thing that caught my eye was a Commemorative Display honoring the 30th Anniversary of the CMI. It was just the keyboard section with a plaque that named the inventors and developers, and each key of the keyboard was signed by the many famous users. Old people, like me, and fans of 80s music will recognize the names of artists who extensively used fairlights on their hits like, Thomas Dolby, Lori Anderson, Herbie Hancock, Peter Gabriel, Roland Orzabal, etc.

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Another highlight of the show was at the AMS Neve booth which had Rupert Neve’s New Console, complete with vintage knobs and meters. Not really - this was actually one of Mr. Neve’s first consoles loaded with glorious valves and transformers.

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Ok, this is really the new Rupert Neve Designs Console. They only had this rendering and blueprints available to drool over, but this marked an interesting trend at AES… Analog Consoles are making a comeback!

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My gear lust really kicked in when I was given the demo of the Rupert Neve Designs Portico Modules. One module is the 5042 “True Tape” Emulation and Line Driver. It has a couple of tape heads inside the unit with record and playback amplification stages to simulate tape saturation. How can one resist super tweaky technology like this? The other module is the 5014 Stereo Field Editor, a stereo shuffler circuit that allows you alter control spread and depth of a signal.

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Even though I have no idea how the Shadow Hills units sound, they definitely have an eye catching aesthetic with mammoth meters and knobs.

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There were a lot of little API lunchbox modules floating around. A-Designs, Avedis, Speck, all featured some new little tools to fill your box. Not to mention, of course, API :-)

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Although these are nothing new, the Sound Devices Field Recorders caught my eye. Field recording at it’s finest for that growing found sound library!

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Wunder Audio featured their new analog Wunderbar Console. This console is like a work of art with a spare no expense design. It’s fully transformer balanced Class-A discrete design and costs a mere $3000, per channel.

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