AES Show

Just in case you were wondering why I haven’t been posting daily tidbits . . .  well, I’m here for the show. The space seems smaller than in previous years, however the show floor was rally bustling, with first and second day crowds seeming as big as the usual Saturday mob. I think the concurrent NAB show brought a lot of folks over – I saw a lot of NAB badges at the AES booths.

Anyway, I just dropped this note to let you know that it’s happening, that they days seem longer every year, I’m not getting any younger, and I just don’t have the energy when I get back from dinner around 9:30 to sit down and write a daily summary like I used to. Just be patient, a report will come along next week.

And if you’re here and you see my name on a badge, stop and say hi.

Posted in Trade Show Reports

AES 2018 – Advance Registration Extended to October 15

If you’ve been putting off registering for the upcoming AES show, you can still register for a free Exhibits Plus badge until October 15. Click HERE  to register. If it isn’t pre-entered, use the VIP promo code AES18NOW for the discount that makes it free.

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New York AES and NAB Shows Coming Soon – October 17-20, 2018 (updated 9/15)

The annual US Audio Engineering Society convention and New York NAB show is coming to the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York. As was the case last year, the two shows are held concurrently. Though each has its own registration for the technical programs, a badge from either show will get you into the exhibits for the other show. I expect most of my readers here will be interested in AES, but if you attend, plan some time to kick tires around the NAB show exhibits. They have some interesting stuff there as well.

Registration for both shows is open now, with early discounts in effect. AES is again offering free Exhibits Plus registration which includes the exhibits (October 17-19) and technical presentations conducted on the exhibit floor. This year, there will be four show floor Expo sessions – Project Studio, Live Sound, Broadway Sound, and Broadcast Sound. These are all-day programs with expert instructors covering a wide range of subjects.

Something new this year that’s part of the technical program (meaning you have to pay for it) is the Audio Builders Workshop, coordinated by the AES Boston section that presented it locally and are now taking it on the road. In the early days, recording studios built a lot of their own gear, but with the availability of so much commercially made and reasonably priced gear, this has become a bit of a lost art. But like so many things in this field, old is becoming new again, and there’s an active DIY movement. On Saturday, October 20, the Builders Track will present “Build Your Own Recording Equipment,” offering insight into the tools, skills and budget needed to create one’s first piece of gear. “Design and Build Your Own Gear” will take you through the steps to design a circuit, put it in a box, and power it up, with Bob Katz walking through his DIY project, the “tube blender.” Today most of us know Bob as a mastering engineer, but 25 years ago, he was designing problem-solving products and he’s still at it. “The State of the Art of Do It Yourself Audio,” led by Audio Builders Workshop founder Owen Curtin will examine the exploding DIY market and introduce you to some quality pieces that are now in reach for those willing to wield a soldering iron. This track isn’t limited to hardware and analog circuitry either – there will be a “Code It Yourself: DIY-DSP” session for those interested in taking advantage of digital tools to perform audio tasks.

Click here to register for the AES convention. If it isn’t already filled in, use the promo code AES18NOW for free registration if you register before September 20 (which might get extended – it usually does) or $50 off the regular Exhibits Plus rate of $75. If you’re interested in the Builders program but don’t want to spring for an All Access pass, one-day all-access passes are available at a lower cost. AES members, including student members, get a discount, so you might consider joining, which will also get you a discount for the upcoming AES@NAMM program in January.

For more information on the New York NAB show, click Here.  Your free AES Exhibits Plus gets you into the NAB Core Package which includes both the NAB exhibits and presentations on the show floor.

Posted in Info, Trade Show Reports

NAMM Winter 2018 Show Report Posted

Later than usual, here’s this year’s Winter NAMM show report. More details than in the daily tidbits, pictures, links, snarky remarks. The usual disclaimer – I write about what I personally find interesting. There was a lot more at the show than I’ve reported here.

Find it in the Trade Show Reports section or download it (PDF) directly here.

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NAMM 2018 Tidbits – Day 3

Well, either they got the security setup under control or my strategy of getting there at a bit after 10 AM (doors open at 9:30) worked and the line to enter the building was only about a minute long, plus I didn’t see the long waiting lines at the doors during the day that I saw on the first day. That’s a good thing. I’m enjoying the new North addition to the Anaheim Convention Center – it’s nearly all audio products and the only times where there’s too much noise pollution is when there’s a band playing at a booth – much better when you wanted to listen to a compressor and there were three drummers 20 feet away.

Looptrotter is a new company name to me. They were showing a line of signal processors all of which feature “analog character” and distortion of various forms, saturation being their featured tool. They have a monsterous looking compressor appropriately named Monster, as well as an an assortment of 1- and 2-rack space and 500-series modules most of which have “satur….” in their names. I get the drift. But what I found particularly interesting was that they make a fully modular console that takes two 500-series modules in each channel strip, plus some other 500-size spaces, kind of like a more expandable version of the API Box. There must be a saturator in there somewhere.

Retro Instruments showed a new 2-channel compressor, the Revolver, based on the EMI-modified Altec 436 used during the period when The Beatles were making records at Abby Road. Revolver … Revolution – get it?

Waves Distribution always brings a wide range of small audio companies to the show (they’ve been the hone of the Distressor since its inception) and new this show was a pair of preamps from Useful Arts Audio. They showed what’s essentially the same tube amplifier circuitry in two different configurations, in the studio as a two-channel mic preamp and on stage as a direct box. The direct box offers a 20 megohm input impedance and has a simple high and low band equalizer. The studio preamp adds a “Color” control in the output section which appears to adjust the drive to a triode stage which isn’t there for the gain (it adds about 10 dB when cranked up fully), but rather, specifically to add 2nd harmonic distortion. It’s remarkably effective, and brings to mind the early Aphex Aural Exciter which creates 2nd (and higher even order harmonics) and, in its day, was used on nearly every pop music record that reached the charts.

Audio Fusion showed what appears to be a well thought out multi-channel personal monitoring system that uses a mobile device running their app on the listener end and an interface. You have to start with something to bring multi-channel audio into the computer – this can be an audio interface in the studio or a digital console with direct outputs from the channels. The computer sends a multi-channel stream to the connected mobile devices using a WiFi router. Each user can set up his own monitor mix, and the engineer (if there is one) can take over from the computer if they get in trouble. Expected computer features like naming channels and storing mixes, as well as locking things that you don’t want the talent fooling with are incorporated in several clean looking graphic screens. While there are several digital consoles on the market today that incorporate individual personal monitoring, what Audio Fusion offers is the opportunity to bring this capability to other setups.

Bose must be one of the most bashed companies in pro audio circles, but they’re coming around. What caught my eye at their booth, though, wasn’t a speaker system, but rather an educational package called BOSEbuild. Their first product in this line is, as expected, a speaker, but it comes as a bunch of individual components starting with a magnet and a voice coil, and with the help of an iPad, the user is guided through the principles of electromagnetism, how we hear, frequencies and amplitude, resonances and such, assembling components which, when finished, make a fully functional Bluetooth loudspeaker.  It can be self-guided, parent-guided, or they have a classroom kit with a teaching curriculum. If you have a kid in the 8 to maybe 14 year old range who has an interest in music and science, this would make a good gift.

Lastly, Zoom has a couple of new small recorders. Their simplest H1 handleld recorder has been updated to the H1n. It’s menu-free with clearly and sensibly labeled buttons of the front panel. It records 24-bit resolution up to 96 kHz sample rate to a micro SD memory card. The F1 is pretty much the same guts in a different package, one in a belt-clip configuration and supplied with with a lavalier mic, the other in a camera mountable configuration and equipped with a a shock mount and their SGH-6 shotgun mic which can be interchanged with other mics for their H5 and H6 recorders. Also new from Zoom is the Livetrak L-12, a 12-channel mixer that can record up to 12 discrete channels plus a stereo mix. It’s like a grown-up TASCAM Portastudio with effects and 5 sub-mixes for individual headphone mixes.

Off to the races for a catch-up day.


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NAMM 2018 Tidbits – Day 2

Lines to get in the building are longer than ever – where are all these people coming from? It was a good day for chatting but not much new information gathered. But it’s a NAMM show.

The Focusrite Scarlett range is pretty good, but I’ve been pestering them for a couple of years to bring out a 4-input USB audio interface with their higher grade mic preamps like what they’re using in the Thunderbolt-only Claretts, and finally at this show they introduced the Clarett USB line of three interfaces with 2, 4, and 8 mic/line inputs with two switchable for instrument DI. All have ADAT optical input for an additional 8 channels outboard, and there’s an assorted number of outputs. The smaller two are desktop boxes, the large one is a single-space rack mount unit. They weren’t connected to anything (they’re still pushing the Focusrite PRO brand) so I couldn’t see any lights, but the two desktop units didn’t appear to have any metering, not even a clip light or an LED band around the input gain knobs. I’ll try harder before the show is over to find someone who knows for sure.

Maybe patchbays are really coming back, at least to those who can afford this necessary luxury. Flock Audio was showing what’s called a routing switcher in the video and telecommunications business – they call it a digitally controlled patchbay. All of the actual signal flow is through hardware relays, but the input-to-output routing is digitally controlled over USB by a computer application. There are 8 DB-25 TASCAM-wired connectors on the rear panel for 32 inputs and 32 outputs, plus two XLR-1/4″ combo connectors on the front panel to accommodate a couple of visitors. The box also has a 48v phantom power supply so it can be used for microphones as well as line level signals.

Universal Audio was showing their new Arrow desktop audio interface, a scaled down version of their Apollo series with 2 mic/line/instrument inputs, stereo line and headphone outputs, and a UAD 2 DSP engine for running Universal’s plug-ins and Unison mic preamp and amplifier modeling technology. With the same guts (converters and analog circuitry) as their flagship line, this looks like a good upgrade for someone who doesn’t need a lot of inputs but can take advantage of top quality audio.  Also new from UA this show is the OX, which they describe as a complete amplifier recording system. There’s a lot of details that I don’t quite have sorted out yet, but it works in conjunction with your amplifier so you don’t lose what you have. It simulates a speaker load to the amplifier so you don’t need to wake up the neighborhood to get the tone you want (there’s a warning label telling you that it gets hot), but also provides a wide range of modeling that’s heavy on speakers and cabinets. They seem particularly proud of their modeling of speaker breakup.

It’s nice to see that recording consoles are still around. Sound Techniques had a 16 foot (measurement not guaranteed) all new re-creation of Trident Studios’ original Sound Techniques console from which the more famous A range was derived. This is one of two that they’ve built so far. Maybe someone else will want one. It looks really classic, even to the inclusion of one bank of the original curved faders (think theater light dimmers) that they built from scratch. Lovely work and I’m sure it sounds as grand as it looks.

Time to go off to the TSA-level entry security scanning to see if I can get into the building for another day of looking for neat stuff. Trust me – airports handle it much better, but then they aren’t dealing with 100,000+ people all trying to catch a 10:00 AM flight.

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2018 NAMM Show Tidbits – Day 1

As has been my custom for a good many years, I started my show tour in Hall E. Traditionally, this has been where they put new exhibitors (both new to the show and new to the business). It’s where you see some really cool stuff as well as really wacky ideas. Some return next year, and after a few years in purgatory (well, it IS in the lower floor) move upstairs. Some find their home in Hall E and stay there years after year rather than move where their regular visitors would have to find them. Others are never seen again. It was a little different this year. With the new exhibit halls, a number of audio companies moved over there, making room for some of the Hall E regulars upstairs, and there was more unoccupied booth space there than in the past. Probably a third of the exhibitors were large Asian companies showing small mixers, power amplifiers, speakers, music accessories (stands, picks, cables, jewelry) and of course microphones. There was nothing particularly interesting to me there, but it’s a clear indication that their products have matured and they’re waiting for someone else to innovate. The brands are the ones  you see (new) in pawn shops and mom-and-pop local music stores.

The most innovative and interesting product I saw on my first day at the show came from France, the HyVibe guitar. The showed a dreadnaught size flat top acoustic guitar with effects! There’s a piezoelectric pickup under the bridge, a circuit board mounted inside the body, a control panel on the side, and a group of transducers attached to the underside of the sound board. Reverb, delay, and chorus effects are applied to the signal from the piezo pickup, then fed to the transducers which, by golly, make it sound like a guitar played through an effect processor. But wait! There’s more! It contains a Bluetooth receiver so you can send it a backing track from a mobile device and it plays out of the guitar. You’d think it would sound horrid -I did until I heard it. The trick is that they calibrate the system (which includes the guitar top) and create a DSP equalizer and phase correction so that it’s actually pretty decent. At present, you have to get it with your guitar, but they expect to eventually release a version that can be installed on your favorite guitar.

Another clever electric guitar gadget is the VSquared Tremolo. It’s a replacement piece for a vibrato tailpiece that they showed on their custom version of a Telecaster. It incorporates a magnetic rotation sensor attached to the inboard end of the whammy bar shaft. There’s also a replacement for the guitar’s volume control that incorporates a push-pull switch. Pull out the volume knob and pivoting the whammy bar controls the volume. It’s an alternative to the often practiced “finger swell” technique.

Cable Porter is a new and clever clip for coiling and storing cables. If you use the over-and-under technique for coiling your cables to avoid twisting, you’ve probably unwound the cable the wrong way more than once, ending with a string of knots. The Cable Porter helps to avoid this by guiding each wind of the coil into a slot so that when you uncoil it from the Porter, the cable pays out in an organized manner. It sounds more complicated than it is, but you might find that it makes your setups go smoother if you don’t have to un-do knotty cables.

I left Hall E for a press conference in the new section and, given the distance and hassles involved, spent the afternoon over there.

We have two (so far) new old microphones coming. Sennheiser is re-introducing the Neumann U67, built from original parts and to the original design and manufacturing specifications. I point out that most of us working in recording today have never heard a new U67, and the sound that we associate with it is the sound of one with 40 or more years of use. Will a brand new one deliver the U67 sound to which those lucky enough to have or have access to one have been accustomed? That remains to be seen.

The Sony C37 is one of Joe Chiccarelli’s favorite mics. He went looking for someone to build them again (Sony won’t, for sure) and ended up working with Brent Casey of PMI Audio, the chief cook and bottle washer behind the Studio Projects mics. It will be coming out under the Tonelux brand.

Cranborne Audio showed an expanded 500-series 8-space rack that incorporates an 8-channel mixer below the modules with the sensible layout of knobs directly below their associated module. There are a couple of configurations of the mixer connectivity that I’ll follow up with in my full report.

Software developer Sonnox has a reputation for unique processing plug-ins that are fairly complex and pricey. They’re introducing a new line they call Toolbox, which is a lower cost collection of simple tools. Their first one is the Doubler designed primarily for vocals. It has two modules, Thicken and Width, with simple controls that don’t require a lot of fiddling around to get a usable sound.

Signal Flow is an Android and iOS app for managing stage hookups. It allows you to create a stage diagram and make cable lists (lead vocal plugs into channel 1, etc) including sub-snakes. It involves cloud storage which might turn you off, but if you’re not paranoid about it, I think it could be useful. The advantage of “the cloud” is that it’s easy to share. If you’re the engineer in a club, you can have the band send you a stage plot with their requirements and you can use that to plan ahead for the gig. I’m looking forward to seeing if I can get some use out of it when folk festival season comes around this summer. The basic version is free – you get 16 channels and two “shares,” and you can add more routing and more users for a pretty reasonable monthly fee.

Well, it’s time for Day 2

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