The Obligatory “Best of AES 2009” List: Read, Weep, Repeat

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WEST SIDE, MANHATTAN: So the exhibitor list was smaller. Ask not what AES did for you – ask what YOU brought to AES. Still, the other thing to ask about the show every year: Is there something new and cool that I can blow my hard-earned money on? Always always ALWAYS!!!!!!

Here’s what got us feeling perky at AES 2009, held right here in NYC.

Charter Oak – We heart Charter Oak Acoustics. Their designs are inspiring. Michael Deming exudes passion and integrity. We were into the PEQ-1 active equalizer, which is super-intuitive and extremely clean. Listening to big band via the SCL-1 Discrete Compressor was believing: totally transparent yet really, really musical.

Dangerous BAX EQ

Dangerous BAX EQ

Dangerous Music BAX EQ – When at AES, do not pass Go. Do not collect $200 (these are Monopoly references, BTW, for all you whippersnappers out there). Just go straight to the Dangerous booth and drool. Of course we loved their new BAX EQ.

Dangerous explains that it’s inspired by the classic P.J. Baxandall shelving curves, and believe it or not represents their first honest-to-gosh signal processor. It has a lot of good stuff, including stepped controls, broad Q shelving and much more. We wanted one. We lusted for one. We considered committing unnatural acts just to listen to pink noise through it. But maybe that would be too much effort for too little reward, ya know?

Endless Analog CLASP – Holy CLASP! What the heck is that? It’s the Closed Loop Analog Signal Processor (CLASP) from Endless Analog. Invented down in Nashville by Chris Estes, CLASP seamlessly integrates tape machines with Pro Tools. It’s that simple, y’all. Yes, it really works. Yes, Pro Tools and tape are now one.

We’re actually afraid this could have unintended consequences, like when the guys in Ghostbusters cross streams on their laser gun thingies, but it may be worth it if we can finally get that real analog sound down on our hard drives.

Flux Syrah – Many fine things come from France: Caviar, kangaroos, vodka, BMW’s, and Movado watches. Oh wait, you’re right, NONE of those things come from France. Sorry! But Flux plug-ins really do come from France! They’re programmed by French people! On French computers!!! And, oui, you’re darn tootin’ I’ll be downloading a demo of Syrah. It’s a dynamics processor that uses real time dynamic detection and level dependent processing, but the kicker is a morphing slider that allows you to blend presets. That sounds — how do you say — SHWEET?

Guzauski-Swist Monitors – What good is all this wonderful stuff if you don’t have some amazing monitors to listen to all of it on? The Guzauski-Swist Monitors are all about two pros with super sharp ears taking a stand. These are not your average 3-way active tracking/mixing studio monitors. We checked these out at Quad Studios, and our ears got happy. The speakers feature an acoustical decoupling design, which is used between a separate woofer enclosure and a separate midrange/tweeter enclosure. With this design, any mechanical vibration that may combine with the midrange and tweeter drivers’ signals is attenuated. The sound was so clean, musical and accurate, it made listening a truly compelling experience. Look to these guys to make a big impact this year.

JZ Microphones – Hailing from Latvia, JZ Microphones was running an impressive demo down at East Side Sound on Sunday night. Suspended majestically above the snare was the BT-201, a small diaphragm condenser mic with a variety of different changeable capsules, offering an optional choice of patterns. A full array of JZ mics covered the rest of the drums and an acoustic guitar in LES’ live room, and sounded pretty remarkable along the way. Give the lads from Latvia some LUV!

Sonnox – If you’re dogged constantly by buzzes, clicks and noise, then stop listening to that silly glitch music!!! OK, the other thing you can do is check out the new Sonnox Restore Suite. Managing Director Rod Densham, who gets all modest and embarrassed when I tell him he’s an incredible genius – which he is — and his team spent 18 months making this collection of restoration plug-ins that includes Oxford DeBuzzer, Oxford DeClicker and Oxford DeNoiser. It’s cost-effective in the face of some of the other choices out there, and ideal for audio post, forensics, plus anyone else who just wants their audio to be really really really really clean. – David Weiss

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