Endless Ear and Eye Candy At AES 2010: Tech Highlights + Party Down

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Well phew! We’re back from one slammin’ AES Convention — and still reeling from all the awesome audio technologies and technologists we encountered on the show floor and after-hours.

SambaDá playing the awesomest AES party at Great American Music Hall

If we do say so ourselves, one of the most memorable AES parties we’ve ever attended was the one we actually co-sponsored, put on by some top-flight audio brands including Burl, PMI Audio Group, KuSh Audio, Audio Power Tools, Empirical Labs, Mojave, Audio Agent, Wave Distribution, Elysia and Cutting Edge.

The bash, held at the legendary Great American Music Hall, was all about mind-blowing music and dance featuring the totally thrilling afro-samba-funk band SambaDá who paraded around the venue Brazilian Carnival-style and then played an amazing set on stage. Not your typical AES party, and just one more reminder that it’s the people and the events that make AES such a soulful experience year in and year out.

The days were packed with demos and conversation and the show floor was happening, as exhibitors across the Moscone expressed sincere satisfaction at the amount of foot traffic. Pro Tools 9 was the big splash — they even had Butch Vig doing a demo at the booth one day — but a real abundance of hardware interfaces, controllers, consoles, microphones, outboard gear, loudspeakers and software pulled us in every direction. Discoveries abounded down every aisle, so without further ado we share with you…

The SonicScoop Buzz Worthy List

Pro Tools 9 – The mother of all debuts from the 129th AES Convention. Available on November 12th for $599, Pro Tools 9 replaces LE in the product line and is available for the first time as software-only.

Focal Monitors – the Focal SM9 Monitoring System turned heads and ears at AES listening events. It houses two independent monitoring systems within the same speaker cabinet.

The first configuration is a 3-way monitor equipped with a 1″ pure Beryllium inverted dome tweeter, a 6.5″ midrange driver, 8″ bass driver and an 11″ passive radiator. Flip a switch, and the same cabinet includes a 2-way monitor utilizing the same inverted dome tweeter and a 6.5″ midbass driver. The point of the latter is to more effectively allow mixers to check their work on a bass-challenged system for iPod, computer, TV, etc… consumer playback systems. Estimated street price upon their early 2011 release is $3595.

Universal Audio Becomes RTAS Plug-In Developer – Pro Tools users can look forward to a muuuuuch better workflow with their UAD-2 cards. UA announced that they are now an Avid RTAS developer. By combining the new Pro Tools|HD Native PCIe card and UAD-2 DSP Accelerator PCIe cards, Pro Tools|HD Native users can now run Pro Tools HD on the power of the host CPU and a library of classic analog emulation plug-ins developed by UA in partnership with Neve, Manley, Roland, Empirical Labs, Fairchild, Pultec, Teletronix, dbx, Studer, Lexicon and more.

We got a demo of the SSL Nucleus

SSL – The UK-based console maker showed it has plenty of new tricks up its sleeve at this show. At times, the new 48-input version of their AWS board, the AWS 948, was completely mobbed as attendees got their heads/hands around the versatile new board. There was also plenty of attention paid to the spankin’ new Nucleus controller, which provides a great deal of advanced DAW control options, SSL analog mic pres, Duende plug-ins and other goodies into its relatively compact footprint. Available December 2010 for $4999.

TASCAM – We got our first look at the DR-08 portable recorder. This affordable 96/24 unit is incredibly light and should be a strong asset to anyone with field recording in their job description.

Mix Sensei – One of the serious class acts of the industry, GRAMMY-winning LA producer/mixer Dave Isaac’s Mix Sensei has rolled out his series of tutorial videos including “Mixing Marcus Miller”, “Enter the Dynamics” and “Return of the Dynamics”. The new “Master Audio Concepts” downloadable lessons were scheduled to debut online during the show.

iZotope – The new Nectar vocal suite was the latest development. Highly customizable, Nectar offers dozens of vocal production styles powered by eleven processing modules.

Shadow Hills – Among the many hot products at the always-packed Vintage King booth, the upcoming Oculus monitoring system from Shadow Hills was drawing plenty of interest. For those who can keep up with the mystical genius of Shadow Hills founder Peter Reardon, it’s clear that this will be an extremely versatile monitoring tool when it hits the market in the next few months.

Shadow Hills' Peter Reardon (right) wowing us with the Oculus at the Vintage King booth. Vintage King's Jeff Ehrenberg at left.

Neumann – Another eye-raiser was the introduction of the KH120, a small-format studio monitor from none other than Neumann. Designed to work primarily as near-fields or as the rears in a multi-channel system, the new Neumann’s were a must-see reference monitor throughout AES. For those surprised by this brand extension, the company pointed out that over its 80-year history their name has also stood for mastering lathes to consoles and digital mics – it will be interesting to see how the industry responds to Neumann’s new addition.

Sonnox – this group of smart guys from the UK had no new product at the show, but are confident that their soon-to-come plug-in – still under wraps — will be a game-changer of some sort. For now, they will say only that the product is something “unique” and will be an enabler. Based on Sonnox’ track record so far, we can safely say that we believe them.

SoundToys – between Mitch’s pink hair and the preview of Juice, the upcoming analog input channel modeler, traffic was healthy at the SoundToys booth. Also, they announced the pending release of Artist Series preset expanders from Tchad Blake, Peter Wade and Morgan Page.

Audient – We got our first hands-on experience with the Audient ASP2802 eight-channel console, introduced earlier this year by the UK manufacturer and also on display at the Vintage King booth. It combines classic analog features with advanced DAW integration and control, putting a great deal of functionality and sound quality into a relatively compact package.

Burl's Rich Williams with the B80 Mothership

Burl Audio – The B80 Mothership from Burl was a true presence at AES, a multi-channel version of their B2 Bomber ADC and DAC. This motha offers up 80-channel capability, with a vast amount of AD/DA configuration options available within its card-based, 4U chassis.

BeesNeez Microphones – buzzzzzzzzz was appropriately everywhere for Australian mic manufacturer Bees Neez. The eye-catching craftsmanship and brass construction of their product line made their booth a steady center of attention throughout AES.

Cloud Microphones – The RCA-inspired microphones from Arizona-based Cloud were notable for the company’s fascinating story, beautiful look and luxurious powers of sound reproduction. The company also earns kudos for its attention to environmentally-friendly practices throughout their manufacturing and distribution processes.

Lavry Engineering Lavry Engineering provided the first hands-on look at their LavryBlack AD11 A/D converter, which also includes a mic pre with phantom power. This cost-effective unit is ideal for portable recording as well as standard studio setups.

Two Notes Audio Engineering – people from far and yon came to the booth of Montreal-based Two Notes to check out their Torpedo VM-202 dual processor guitar/bass cabinet simulator. Designed with an exclusive tube stage simulator, the 1RU unit allows users to play two cab + microphone simulations simultaneously, and reproduce a multi microphone miking process. We found the solution to be highly intuitive in our showfloor experiments.

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