The AES Conference was in Los Angeles at the end of last week, and there was new gear everywhere. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much that you’d call “revolutionary” (which is the norm at gear shows these days), but there were a few things that caught my eyes and ears that I thought I’d share.
This was a pretty upbeat show in general that was fairly well attended. There was a feeling of optimism in the air and people were spending money, even on large hardware purchases like recording consoles. That said, a number of hardware manufactures didn’t show. Universal Audio, Trans Audio Group (importers for the likes of Drawmer and ATC), Audient, and and other hardware manufacturers, and a host of software companies that you normally see at NAMM didn’t exhibit.
If there was a theme to the show, it was immersive audio, and there were exhibits and demos everywhere, although this was helped by the fact that the Audio For Virtual Reality sub-conference was also held at the same time upstairs. All in all, it’s an exciting time for this side of the business, although in many ways its still the wild west, with new tools and techniques being made up as we go along. Sort of reminds me of the early days of surround sound around about 2001 or so.
As usual, the gear that caught my eye might not be what was most popularized at the show. Something jumps out if it’s unusual in any way or I can see an immediate use in my workflow, which might not be anything like yours. With that in mind, let’s get started.
Little Labs Monitor – High quality headphone amplifiers are big this year, and other manufacturers have jumped in the game, but I saw these little boxes everywhere at the show. What makes Monitor unique is the ability to swap input channels, listen to one side only, go to mono or invert the phase at the flip of a switch. It’s expensive at $540, but it sure does sound good.
Hafler-Dynaco ST-70x – For those of you who go way back in the business, you’ll appreciate the fact that Radial Engineering, who purchased both the Hafler and Dynaco brands, is reintroducing a new version of the the famed Dynaco ST-70. This was and still is a revered tube amplifier in many hi-fi circles, and it’s back once again. No idea of the price though.
PrimAcoustic TriPad, HeadRest and CrashGuard – Speaking of Radial, the company seems to come up with something new and useful every month. Here we find three new products from its Primacoustic division that you’ll find you’ll be able to use every day in the studio. The TriPad is a mic stand isolator, HeadRest is a mic stand headphone holder, and CrashGuard is a drum mic shield to protect your precious snare drum mic from getting wacked.
Manley Nu Mu – Manley showed a new compressor called the Nu Mu (along with ELOP+) which takes the tube vari-mu backbone and marries it with solid state electronics. It’s around $2,500.
UTA Un-Fairchild – Speaking of vari-mu, UTA’s new UnFairchild is basically a reproduction of the hard-to-find Fairchild 670 but with a lot of extra parameter control that goes way beyond a typical 670. How much? Less than $10k.
Electronaut M97 – Speaking of the 670, Electronaut showed its M77 which is like a 670 on steroids (complete with NOS tubes if you want) that incorporates a Dorrough peak meter instead of VUs. Looks pretty cool at $7,777.
JBL LSR705i – I’ve never heard a small speaker with a 5 woofer sound as big as the LSR705i. The low end that comes out of these little boxes defies the laws of physics somehow and the demo that I heard by Peter Chaikin and Frank Filipetti was truly outstanding. AT $687 each, they seem like a bargain until you realize that they’re passive and require an amp and DSP processor as well. That said, they’re truly impressive..
Ocean Way RM1 ribbon mic – Ocean Way Audio showed off their monitors, which always sound great, but also introduced the new RM1 ribbon mic, which incorporates a newly designed pop shield so you don’t have to worry about popping the ribbon when working with a vocalist. $2,250.
Sennheiser Ambeo surround mic – If you want to record immersively, B-format is the way to do it, and Sennheiser showed it’s new Ambeo mic that’s very much like a Soundfield, but a lot cheaper at $1,650.
VisiSonics 5/64 – Speaking of immersive recording, the VisiSonics 5/64 features 5 cameras and 64 microphones. What’s amazing is that it outputs 64 48/24 PCM channels over a USB connection, along with the video. A lot of money at $64k though.
RackFX – One of the most interesting things I saw at the show was a service by RackFX. In a nutshell, if you want to have your tracks processed through some analog gear that you don’t own, the service will find a studio with the gear, download your file and play it through the device, then send you the processed file back. It even has a set of robot knob twirlers that allow you to dial in the settings yourself if you want. It’s pretty out-of-the-box thinking, but we need more of that in this industry.
That’s it for hardware, tomorrow I’ll get into some of the software from the AES show.