The 135th Audio Engineering Society Convention blew through New York City in October, bringing with it a cornucopia of new pro audio gear, education, panels, workshops, celebrity sightings and more. Excitement can be contagious, and it certainly was October 17-20 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, where the aisles were packed. The AES reports that registration hit a five-year-high with 18,453 registrants—a 16 percent increase in registration since the last New York convention two years ago, and a massive 71 percent increase over 2012’s San Francisco event.

There’s any number of factors that helped power that turn-around; undoubtedly, a recovering economy makes a big difference, plus an exhibition floor full of cool gear and high-profile product debuts, but those aren’t the only reasons, according to AES executive director Bob Moses: “We blew away the previous New York show’s numbers and I’m confident this is the product of two things—an amazing program and great promotion.”

Many pros were there to check out the exhibits, but many were also drawn by a myriad of educational and training opportunities available via the many papers, workshops, seminars and special events held onsite. Some highlights included the Project Studio Expo and new Systems Sound Symposium; the Platinum Producers panel, chatting with the hitmakers behind Eric Clapton, Justin Timberlake, Lana Del Ray and others; the Grammy Soundtable, with an all-star panel honoring the late Phil Ramone; and an interview with the engineer behind Thriller in “Bruce Swedien: I Have No Secrets.”

That just scratched the surface, however; those in need of career advice could stop in at SPARS Speed Counseling or Career and Business Development Mentoring with the Manhattan Producers Alliance. Attendees who wanted to go behind the scenes at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center or Late Night with Jimmy Fallon could make those dreams come true via the convention’s Tech Tours. More than 300 events were held at this year’s Convention—the most ever— so there was plenty to take in.

Even Sunday—the last, and therefore traditionally the slowest day of the Convention—had some amazing programming to see. The ins and outs of audio for reality TV were explored when Brian McCarty, Bob Bronow and Josh Earl discussed “Sound for Deadliest Catch—Reality is Hard Work.” Meanwhile, next door, Dave Natale, the FOH engineer for The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Lenny Kravitz, Tina Turner, Mötley Crüe and countless others, gave an on-stage interview where he divulged how he gets his trademark classic rock sound. Also, there was the Platinum Mastering panel, and Jay-Z’s engineer, Young Guru, drew a packed house, particularly among students and younger engineers.

On the exhibition floor were considerably more exhibitors than were on-hand at last year’s edition in San Francisco (though essentially flat from NYC in 2011), according to Christopher Plunkett, deputy director, convention management for the AES: “It’s pretty exciting this year, as we have some companies exhibiting that weren’t with us for a while. For instance, Yamaha has returned, and Sony Professional is now here in its own booth. Avid came in with all its partners for a really exciting display, and SSL has the biggest display its had with us in probably 10 years. So it’s encouraging—we’re finding companies are returning and others are doubling-down and investing in their presence here, which is great to see. They recognize that AES provides a great venue to reach the professionals of the industry.”

One of the biggest draws was the New York debut of the Project Studio Expo—an educational stage right on the exhibit floor that all attendees could check out for free. Presenting 12 different programs over the course of two days, attendees found experts presenting in-depth, hour-long training sessions on need-to-know topics like mic placement, mixing mastering, acoustics, metering and more. More than 1,000 people sat in to hear presenters like Craig Anderton, Bill Gibson, Mike Metlay, Andrea Pejrolo, Gino Robair, Hugh Robjohns, Mike Senior, Paul White and others. Additionally, Anderton also hosted a Question-and-Answer session on Friday with five-time Grammy Award winner and record producer, songwriter, musician and entrepreneur Jimmy Jam. The Project Studio Expo was sponsored by Cerwin-Vega, Focusrite/Novation, Gibson Brands, KRK Systems, Onkyo, SAE Institute, Sennheiser, Stanton and TASCAM.

Moses noted, “The Project Studio Expo is our answer to a recording business that has migrated from the classic big studios of the past to the spare bedrooms and garages of the present. Audio professionals need training on a huge range of skills to run their business today, and AES is here to provide that training.” The last day of the convention saw the stage taken over by the SCN Systems Sound Symposium, with industry leaders providing insights and advice for AV integrators and consultants at four different events.

The training, education and mentoring available pointed to the fact that while the AES Convention is all about professionals connecting, seeing the latest gear and sharing ideas, it also provides an entry point for the next generation of audio pros. “We’ve really tried to make sure the students are here; they aren’t being kept away from everything going on,” said AES Education Committee Chairman John Krivit. “It’s wonderful to see these kids and how their vision changes by coming here—it broadens their view of the industry, their place in it and the possibilities they can explore; it goes far beyond meeting people on the show floor. Any student who doesn’t come here is already so far behind the ones who are here.”

If students and AES executives were excited, exhibitors were equally pleased with the Convention’s rebound. “This AES in NY was the best AES convention in many years,” stated Eric Mayer, president, DPA Inc. “This year the show floor traffic seemed up, our booth attendees were more ‘qualified’ and spirits seemed high. I’m not sure what changes were made, but whatever they were, they were needed and they worked.”

That kind of buoyant enthusiasm was in plentiful supply. Piers Plaskitt, CEO of Solid State Logic, remarked, “We went into the 2013 AES with high expectations, a new console for the live market, a cool summing box for our music professionals and a MADI/Dante bridge for our broadcast customers. We staffed up accordingly, and I’m very pleased to say that we had an extraordinarily busy show that exceeded our projections on every level. We are looking forward to 2014 and the convention’s return to Los Angeles.”

Indeed—and so is the Audio Engineering Society. After years of holding its west coast conventions in San Francisco, next Fall will see the 137th event return to L.A. for the first time since 2002, ready to make the most of the extensive facilities that have built up around downtown L.A. since then. If it sounds like you missed out on something great this year, then it’s time to mark next year’s Convention— due to hit the Los Angeles Convention Center, October 9-12— on your calendar

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