By the PAR Editorial Staff
SAN FRANCISCO—Pro Audio Review presented its 12th Annual PAR Excellence Awards to 40 professional audio companies that introduced significant new products at the 125th AES Convention in October 2008.
The winning products were chosen by a panel of audio engineers, professional end-users, and reviewers who annually select the awards for Pro Audio Review. Products are chosen for the PAR Excellence Award based on their potential to enhance the quality of an audio professional's work.
Criteria include innovation in design, performance/value ratio, enhanced features, and performance improvements over previous versions. Products must have been introduced after the previous year's AES show and must be shipping by June 30 of the following year.
12th Annual PAR Excellence Award Winners with Judges' Comments
A.D.A.M. A5 Active Multimedia Monitor
"The A5, the smallest A.D.A.M. monitor ever, offers StereoLink connectivity and that precious ribbon many of us have come to know and love to use."
Audio-Technica BP4025 Stereo Microphone
"I've used an Audio-Technica ATM 825 stereo mic for years and have absolutely loved it. I can't wait to get my hands on the BP4025, which promises to have a higher sound quality and better imaging."
AEA A440 Active Ribbon Series Microphone
"This looks like it may well prove to be the ultimate ribbon mic. The active AEA A440 is the perfect blend between old- and new-school performance. It has plenty of gain, an impressive frequency response and is built to last ."
Arsenal Audio R24 and V14 Four-Band EQ
"The classic APSI EQ is re-birthed by the new Arsenal Audio division of API. I've been fortunate enough to work with these sonic gems for the past several months, and they sound amazing."
Auralex SonicPrint Artistic Acoustical Panels
"With SonicPrint, Auralex proves great acoustics can look great, too...Functional art? In the studio? What a great idea!"
Benchmark MPA1 Microphone Preamplifier
"Benchmark continues to develop the highest quality of precision recording products. The MPA1 should be on the short list of engineers ultimately concerned with pristine, uncolored recorded sound."
Cakewalk SONAR 8 DAW
"The latest incarnation of SONAR 8 promises to offer improved functionality with new tools such as Aim Assist Cursor and Beatscape and a sleeker GUI."
Cascade C77 Ribbon Microphone
"The beautiful—yes, beautiful!—new ribbon from 'low-cost/good quality' pro audio company Cascade is a no-brainer for those looking for the best buy in American hand-built budget microphones."
Daking Mic Pre One Preamplifier
"The Mic Pre One is a single-channel 'brick format' mic preamp in the Trident tradition that Daking has been carrying on so well...an 'A Range'-style preamp is a worthwhile investment, so be sure to check this one out."
Digidesign Pro Tools 8 DAW
"Once again, Digidesign has redefined the DAW. This new version has tons of new tools and features, making it the most powerful workstation to date...Digidesign pushes the envelope forward with powerful functional and aesthetic updates...How do they keep coming up with so many significant improvements? Listening to the users."
DPA 4099 Performance Series Instrument Microphone
"The 4099 provides the classic DPA sound in a super-cardioid polar patterned mic that can handle 152 dB before clipping. It will be available in four configurations (guitar, violin/viola, trumpet, and sax) allowing the sound of these instruments to be accurately without excessive ambient bleed. Each configuration includes the same mic but mounting hardware for the specific instrument."
Endless Analog Clasp Processor
"The CLASP gives you real analog sonics—it's not an emulation because you actually are recording to analog tape—as you track to your DAW. It's all of analog's positives and almost none of the negatives...it's the ultimate analog tape plug-in for your DAW. A hardware interface between your 24-track analog recorder and A/D converters, it incorporates a VST plugin for controlling the recorder to follow your DAW tracking operations. Audio recorded through the record-repro loop of the recorder is returned to the DAW with the correct time stamp so that the 'analog' tracks line up accurately in the project."
Fairlight Pyxis Multitrack Recorder/HD VTR
"Powered by Fairlight's CC-1 Crystal Core technology, the Pyxis-MT records to 96 tracks of sample-locked audio...it can be locked with uncompressed HD video for both capture and playback. It's an incredibly important audio for-video innovation by an industry leader."
FOCAL Professional CMS 50 Powered Monitor
"FOCAL could easily be considered the newest major player in the powered monitor market that offers an undisputedly high-end and varied product line. Those that may have liked FOCAL before but couldn't afford their products will likely find their next close-field monitor in the CMS 50."
Heil Sound Drum Kit Microphone/Mounting System
"Wow! A manufacturer has finally come to the table with an amazingly flexible and robust dynamic microphone and drum mount combo...anyone familiar with how good Heil microphones are on drum kits won't be disappointed in this latest offering from Bob. This mounting system is built the way all drum mic mounts should be."
iZ Technology ADA 24-bit/192 kHz Multichannel Converter
"For years, engineers have been asking for RADAR A/D and D/A converters without the recorder, and iZ has finally responded. This is a modular system that can accommodate up to 24 channels of A/D and D/A conversion with your choice of Classic, Nyquist, or S-Nyquist converters. MADI I/O is standard, with a direct Pro Tools HD interface or ADAT optical I/O optional. Metering, setup, and routing is controlled by a cool touch screen display."
JBL EON 500 Portable PA
"The next-generation EON powered PA series offers more power, improved sound, well conceived I/O for the modern user, and a smaller price tag. I wouldn't have believed it by just looking at a one-sheet or reading specs, but I heard it, and it is all that. The latest EON series is a good choice for anyone who needs a lowcost, high-performance powered speaker enclosure that is super portable."
Josephson C720 Variable Pattern Condenser Microphone
"This latest Series Seven microphone by Josephson offers very nice capsules in one mic with separate outputs. Record now, then choose your pattern later...predictably, this high-end, Americanmade condenser isn't cheap, but it's sure to be worth every dollar in the true professional's mic locker."
LavryBlack MP10 Stereo Mic Preamplifier
"The linchpin of Dan Lavry's designs are sonic transparency, so you can expect the MP10 preamp to deliver crystal-clear aural performance. The MP10 will offer every feature that Lavry fans would desire and is especially good at accommodating low-output ribbon mics—a near-requirement these days in creative professional-level recording environments."
Marshall Genesis Tube Condenser Microphone
"At the top end of the MXL microphone line is the Genesis, a tube mic with the reputation for sounding a whole lot like the U47—a tall order, but that's the word on the street. Best of all, it's priced well under a grand...the world would be a better place if more recordists had their paws on anything that sounded more like a 47."
Manley Backbone Mastering Insert Switcher
"Manley has always offered impeccable tools for the audio mastering market, and the Backbone doesn't disappoint. As with all Manley gear, it's overbuilt, pretty, and accommodates up to eight outboard pieces, great for using all of your favorite analog processors."
Massey Plug-Ins Drum-To-MIDI Converter for Pro Tools|HD
"DTM is this year's hands down 'I-shouldathought-of-that' winner! It's an audio suite plug-in that will analyze drum tracks in Pro Tools, then create a MIDI file of the transients. Where has this been all this time? In Steven Massey's head and our dreams, that's where."
M-Audio ProFire 2626 FireWire Interface
"The ProFire is a super-highway of audio inputs and outputs for one's computer and one of the most sophisticated interfaces I've ever used...its price point allows a new generation of audio professionals access to great converters and preamps, that, only a few years ago, would be cost-prohibitive to most."
Microtech Gefell UM 930 Twin Dual-Element Microphone
"Two very nice capsules in one mic with separate outputs. Record now, choose your pattern later; you could say that it's 'chocolate' to the Josephson C720's 'vanilla,' another 2008 PAR Excellence winner...a Gefell in your mic locker is not only a valuable asset, it's a statement; the UM 930 twin is a great place to start with this legendary company's product offerings."
Mojave Audio M201 FET Microphone
"David Royer's other mic company has emerged as a reasonably priced and highquality source of his 'non-ribbon' transducer creations. With the debut of the M201, Mojave now offers a large-diaphragm FET cardioid devoid of the negatives usually associated with modern FET mics. Judging from other Mojave releases in the last couple of years, the M201 is worth a serious look by those desiring a new large-diaphragm condenser of better-than-good quality."
Neumann TLM 67 Condenser Microphone
"Hello! The TLM 67 is first new condenser mic I've heard that addresses the harshness problems of digital recording...it's audibly more linear, and more neutral, than the U87, with more attention to midrange...it's expensive and very nice."
Oram S200 Live Sound Rack Mixer
"You can always count on John Oram to build hearty, high-quality, and great-sounding gear. The S200 is a small-footprint live mixer that should fit—both figuratively and literally—within small to medium-sized touring acts' gigs. It's also a great consideration for theaters, HOWs, and other fixed-installation applications."
PreSonus StudioLive Digital Console
"StudioLive is a fully featured 16-channel/4-bus digital mixer married to a 22x18 (22 recording inputs, 18 returns) FireWire interface. For tracking and mixing, the StudioLive offers all the features one would expect with a digital console: EQ and dynamics on every channel and output, two built-in effect processors, and snapshot scene control. Its well thought-out routing allows tracking with, or without, the channel DSP, mixing through the mixer, or mixing ITB (in the box) using the mixer as a control surface."
Primacoustic Cumulus Corner Bass Trap
"Another effective tool from one of the top modular acoustics companies...before AES, I had the opportunity to install four Cumulus traps in a heavily treated room. Small in size, they were the final, yet crucial, component in making my environment the tight, controlled, and great-sounding listening environment that it is today."
Renkus-Heinz IC Live Line Array
"IC Live is a sound reinforcement installer's dream come true; it is a system that integrates software, digital amplification, and thoughtful design in a package that can successfully deliver good audio in reverberant spaces such as churches and theaters where common acoustic treatment practices are aesthetically no-no's. Visually, they will blend into nearly any such environment, pleasing ears and eyes alike."
sE Microphones Rupert Neve Active Ribbon Series
"Mr. Rupert Neve has his name on some of the best and most legendary audio products in modern audio recording history. These attractive and sturdy-feeling active ribbon microphones from sE have piqued our interests like few other mic offerings in recent history. What will the mind of Neve bring to microphone technology? We can't wait to hear all about it!"
Solid State Logic Matrix Workstation
"Smart as a Prius, stylish as a Lexus...Matrix will amplify your productions and impress your clients. It looks like a pretty normal console with 100mm motorized faders, but it's also an extensive I/O router, full monitor section for both the control room and studio. In its 'digital clothes,' it's a HUI, MCU, or MIDI DAW control surface with the faders and rotary knobs assigned to DAW functions. "
Sonnox SuprEsser DeEssing Plug-In
"More than de-esser, it's a creative 'de-whateverer'... the SuprEsser is the new standard for deessers and redefines the frequency-specific compressor category. I highly recommend it!"
Soundcraft Si3 Digital Live Sound Console
"A walk through of the Si3 draws the simple conclusion, 'It's a console,' bridging the simplicity and familiarity of an analog console with the power and flexibility of digital...it is conceived as a plug-and-play replacement for a conventional mid format analog console...it's a shoe-in for HOWs and theaters looking to make the analog to digital jump that so many have been putting off over the past few years."
SPL "The Analog Code" Plug-In Series
"SPL has answered the prayers of engineers around the world with the release of 'The Analog Code' Plug-In Series, which includes plug-in versions of the Transient Designer, Full Ranger, Bass Ranger, and Vox Ranger modules from the popular SPL RackPack. All four plug-ins look awesome, but I'm most excited about the Transient Designer, which seems to do an amazing job of emulating the hardware version."
Steinberg CC121 Advanced Integration Controller
"Legions of Cubase users now have their highquality controller. The CC121 offers tactile control of all Cubase parameters in a small footprint. Once again, Steinberg has well addressed the needs of desktop audio professionals."
Summit Audio ECS-410 Everest Processor
"This is the most impressive channel strip that I've ever come across. It includes a tube/solid-state preamp, passive EQ, dual mode dynamics processor, and a drive circuit. These four killer components that can be accessed independently or in virtually any combination."
Teaboy Audio Digital Recall Sheets
"A computerized version of the classic 'pencil marks on a scrap of paper' or 'Polaroid photo of the console or processor,' Teaboy comes preloaded with a large library of both new and vintage signal processors and console channel strips. It's an online service, which allows pros to grab info no matter where they find themselves in the world of audio."
Three-Zigma Studio Kit Microphone Collection
"New company, Three-Zigma Audio, offers a bargain in its Studio Kit, featuring two 'Capsule Hybrid Integrator' head amps and a variety of 'lollypop' or 'lipstick' capsules."
WAVES Dorrough Meter Plug-Ins
"Who couldn't use a Dorrough meter? WAVES has recognized this, and now, in-the-box audio pros get the familiar look of this industry standard meter right on the ol' computer screen. It's a simple concept with simply great rewards for WAVES customers."