by Steve Harvey.
The annual AES Convention provides the single best opportunity for busy working professionals to get up to date with the latest technology advancements and product releases. With a dense schedule of papers sessions, workshops, panel discussions and other events, it can also be a major learning experience.
"It's like this enormous, amazing bazaar," says Howard Bowler, whose Hobo Audio post-production facility, located in Manhattan's formerly notorious Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, is a short walking distance from the site of this year's convention. "AES for me, is the best kind of testing ground and sounding board with a lot of experts, where you can pick their brains."
Brian Rund, a sound designer, composer and mixer who recently joined the creative staff at Manhattan's MindSmack after several years at SoundHound, echoes those sentiments. "I'm always interested in seeing what advances in technology have been made specifically for the audio field [at the AES Convention]," he says. "Most of the time, I walk away feeling as if I've learned about a new piece of gear that I look forward to using within my studio."
Sean Elias-Reyes, who recently launched full-service sound house Hyperbolic Audio along with Julian Rebolledo, points out that the products exhibited at the show are not simply limited to audio equipment. "One of the things we saw one year was the UltraMedia Studio Suite. We needed studio management software, and they were coming out with a new version at the time. That worked really well for us."
For a facility that only recently outfitted its studios, such as Hyperbolic, there's likely to be relatively little on the shopping list. But Elias-Reyes looks forward to seeing anything that can improve efficiency or workflows. "Equipment that does things that we hadn't thought to do digitally, or hadn't thought to add--those are the things that really strike home with us. There's so much you're able to do with software and hardware now that I think more and more, it's about streamlining or thinking outside the box, and how people might better utilize the things that they already have. That sums up what we look for," he says.
A look at the latest developments in any of the facility's current equipment inventory is also on the cards, he says: "We're interested in people creating stuff that works with Snow Leopard. And, of course, we're always interested to see what comes out from the makers of equipment that we use."
Hobo Audio is also already well equipped, but an uptick in music work means that facility engineer Chris Stangroom will be checking out software synths and samplers, especially those that do double-duty: "There are a lot of tools out there that are very helpful on the music and sound design; they can help on both fronts," he notes.
Software is certainly high on the list of must-see items for Rund, too: "I'm really looking forward to see all of the new computer-based plug-ins--virtual instruments, new compressors, EQs and filter-type plugs. I'd also like to see if anyone has made any new hybrid-based instruments or effect units--meaning, hardware-based units that show up as plug-ins and are controlled via the computer but used as an insert. I'm also interested in any new high-end audio interface units."
As Bowler relates, an AES Convention can lead to some major equipment choices. "One of the reasons I became a Genelec convert was that I went and listened to some stuff in surround with Genelec speakers. It blew me away; it was amazing."
The wisdom and knowledge imparted by some of the top audio practitioners in the various panels and other forums are also attractive, he says. "I'm interested in the players that have been around for a long time that have done amazing things. I like to hear their stories. I saw one a couple of years ago by Neumann. Neumann has an amazing history, and they had an amazing panel. One guy was incredible, demoing different mics."
Bowler can also attest to the fact that even professionals who have been in the business for years are still constantly learning: "I went to a technical conference with a guy who was talking about commonly used terms like bit rate, sample rate, compression--things that people know. But to have somebody really break it down so that you understand the nuts and bolts of this stuff is really interesting."