This year's AES Convention was a hit—here's why.

New York, NY (October 26, 2018)—At its heart, audio is all about connection—the transfer and understanding of ideas and information—so it was only fitting that the 145th Audio Engineering Society International Convention’s theme was “Connect.” Audio pros from around the globe descended upon New York City’s Jacob Javits Convention Center throughout October 17-20 to connect with their industry, with manufacturers of the gear they use every day, with new ideas presented at panels and workshops, and most importantly, with their fellow sound professionals.

This year’s show marked the first time that the AES Convention was held in the same place two years running, and likewise, the event was again co-located with the adjacent NAB New York Show. Not everything was the same as 2017, however—among the more than 300 brands presenting on the exhibition floor were 37 new exhibitors, some coming back after considerably hiatuses, like Universal Audio, attending its first AES in a decade. Other new or returning exhibitors included brands such as Dell, Sound Devices, Universal Audio, Apogee, Riedel, Zoom, Meyer Sound, Wisycom, Western Electric, Roland, MAGIX and others. Greeting them were nearly 14,000 registrants, who packed the exhibition hall, checking out the latest and greatest gear being presented.

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Nonetheless, the Society’s remit is audio education, and in that regard, too, the convention was a success, providing an opportunity to discover new ideas and solutions at panels, papers, special events, workshops and more, regardless whether they were about recording, live sound, game sound, archiving or something else entirely. The specialized education tracks ran the gamut, with offerings that might be considered profession-specific, but which still drew audiences from across the industry. A perfect example was “Preserving the Archives of Major Recording Artists,” a panel led by Archiving and Restoration track chair Jessica Thompson, which saw various panelists discuss their work preserving the oeuvres of major artists like Prince and Neil Young in front of a packed house.

Thomas Dolby, live at AES 2018

Thomas Dolby, live at AES.

There were other instances where the industry came together as a whole, such as the annual Heyser Lecture, which was presented this year by co-founder of Meyer Sound, John Meyer. Crowds packed the opening ceremonies, too, to see friends and colleagues receive awards and honors for their contributions to the AES over the years. There, keynote speaker Thomas Dolby drew deeply upon his work as the Homewood Professor of the Arts at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD to discuss a broad cross-section of adaptive/non-linear music and audio technologies and their applications, both current and theoretical for the future. While the talk firmly looked ahead, Dolby closed out with a glance back at the track that made him a household name in the early ’80s as he performed an upbeat rendition of “She Blinded Me with Science” that got hundreds of jaded audio professionals on their feet.

That moment largely matched the vibe of the entire Convention—it was a serious, educational event, but fun was never too far away. A panel by the studio engineer ‘supergroup’ METAlliance saw the likes of Chuck Ainlay and Frank Filipetti cracking jokes as they discussed the organization’s upcoming ‘In Session’ event in January. Legendary engineer Al Schmitt, owner of 20-plus Grammys for his work, held three book signings for his new autobiography/how-to tome, only to run out of books multiple days. Artist turned multi-platinum producer/engineer Prince Charles Alexander held court with a fascinating panel tracing how hip-hop has always embraced cutting-edge recording technologies, and used plenty of block-rocking examples to underscore his point. Re-recording mixer Tom Fleischman talked about the demands and inspirations that led to his best moments working on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire.

All this barely scratches the surface, however. The show’s copious sound reinforcement offerings ranged from multiple events about current-day RF administration, to a panel comprised of the audio team behind the hit Broadway musical, The Band’s Visit. And for those who just wanted to enjoy a deep artistic discussion unencumbered by any actual cognizant thought, there was a candid on-stage and in-character panel with Derek Smalls (“formerly of the band formerly known as Spinal Tap”), talking up his new solo album with witty producer/mixer, CJ Vanston.

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With this year’s convention now behind us, it’s time to look ahead—to next year’s convention, to be held in New York for an unprecedented third year in a row, on October 16-19, 2019. Mark your calendars!

AES • www.aes.org