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137th AES Convention: Show preview

As the Audio Engineering Society Convention returns to the LA Convention Center for the first time in 12 years, we find out what’s hot in SoCal

Kicking things off on Friday morning will be a keynote address by Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the Recording Academy – the organisation behind the Grammy Awards – and its Producers and Engineers (P&E) Wing, which comprises over 5,500 producers, engineers, remixers, manufacturers and other studio professionals. Taking place from 12–1pm in Special Events Room 403, Portnow’s presentation will discuss “how the Academy and its P&E Wing, via education and dialogue, address the challenges and opportunities currently facing recording professionals,” as well as “targeted advocacy initiatives the Academy is developing to address some of these concerns”.

A major focus for the AES this year is game audio, and the convention will feature a comprehensive set of game audio programmes and events focussing on audio trends and issues in the gaming industry.

Steve Martz, chairman of the AES’s ‘Game Audio Track’, says he has assembled “a compelling and highly inclusive series of panels, sessions and presentations that address the many dimensions of this complex sector of professional audio”. A special highlight will be ‘Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, The Devil is in the Details’, a panel that will closely examine how the audio team behind the Blizzard Entertainment title Diablo III: Reaper of Souls created the entire audio soundscape for the game.

Marty O’Donnell (pictured right), a director and composer best known for his work on games by developer Bungie, like Myth, Oni and Halo, has also been chosen to give this year’s Heyser Memorial Lecture, entitled ‘The Ear Doesn’t Blink: Creating Culture with Adaptive Audio’.

Also taking centre stage is networked audio, with a series of workshops, tutorials and sessions spotlighting the latest developments in audio networking technology, standards and practices.

The ‘Networked Audio Track’ will feature presentations and professional opportunities dealing with “the latest developments and technologies in networked audio, as well as applications for system integration, broadcast, live sound, recording, contractors and more”.

Chaired by Tim Shuttleworth, engineering manager at Renkus-Heinz, the ‘Track’ explores “the ever-broadening applications of digital audio on local and wider area networks”, with sessions including ‘Using AES67 Networking: Practical issues in AES67 Deployment’; ‘Software Tools for Telematic Performances’; ‘Large Scale AVB Networks/AVDECC Control’; ‘Implementation of a Large Scale Ethernet AVB Audio Network at ESPN’; and ‘Using Audio Content Over IP Technology in Public Radio’.

AES137 will also play host to a telematic performance linking Los Angeles; Montreal, Canada; and Stanford University in California in a showcase featuring live, interconnected performances by musicians across time zones and in different geographical locations.

Finally, Raw Tracks, new for this year, will see top producers and engineers discuss and deconstruct influential, classic recordings from some of music’s most highly regarded artists. The four sessions are Raw Tracks: Fleetwood Mac, presented by Ken Caillat and focussing on “a classic song” from Rumours; Raw Tracks: David Bowie, a “track-by-track masterclass featuring a classic David Bowie recording,” presented by Ken Scott; Raw Tracks: Pet Sounds, presented by Mark Linett; and Raw Tracks: Red Hot Chili Peppers, featuring Andrew Scheps deconstructing the song Pink as a Floyd.

Crane Song is introducing two new products at AES 137. The Avocet II discrete class A monitor controller (pictured right), the latest iteration of one of Crane Song’s best-selling hardware products, features an entirely new DAC and offers significantly improved jitter performance. The INSIGNA valve equaliser, featuring three bands of EQ and selectively variable high- and low-pass filters, is the third 500 Series module from Crane Song.

“The new AKM part for the DAC chip offers unsurpassed imaging,” says company founder Dave Hill, commenting on the Avocet II, which is shipping now. “I’m doing something a little bit different – using a unique combination of analogue and digital reconstruction filters – so the transient response is also exceptional.”

The INSIGNA three-band valve EQ (scheduled to begin shipping at the end of this year) joins Crane’s two other 500 Series modules, the FALCON valve compressor and the SYREN valve preamplifier. Both the INSIGNIA’s high- and low-pass filters feature 24dB-per-octave slopes, and either may be selected to seven separate frequencies, from 6kHz–20kHz and 25Hz–150Hz, respectively.

On Wednesday, 8 October, just prior to the start of the convention, DPA Microphones, Lectrosonics and Sound Devices will host the Sound Summit LA. Taking place from 3–9pm, with short technology presentations from the manufacturers at four and seven o’clock and breakout sessions presented by location sound practitioners will at five and eight, Sound Summit LA will also feature Fernando Delgado and his team from Stickman Sound demonstrating their audio solutions for a variety of TV shows, including The Ultimate Fighter and Top Chef, and ToneMesa’s Daniel McCoy discussing his equipment and techniques on programmes like Shark Tank, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Tosh.0.

Fairlight will launch its second-generation CC-2 technology at the 137th AES Convention.

CC-2, described by the company as “the most powerful post-production audio engine ever created,” incorporates 1000 playback channels, over 100 output buses and 100 live inputs. It is entirely compatible with the audio hardware currently operating with Fairlight’s established CC-1 engine. (The optional MADI expansion card is pictured right.)

Tino Fibaek, chief technical officer at Fairlight, says: “Futureproofing our technology has always been at the heart of our business philosophy. With the launch of CC-2, we have ensured that existing Fairlight customers can easily upgrade without having to replace their current audio interfaces or control surfaces. This means they can extend the life of their original hardware investment whilst benefiting from the increased capacity that CC-2 brings.”

The CC-2 engine features a processor chip that is five times more powerful than the chip in CC-1. It also has four times the PCIe bandwidth, a new dual-channel memory architecture, an onboard expansion slot and almost twice the MADI connectivity.

Nugen Audio is celebrating its 10th year in business by introducing MasterCheck, which the company describes as the “first modern loudness tool for the music industry”, and a significant update for its Visualizer audio analysis tool.

MasterCheck (pictured right) is the first music industry-specific audio plug-in designed to facilitate mix and mastering for the modern loudness-normalised playout. “iTunes, Spotify and DAB radio all now use loudness normalisation, and MasterCheck reveals how the consumer will hear audio on these music platforms, and others, by using internationally recognised loudness, dynamics and true-peak standards,” says a statement from the company.

Designed for every aspect of music production, including recording, mixing, mastering, compilation, archive and restoration, MasterCheck can also be used for producing podcasts at optimal loudness levels for dialogue clarity.

Version 2 of Visualizer is the latest incarnation of Nugen Audio’s audio analysis suite for music professionals. Responding to customer feedback, Nugen has updated Visualizer to feature numerous user interface enhancements, including a fully resizable interface; a multiview feature that enables engineers to compare multiple sources with a single plug-in; and a difference view showing the difference between two input signals. Visualizer is available in a version supporting Avid Pro Tools HDX or as a standalone application version.

The AES and the OCA Alliance have announced they will be working together towards the ratification of the latter’s proposed Open Control Architecture as an AES public standard at AES 137. The alliance will also be exhibiting on the exhibition floor, “explaining and demonstrating the benefits of the OCA standards-based control and monitoring architecture” with a live demonstration of control and monitoring across networked audio devices from different manufacturers.