AES New York
New York was the setting for the 83rd Convention of the Audio Engineering Society, where audio manufacturers gathered to show off their new wares. Craig Anderton provides a rundown of the main highlights.
The Audio Engineering Society holds one major yearly convention in the United States, alternating between New York and Los Angeles. Unlike NAMM shows, the public is invited to attend and take in technical seminars as well as manufacturer's exhibits. Craig Anderton brings you the highlights.
The Top Three products of the AES show, at least in terms of people saying "you gotta see this," were Akai's digital 12-track recorder, WaveFrame's Digital Audio Workstation, and Eventide's new Ultra-Harmonizer. The following is a rundown of various products that we thought you'd like to know about.
Professional, not consumer, DAT was the buzzword at AES. Fostex showed a DAT machine with direct digital inputs, parallel/serial interfaces, and SMPTE synchronisation. Suitable for editing, Fostex expects the unit to be available in mid '88... Nakamichi said it would be introducing pro DATs in the first half of '88... Sony showed their PCM-2500 DAT for studio use, and the PCM-2000 for field work.
DAR's Soundstation II definitely wins my award for best packaging design, but under that sexy-looking wedge lies an all-digital production centre with splicing, cross-fading, digital 'reel-rocking' for finding splice points, track-slipping (for control over timing), and cut-and-paste editing. Additional features include 18-bit A/D conversion and a touch screen for selecting options... Fairlight, who helped kick off the idea of the digital audio workstation in the first place, introduced the MFX (Music and Effects) hardware/software upgrade for the Series III. With MFX, the Series III becomes a control console designed specifically for audio post-production sweetening. Expect a 40-voice upgrade and 50 Meg RAM add-on within the next few months... Hybrid Arts' ADAP system continues to be updated; version 1.1 software provides SMPTE triggering from a Cue List page, pitch bend, velocity crossfade and velocity switch, Mono (Mode 4) operation, auto looping, and many other features. The ADAP II Direct-to-Hard Disk system provides 44.1 kHz stereo recording (33.7 minutes worth with a 360 Meg hard disk) and is slated for introduction in early '88... Lexicon's Opus looks more like a traditional mixer than something out of the bridge of the USS Enterprise, but like other DAWs (digital audio workstations), represents a complete production-oriented package (including music editing and copying)... New England Digital celebrated its 10th anniversary by throwing a party at the Palladium (a New York nightclub) complete with a press conference and special concert appearance by Sting, one of the better-known customers. Enhancements for the Synclavier (pronounced sin'-kluh-veer) include new software for automated editing, and optical disk storage/retrieval systems (providing two gigabytes of on-line memory). With hundreds of systems out in the field, recent additional financing, and customers who seem quite pleased with both the product and support, NED is a company on the move... WaveFrame has based its AudioFrame system on IBM's Personal System/2 Model 60 computer (why not let IBM do the drudge work?). WaveFrame hits hard on standardisation - the use of MS-DOS, Microsoft windows, MIDI, SMPTE (LTC or VITC), IBM Token Ring Network, etc. The sound quality of the sampling is excellent, due to fixed-rate sampling techniques; a cymbal transposed down five octaves still sounds absolutely great. WaveFrame has received a lot of hype, but they seem intent on living up to it. At $45,000 for the basic system, this could end up being one of the more cost-effective DAWs.
Akai's DR1200 records up to 17 minutes of 12 tracks of digitised audio (plus a 13th analogue track for sync signals, SMPTE, etc) on to a standard 8mm video cassette. The machine is reasonably compact, uses 16-bit conversion at 44.1 or 48kHz sampling rates, and has a number of "why didn't they think of this before" features (like your choice of eight different crossfade times for punch-in and punch-out). A locator unit can control three Akai decks for 38 channel operation (36 digital plus two analogue tracks). The exact price has not yet been set.
Sennheiser is using an Amiga 1000 computer as the heart of a wireless microphone system monitor that shows up to 54 individual channels of microphones on one CRT. This will definitely make life easier for those involved in shows and theatrical productions... Southworth Music Systems announced a family of digital audio NuBus boards for the Apple Macintosh II computer. Thanks to proprietary data compression techniques, the system can record nearly 27 minutes of music (which can also be divided among multiple tracks) on a Mac II 40 Meg hard disk, using 20-bit PCM recording at 192kHz. Boards will initially be available only to OEMs and developers.
AKG ADR 68K 16-bit digital reverb/digital signal processor/sampler is one of those 'do-all' boxes that speaks MIDI, records 8 seconds of 16-bit audio with a 15kHz bandwidth (expandable to 32 seconds), can process those samples internally, and can be easily triggered via switches or MIDI... Aphex introduced the Type E low-cost aural exciter for stage or personal recording use, as well as the Model 114 interface box for matching -10dB and +4dB systems... ART showed a ⅓rd octave version of their Intelligent Equalizer (IEQ)... Eventide's H3000 Ultra-Harmonizer not only sounds great, but includes intelligent transposing - enter the key and mode, and the H3000 does the rest. There's also a truly exceptional MIDI implementation... Lexicon introduced an expander board for the 480L digital effects system that provides 10 seconds of phase-locked stereo digital recording (or 20 seconds mono) at a 48kHz sampling rate. This lets you record vocals and 'fly' them in, but samples can also be processed within the 480L for even more unusual effects... Publison announced hard disk recording (up to seven minutes, along with tape backup for same) for their Infernal Machine 90 (good product, terrible name), a digital delay/harmony synthesizer. A SMPTE interface is also now available... Roland has become a major player in the digital signal processing game, going from cost-effective little guitar boxes to pro-level studio devices. The E660 digital parametric equaliser offers two channels of four-band parametric EQ along with an LCD that displays frequency curves and numerical values; digital I/O ports that follow the AES/EBU standard (another very hot item at the show) are also included. Roland's R880 digital reverb includes four independent lines, superb fidelity, and the same AES/EBU interface found on the E660. But the device that intrigued me the most was the new DSP2000, which promises to be a very flexible and high-fidelity digital reverb. All of these products were prototypes, but looked like they weren't too far away from completion... Yamaha's DEQ7 is a dual channel digital equaliser with 30 factory presets and 60 user-programmable presets. Features include 16-bit conversion with a 44.1 kHz sampling rate.
Adams-Smith, in addition to showing their Zeta Three MIDI/SMPTE synchroniser, showed the 600 A/V - a voice editing system with audio graphic editing, still frame, and slow motion editing. Edit points can be located with sub-frame accuracy... Fostex introduced a video character inserter and a VITC generator/reader... Opcode's SMPTE-to-MIDI convertor, the Timecode machine, reads and writes all common varieties of SMPTE and is optimised for syncing MIDI devices to tape. Opcode also tantalised us with a glimpse at their Sequencer 3.0 program for the Mac but it won't be ready to ship for a while... TimeLine entered into an agreement with SSL, NED, CMX, Triconcept, and Alpha Audio involving a standard serial communications protocol that allows for sophisticated machine control functions. The adoption of this standard will allow for easier development, less duplication of effort, and greater operator convenience.
© 1987 Electronic Musician magazine ((Contact Details)) and used with the kind permission of the Publishers.