State of the Industry
Yet another show. Organised by the Audio Engineering Society, this 4-day show displayed the latest advancements in recording technology.
This year's Audio Engineering Society Show took place in London. Crack(ed) H&SR reporters investigate...
Most visitors to last month's AES show had never entered the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre before, and for the many foreign representatives, it provided an attractive setting, opposite Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. However, inside, the four floors were packed with a maze of stands displaying recording equipment from jack plugs to digital mixing consoles, amongst which a rather aimless crowd wandered: musing, admiring, commenting and generally getting lost. This was no home recordist's show. People had come from all over the world to see the very latest, the very best and the very expensive in recording technology.
Both Fairlight and Synclavier put on impressive displays of their respective products, in suitably darkened rooms, emphasising their use with video. Both demonstrations were, to say the least, well attended, with many a covetous eye examining the machines. Fairlight displayed the CVI, the CMI Series 3 and the Voicetracker. The latest Series 3 software, CAPS, was being used and apparently more software developments are taking place at a furious rate.
Neither was the Lexicon stand deserted, as for the first time in Europe, Lexicon revealed their new Opus harddisk-based digital audio production system. This system incorporates recording, editing, time alignment, mixing, panning, overdubbing and processing, amongst other facilities.
Digital tape recorders in their various forms were in evidence from the likes of Mitsubishi and Sony. In fact Sony caused a stir by showing a new R-DAT recorder, even though it seems unlikely to have a certain future until the political wrangling surrounding the whole issue is resolved. Besides this, though, Sony demonstrated many established audio and video products, encompassing CD mastering, digital and analogue recorders (including of course the PCM-3324 digital multitrack recorder), as well as synchronising and editing machines.
Focus of much interest on the AMS stand was the Audiofile. This is a digital recorder and editor which is now interfaceable to other PCM systems. Latest features include punch-in/out capability and remote control.
Digital mixers seemed surprisingly thin on the ground, until you realised that any equipment of large dimensions wouldn't fit in the centre's lifts and was consequently being displayed in the basement. After a trip through what appeared to be the boiler room, you were confronted with a considerably adapted car park (complete with traffic bollards) containing some of the most expensive equipment of the whole show.
For instance Neve were showing their brand new 'standard production' digital (DSP) console. This featured total automation of all the desk parameters. Also new to the UK was the V3 series analogue console fitted with NECAM 96 moving fader automation system.
Keeping company with Neve were Trident, who exhibited (for the first time in Europe) the Di-An digitally-controlled console. Also launched at this AES show was the Series 80C console. This includes a 48-track monitor sections and 24 4-band equalisers for use during mixdown. Standard configuration is 30:24:48.
Calrec exhibited a new digitally-assignable production console that is expandable to up to 128 channels with 12 stereo groups! Channel controls, routing and faders are all assignable and the settings may be stored on floppy disk.
Another sufferer from the 'small lift' syndrome were Solid State Logic, who were present in force with a new studio computer. This has a capacity of 80 floppy disk's worth of information, which can be stored on to 20 Megabyte cartridges.
On a somewhat smaller scale, Soundtracs were exhibiting the FME series console designed for video postproduction uses. This is a modular desk with frame sizes of 22 or 30 modules.
And Soundcraft were launching an automation system for the new TS12 console. In demonstration, these two pieces of equipment were linked up to a Saturn tape machine to give a complete Soundcraft 24-track package.
On an inconspicuously small stand, Fostex had set up their new synchroniser system, now expanded with the addition of the 4010 time-code reader/generator. The reader operates from 1/50 to 100 time play speed, and the generator uses 24, 25 and 30 drop frame rates, and can be synced to external video or sync signals. Although this was the main feature of the Fostex stand, tucked away in a corner was a previously unknown cassette multitracker: the 460. It was the first one in the country and no information about it was available, but we intend to review the beast as soon as possible.
The only other cassette multitrack unit to be found at the show was on the Yamaha stand: the MT2X. (No review models around yet, apparently.) The only other completely new Yamaha product was the SPX90 Mk2. This offers everything that the Mk1 version does, but extends the delay time memory up to two seconds. Nothing spectacular there, but then Yamaha have released so many new products recently that even this much came as a surprise.
Bel displayed their new processors as well. The BDE2600 sampling delay offers up to 26 seconds mono or 13 seconds stereo sampling at 18kHz, 99 memories and storage of samples on floppy disk. Also new was the BC4 noise reduction system.
More new signal processors were shown by Electrospace: a variable soft knee limiter called the Pressor, and a compressor/limiter/expander/gate called the EX1.
TC Electronic had a large stand on which were displayed their ever-increasing range of effects. The newest models on show were the two graphic equaliser/analysers, the TC1128 and TC2228 featured in his month's Fast Forward.
Another interesting equaliser was stationed on the Turnkey stand. This was the Rupert Neve-designed Focusrite equaliser, which comes as a 2-channel rack-mount module or in individual channels made to slot into a rack system.
Naturally, Dolby was there, with their spectral recording system. The XP24SR complete multitrack unit was on show, which holds 24 of their new Cat No. 431 modules (one for each channel). Other products on display were the established Cat No. 280 module, the Model 392 Dolby C replay unit, and Soundlink, a system used for the economical distribution of stereo or multi-channel sound.
From Edge Technology came the UK launch of two products under the Brooke Siren Systems banner: the MSR-604 mic distribution system and the DPR-502 2-channel noise gate. Their sister company Turbosound displayed their TFM-2 floor monitor, featuring their recently developed 'Turboconcentric' loading principle. Other new products included the V-2 high frequency device, and the LS-2403 24" speaker mounted in the TSW-124 subbass enclosure.
B & W continued to feature their Matrix design technology with a completely new monitor, the Matrix 801 Series 2, modelled on the current 801. In addition they displayed the Matrix mini, a miniature speaker system using new drive units, and the Matrix Mini Tower.
Launched at AES this year was the Signature series from Court Acoustics, including the Hiflex range of compact speakers. Also on display were the SN20, SN30 and SN60 studio monitors, and the Programme Processor: a device that combines an equaliser, a limiter and a crossover.
Another new launch came from Urei, with the C series of studio monitors: the 811C, the 813C and the 815C. These three models all feature frequency response characteristics in excess of 17.5kHz, and all use a new 801C coaxial speaker. A digital delay was also in evidence: the Model 7922. This gives up to 327mS delay, uses 16-bit linear conversion and has a dynamic range of over 99dB.
Both amplifiers and monitors were displayed on the Westlake stand. The SPA1 and SPA3 are new signal processing amplifiers, and being shown for the first time in Europe was the TLA100 levelling amplifier, the TPA100 mic pre-amp and the TEQ100 equaliser. Pride of place, however, went to the BBSM15 studio monitor, which arrived in Britain only the day before the show opened. This is a 3-way high power monitor using two 15" active woofers, a 10" mid-range speaker and a 2" tweeter. Power rating is 300W below 350Hz, 150W 350Hz to 1.6kHz and 30W above 1.6kHz.
Featured for the first time in Europe was Meyer Sound's MS-1000 power amp. Rated at 1000W per channel into 4Ω and at 1,200W peak the amp is aimed squarely at the professional market.
There were no shortage of new microphones. Beyer Dynamic were exhibiting eight new models, amongst which were the M580 reporters' mic, the MPC60 unidirectional boundary mic, the MC737 and MC736PV shotgun mics, the MCE80 electret mic and the M700 dynamic vocal mic.
On the well-stocked Shure stand were displayed their entire range of studio microphones and audio accessories. New products included the SM89 shotgun microphone and the FP51 compressor/mixer.
Neither had Sennheiser been idle. New to us were a vocal mic designed for heavy duty live or studio use, the MKE-4032P and the MKE48, a drummer's headset.
The Swedish company Pearl also had a new microphone to display. This was the TL-4: a stereo mic with independent outputs. In addition many more of their mics and mixers were on display.
In general, the show produced few surprises, but did give us a valuable opportunity to view current recording equipment from different manufacturers, compare it, and assess exactly what should be followed up. Strictly speaking, much of the gear on display is far too upmarket to be reviewed in H&SR. How many readers are seriously considering the purchase of a Neve desk? On the other hand, advances in state-of-the-art technology often have repercussions at the budget end of the market, and therefore it's advantageous to be aware of developments in all areas.
And in any case, most people will admit to a certain attraction in reading about top class equipment, even when there is absolutely no chance of ever acquiring it. In the same way, watch pedestrians' heads turn after a passing Ferrari...
Show Report by Neville Unwin
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