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October 08, 2006

AES San Francisco 2006

AES photos

I attended AES in San Francisco yesterday. There was loads of great gear unfortunately a few too many "me too" products with nothing to differentiate themselves from the originals. I'm not into plug-ins so am only reporting on physical hardware. I'm sure there were lots of great advancements in computer based recording at the show however you can read about them elsewhere.

John Hardy didn't have his new API 500 series module ready in time for the show. The first module will be the Jensen twin servo with 10 segment VU meter, 20db pad, 20 ohm mic switch, phase reverse, and phantom power switch. No XLR on the front panel due to space issues.

Jon at Little Labs had the final incarnation of his LMNOPRE on display. The units are finally within a few weeks of shipping. This unit is in its own territory sound and feature wise. In addition to both transformer and transformerless DI inputs it features an integrated IBT Phase Tool with external access and interesting switchable low pass filter or low freq resonator circuit. This is a great find for anyone who needs both a high quality high gain pre and DI and already has the traditional API or Neve sound covered.

Core Sound was showing a prototype tetrahedral surround mic. In conjuction with the mic they will have a four channel mic pre with A/D that muxes four channels onto a 96khz SPDIF stream. Software will be available that seperates the streams back out to the original signals or decoded surround mix.

Shiny Box was taking some heat from myself and Justin Morse for their new mic pre. Jon Ulrig was being stingy with the details and other than "custom wound transformers" the only details we were able to extract were that it has a JFET buffered DI input and discrete non-modular amp design. But come on, there's got to be a more original face plate design other than the standard "312" faceplate everyone (Brent Averill, A Designs, Shiny Box, Eisen) has based their design on.

And speaking of Justin Morse and Roll Music, they had their RMS755 stereo compressor out with a plexiglass lid. Contruction looks superb but I immediately noticed this is yet another THAT VCA based compressor with VCA sidechain. While I've heard this sounds nothing like a SSL compressor they didn't have any demo tracks on a CD player and headphones attached to give it a listen.

Side note: Folks - if you want to sell gear have it set up for auditioning. None of the smaller boutique booths had good material to audition. The Avedis booth had a mic and pres available so I could audition their EQ but on a loud show floor, while better than nothing, this is far from adequate. A CD player, headphones, and headphone amp are a small cost when compared to booth costs and flying out for a show. This especially applies to folks without a good dealer network that allows a trial period.

API announced the API VPR Alliance. Folks currently participating are A Designs, Avedis Audio, Buzz Audio, Daking Plus, and Speck Electronics. Whether this is merely marketing hype or good way to alert folks who might risk an expensive module in a less than adequate rack remains to be seen.

After supposedly swearing off consoles Rupert Neve announced the 5088 console. I don't have any details and no example modules were at the show. There was a computer generated image on a banner and CAD drawings of the module layout. New Portico modules include the 5082 8x2 mixer, 5014 stero field editor, and 5016 mic pre and DI.

Speck introduced the ASC-V API 500 series compatible EQ. This unit includes all the features of the original ASC minus the gain control. The standout features is the internal power supply for rectifying and regulating power from an external AC adapter for use without a lunchbox or rack. The power supply has enough capacity to power a second unit. Input is electronically balanced and output balancing transformer can be bypassed.

Due to the resurgence of interest in small modular consoles GML is re-releasing the HRT 9100 series modular mixing system. Supplementing the original HRT9115 input module is a new mic pre and HRT9125 three band EQ.

Avedis Audio was showing their E27 three band equalizer and R52 1U dual rackmount shelf. After giving the E27 a listem I'm really dissappointed that it's packaged to look similar to the original API 550. This EQ has so much more to offer including nine frequencies and bypass per band. They had a unit at the booth open for inspection and the design of the circuit is a not a copy of the API units. The gain of each band is continuously variable and I was amazed has how much I could sculpt out with this EQ. Anyone who already has a couple API 550s and seeks variety should give this a listen.

Shadow Hill Industries had their GAMA mic pre and new API 500 series equalizer on display. Neither were hooked up so I didn't get to audition them.

Wunder Audio had a 12 channel bucket from their new Wunderbar console. Each channel strip features four aux sends pre/post switchable, pan with bypass, secondary input with fader flip, and six busses - each pair with a different mix buss topology (Wunder, API, or Neve). The center section has eight returns with pan routable to any of the six busses and level controls for the four aux sends. The build quality looks superb but the lack of flexibility might be an issue for some folks. An inboard patchbay would be a good idea if not a necessity.

Novation was showing their Xiosynth, a 25 key low cost synthesizer with integrated USB MIDI and two channel audio interface. The unit features eight analog modeled voices and can operate standalone on either AA batteries or external power adapter. The internal patches were pretty decent and the XY touch pad was a blast. I was less impressed with the x-gator feature but the arpegiattor was usable and the key action wasn't too bad for a synth in the $300 street price range. Any analogue fiend looking for a USB keyboard controller should definitely give this unit a once over.

Posted by cary at October 8, 2006 03:49 PM