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Sunday, October 12, 2014

AES Show New Gear Wrap Up - Part 1

The 137th AES Convention just wrapped up in Los Angeles, where the entire music creation community came together to teach and learn new techniques, show off some new gear, and just share the love. The show appeared to be small, taking up only one of the halls in the massive LA Convention Center, but the size was deceiving as there was so much going on.

Most of the manufacturers I spoke with were very pleased to be in LA, since there's much more of a music business here now than in San Francisco and even New York, the two cities that the show usually alternates between. The last time the show was here was 12 years ago, but from the response, I bet we see it more frequently in the future.

Before we begin Part 1 of the new gear overview, a couple of quick observations:
1) There were fewer smaller software and accessory companies exhibiting than at NAMM.
2) 500 series mania seems to have plateaued.

Now let's get down to business, beginning with loudspeakers.

Les Paul Speakers
Gibson Les Paul speakers
Gibson was showing their Les Paul line of loudspeakers, complete with a nice flamed maple top front. I asked if these were simply rebranded KRK's (a company that Gibson now owns) and was told in no uncertain terms that wasn't the case. There were 3 speakers in the line - a two way 8" ($999 each), 6" ($799 each) and 4" ($599 each). They seemed to sound OK from what I could tell on the floor, but there was no information available other than the spiel by the booth guy. I guess my big question here is "Why?"

JBL Series 7 Speakers
JBL Series 7 Speakers
JBL showed its new Series 7 at a private showing at the Clive Davis Theater in the Grammy Museum. The Series 7 was made specifically for multichannel, from 5.1 all the way up Atmos, and were designed for a big sound from a small box. All I can say was, "Wow!" I don't think I've ever heard as much low end from a 5" woofer.

The speakers come with mounting brackets for theaters, and are designed to sound the same off-axis, which I can attest to. I walked around the room and the sound was surprisingly close.

The system sounds great but isn't cheap. A 5.1 system (the smallest they'll sell at the moment) comes with a BSS processor and an 8 channel amplifier and runs around $10k, but the system is just being introduced so prices and exact models and specs are fluid.

Genelec 8531 speaker
Genelec 8531 speaker
Another speaker of interest is the Genelec 8531, a totally new design that breaks many of the rules of what we expect in a speaker. First of all, it's designed around the waveguide front baffle built around a dual concentric mid and tweeter, which means that it couldn't use a traditional woofer. Genelec engineers came up with a new design that provides dual ellipsoidal woofers instead of the traditional round one. The result is a bandwidth that goes down to 32Hz from a relatively small box. Very cool.

Like I said in the opening, there wasn't a lot of software at the show. Sure, big players like Waves, Slate, and iZotope were there, but not many of the smaller software companies for the most part. There was a few exceptions though.

Sound Radix Drum Leveler
Sound Radix Drum Leveler
Sound Radix, the company noted for it's Surfer dynamic EQ plugin, introduced something called Drum Leveler, which has dynamic beat detection that allows you to change the level of individual drums within a loop. In other words, if you have a loop where you think the snare is too low, Drum Leveler will allow you to increase the volume. It also has dynamic upward and downward compression and expansion so you could even out an inconsistent drummer easier than with just a compressor. The price is only $149 when it's released next month.

Audionamix ADX Trax
Audionamix ADX Trax

Sort of along those same lines is Audionamix and their ADX Trax, which provides audio source separation for DJs, remixers and audio post production. With ADX Trax you can easily isolate a vocal from a finished stereo track and either raise or lower the volume or eliminate it completely. Lots of other companies have tried this in the past, but this really works. And it's only $299, or you can subscribe for a mere $20 a month.

UAD-2 Satellite Thunderbolt
UAD-2 Satellite Thunderbolt
Finally, Universal Audio introduced the Thunderbolt version of its very successful UAD-2 Satellite. The big difference is the newly updated versions are either in quad or octo formats, providing twice the processing power as before. The prices range from $999 to $6k, depending upon the software package.

That's it for today. Lots more tomorrow as we look at new mics (lots and lots of new mics) and even the return of recording consoles. Also, I'll cover all this and more in this week's Inner Circle podcast.

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