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Trick or Treating for Gear - A Report from the 2004 AES Convention

November 11, 2004
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Elvis at the Euphonix booth

SAN FRANCISCO—The last day of the four-day, 117th-annual AES Convention took place on Halloween, but other than the dead Elvis in front of the Euphonix booth, there was nothing scary about this year''s show. In fact, many manufacturers said that this AES—which took place at San Francisco''s Moscone Center—was a solid one from a business standpoint.

For the personal studio recordist, there was plenty of cool new stuff to get excited about, from software to monitors to microphones. EM editors covered all aspects of the show, and the following are the products that most impressed us.

SOFTWARE AND SOUNDS

Arturia announced the ARP2600 V (price TBA), a software version (Mac OS X and Windows) of the classic ARP 2600 synth. ARP2600 V can be opened as either a standalone application or a plug-in, and it precisely recreates the controls of the original synth. It also adds MIDI control, among other features, and is compatible with all major plug-in formats.

BIAS SoundSoap 2

BIAS was demonstrating its impressive new noise-reduction software, SoundSoap 2 ($99), which runs on both Mac OS X and Windows XP. The software is designed with an easy-to-use interface and can handle such problems as hum, hiss, click and crackle, and more. SoundSoap 2 is compatible with VST, Direct X, Audio Units, and RTAS/AudioSuite hosts.

Cycling ‘74 announced that it will release a Windows version of its popular Pluggo ($199) plug-in suite at the end of 2004. Pluggo features a huge selection of effects including filters, delays, modulation, and more. It also features 23 different soft instruments including synthesizers, drum machines, and bass synths.

Digidesign unveiled Pro Tools 6.7, the latest incarnation of its industry-standard music production software. The new version will include enhanced MIDI support, Beat Detective LE—an LE version of the Beat Detective feature that previously had been available only on TDM versions—an undo history feature and plenty of other improvements. The upgrade is free for Pro Tools/HD and HD Accel owners (running Pro Tools 6.4 or higher), and for LE owners who purchased their hardware after September 25, 2004 (if they request the upgrade before November 25, 2004).

E-Mu announced Proteus X ($149), a new desktop sample-playback module for Windows that runs on E-Mu''s 0404 digital audio card (included) and offers 24-bit/192 kHz audio. Proteus X runs as a standalone application or as a plug-in, and includes 2 GB of sounds including the entire Proteus 2000 soundset, pianos, drum loops, and much more. Proteus X supports a wide range of other sound formats including GigaSampler, WAV, Akai, ESX24, and others.

Eventide H3000 Factory

Eventide unveiled its H3000 Factory ($395) a TDM plug-in version of its H3000 processor. The H3000 Factory lets the user chain up to 18 effects together, such as delays, filters, and pitch shifters. MIDI control and side-chain inputs are among its other features.


BFD 8-Bit Kit

FXpansion showed off 8-Bit Kit ($200), its latest add-on pack for the BFD soft-drum module (Mac/Win). The pack includes a range of unusual and offbeat drum and percussion sounds including a Rogers marching snare, saucepan lids, mismatched hi-hats, and a 10-inch punchbowl. Also included are a selection of sampled, vintage drum machines.


i3 revealed that it will be releasing DSP Quattro 2.0 ($149), a new version of its Mac 2-track editing software in November. Version 2.0 will include a new batch processor, enhanced support of single-channel editing, new ReWire support, a faster graphic engine, increased processing speed on Altivec processors, and numerous other improvements.

IK Multimedia Sonik Synth 2

IK Multimedia announced that Sonik Synth 2 ($399) will start shipping this November. The soft-instrument plug-in, which will run on Mac OS X and Windows, comes with a 9 GB sample library and includes a wide range of sample- and synth-based sounds including vintage synthesizers, drums, pianos, guitars, and more.

Immersive Media Research displayed a suite of soon-to-be released software applications that facilitate multi-channel (surround-sound) mixing. Immersive Encoder ($139.95) is a surround-sound file application that allows you to combine and encode individual files into one multi-channel master file. Vortex Surround Mixer ($249.95) is a surround mixing application that supports ReWire (and can be integrated with ReWire apps like Ableton Live and Propellerhead Reason), and has a full feature set that includes algorithmic mixing, spatial looping, VST plug-in support, and real-time control through a variety of USB and MIDI controllers. Immersive Designer ($349.95) is DSP software that allows users to “spatialize” mono or stereo audio files for multi-channel output.

Minimoog Voyager Editor-Librarian

Moog debuted its Minimoog Voyager Editor-Librarian ($79), which will run on both the Mac and Windows platforms. The program displays all of the Minimoog Voyager''s parameters, and allows users to save single presets or entire banks, and organize them as they wish.


Acid Pro 5

Sony Digital Pictures Media Software announced the release of Acid Pro 5 ($499.95) for Windows. New features include Groove Mapping and Groove Cloning, which allow users to morph existing loops into new ones; Media Manager technology, designed to help organize and tag loop libraries; 1000 new loops; increased capabilities for applying VST plug-ins; and a metronome. Owners of previous versions of Acid Pro can upgrade for $149.95; owners of Acid Music Studio (any version) can upgrade for $299.95.

Soundtoys was publicizing its new plug-in, EchoBoy TDM ($495), a Pro Tools echo effect that works in TDM and RTAS/Audio Suite formats, and runs in Pro Tools HD, HD Accel, and LE. Features include single, dual, ping-pong, and rhythm modes; dynamics control; EQ; and the ability to sync to MIDI tempo.

Spectrasonics announced the release of Stylus RMX ($249), a new groove-based virtual instrument that will run on Mac OS X as a VST, AU, or RTAS plug-in; and on Windows XP or 2000 as a VST plug-in. Stylus RMX is a deep instrument that includes features like Spectrasonics''s Groove Control and Advanced Groove engine technology, a 7.4 GB library, thousands of grooves and kit modules, real-time jamming, and single hits for the various instruments. Expansion libraries are available, and Stylus RMX can read existing Groove Control files and REX files.

Steinberg revealed that Nuendo 3 ($1,999.99) will be available in December. Its new features include Audio Warp, for time-stretching and pitch-shifting; a 10-minute pre-record function to ensure recording of all takes; enhanced file import and export; expanded mixing and surround features; Warp to Picture for matching audio to picture, and much more.

Submersible Music announced the upcoming release of DrumCore 1.5 ($249), the new version of its innovative audio and MIDI drum-track production software. The big news in 1.5 is that it will introduce Windows support to the program. DrumCore owners who register before January 1, 2005 will receive the 1.5 upgrade free, and a free disk of additional Matt Sorum grooves entitled Matt Pack I.

Universal Audio debuted Plate 140 Reverb ($149), a new plug-in for its UAD-1 platform. Scheduled for release in the fourth quarter of 2004, Plate 140 Reverb is designed to emulate the plates at the Plant Studios in Sausalito, California. It features three separate plate emulations, low- and high-shelving EQ, pre-delay control, reverb-time control, and more.

Waves introduced the L3 Peak Limiter ($1200 TDM/$600 native), a multi-band, auto-summing processor that''s the latest incarnation in Waves'' “L” series of limiters. The L3 features Waves'' Peak Limiter Mixer technology designed to maximize headroom use and control the amount of attenuation for the various bands. The L3 comes in two versions: the Ultramaximizer and the Multimaximizer (both are included with purchase), and is designed to emulate the characteristics of classic limiters. The L3 will be available for free to certain Waves bundle owners. Check with the company for details.

CoreSound PDAudio and Mic 2496

RECORDERS AND PROCESSORS

CoreSound displayed its PDAudio system, a hardware and software solution that allows users to turn a Pocket PC into a hard disk recorder that can record at up to 24-bit/192 kHz resolution. The PD-Audio-CF ($199) is a Compact Flash S/PDIF interface that features both coaxial and optical inputs. PDAudio Recorder is Linux software that works in conjunction with the card and the Pocket PC. At the CoreSound site you can download third-party software for Pocket PCs running Windows CE, PocketPC 2002, and PocketPC 2003. In order to use the system with a mic (or mics) you''ll need a mic pre; CoreSound offers its Mic 2496 ($499), or you can use a third-party preamp.

Drawmer introduced the DSL424 ($1,365), which offers both a two-channel compressor and a two-channel gate in a 1U enclosure. The compressors feature hard- or soft-knee operation. The gates utilize Drawmer''s Program Adaptive Circuitry for optimizing attack time and ratio, and can be set to hard or soft settings. I/O is on balanced XLR jacks.

Edirol R-4

Edirol was showing two new portable recorders. The R-1 ($550) is a battery-operated, portable 2-track unit that records WAV or MP3 files to CompactFlash cards. It features 24-bit/44.1 kHz recording and playback, a USB port for transferring files to a computer, analog and S/PDIF digital outs, and internal effects. The R-4 (price TBA) is a professional, portable 4-track hard-disk-based recorder that offers simultaneous 4-track recording, built-in mics, built-in speakers, internal effects, USB and CompactFlash ports, a 40 GB internal hard disk, phantom power, digital I/O, and lots more.

Hear Technologies showed its Talk Back 600MV ($399) monitor control and talkback system. The 1U unit allows the user to talk back to studio talent and switch between two sets of monitors using one of the optional, 1 or 2-button wireless or wired remote controls. (Remote prices range from $39.95–$69.95.) Monitor dimming is also supported.

Joe Meek twinQ

Joemeek displayed the twinQ ($999), a dual mic preamp/compressor/EQ that''s scheduled to begin shipping in late November. The 2U unit offers features such as AES/EBU, S/PDIF, and optical digital I/O; wordclock input; XLR and 1/4-inch analog I/O; optical compression; 3-band EQ; and 48V phantom power.

Lexicon announced that it''s dropping the price of its Omega Studio USB-based recording system to $449.95. The company is also offering ASIO drivers for the Omega, which will now come bundled with Cubase LE software (Mac/Win).

Manifold Labs announced that Plugzilla, its standalone VST-plug-in processor, will now ship with eight channels of audio I/O as a standard configuration. In addition, the list price has been reduced to $2,995 and Plugzilla will now include Princeton Digital''s 2016 Stereo Room reverb plug-in among its bundled effects.

Muse Research debuted v. 1.01 software for Receptor ($1,595), its portable VST plug-in player. The new software (which is a free upgrade for Receptor owners) adds support for plug-ins such as discoDSP''s Discovery and Vertigo; FXpansion''s DR005, DR008, and BFD; Applied Acoustics'' Tassman; GMEDIA Music''s impOSCar; and Native Instruments Pro 53. Muse has added two new plug-ins to v. 1.01—including Final Track by WaveArts—to go along with the more than 100 already built-in. The software upgrade also adds faster reboot time, USB 2.0 drive support, and a Spectrasonics installer that will enable Atmosphere, Stylus, and Trilogy run on Receptor.

PreSonus BlueTube DP

PreSonus announced several new products at AES including BlueTube DP ($229), a 2-channel mic pre that offers switchable tube and solid-state signal paths. The new preamp offers improved specs over the company''s BlueTube preamp, which it replaces. For instance, the new model has a –6 dB better signal-to-noise ratio and higher input headroom. The BlueTube DP features XLR and 1/4-inch I/O, pad and rolloff switches, and 48V phantom power.

TC Electronic was showing its new PowerCore Compact ($995), an external version of its PowerCore card. Featuring a FireWire port, the unit can be easily connected to laptop or desktop computers. PowerCore Compact ships with 12 plug-ins including the 24/7•C compressor, ClassicVerb, Filtroid, and MasterX3 Virtual Finalizer.

Bag End E Trap

SPEAKERS AND MONITORING

Bag End previewed its soon-to-be-released E-Trap ($995), a tunable electronic bass trap that the company says will make a “vast improvement in small-room listening environments” by controlling resonant bass frequencies. According to Bag End, E-Trap''s advantages include a small footprint and—unlike a conventional bass trap—the ability to be retuned for use in different rooms. The company expects to ship the product in early 2005.

TC Electronic , the U.S. distributor for Dynaudio Acoustics announced that Dynaudio''s BM5A ($1250/pair) active monitors are now shipping. The 2-way active monitors feature a 6.7-inch woofer, a 1-inch soft-dome tweeter, and offer a frequency response of 50 Hz–21 kHz.

Quested , a company known for its high-quality studio monitors, launched its lower-priced S-Range of active speakers with the S6 ($695 each) and the S7 ($995 each). Both are 2-way, magnetically shielded monitors that feature high-power output. The S6 sports a 5-inch woofer, while the S7''s is 6.5 inches. A Quested spokesperson stated that more models in the S-Series will be forthcoming.

Studio Panel debuted a new bass trap called SpringTrap ($512), a self-standing, stackable unit that''s designed to control frequencies from 40 Hz–100 Hz. The triangularly shaped Spring Trap is stuffed with mineral wool and wrapped in flame-retardant fabric. It''s expected to ship in early 2005.

Tapco was showing its new SW·10 Active Studio Subwoofer ($419), which is designed to work with Tapco''s S·5 and S·8 active monitors. The SW·10, which is expected to ship early in 2005, puts out 120W of continuous power and offers XLR and RCA jacks for its inputs and stereo highpass outputs.

AEA R92 prototype

MICROPHONES

AEA was showing a new ribbon mic, the R92 ($900). Although the company only had a prototype at the show, it expects to ship it in January, and touts it as being similar to the R84 but with an airier sound, due to a boost in the 5-9 kHz range.

AKG CL 542 BL

AKG was displaying its new C 542 BL ($320), an affordable, lightweight boundary mic with a switchable bass filter. Designed to record pianos, drums, and other instrument sources, the mic offers high-sensitivity and low self-noise, and comes with a an XLR connector with an integrated bass-cut filter. AKG expects it to begin shipping in early December.

Audio Technica AT2020

Audio-Technica was also showing a new mic, the AT2020 ($169), a side-address cardioid condenser designed for those on a budget. The mic offers a 20 Hz–20 kHz frequency response and can handle a maximum input sound level of 144 dB.

Blue Microphones previewed the Kickball (price TBA), a follow-up to its spherical Ball mic. Although different in color than the Ball, and designed specifically for kick-drum miking and other low-frequency applications, the Kickball will share with its sibling the unusual distinction of being a phantom-powered dynamic mic.

Blue Kickball prototype

Brauner debuted the Phantom-C ($1795), a solid-state, fixed-cardioid, large-diaphragm condenser designed primarily for vocals and voice-overs. According to Brauner, there''s currently an 8-week waiting period after ordering for delivery of the Phantom-C.

Earthworks was showing off its intriguing new Drum Kit System ($2100), a three-mic pack that features either three cardioid condensers, or one cardioid condenser and two omni condensers. The pack also contains the Kick Pad ($125 if purchased separately), an inline module that EQs the kick-mic signal to make it sound fat and full.

MXL displayed a new line of solid-state mics designed to sound like tube mics. The V6 ($349) and V12 ($299) are both large-diaphragm condensers. The former is touted to have a full sound, while the latter offers more “shimmer.” Both mics are expected to ship in by late 2004 or early 2005.

Nady RSM-2

Nady had its RSM-2 ($439.95) ribbon mic on display. The amazingly low-priced ribbon mic had been previously announced, but has only recently started shipping.

Rode confirmed that its now shipping the NT2-A ($699), its new solid-state condenser mic. The new mic features omni, cardioid, and figure-8 patterns; a three-way pad switch, and a 3-position highpass filter.

Sanken showed a new omni condenser, the CO-100K ($1,800), which has an amazingly wide 20 Hz–100 kHz frequency response. According to Sanken, the mic was designed with classical music, acoustic instruments, and sound effects in mind.

Sennheiser was showing its new 900 Series of Evolution Wired Mics. The series features models like the E901 ($299) electret-condenser boundary mic (designed for bass drum and grand piano), the E 902 ($249) cardioid-dynamic kick drum mic, the E 904 ($249) cardioid-dynamic drum mic, and the E905 ($199) snare drum mic. Although these mics were designed primarily for sound reinforcement, they are also useful for studio-recording purposes.

Sabra Som SMS 5.1

The Sound Room was showing some cool microphone holders and mounts from Sabra-Som, a Brazilian manufacturer for which it''s the U.S. distributor. The products included the SSM-1 ($49), a universal shockmount that''s compatible with mics up to 2 inches in diameter; the ST2 ($39), a t-mount for stereo miking applications; and the SMS 5.1 ($625), a surround-sound mic support.

Frontier Tranzport

OTHER HARDWARE

The Frontier Design Group was demonstrating a prototype of the Tranzport (price TBA), a wireless DAW controller that was one of the coolest products of the show. Designed to control popular DAW software such as Digidesign Pro Tools, MOTU''s Digital Performer, Apple''s Logic, Steinberg Cubase, and others; Tranzport features controls for transport, locate, track control, track arm, and more. It uses high-frequency radio-wave technology that allows you to control your DAW from anywhere in your studio without any line-of-sight issues. The Tranzport should be available in sometime early 2005, and the company hopes to bring it to market with a list price around $200.

Radial ProDI

Radial had plenty of new products, but one that particularly stood out from a price/performance standpoint was the ProDI ($99), a passive DI box designed to offer the quality of a professional direct box at a budget price. The ProDI—designed for guitars, basses, and other instrument-level sources—offers 1/4-inch hi-Z and thru-put connectors, a -15 dB pad, a ground-lift switch, and 20 Hz–18 kHz frequency response.


Tascam FW 1082

Tascam introduced a slew of new products at AES, and one of the highlights was the FW-1082 ($999) a FireWire audio/MIDI interface and control surface. The unit features nine (60 mm) touch-sensitive moving faders, select/solo/mute buttons, four balanced XLR/1/4-inch inputs with phantom power, four 1/4-inch line inputs, S/PDIF stereo digital I/O, a headphone output, and more. The FW-1082 emulates Mackie HUI and Mackie Control for control of various DAW software, and comes bundled with Steinberg Cubase LE (Mac/Win) and Tascam GigaStudio 3 LE (Win) software.

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