Show Report: AES San Francisco 2012

by George Petersen
in Features

AES 2012 in San Francisco

The Audio Engineering Society ( show came to San Francisco from October 26 to 29 during a wild week marked by the SF Giants sweeping the World Series. Meanwhile, on the eastern seaboard, hurricane Sandy left an unprecedented wake of destruction, disrupted travel, closed major airports and left many east coasters stranded on the left coast after the show.

Seminars and Sessions Shine
After years of tipping the scales towards an overemphasis on recording over sound reinforcement technologies, AES significantly stepped up its live sound program offerings for this year's show. Among the many sessions and seminars on the agenda were Women in Professional Concert Sound, Acoustics for Small Live Sound Venues, Live Sound Engineering — The Juxtaposition of Art and Science, Planning a Live Sound Education, Live Sound for Corporate Events, Audio DSP In Live Settings and Sound For Live Jazz Performances.

Some of the specifically sound reinforcement-related seminars that were particularly good were Bill Whitlock's (of Jensen Transformers) overview of audio system grounding and interfacing, Jamie Anderson's (of Rational Acoustics) seminar on room/loudspeaker tuning and two separate programs on wireless technology. Audio Technica's Bob Green presented Frequency Wrangling at Large Events, with useful advice from an international panel of experts, while Lectrosonics' Karl Winkler presented a session on practical considerations for wireless systems designers and users, with input from Joe Ciaudelli of Sennheiser and Shure's Gino Sigismondi. With the importance of audio networking technologies in the live environment, Yamaha's Kevin Kimmel hosted a session with experts speaking out on using protocols such as A-Net, Dante, EtherSound, Cobranet, Optocore, Rocknet and AVnu AVB. This was only a part of the offerings for live sound pros, and judged on that aspect alone, AES was an unqualified success and the AES organizers and crew should be commended for a job well done in this regard.  

Down on the Floor
Yet, from a sound reinforcement standpoint, the exhibition side of AES was far less impressive. The only live sound mixers on the show floor were from PreSonus and Soundcraft, along with entries from Studer, StageTec and Lawo — although the latter three all focused on showing broadcast-oriented products. Populkar live sound console manufacturers such as Allen & Heath, Avid, Behringer, Cadac, Crest, DiGiCo, Harrison, Mackie, Midas, Peavey and Yamaha were all noticeably absent.

The speaker side of things was even less represented, with the only live sound speakers on the floor being Community's ( new VERIS 2 (VERsatile Installation Systems) Series. There wasn't a line array or floor wedge to be found anywhere at the show.

However, as part of their continuing national, multi-city demo tour, Ken Berger and Jim Sides of VUE Audiotechnik (, dropped by the park across the street from the convention center with a large rig and offered showgoers a most impressive demonstration of components from the new A-Class and H-Class speakers, including VUE's groundbreaking (and groundshaking) new dual- and quad-18 subwoofer designs.

If you were looking for analog tube gear from smaller boutique companies, there was a good selection of that, but from the FOH position, we did encounter some interesting microphone and wireless products and a few other goodies that caught our attention.

Mics, Mics, Mics!
Audio-Technica ( kicked off the show with the launch of its high-end electret condenser mic, the cardioid-only AT5040, which combines the output of four rectangular large-diaphragm, 2-micron capsules for a self-noise of a low, low 5 dB. At an MSRP of $2,999, it's probably not going to show up on a lot of thrash band riders, but it's definitely an interesting design.

Making its AES debut was Lewitt Audio's ( DTP 640 REX, a kick drum mic that combines a dynamic element and a condenser capsule, with a 5-pin XLR output with breakout cable for accessing both mic outputs to combine at the console. Street is $299.

AKG ( showed the D12 VR, based on its classic D12 bass drum mic, but a new product that also incorporates elements from the D112 mic and a transformer from the C414. Although a dynamic mic, the D12 VR ($499/street) also features switchable onboard active filters that operate when the mic is phantom powered.


The big news at Shure ( was a new variant of its premium KSM9 vocal condenser microphone, with switchable hypercardioid and subcardioid polar patterns, at $874 MSRP. The KSM9HS is available in wired and wireless versions. The original (and still popular) KSM9 will continue to be available with its switchable cardioid and supercardioid polar patterns.


Based on its 4099 series, the improved d:vote from DPA Microphones ( features an enhanced shockmount design, and a choice of detachable cables of two diameters and versatile gooseneck extender. The mic features a supercardioid pattern, and a huge variety of optional mounts for nearly every type of instrument.


Ribbon mics aren't the first choice for stage applications, but with more and more of the VR1Voodoo compact ribbons from sE Electronics ( showing up on tours lately, I wanted to check it out. Barely five inches long, the VR1 combines ribbon smoothness with high SPL handling and extended frequency response (out to 18 kHz) usually found only in condenser designs, making it suitable for guitar cabs, drum overheads and acoustic instruments. Street is $699.


No, it's not quite a mic, but I like Radial's new PZ-DI direct box (retail about $300; that features a three-position impedance switch for matching pickup loads. A 220k ohm setting warms up mag pickups, a 1 meg-ohm setting replicates a classic DI box and a super-high 10 meg-ohm setting matches piezo transducers. Switchable low/high pass filters and a -15 dB pad round out the package.

Test Gear
Brüel & Kjær ( launched a hardware update for its Type 2270 dual-channel, handheld analyzer and sound level meter, which enables users to run multiple, upgraded applications, such as FFT, frequency analysis, logging and signal recording.

NTI ( countered with enhancements for its popular XL2 Analyzer, which provides sound level metering and acoustical/audio analysis in a handheld package. New XL2 firmware offers an updated STI-PA measurement for verifying speech intelligibility of voice evacuation systems, as well as averaging of multiple STI-PA results, onsite ambient noise correction and the ability to emulate STI-PA measurements of crowded conditions even in empty environments.

Live Recording
Options for recording/track capturing live events are on the rise. A simple, low-cost alternative is the Archwave RE16, a laptop-sized interface with 16 inputs (+4/-10) and two outs that captures multi-channel audio directly to an external USB drive. No computer is required, but the Fat-32 Wave tracks (up to 24-bit/48kHz) can easily be transferred to Mac or PC with Core Audio and ASIO support. Just plug your console line inserts into the inputs, hit the transport buttons and you're capturing tracks. Street is $499; the distributor is TruNorth Music & Sound (

Wireless World
With talk of even more FCC frequency selloffs, wireless mics were a big topic at AES, both in the seminars as well as the show floor. The Sennheiser ( booth was packed throughout the event, with users checking out its new innovative Digital 9000 Series, which was shown at Plasa and previewed in the October issue of FRONT of HOUSE.


Audio-Technica's ( affordable new System 10 digital wireless operates at 2.4 GHz and features instantaneous channel selection, sync and set-up. Up to eight channels may be used together without frequency coordination issues. Also standard are three levels of diversity assurance. Frequency Diversity sends the signal on two dynamically allocated frequencies; Time Diversity sends the signal in multiple time slots to avoid multipath interference; and Space Diversity uses two antennas on each transmitter and receiver to maximize signal integrity. A handheld system retails at $524 and lavalier, headworn and instrument bodypack systems are also available.


Sony ( showed version 02 of its flagship DWX digital wireless, which features several interchangeable capsules, support for third party heads, including Shure, Heil and (with a new optional Sony-built adapter) Neumann; and a PC-based application for monitoring/setup/frequency coordination. But the big news at AES was Sony's new low-cost, DWZ digital wireless, which operates at 2.4 GHz and is offered in handheld and bodypack (guitar and headset/lavalier) versions. Street is $549/vocal, $399/guitar — yet even at this price point, the DWZ handheld units also feature interchangeable heads.

Speaking of wireless capsules, both Telefunken ( and Earthworks ( had new mic heads compatible with units having 31.3 mm pitch/1.0 mm threading. The Telefunken M81-WH is a version of its popular M81 dynamic; and Earthworks is now shipping its WL40V head that's adapted from its SR40V hypercardioid condenser.

To help in difficult RF situations, AKG ( offered two new antenna systems. Floorpad is a 20-inch diameter, 1/4-inch thick, disk antenna that's designed for hiding under a stage, podium or carpeting, to bring the antenna close to the source for small-to-medium coverage. For greater than normal distances, the new AKG Helical is a passive, directional 12-inch antenna that achieves 9 dB of gain. Both operate in the UHF 470 to 740 MHz range.

Up and Coming
The next AES convention moves to Rome, Italy, from May 4 to 7, 2013, with the next USA shows slated for New York City in October 17 to 20, 2013, followed by a return to Los Angeles in October 2014. Mark those calendars now!