143rd AES Convention Rocks the Big Apple with 'Maximum Audio'

by Vince Lepore
in Features
With 15,590 registrants, the show floor was packed throughout the three days of technology exhibits. Photo courtesy AES
With 15,590 registrants, the show floor was packed throughout the three days of technology exhibits. Photo courtesy AES

Entitled "Maximum Audio," the 143rd Audio Engineering Society Convention returned to New York City from Oct. 18-21. FRONT of HOUSE's "Sound Sanctuary" contributor, Vince Lepore, was able to attend, along with thousands of fellow audio engineers who flocked to the Javits Center in Manhattan to demo the latest audio products and take part in an extensive education program. Here's his report.

AES Logo

The AES show itself is focused more on recording than live sound, but AES claims that 25 percent the attendees are live sound engineers, and as a live audio guy, I found plenty of classes, products and demonstrations to suit my tastes. Having attended more diverse tradeshows, such as InfoComm and NAB, I found the focused nature of AES to be refreshing. Other shows are overwhelming and it is hard to see everything on the show floor and still attend educational sessions. With some 200 exhibitors, the AES show floor is more easily digestible, allowing time to attend sessions and classes. Additionally, the show was wisely co-located with the NAB New York show, which was in the convention hall next to AES. The two shows complemented one another nicely.

Total registration for the NYC AES convention eclipsed that of last year’s Los Angeles Convention. With 15,590 registrants, AES executive director Bob Moses described the show as “amazingly successful,” adding that “attendees, exhibitors and sponsors offered unsolicited praise for the entire convention experience, from the technical program to the exhibition hall. Our co-location experience with NAB New York proved that working with collaborative partners can be mutually beneficial and still allow each organization to retain its unique and independent identity.”

Live Sound Expo

AES devoted a large portion of the show floor to the Live Sound Expo, which was an extensive series of sessions related to theater sound design, system tuning, optimization, digital vs. analog wireless, audio over IP, monitor mixing and noise prediction for outdoor events. The expo area was busy for most sessions, confirming that there were in fact many live sound engineers in attendance.

RF Spectrum Updates and Wireless

For live production pros, whether in the concert, corporate, broadcast or theater side of the biz, the loss of 600 MHz and resultant spectrum crowding was a big topic this year. Now that the FCC Incentive Auction is complete, the focus has turned to the next steps for wireless users. Many of the educational sessions focused the importance of pre-planning, frequency coordination, using systems that are spectrally efficient and, for users who routinely work with over 50 channels, obtaining a Part 74 license to reserve frequencies for large scale events.

Audio Networking

Audio networking is now a huge component of every tradeshow. This year’s AES was no exception, with an entire networking education track. Those who wanted to really dig deep into AES67 were treated to multiple days’ worth of classes on the topic. I was hoping to spend some time learning more about AES70, but the classes related to the subject were on Saturday after the show had ended and I was heading home. One particularly interesting session focused on the AES67 component of the new SMPTE 2110 standard — something to keep tabs on.

d&b audiotechnik previewed its Soundscape technology. Designed to bridge the gap between the physics of loudspeaker system design and the creation of artistic material, it offers sound designers and engineers multidimensional source placement, acoustic room simulation and signal matrix processor capability for creating sophisticated, dynamic audio experiences.

Hot New Product Debuts!

There were many cool new technology releases or newly released features for existing products shown at AES. Here are just a few notable examples, listed in alphabetical order.

Audinate: Dante is a huge part of every audio tradeshow. It seems like the “Dante Spoken Here” signs are in every booth. I got an in-depth look at Dante Domain Manager, Audinate’s latest software release for creating Dante domains, permission-based user accounts, routing audio between subnets and other administrative features. Domain Manager promises to take Dante to an entirely new level in 2018. Stay tuned for more details…

Avid: For live sound engineers, Avid was showing a technology preview of deep integration between the S6L live mixing console and Waves SoundGrid Servers. The preview consisted of a Waves SoundGrid card installed in the S6L’s engine, and tight integration between a pair of SoundGrid Servers and the S6L’s plug-in racks. Plug-in controls can be mapped directly to the S6L’s rotary encoders. Avid did not yet have a release date for the Waves integration.

DiGiCo: This is a popular booth at any audio show, and AES was no different. DiGiCo seems to dominate the live console market. Showcasing the SD12, a new SD 32-bit mic preamp card, and Quantum engine for the SD7, DiGiCo was busy throughout the show. Side by side with DiGiCo was Klang:technologies, whose 3D in-ear monitoring solution was also noticeably busy throughout the show. While Klang’s Fabrik personal mixing system is not a new product, they were showing some integration with DiGiCo consoles that made the system even more compelling.

DPA: It is tough to improve on something that is already a top of the line product, but DPA has done just that by releasing their new “Core” upgrade to existing headset and lavalier microphones. Core improves dynamic range, reduces distortion and, according to DPA, sounds better than the previous generation. If Core lives up to the hype, it promises to breathe new life into DPA’s existing headset and lavalier line.

Earthworks: Showing off their new DM20 gooseneck snare and tom microphone, Earthworks garnered a lot of attention because of the attractive price point. Let’s face it, the previous generation of Earthworks drum mics were a bit too expensive for most everyday live applications. The DM20 replaces the previous generation entirely, bringing the price down to $499 including the microphone and the mounting hardware.

The debut of Eventide’s new flagship H9000 Harmonizer wowed the crowds.

Eventide: Truly one of the busiest booths, and the product that had the most buzz at the show was the Eventide H9000. Their product manager literally could not take a breath because there was so much activity at the booth. The H9000 promises to be a flagship effects processor for Eventide in the studio and in live environments.

Lectrosonics: Showing off its new Duet digital in-ear monitoring system, Lectrosonics turned some heads at AES. The Duet system consists of a half-rack transmitter with analog and Dante inputs and diversity bodypack receiver. I walked the entire show floor with the receiver and a set of headphones without dropouts — pretty impressive in a tough RF area like Manhattan..

Shure: The most recognizable product at AES this year was Shure’s Axient Digital wireless system. First and foremost, the product name was emblazoned on every lanyard worn by attendees at the show. Second, digital wireless systems were a hot topic due to their efficiency and ability to pack a lot of channels into a small amount of spectrum. For more on Shure’s Axient Digital, see my review of the product on page 50.

Waves: Another booth that was predictably packed during the entire show was Waves. Of course, there were notable engineers showing how they use Waves products and plug-ins. For live sound, Waves was showing a new 24x12 stagebox for its LV1 digital mixer, as well as Dan Dugan automixing on every channel, custom fader banks and some stability improvements to the system, such as the ability to plug and unplug the host computer without dropouts or audio interruptions.

Coming Soon

Finally, AES has some exciting announcements about upcoming events. First, AES is partnering with NAMM to bring pro audio education and training to the NAMM show in Anaheim, CA, from Jan. 25-28, 2018 (aesatnamm.com). This first-of-its-kind education and training event brings AES expertise to AES@NAMM attendees while offering registrants access to the NAMM exhibition, including an all-new pro audio.

Also in 2018, the U.S. AES Convention will return to the Javits Center in New York City from Oct. 17-20, 2018, co-locating once again with the NAB New York. Visit aes.org for information about the AES and other upcoming events.