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Live Audio Shines at AES 2006

Oct 1, 2006 12:00 PM, By George Petersen


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At this year's AES show, held Oct. 5-8, 2006, at San Francisco's Moscone Center, live sound engineering took a front seat.

For years, sound reinforcement was the backwoods stepchild at the annual conventions of the Audio Engineering Society, where recording gear usually snagged all the headlines and hoopla. But for the 121st AES show—held Oct. 5-8, 2006, at San Francisco's Moscone Center—live sound technology took a front seat, with a diverse selection of interesting products for the sound reinforcement and contracting markets and an excellent selection of panels, workshops, seminars, and events catering to live sound interests.

The show's keynote speaker—the noted front-of-house engineer Robert Scovill—set the right tone when in his opening remarks he talked about opportunities in the live sound industry, a theme reflected in the first live sound seminar, which focused on the "Business of Touring Sound." Bringing a bit more business savvy into this world of audio engineering isn't a bad idea at all.

Another welcome sign at AES was a healthy slate of tutorial programs, ranging from digital audio basics, mic techniques, and digital interconnects to room acoustics. We aren't all experts in every field, and AES provides an excellent platform to learn from some of the industry's best and brightest.

Walking among the 400+ exhibitors on the show floor, there was plenty to see—and hear. Presented alphabetically, here are some of our picks in terms of top new contractor-oriented products at the show.

The GL3800M analog monitor desk from Allen & Heath offers up to 16 monitor mixes and has built-in mic splitting and a comprehensive, dual-output engineer's wedge/IEM monitoring system. It's available in 24-, 32-, and 40-channel frame sizes and the 16 mixes can be globally assigned as mono or stereo, and each stereo mix provides level and pan control as well as stereo AFL signal checking. By assigning mixes as "wedge" or "IEM," AFL is automatically routed to the engineer's speaker or in-ears as appropriate. Other features include a built-in oscillator/pink noise generator and independent talkback to/from the FOH console and to each performer.

APB-DynaSonics introduced its first rackmount mixing products at AES. MixSwitch provides the ability to easily switch between primary digital or analog and a backup console, or between headliner and opening act consoles in concert/presentation situations (in Switch mode or Sum mode). In club applications, it allows selecting between front-of-house and DJ mixers into common audio systems. MixSwitch will be available in the fourth quarter of 2006.

The 64x64 Anaconda digital snake from Aphex can be used standalone or paired with the company's 1788A preamps. Features include eight ADAT I/Os (64-channel bi-directional), eight word clock outputs, word clock reference input, Ethernet connector for control and metering, and fully redundant power supply and fiber systems.

Community's new VERIS (VERsatile Installation Systems) melds versatility with style.

Audio-Technica announced the next generation of its popular Artist Series, adding more mics, while upgrading classic models for a wide selection of vocal, instrument, and drum models. The new vocal handhelds—the $299 ATM710 cardioid condenser, $249 hypercardioid ATM610, and $169 cardioid ATM410 dynamics—offer broad frequency response and low handling noise. For acoustic and amplified instruments, with fast transient response and low distortion/noise, new instrument mics include the $169 ATM650 hypercardioid dynamic and $369 ATM450 side-address stick-design cardioid condenser, and the $449 ATM350 cardioid clip-on condenser. The ATM350 comes with a violin mount and a versatile UniMount flexible gooseneck mount; heavy-duty isolation mounts are included with the ATM450 and ATM250/ATM250DE. Based on the AE2500, the $549 ATM250DE is a dual-capsule (dynamic and condenser) kick drum mic; the $329 ATM250 is a single-element hypercardioid dynamic. Both are suited for upright bass as well as high-SPL sources, such as kick, toms, guitar/bass cabs and brass.

Audix' VX-5 is a slim-line, 9V to 52V phantom-powered, electret condenser vocal mic is aimed at the live performance market. With a uniform frequency response of 40 to 18k Hz, the VX-5 features a 14mm gold-vapor diaphragm, a supercardioid polar pattern, bass roll-off filter, a specially ported steel mesh grille, and Audix's trademark black-satin finish. Its 10dB pad enables the capsule to handle SPLs in excess of 140 dB.

Beyerdynamic demonstrated its the Revoluto Microphone Station. Made for use with the MCS-D 200 conferencing system, the Revoluto provides superior sound reproduction without the use of a gooseneck mic. Using line array technology, Revoluto's mic capsules create an omnidirectional pattern, allowing a speaker to move around without affecting the volume or sound quality and its low-profile design provides a clear view of the speaker. The Revoluto station is available in three versions, Basis, Standard and Graphic. The Basis station comes equipped with one microphone button, function buttons for clear and priority as well as a two-way Extended Base loudspeaker system. In addition to featuring a single microphone button and function buttons, the Standard station has an alphanumeric display with menu, language selection, and volume control as well as five buttons for voting. The Graphic Station is offered with the same features as the Standard, but with a graphics display and 10 multifunction buttons for participants to vote or phone each other.

Beyerdynamic also introduced its Opus 900 wireless system, designed to meet the rigorous operating criteria of multichannel systems in touring, theater, broadcast, and large installs. Based on the popular Opus 500 Mk II and 800 systems, Opus 900 offers a variety of transmitters, including the DM 960 S, DM 960 B and the DM 969 S dynamics; the EM 981 S and the CM 930 B condensers; the TS 900 M and TS 900 C pocket transmitters with rechargeable contacts. Both the TS 900 M and TS 900 C are outfitted with ACT infrared interface for frequency setting, LCD for selected channel, group, and battery status (5-stage), gain control, silent on/off switch, and 4-pin mini-XLR input connector. Three receivers (single, dual and quad channel) offer 99 pre-programmed frequencies. Each has an engineer-friendly "jog wheel" for fast access and system reconfiguration, along with a monitoring headphone out, balanced XLR jack, remote-in/out port and PC controllability.

Community's new VERIS (VERsatile Installation Systems) comprise a range of small-to-medium-sized loudspeakers for versatile array construction, while styled to meet modern architectural requirements. The line's smooth, intelligible sonic output is the result of patent-pending carbon-ring cone technology, coupled with Ferrofluid cooled and damped MF/HF drivers. Available models start with the VERIS6, a single 6in. with an HF horn-driver combination in a compact enclosure. Next are a dual-6, a single-8, and a dual-8—all with HF horn-drivers. Each ships with a yoke-style mounting bracket and can be ordered with an optional low insertion-loss 200W internal autoformer for 70V applications. The larger 12in. and 15in. VERIS models offer 90ºx60º and 60ºx40º horns for the two-way systems, and 90ºx40º and 60ºx40º for the three-ways. Two low-profile subs (dual-10 and dual-12) are available as a wide range of optional off-the-shelf rigging systems and mounts for safe installation. All models are available in black or white at no additional charge, and come equipped with a generous number of rigging points. The full-range enclosures are additionally outfitted with OmniMount-compatible fasteners.

Dan Dugan Sound Design's Model E makes Dugan Speech System automatic mixing available to a wider range of applications.

Dan Dugan Sound Design showed the Model E, a $2,995 model that makes Dugan Speech System automatic mixing available to a wider range of applications. It's smaller than earlier Dugan products, fitting eight channels into a 1/2RU box. With provided hardware, two Model E units (together providing 16 channels) can be mounted side by side in one rack space.

DiGiCo unveiled its version 4 software/hardware upgrade for its D5 Live consoles. New features from the update (also available as a software tweak for its DS-00 and D4 boards) include extra configuration flexibility, expanded busing/routing options, enhanced onboard effects and graphic equalizers, new snapshot features, and more. The software will be available in early 2007.

Intended for small-to-medium installs such as houses of worship and clubs, Digidesign's D-Show Profile is a size-conscious alternative to the popular D-Show flagship console/controller of the Venue line. D-Show Profile is compatible with all existing Venue hardware and software, including existing stage and FOH racks for connecting to Pro Tools HD and Pro Tools LE systems via a hardware option.

Dolby was demoing its version 4.1 software for its Dolby Lake controller, which made its AES debut at the show. Among other minor tweaks, the version 4.1 software update adds a LimiterMax loudspeaker limiting to eliminate clipping for assured speaker protection.

Eastern Acoustic Works' UX8800 rackmount digital processor brings EAW's Gunness Focusing to a broad range of existing EAW loudspeaker systems. This unique DSP technology corrects the sonic problems inherent in conventional compression driver phase plugs, horns, and LF driver technology. As a result, Gunness Focusing allows horn-loaded loudspeakers to deliver sonic performance comparable to premium direct-radiating studio monitors, but at the much higher output levels required in sound reinforcement applications.

Future Sonics announced the release of its MG4plus, its new, next-generation of professional drivers for the company's line of Ear Monitors personal monitors. The MG4plus delivers deep, accurate bass response, clean transparent highs and natural, warm vocal tones. Ear Monitors brand custom-fit personal monitors start at $798 and can be customized as appropriate to the specific aesthetic, technical, and personal needs of the client. Upgrades to MG4plus are available for Ear Monitors delivered within the last 24 months for $150/pair.

Genelec expanded its contractor range with three new additions: the AIW25 active in-wall loudspeaker, the AIC25 active in-ceiling loudspeaker and the AOW312 active on-wall loudspeaker, all designed to meet the needs of corporate and commercial installations. The AIW25 and AIC25 feature matched, separate RAM2 remote amp modules and include enclosures that maximize performance and ease of installation. New construction brackets are also available. The AIW25 fits into a standard 2x4 stud wall structure and can easily be retrofitted to existing construction. The AOW312 is only 6.75in. deep and is designed for use where space behind the wall is limited. All can be painted to match the listening environment.

Hear Technologies is shipping its Mix Back monitor mixer. The $2,495 Mix Back is designed to reside at the stage, providing 16 inputs, passive mic split, four-band EQ, and 16 channels of analog, Hearbus and ADAT output simultaneously. Ideal for in-ear monitor mixing and configured as 16x12x2x2, the rackmount unit offers two stereo and 12 mono analog outs, ADAT and Hear Bus outputs, and a talkback mic preamp for talking to any (or all) master outs and the intercom out. An optional $139.95 16-button remote connects via a standard Cat-5E cable.

JBL Pro is offering compact versions of its VerTec DP series with JBL DrivePack technology. Modular, powered line array systems include onboard digital signal processing developed with Crown. VT4887ADP 2”x8” full-range line array element and VT4881ADP single 18in. subwoofer models are featured. These high-performance integrated systems are optionally available as networked models with DPAN (analog) or DPCN (digital) audio input modules, both compatible with HiQnet System Architect Software for remote control and monitoring capabilities.

Lab.Gruppen unveiled its FP+ series of high-power touring/install amps with models ranging up to 13,000W, and also expanded its popular C Series installation-dedicated amplifiers with the addition of four new amplifiers, two each in 8-channel and 4-channel formats. The new models are: C 20:8X (8x250W) at $3,095 list; C 10:8X (8x125W) at $2,195; C 10:4X (4x250W) at $1,795; and C 5:4X (4x125W) at $1,495. Power ratings for each are the same at 70V, 4W, 8W, and 16W. The new C Series models are expected to start shipping winter 2006/07.

The L'Acoustics SB15P was designed as a companion reference subwoofer for the 108P and 112P self-powered coaxial loudspeakers. Featuring a front-loaded, 15in. driver in an optimally sized/tuned vented enclosure, the SB15P combines the convenience of self-powered performance with the flexibility of digital signal processing. Ideal for portable SR, the SB15P provides plug-and-play operation and is equipped with a 1,000W Class-D topology amplifier module and dedicated onboard DSP with fast-recall, application-engineered presets.

Making its U.S. AES debut was Lawo's mc290. Designed to take the technology of Lawo’s mc266 mixer to a new level, the mc290 digital console has a redesigned graphical layout and user interface. It integrates Lawo’s Star2 topology, providing total console redundancy in no-fail environments. The mc290's modular design can be adapted for various applications.

Digidesign's D-Show Profile is a size-conscious alternative to the popular D-Show flagship console/controller of the Venue line.

Delivering extreme bass for its SAz and SRz active series sound reinforcement speakers, the Mackie SWA2801z combines dual 18in. drivers, a built-in 800W FR series power amp, and onboard electronics for greater levels of performance and high output. Mackie Active electronics offer complete, realtime control over crossover filters, equalization, and transducer/electronics protection. XLR connections provide stereo input, loop-through, and high pass outputs, while handles and heavy-duty casters make for smooth transport. Retail: $2,299.99.

Martin Audio unveiled a new range of high-performance LE stage monitors, the LE2100, LE1500, and LE1200. The top of the line dual-12 LE2100 is a three-way, biamp only, differential dispersion design offering a sleek, low-profile enclosure and high power handling. The LE1500 combines a 15in. woofer and a 1.4in. exit HF compression driver and the LE1200 is an ultra-compact design with 12in. LF and 1.4in. HF driver on a differential dispersion horn. The monitors are optimized for Martin Audio's DX1 controller to provide crossover, limiting and EQ functions. When operated in passive mode, they may be used without a controller, but benefit from the EQ and limiting functions of the DX1—this also ensures that both active and passive configurations will exhibit the same tonal balance when used together.

MC2 showed a more contemporary front panel for its high-performance T series amps. The T series feature MC2's unique current-driven floating drive stage and side-chain limiters. Aside from the improved cosmetics, the new design allows better access to the air intake filter for ease of cleaning in locations where dust and dirt are a problem. The new panels can also be retrofitted to earlier T series models.

MediaNumerics premiered its RockNet system. Achieving low latency was a priority in creating this realtime, audio/data distribution network. Products include the RN.301.MI 8-channel mic preamp/analog line input/ADC and the RN.342.M7 16/48-channel digital I/O for the Yamaha M7CL board.

Meyer Sound's Constellation electroacoustic architecture is a complete package of equipment and services provided exclusively by Meyer and centered around the company's VRAS technology. Constellation gives venues the flexibility to instantly alter their acoustics to accommodate a variety of events and source material. The first installation is at Zellerbach Auditorium on the UC Berkeley campus.

The Neumann KMS 104 handheld cardioid condenser stage mic was developed to permit optimal vocal transmission with the best possible suppression of sounds originating behind the microphone. The hypercardioid KMS 105, which has been available for some time, has become an internationally recognized standard in the field of high-quality stage microphones. Due to low self-noise and crosstalk behavior, both mics are ideal for use with in-ear monitoring systems.

Optocore announced its Y-Series Network Modules designed for use in all Yamaha Digital Consoles. The Y-Series modules are designed to fit into YGDAI mini-slots on the rear of the consoles or in the DIO8 for the PM1D. Up to 64 audio inputs and 64 audio outputs per YG2 module can be transmitted to and from any Yamaha device, while multiple modules can provide up to 512 audio channels per Optocore network ring on one single fibre pair. The Optocore protocol is the same found in all Optocore branded products as well as other manufacturer brands of devices equipped with an Optocore connection.

Renkus-Heinz unveiled IC7 self-powered and ICX7 non-powered Iconyx array systems. Based on the Iconyx Digitally Steerable Arrays, the IC7 and ICX7 are passive arrays with mechanically steerable fixed beams. Both feature seven high-performance, 4in. coaxial transducers in an architecturally transparent enclosure that's only 44.375”x5.687”x5.375” (HxWxD). These are perfect for venues needing side- and front-fill, or a low-cost short-throw solution.

Soundcraft showed its flagship Vi6 digital live console (unveiled earlier this year at NSCA) and launched its new MPM series of multipurpose mixers. Intended for live sound, recording, houses of worship, multi-speaker installations, and other applications, MPM is available in two standard frame sizes offering either 12 (MPM12/2) or 20 (MPM20/2) mono inputs, with each model featuring two additional stereo input strips. Other features include hi-res GB30 preamps, three configurable aux sends, and three-band EQ with sweep mids. The MPM12/2 lists at $689; the MPM20/2 is $969.

The latest addition to Turbosound's Aspect series, the trapezoidal, three-way, full-range TA-500 has a dispersion pattern of 50 degrees x25 degrees (HxV), with medium-throw characteristics. It features a similar driver complement, voicing and sharp coverage cut-off to the narrower dispersion TA-880 products, allowing the two types of cabinet to be arrayed together, creating a smooth, phase-coherent wavefront. Initially offered in fixed installation format, fully equipped touring and digitally self-powered variants will be available later. Turbosound also showed the TCS-C50T 5in. two-way ceiling speaker is designed to give extremely high-quality audio in a high power, 75W RMS, ceiling speaker package for voice evacuation, paging, and background music markets in 16W and 70/100V line transformer versions.

Waves Live Bundle provides a collection of 27 popular plug-ins for Digidesign's D-Show/Venue console, including the L2 Ultramaximizer, C4 MultiBand, and MaxxBass—all optimized especially for Digidesign's D-Show/D-Show Profile consoles. The complete Live Bundle includes: AudioTrack, C1 Parametric Compander, C4 MultiBand, DeEsser, Doppler, Doubler, Enigma, L1 Ultramaximizer, L2 Ultramaximizer, MaxxBass, MetaFlanger, MondoMod, PAZ Analyzer, PS22 Stereo Maker, Q10 Paragraphic Equalizer, Renaissance Axx, Renaissance Bass, Renaissance Channel, Renaissance Compressor, Renaissance DeEsser, Renaissance Equalizer, Renaissance Reverb, Renaissance Vox, S1 Stereo Imager, SuperTap, TransX Transient Shaper and TrueVerb.

Ten years after its introduction, XTA's AudioCore software for its DP series of hardware digital loudspeaker controllers keeps getting better. Over the years, the system functionality has expanded to include matrix control, phase filtering, crossover slopes, and control of the DP4 series processing, all accessible within in AudioCore, now offering 200 filters (plus crossover slopes) in the DP448. The latest feature set includes array control and ganging for the DP448 and family.

The DSP 5D from Yamaha essentially puts the functionality of its acclaimed PM5D-RH digital console—less the control surface—into a rack unit that's controllable from your PM5D.

The most talked-about live sound product at AES, the DSP 5D from Yamaha essentially puts the functionality of its acclaimed PM5D-RH digital console—less the control surface—into a rack unit that's controllable from your PM5D. Priced under $30,000, a single DSP 5D doubles the mixer's I/O channels, with 96 mono and 16 stereo channels accessible via four fader layers, or add a second DSP 5D for 144 mono/24 stereo capability. The DSP 5D can reside next to the host PM5D or act as a remote stage box (with all I/O accessible on the front panel) using an optional digital cabling unit for communication up to 120 meters away over standard Cat-5 cable.

Zaxcom showed two handheld mics: The ZFR800 has onboard recording to removable mini-SD memory (up to eight hours uncompressed on a 2GB card), while the TRX800 combines the same mini-SD recorder with an wireless transmitter for fail-safe, timecode-referenced backup in live or live-to-tape production where RF transmission is affected by interference or limited frequency availability. Both mic bodies accept screw-on heads from Shure or Neumann.

Next up is AES Vienna, May 5-8, 2007, followed by AES New York City from Oct. 5-8, 2007. From an informal straw poll we took of exhibitors, we found that most (though not all) favored returning to San Francisco as the West Coast AES venue in fall 2008. The Staples Center in Los Angeles has better facilities than S.F.'s Moscone, but the hotel/restaurant scene in downtown L.A. doesn't compare to the vibe of cities like S.F. and New York City. So the jury is still out on 2008, but my (admittedly hometown-biased) vote goes to the City by the Bay.


When not writing for Mix and Sound & Video Contractor magazines, George Petersen creates children's songbooks at www.crazycampsongs.com.



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