Traditionally, the annual (American) convention of the Audio Engineering Society (AES) has been the playground for the recording industry elite, who labor behind Lexus-length SSL and Neve boards in multi-million dollar studios, rather than tiny MIDI controllers tucked into cramped bedrooms. You could think of AES as a luxury box at the Kentucky Derby as opposed to a NASCAR parking lot (which would represent, say, clearance day at your local pawn shop).
However, in the last few years, the AES show has been gaining steam as the “other NAMM” for computer-based project and home studios, an epicenter of music technology as companies such as the aforementioned SSL and Neve have started to adapt their products for the smaller-studio, computer-centric world.
DJ gear may be all but absent at an AES congregation, but there was plenty for elctronic-based producers and performers to drool over at this year’s AES convention. Here are the top 13 products that rolled up a towel and snapped Remix in the ass.
ABLETON LIVE 7
Ableton previewed Live 7 ($599), which includes improved audio and MIDI engines to minimize jitter. Other upgrades include a new compressor effect with three compression models and side-chaining. The Gate and Auto Filter effects also have side-chaining, while the EQ Eight plug-in has an enhanced user interface and a 64-bit mode for greater accuracy. A new spectrum analyzer provides visual feedback for any audio.
Most interesting may be the new Drum Rack, which streamlines beat-making with a drag-and-drop interface and REX file compatibility for slicing and dicing.
Ableton is also stepping up its virtual instrument offering with featured add-on instruments based on Applied Accoustic Systems’ technology called Analog, Tension and Electric, as well as a larger comprehensive instrument suite.
APPLE LOGIC STUDIO
Apple updated its flagship Logic music/audio production software as a bundle called Logic Studio ($499), including Logic Pro 8, which includes a redesigned interface that speeds production; Soundtrack Pro 2, Studio Instruments, Studio Effects, including 80 plug-ins; Studio Sound Library, with 18,000 Apple Loops and 1,300 sampled instruments; and the new program MainStage, a new live performance rig that simplifies using software instruments or guitar/keys/bass onstage.
ARTURIA ANALOG FACTORY EXPERIENCE
Analog Factory Experience ($349) combines a 32-key MIDI keyboard with Analog Factory 2.0, a software instrument offering 3,500 acclaimed synthesizer sounds. You just plug the keyboard via USB and launch the software to play and easily control the plug-in instrument from the keyboard.
The presets were selected from the Arturia Classic Synths: the Minimoog V, the Prophet V,
the ARP 2600V, the Moog Modular V, the CS-80V and the recent Jupiter-8V. The product is compatible with Mac OS X (PPC and Intel) and Windows XP or Vista and a stand-alone program or VST, AU or RTAS plug-in.
The Analog Factory Keyboard is made of ultra-thin aluminium and wood, with 32 semi-weighted, Velocity-sensitive keys. It lets you control every aspect of the software, including selecting
sound categories, browsing presets, modifying sound, recalling snapshot sounds, saving snapshots, etc.
BLUE MICROPHONE JOE/SNOWFLAKE
Okay these these are two completely different products, but he who makes the rules breaks the rules, or something like that (see Congress for an example). Blue‘s clever new Snowflake ($79) USB mic clips to the screen of any laptop or desktop PC or folds into a desk stand.
The Joe ($499) cardioid condenser microphone is aimed at project studios. Joe’s attractive anodized design is hand-built with Blue‘s large diaphragm capsule and a Class A discrete amplifier circuit for rich lows and detailed highs. It has a unique swivel mount for easy positioning and comes with a velvet storage bag.
CAKEWALK SONAR 7
Cakewalk’s Sonar 7 software for the PC is packed with new features, such as enhanced MIDI editing with functions for splitting/gluing/muting notes, advanced multiband linear-phase mastering effects and an external hardware effects insert with automatic plug-in delay compensation. Other extras include the Z3TA+ waveshaping synth, Dimension LE, Rapture LE, DropZone and Roland V-Vocal 1.5 and tools for presenting/publishing music online.
HEIL SOUND THE FIN
For starters, just look it. Cool, right? Heil Sound‘s The Fin puts a cardioid dynamic element into a stylish, Art Deco housing, with four LEDs inside the mic that glow when connected to phantom power. It’s particularly suited to miking amps, vocals and harmonica.
IK MULTIMEDIA ARC
Accurate monitoring is one of the most key elements to creating exceptional mixes, and room ambience created by varieties of reflection and absorption can be difficult to conquer. IK Multimedia ARC ($699, Advanced Room Correction) System is designed to improve the accuracy and clarity of your studio monitoring, whatever your setting, with just a few simple steps. The stand-alone measurement program and VST/AU/RTAS-compatible EQ plug-in work together with the included 1/4-inch Omni Condenser Mic to deliver everything needed to compensate for even the more bizarrely shaped room. Simply open the measurement software, use it with the microphone to measure the acoustics of your room, and ARC will calculate an EQ correction to apply to your DAW’s master bus using the plug-in. ARC makes what can be a daunting process into a much easier one; room correction is something that studios of all sizes need, whether with ARC or in some other way. This is just the easier route.
IZOTOP RX AUDIO RESTORATION SOFTWARE
A jaw-dropper at the show, iZotope RX ($349 or $1,199 for iZotope RX Advanced) cleans and repairs audio, removes hiss/buzz, eliminates clicks/crackles and repairs clipping or gaps in audio. New technology provides noise reduction with less artifacts and a more natural sound than traditional techniques. RX‘s stand-alone environment includes an advanced spectrogram display, selective processing tools and innovative workflow features.
AES attendees gawked at impressive demos where an iZotope employee removed a door creaking sound from an audio recording. While RX may be targeted mainly toward for audio restoration and post-production professionals, musicians, engineers and sound designers could all find great uses for it.
MOTU MACH FIVE 2
Software sampling nuts, take heed. MOTU has release Mach Five 2, and it is DEEP. The attraction to the program is a combination of great audio quality, fast operation and across-the-board compatibility with all platforms and all major sample libraries. It also includes four DVDs with 32 GB of samples, including an 8GB sampled grand piano, many surround instruments and loops and the VSL Orchestra MachFive Edition: an exclusive collection of expressive orchestra sounds from the most respected name in orchestra sound libraries.
Just some of Mach Five 2′ many features include disk streaming and modular design for maximum CPU efficiency; 24/192 kHz sample playback; unlimited multi-timbral operation; unlimited polyphony; unlimited sample keygroups and keygroup layers; full-screen keygroup/sample editor with unlimited undo/redo, batch processing, and 47 DSP effects; advanced time-stretching and pitch-shifting engine; LoopLab beat-slicing editing of multi-channel loops; surround (5.1 to 7.1) capability; built-in graphic mixer with faders, FX inserts, metering; and a combination of traditional synthesis with samples.
PRESONUS MONITOR STATION
Monitor switching is becoming more popular even in smaller studios, so PreSonus has responded with the Monitor Station ($399) a fairly compact tabletop box with three stereo inputs (two balanced TRS, one RCA Aux/Phono) and three stereo outpus (three sets of balanced TRS speaker outputs each with level adjustment). That all facilitates quick switching of several input sources (such as a main audio interface or a reference CD player) to several sets of monitor speakers. Monitor Station also has four headphone amplifiers with separate volume control and independent input source selection and a talkback section including a built-in talkback microphone with volume control to feed the headphone and Cue outputs or an XLR input for external dynamic talkback microphone.
ROGER NICHOLS DIGITAL SPL-IZER
Roger Nichols Digital SPL-izer ($129) is an adjustable 3-band 24 dB/octave FIR frequency splitter that allows three bands to be isolated/routed to aux or instrument tracks for separate processing. Applications include reverb auxes, for no reverb on the low end, the original reverb on the mids and the same reverb but with reduced decay on the high end, or an acoustic guitar with the low end muted, mids unaffected and a short echo/chorus only on the highs. SPL-izer is available in RTAS , VST an AU for Mac and RTAS and VST for Windows XP and Vista.
SSL X-EQ and X-Comp
Owners of Solid State Logic’s Duende FireWire DSP plug-in host will have a new toy to play with called X-EQ ($599). It’s a 10-band parametric EQ that SSL claims can do basically anything that’s possible to do with an EQ. Bands 1 and 10 are high-cut and low-cut filters with five selectable topographies each. Bands 2 and 9 are Shelving EQ‘s with proportional Q values. Bands 3 to 8 are bell filters with 20 Hz to 20 kHz range and nine individually selectable EQ types. In addition, bands three to eight also can be switched between standard series and parallel signal flow for classic graphic EQ style operation. The extremely flexible plug-in has MIDI control over all it parameters.
SSL will follow X-EQ later on with X-Comp, a mastering grade stereo compressor also for the Duende platform. Another very versatile plug-in with full MIDI control of all parameters, X-Comp has an A/B switch to compare two compression settings and an amplitude histogram display that gives advanced real-time pre/post signal analysis.
The $599 handheld PCM-D50 field recorder from Sony Pro Audio features 96kHz/24-bit recording with two adjustable mics (XY or wide stereo) and PC/Mac file transfer via USB. Its 4GB of onboard memory stores six hours at 44.1kHz/16-bits or more via a Memory Stick Pro-HG Duo slot.