Saturday, December 19, 2015

AES NYC 2015 A Journeyman's Wandering #05 & Finale

Photo by Tom O'Connor
The AES/NYC show at the Javits Center (or in California on even years) is always an eye and an ear opener. Each time I attend I come in the door thinking I've pretty much seen everything. I'm always wrong.

From the white papers in sessions where engineers talk about what may be around the corner to the floor where you can see what's shipping or what's about to ship, my coverage continues with this 5th and last episode. 

Read on, there may be surprises for you. This last report features RME, Radial Engineering, TASCAM, Lewitt Microphones, Zoom Recorders, Cloud Microphones and from Shure, in-ear monitors and MOTIV, which offers digital microphones and new ways of recording. 
I have been an RME user for about eight years. I bought one of their A/D D/A converters because I wanted to improve the audio quality going into my Digidesign 003r, rack mounted I/O box that I operate using Pro Tools. I still use the original RME ADI-8 DS for that job, even though RME has upgraded it to the RME ADI-8 DS Mk iii. If I needed that same sort of quality functionality today, the Mk iii would definitely be a contender. I reviewed the new unit in February of 2015 and you can find that review here. The combination of my room, mics, preamps and the RME ADI-8 DS, are responsible for the quality of the sound I get.

I was looking for a piece that would be attractive to small studios and also for actors who are called upon to do their own engineering when asked by producers for voice auditions. The audio book market continues to grow and the tech-savvy actor can open an account at and make at least a partial living by recordings book in the privacy of their own homes. 

The RME Babyface Pro (above) is one way to get there. Its small footprint belies its abilities. As I watched Jeff Petersen explain the ins and outs, it occurred to me that there was a lot going on inside this box. I'm sure you'll agree!

Radial Engineering
I have always enjoyed the thinking at Radial Engineering. They make a large number of audio boxes that do lots of different things - call them "problem solvers" if you like. You'll understand as you watch Jay Porter explain some of these boxes, like the BT-Pro, the first BlueTooth enabled stereo receiver direct box. The DI Net, direct boxes for DANTE systems that either input or output from a DANTE network. The JDX Direct-Drive a small instrument amp simulator that lets you feed a small house system or a small powered speaker, but the processing in the box supposedly makes it sounds like a Marshall 412……except at a much lower volume and without having to lug the amp in and out. Check them all out in the video below.

Radial bought Jensen a few years ago. John Hardy has been making the one rack space Jensen twin 990 servo preamp for some time and it's a truly great sounding preamp. I've had one here in my studio and also took it around to other music studios to the delight and amazement of others. For more details, here's a rabbit hole to my online archive and one of the reviews I wrote about the Night preamp and the Jensen twin 990. The Jensen twin servo mic preamps built into the 500 Series format caught my eye and ear.  

Jay also had a nice USB-Pro Stereo USB Laptop DI box (below) that can solve a lot of problems. 

TASCAM's Jeff Laity had a great little plug on recorder for dynamic mics, the DR-10X Plug-On Micro Linear PCM Recorder (below). If you're doing on the street reporting with a dynamic mic, you can now safely leave the cassette deck behind. This would probably be useful for singer-songwriters or anyone who want to quickly capture a mono file of a thought or musical performance. Keep one by the bed for those wake-up moments when you have a great idea that you'll never remember in the morning.

On the top end, TASCAM's DA-6400 is a 64-track recorder (below) for live sound, FOH or live broadcast recording and playback. Timceode, Gigabit Ethernet, Serial RS-422 and parallel control.

TASCAM has speced and engineered their own SSD hard drives and have hot-swappable enclosures for them. There are two I/O slots for optional audio interface cards: IF-MA64/EX 64-channel redundant (in/out/thru) MADI optical/coaxial interface card, IF-MA64/BN 64-channel MADI coaxial interface card, IF-DA64 64-channel Dante interface card and an IF-AE16 16-channel AES/EBU interface card.

Lewitt Audio
To be honest, I had never heard of Lewitt microphones. They started after Roman Perschon left his job as Project Manager for AKG, best I can tell, around 2009. Lewitt makes a line of dynamic and condenser mics. I wish them luck. It's a crowded market. The glowing vacuum tube in the Lewitt LCT940 (below) caught my eye and the power supply and pattern adjustment box it was attached to looked interesting, so I spent a few minutes with Dean Downey to learn more. It's a mic that combines both FET and tube and allows you to vary the mix of the two and choose among all the patterns from Omni to Figure Of Eight.

I've been a fan of Zoom for a while. They have made inroads into the pro audio and pro video markets with low cost gear that has some limitations, but gets the job done. I have reviewed both the Zoom Q4 and Zoom Q8 video cameras and am amazed that they can bring the technology they do at the price points they do.

I saw the Zoom F8 (above) come out earlier this year and have heard that it's selling very well. There are some cautions. The knobs are pretty difficult to mix with because they're so small. Also the gain knobs turn down, but not completely off. So the ideal use for the F8 is for a multi-track ISO recorder that you'll use to record audio and then mix the ISO tracks in post. Check out the new iPad control that Charlie Lederer demonstrates. Very Cool.

Cloud Microphones
I've known Roger for about five years. I reached out to him when the Cloud  JRS34 bi-directional ribbon mic came out. I worked with Cloud to make a few changes in the JRS34 as they were getting it ready for market. 

Somewhere along the line they put out a small amp stage called the Cloud Lifter. Then the Cloud Lifter CL-Z variable impedance mic activator. It's a truly neat device, especially if you have passive ribbon or dynamic mics, even a Shure SM57 or SM58. (Non-linear thought: If you're micing a snare with an SM57, try a Granelli G5790. It's an SM57 with a 90 degree angle that's a lot easier to position on a drum kit. These are local Baltimore guys.) The Cloud Lifter CL-Z allows you to continuously vary the impedance load the mic sees. That, of course, changes the sound of the mic; more flavors, more colors.

I've never seen so many in-ear phones! I asked Shure's Thomas Banks to run down the list and explain the differences. The Shure booth was very, very busy. I was concerned that all of the chatter around us would cover our comments. It's a little tough, but work with me here!

The Shure line (above) was very impressive. From the SE112 ($49), SE215 ($138.99), SE315 ($242.99), SE425 ($342.99), SE535 ($499), SE846 ($999), SHA900 listening amplifier ($999), and KSE1500 electrostatic earphones ($2,999.00) - there's a price point and feature set for everyone. (really? $3k? What must that sound like?)

My first thought was that one of these many in-ear drivers would be perfect for videographers who are also responsible for grabbing sound. Their problem is that even the small-ish Sony MDR 7506 headphones stick out too much and bang into the side of the camera when it's shoulder-mounted. NOT HELPFUL!! I hope to get around to trying some of these later to find out which model delivers sound similar enough to the MDR7506 to be useful in the location audio work I do. 

If you think Shure has been sitting on its laurels and watching the world go by, THINK AGAIN! This became apparent when Banks gave me a whirlwind (pun intended) tour of the Shure Motiv line of digital mics and new recording solutions. Please excuse the couple of places my camera decided to go soft focus. I may have had my finger over a focus sensor. I need to look into that. 

Banks showed me the Shure MVL lav, MV5, MV51, A free Motiv App, (a 24/48 recording software - check the App store), the MVi, MV88 Mid/Side stereo condenser with an amazing amount of control via the App in the above video. With these, Shure has definitely demonstrated that it's listening to "what the kids are saying."

That was my last stop of the second day and as the sun set over Manhattan, I walked back to the once grand (but not any more) Hotel Pennsylvania. OTOH, the Niles Restaurant a block south on 7th Avenue in the Affinia Hotel, was a great place to eat and drink.

The next day, as we trained from NYC back to Baltimore, I could only say that the AES Convention was, once again, great and showed me more than I expected.