Mel Lambert's on-site report for July 2004 issue of "MIX"
Springtime in Berlin has a lot to offer: sunshine in what is now being referred to as the new cultural centre of the United States of Europe, and a slew of new product offerings in the state-of-the-art Messe fairgrounds center for the 116th AES Convention, May 8 thru 11. And although, as in previous years, the broadcast community outnumbered attendees from the music recording, post and film industries – most European countries still support a thriving state-owned network of radio and TV stations – there was plenty to interest everyone.
AMS Neve spotlighted a new confirmation of the MMC Aquarius Digital Console (right) for stereo and 5.1-channel music production, and which features new 24/96 DSP, updated operational features and a new I/O matrix capable of accessing over 600 channel paths. High-resolution TFT meters and GUIs compliment an enhanced monitor panel with automation control and displays. Also to be seen: the new Model 1073 DPD Pre-amp, which comprises a dual-channel mic pre-amplifier section from the vintage Neve 1073 Channel Amplifier; analog and optional DSD and PCM outputs are available.
Apogee Electronics unveiled the Rosetta 200, a two-channel AD/DA version of the much respected Rosetta 800 eight-channel unit, featuring standard 192 kHz sampling frequency, sample-rate conversion and MIDI control I/O. Optional X-Series (Pro Tools HD and Mix) plus FireWire expansion cards are also available, along with core Apogee technologies such as UV22HR and SoftLimit. Rosetta 200 features the new CODA Processing Engine – a new proprietary tool, Aptomizer, is said to maximize levels without increasing noise or distortion - plus Intelliclock, full channel metering and S/P DIF I/O. List price: $1,995.
CB Electronics was spotlighting a new PEC/DIR Controller that provides familiar button and paddle control of a range of digital audio workstations from video and film dubbing consoles. Currently, the new panel provides plug-and-play control of Digidesign Pro Tools and Merging Technologies Pyramix; others DAWs are in the works. Simple-to-use keystrokes enable set up for eight Master Groups, 16 Stem Assignments and 64 Record Tracks, with full track arming and I/O switching. Future plans call for downloading/recalling system setup as Metadata via a 9-pin serial port, and which can be saved with the DAW’s project data. The UK-based company’s custom-developed serial control products are available in the USA through Audio Engineering Associates and Audio Intervisual Design.
Digital Theater Systems introduced a new suite of PC/Mac-compatible encoders to create DTS soundtracks. Claimed to provide the only 96kHz solution for both DVD-A and DVD-V projects, two of the encoders are said to comprise the first commercially available solutions for creating 96kHz and 6.1-channel discrete DTS material. There are two stand-alone encoders for Mac and PC: a 48kHz/5.1 package and a 48kHz/5.1-channel and 96kHz/ES encoder unit. And the new DTS X Encoder for Apple's Xserve RAID enables Mac- or PC-based users to remotely access and encode information via a company Intranet and LAN. All three encoders are expected to begin shipping in late-Summer.
Euphonix organized a fascinating demonstration of EuCon connectivity. A System 5 surface was controlling not only the firm’s Core Engine and a Steinberg Nuendo DAW via the Ethernet-based protocol, but also the new 128fs Oxford Mix Engine from those talented Brits at Sony Pro Audio Laboratory (left), the group responsible for developing the Sonoma DSD Editor/Mixer and the now defunct OXF-R3 Multichannel Console. The new 1U device provides up to 48 channels of EQ, dynamics and mixing, and features SuperMAC I/O; conventional PCM operation is supported as well as Direct Stream Digital. The Euphonix demo consisted of 16 DSD channels feeding six busses controlled from the System 5. As Euphonix’ Martin Kloiber offered: “Scoring, mastering and high-end music production studios have expressed interest in a DSD mixing solution.”
Genelec wowed the assembled throng with demos of the much anticipated 8000 Series Studio Monitors (right). The 8030A, 8040A, and 8050A active bi-amplified trio (which replace, respectively, the 1029, 1030 and 1031) feature a new Minimum Diffraction Enclosure with rounded edges and curved front and sides. According to designer Harri Koskinen, “This specially-shaped and very smooth surface is integrated with the enclosure; its area has been maximized to achieve an astoundingly flat on and off-axis frequency response.” The new design is said to provide a wide and consistent listening window, as well as minimizing early room reflections and other colorations, an assessment that was confirmed during extensive listening sessions. Price, per unit: 8030 $595, 8040 $1,150, and 8050 $2,050.
Lawo was emphasized recording and post applications of its remarkably flexible mc266 Digital Production Console (left), which features a compact design, lightweight construction and low power consumption. The mc266 accommodates an integral routing matrix that handles 3,072 mono inputs and outputs, assigned to 192 DSP channels and 144 buses. All modules are hot pluggable. An integral GUI and control PC ensures easy-to-set console topologies, while a clearly organized center section enables fast routing configurations. New features includes parallel track summing, integrated monitoring and console split with doubled PFL/AFL summing plus isolated bank/layer switching.
Merging Technologies unveiled the new OASIS Command Protocol for integrating the firm’s Pyramix Series workstation with digital consoles. OASIS (Open Audio System Integration Solution) is similar in concept to Euphonix' EuCon protocol, and provides a range of application-specific commands for communicating between console control elements and Pyramix DAW functions via a high-speed Ethernet port. “Integration should be based on a world-wide open protocol,” stressed Merging Technologies president Claude Cellier. “It would then allow customers to select their preferred equipment based on what best suits their needs, without being locked into a proprietary, closed, single manufacturer solution.” The company reported joint development agreements with both Harrison and DiGiCo. Also being shown: a Native version of Pyramix that runs on any laptop or desk PC; prices start at €550.
PMC/Professional Monitor Company was showing a new series of DB1-A and TB2-A Studio Monitors (right) that feature integral digital power amps. The self-powered monitors house Flying Mole digital Bi-Phase Fusion reference amplifier modules, each weighing just 1.1 pounds and supplying 160W into 4 ohms. Proprietary LF drivers and cabinet design, along with hand-built crossover electronics, are said to ensure ultra low distortion and compression characteristics, enabling consistent performance at high SPLs. Both units incorporate PMC’s 140 mm/5.5-inch and 170 mm/6.7-inch LF drivers, respectively, with the same 27 mm/1.1-inch soft dome tweeter used in the company’s larger midfield designs. Also on show: Flying Mole Corporation’s range of compact DAD-M100pro digital power amps.
SADiE unveiled the new compact BB2 and BB2-J Portable Workstations (left) that connect to a host laptop or desk PC via a USB 2.0 connection. Designed into an injection-molded casing, the portable units are said to be simple to install and provide a cost-effective solution for location applications. (The BB2-J version adds a jog-wheel controller.) Connections are provided for analog and digital I/O, headphone and a stereo mic input. A simplified user interface is concentrated into a single window, and allows the recording and editing of up to eight tracks with level and pan controls, transport, clip selection and master output level controls. Full data interchange with SADiE Series 5 DAWs is offered. Preliminary pricing: BB2 $1,155; BB2-J $1,695.
Solid State Logic spotlighted a new XL Analog-to-Digital Converter Module for the popular XLogic SuperAnalog Channel. The new add-on unit runs at sampling rates between 44.1 and 192 kHz at 24-bit resolution, and provides a short signal path from pre-amp to ADC. The module provides two channels of conversion at multiple sample rates, including allowances for varispeed and conventional pull-up/down ratios; a single unit can be shared between a pair of XLogic Channels. List price: $650.
Studer offered regular demos of the evolutionally Vista 8 Digital Live Production Console, whose combination of processing power and visionary Vistonics User Interface was attracting a lot of critical attention. A new Control Bay design manages to pack more faders into a small footprint, making it ideal for space-conscious installations in mobiles, concert halls and theatres, with integral snapshot and playlist management plus MIDI control of external effects units.
And, finally, AES Standards spotlighted practical uses of the AES47 Standard for carrying digital audio over ATM networks at the British Broadcasting Corporation and Capital Group in the UK. Using off-the-shelf Asynchronous Transfer Mode hardware, both broadcast organizations are transferring multichannel AES47-complaint signals between remote studios and transmitter sites. ATM offers extremely low latency (around 1 mS), mixed sample rates and bit depths, and offers a routing structure that can be set up as One-to-One, or One-to-Many. The BBC, for example, is using 155 Mbit/sec ATM highways to carry up to 40 channels AES-format signals in each direction; two unused pairs on each CAT5 cable carry a back-up stereo signal, plus a dedicated multirate sync reference. Pictured right: Chris Chambers, Senior Research Engineer at the BBC's R&D Center, with an AES47 Technology Demonstration using ATM network components.
In the formerly divided city of Berlin, it was heartening to see the words of broadcast and music/pro coexist so harmoniously; quite why so few live-sound manufacturers decided to support the AES Convention still remains a mystery, however. Next year’s European event will be held on mid-May at the new Convention Center in Barcelona, Spain.
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