Bigger isn't necessarily better. While the 108th Audio Engineering Society Convention in Los Angeles was certainly impressive in girth, it felt lacking in substance. The expansive Staples Center played host to 418 exhibitors of professional audio equipment, some not-so-great food, over 20,000 attendees, and over 40,000 sore feet, while the convention itself was akin to the 1999 AES Convention in New York, Version 2.0. Quite a few manufacturers relaunched many of their products with software improvements, presumably gleaned from feedback at 1999's AES, while other manufacturers opted for lower-cost versions of existing equipment, designed for higher-quality sound systems for the budget-conscious.

There were exceptions: Level Control Systems' revolutionary CueConsole made its AES debut at the same time as it was being installed on Broadway for Jonathan Deans' sound design of Seussical. JBL's EVO System may be the answer for an efficient, all-in-one sound system that requires little intervention from a human being. And Meyer Sound Labs' new X-10 studio monitors actually use rocket science to produce low distortion quotients and lifelike sound reproduction.

What follows are short summaries of noteworthy products on display.

BSS Audio, manufacturers of high-quality digital signal processing equipment, debuted cost-effective alternatives to its popular Omnidrive series of loudspeaker management systems. The FDS-334 and FDS-336 Minidrive systems utilize all the processing features of their bigger brothers, but while the processor is controllable via SIASoft's SMAART-Live analysis software, it is not BSS Soundweb-compatible. The FDS-334 is a two - input, four - output system, and the FDS-336 is a three - input, six - output system.

Cadac Electronics debuted the R-Type Live Production Console, designed as a rock-and-roll version of the venerable J-Type. Using a monocoque design and slimmer audio module widths, the R-Type is a rugged touring mixer with legendary Cadac audio quality and reliability, complete with Cadac's traditional "plug-anywhere" modules and computer controllability.

Cox Audio displayed L'Acoustics' selection of line-array-technology loudspeakers, and showed off the new dV-DOSC compact-format loudspeaker designed for vertical arrays. Created for theatre, club, and concert reinforcement, the full-range, two-way dV-DOSC system is ideal for installations where visually unobtrusive sound design is an important issue.

Among a host of new products, including loudspeakers and amplifiers, Crest Audio introduced a new version of its popular X-Series mixing console featuring VCA-based automation, aptly named the X-VCA. The X-VCA offers full VCA control of input channels and analog subgroups, which are programmable via the onboard mute and VCA automation system. In addition, the X-VCA includes other features that make it a perfect cost-effective mixing desk for small theatres and live venues, including dynamic processing on all subgroups, improved equalization circuitry on all inputs, and parametric equalizers on the stereo outputs.

Innova-Son, which introduced its Sensory Theatre Grand Live digital mixing desk at AES 1999, introduced two new models this year: the Sensory Compact Live does away with the external audio I/O processing rack and combines all audio inputs/outputs into a single frame, while the Sensory Large-Scale Live desk is a large-format version of the Theatre Grand Live desk, utilizing a hierarchical control surface in order to provide for maximum flexibility.

JBL Professional debuted a new, self-contained, intelligent sound reinforcement system called EVO. EVO is the first and only loudspeaker system fully capable of adapting itself to its environment utilizing a DSP process that adjusts frequency response, transducer levels, and delay times. Included in the package are two loudspeakers, two RF microphones, a 16 - channel mixer with built-in effects, and assorted cables, which makes it perfect for small installations. [See "Sound Products of the Year," page 36.]

Level Control Systems displayed its new CueConsole digital mixing console. Designed to be a small, digital alternative to traditional analog behemoths, the system is comprised of four modules that each tackle a different aspect of mixing. Using LCS' proprietary software running on the company's LD-88 mixing engine, an operator or designer can glance at a computer monitor to identify signal paths, equalization circuitry, and other parameters.

Meyer Sound Labs released the UPM-1P loudspeaker, a self-powered version of the UltraSeries UPM-1. Designed for front-fill or under-balcony situations, the UPM-1P is a compact, full-range cabinet with 100 h x 100 v dispersion. In addition, optional plug-in input modules facilitate control of the UPM-1P via Meyer's RMS System. Meyer also debuted its X-10 studio monitors, large-format self-powered loudspeakers that exhibit extremely low distortion, near-perfect impulse response, and uniform dispersion across a wide listening area.

XTA Electronics, manufacturers of the widely-used DP-series of loudspeaker management systems, introduced a new signal processor, dubbed the "Seriously Intelligent Digital Dynamics" DP-324. A dual-channel dynamics, equalization, and delay processor, this one-rack-space unit is designed for insertion into individual channels, subgroups, or used as a standalone mastering tool.

Hundreds of other new and noteworthy products made their debuts at AES 2000. Drop by for a full, booth-by-booth report of AES 2000!