The annual US conventions of the Audio Engineering Society provide a major showcase for new audio technologies and the show held from October 5th to the 8th, 2006 at San Francisco's Moscone Center didn't disappoint. One thing that was noticeable different this year was a greatly increased emphasis on sound reinforcement products, both in terms of new unveilings on the show floor to the excellent selection of panels, workshops, seminars and events catering to live sound interests.
Noted FOH engineer Robert Scovill—set the right tone when in his keynote address, he remarked 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.
Walking among the 400+ audio exhibitors on the show floor, there was plenty to see-and hear. Here are a few product highlights from a live performance perspective.
Perhaps the most talked about live sound product at AES was the DSP 5D from Yamaha. This compact unit essentially puts the functionality of the company's acclaimed PM5D-RH digital live 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. Controlled from a short-frame PMD5 board, the DSP 5D provides an ideal solution for maximizing audio capabilities while minimizing the amount of seating space normally required by a larger console.
Speaking of compact control, Digidesign's D-Show Profile offers a size-conscious alternative to the popular D-Show flagship console/controller in its VENUE line of live mixers. 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—allowing seamless recording and/or playback of sound effects, pre-recorded tracks, music beds, etc. D-Show Profile also offers expanded show control options with the new General Purpose Interface (GPI). Its eight GPI inputs/outputs allow D-Show Profile to send or respond to external equipment via simple switch closures for automation cues, etc. With the new Event List feature in D-Show 2.5, users can build and customize macros that enable the console to perform multiple functions with a single button push, footswitch press or fader movement. And as D-Show and D-Show Profile operate on the same D-Show control software and operating system, users won't have to learn new software or rebuild their console settings from scratch when moving between VENUE mixing consoles.
Designed to support multi-purpose venues that must handles a variety of uses (such as plays, music concerts, lectures and cinema), Constellation™ electroacoustic architecture from Meyer Sound Labs 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. A music concert in a multipurpose venue can have all of the warmth and resonance of a concert hall, while—with a touch of a button—a play in the same space will exhibit increased intelligibility. Constellation can help overcome problems such as bringing instruments with poor projection (i.e., French horns and string basses) into the proper aural perspective.The first installation is at Zellerbach Auditorium on the UC Berkeley campus.
There were other interesting audio products at AES, and we'll present some of these in the print version of Live Design and online at www.livedesignonline.com. AES returns to New York City next year, from October 5th to the 8th, 2007. See you there!