AES 141st Convention – Los Angeles 2016
The Audio Engineering Society is the professional society devoted exclusively to audio technology with over 13,000 members. Founded in the United States in 1948, the AES has grown to become an international organisation that brings together audio professionals, creative artists, scientists and students worldwide from all disciplines including studio, broadcast, game audio, product design, audio research and live sound.
Every year, AES stage their Convention alternating between west and east US coast locations which attracts an international audience. Last month the AES 141st Convention was at the Los Angeles Convention Centre.
Over 4 days, the event includes a full technical program of tutorials, workshops, seminars, technical tours and a trade exhibition.
What is striking for an Australian visitor is the budget and scale that comes with the American population. Just shy of 320 million, the US has the capacity to support a big production industry. A rep from a large manufacturer told me that Australia represents just 3% of their worldwide business. They have single outlet retailers in the US that are literally bigger accounts than all of Australia put together.
This scale shines through in the support of AES from the manufacturers. The trade exhibition had about 270 exhibitors of just audio related manufacturers. No lighting, no musical instruments, no DJ gear, no vision and no rigging. Just professional sound.
Harman professional brought their broadcast demo truck. It is a semi trailer that travels the country packed with Soundcraft, Studer, JBL and AKG gear. It is a great way to see their equipment setup in a close to working environment.
Many manufacturers setup demonstration rooms. L’acoustics demonstrated the latest version of their Kiva II as well as several other new products. Focusrite had their range of networked audio products setup. Avid’s Robert Scovill took users through their new flagship system, the Avid S6L and Neumann, JBL Professional, Genelec and Sennheiser all had their own demonstration rooms .
On the show floor, Neutrik showed their new version of the Xirium Pro Wireless link. This model transmits 250 milliwatt in the 5Ghz region with a claimed 6 kilometre range, AES/EBU, analog and Dante versions, complete with Lithium Ion batteries for 10-14 hours life (still yet to be approved for use in Australia).
They are also showing their new 8+2 pin XLR. This combo XLR connecter meets Cat 5e in terms of data throughput as well as 2 pins dedicated for up to 16 amps DC. Neutrik see this as a robust alternative to Ethercon as well as any other application where low voltage and multipin connectivity is required.
Cedar released a 2 channel version of their proprietary dialogue noise reduction technology. The ability to reduce the background noise and a noisy show floor is nothing short of impressive.
Radial released a swag of new products including their 2 channel Dante in and out boxes (Di Net), a media split system with transformer isolation on all outputs (M press), 4 channels of audio over Cat 5 extenders including transformer isolation (Catapult) and finally 2 and 3 output line level splitters with Jensen transformer isolation (LX 2 and 3).
Proplex showed their range of data switches which are ruggedised versions of the Cisco SG-300 switches. They have Cisco motherboards but feature Ethercon connectors, better cooling and airflow, rugged cases and on some models, the ability to change Vlans on the front panel.
AES has streams of seminars, the Live Sound Expo, Project Studio Sound, Game Audio, Sound for Film and so on. It is impossible to get to them all as there ended up being around 160+ sessions over the 4 days.
You have to choose carefully! That is hard because the quality of topics and the presenters is impressive.
A standout presenter was Australian audio royalty Howard Page. He was senior at Jands in the 70’s and 80’s before joining Showco in the US (which was later acquired by Clair).
Nowadays Howard is the director of Engineering at Clair which involves popping in on tours that are having “challenges” as well FOH for Sting and his Symphonicity shows.
Howard’s audio knowledge is colossal. After all, he designed and built some of the best desks and electronics around in the early years and he is still heavily involved in most of Clair’s innovations. That combined with his touring experience (Van Halen, Sade, Bee Gees amongst others) possibly makes him the leading live sound authority in the world. And he is an Aussie! Howard spoke on Too Much Low End, Choosing the Right Vocal Mike and Tales from the Road.
Howard shared the Live Expo stage with Mark Frink (Tony Bennett, Zac Brown, KD Lang), Pete Kepler (Bonnie Raitt, Katy Perry), Ken Newman (Barry Manilow, Englebert Humperdinck. Shirley MacLaine) and Robert Scovill (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Matchbox 20, Rush, Def Leppard) .
Another great presentation was by Michael Santucci from Sensaphonics in Ear Monitoring Solutions. Michael is a Doctor of Audiology and is passionate about preserving artist’s hearing. Consequently, he has researched and developed technologies to accurately measure exposure and designed IEM products with that in mind. He has concerns about hearing health in our industry because he has done the research that actually measures levels in the ear canal of professional users of IEM’s. His research shows that artists are running them at the same level as when they used to run wedges so no nett exposure savings are being made.
His major concern? Artists that only use 1 IEM in 1 ear, combined with wedges. This is because the binaural link is broken which in the mind of the user, makes it sound 6dB softer so artists are turning their gear up to make up that 6dB. This in turn halves the safe exposure time.
Other topics for live sound operators included networking, acoustics, numerical loudspeaker array optimisation, entertainment RF, virtual soundcheck techniques, miking the symphony, and digital system drive.
If there is a single take away from AES 141st, it would be that networking, and AVB in particular is key. It is clear that AVB is becoming mainstream. I noticed that many of the manufacturers such as Meyer Sound (including their new Galaxy processors), Avid and L’Acoustics are now producing products that support AVB. 4 years ago, I noticed that Dante was gaining adoption at AES 139th and I noticed the same this year with AVB.
Young entertainment technicians would be well served by getting their networking expertise to a very high level. If you aren’t good at networking, you won’t be employable in the near future.
Concurrently with AES 141st, there was a separate conference on Audio for Virtual and Augmented Reality. It is sound for virtual reality headsets and the accurate delivery of sound to your ears in relation to how you move your head whilst wearing a headset. IE, positioning sound in the virtual space and making sure it matches your perspective. The demonstrations were impressive and the dynamically positioned sound added greatly to the immersive nature of this new technology.
This was my 3rd AES Convention, no doubt I’ll make the pilgrimage again.
I am a contributing writer to CX Magazine and they own this article. CX Network is the voice of technicians in entertainment and audio visual across Australasia.
To read this article online (and ALL of their articles dating back to 1990 for free!), head over to the CX Network.
Lot’s of great stuff!