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Welcome to 2020, So… Let’s Do the Time-Warp Again

FOH Staff • Editor's NoteJanuary 2020 • January 14, 2020

George Petersen

Each time a millennium rolls around, it’s a great time to reflect back on where we’ve been and are headed. I remember writing an editorial on that topic 20 years ago, but with year 3000 so far away that only Keith Richards will be around for the festivities, let’s settle for the duo-decade of 2000-2020.

Firstly, let’s count our blessings that 2000 was not accompanied by the end of the world — unless you were needlessly worrying about resetting the internal clocks on your PCs — a mostly overblown “disaster” that didn’t happen. Remember that?

At this point, I won’t even make predictions about when the first affordable flying cars will debut or when some whistleblower from the oil industry will leak that well-hidden secret about a cheap pellet that mixes with water to produce high-octane gasoline. Those won’t happen until 2021 — but remember, you read it here first. But what really excites me are the new anti-gravity disks that snap onto the sides of 300-pound bass bins, making them as light as a feather. However, these GravoMotion 101 units won’t be unveiled until InfoComm 2020, so keep this info under wraps…

‡‡         Back to The Past

Jumping into our time capsule, lets hop back to the barren wasteland that was 2000, when our kids assumed we lived in caves, made clothing from animal skins, hunted mastodons with spears and used rotary phones. From a technology standpoint, that isn’t really far from the truth. That was the dawning of the age of broadband, where nearly a third of Internet users in the U.S. were still using dial-up access via phone modems. Peer-to-peer music file sharing was a few months old, and our year 2000 celebration was still months before Metallica’s Lars Ulrich spoke out about how the newly-formed Napster was destroying the music industry.

In fact, January 2000 was an era without: iPhones, FaceBook, cameraphones, iPods, Blu-ray disks, YouTube, Twitter, Kindle, Skype, iTunes or Wikipedia — or even Wikileaks, for that matter.

If you had a fast Mac, it was a 450 MHz PowerMac G4 running OS 9 — OS X wouldn’t appear for more than a year later. On the PC side, Windows XP was also in the design phase and didn’t launch until 2001.

An Avid Pro Tools rig meant a PCI-carded (not PCI-e) Mix24 system running Version 5
software on TDM DSP with 24-bit resolution, but limited to 48 tracks (hardware-dependent) and 48 kHz sampling. Pro Tools HD (with 96/192 kHz recording) didn’t debut until two years later.

The plug-in market was growing, and in 2000 Pace launched its iLok copy protection. This in many ways, simplified the endless hassles of software authorization, while ushering in the new era of live sound mixers occasionally leaving their iLok behind, connected to the console at their last gig.

‡‡         Take a Walk On The Live Side

Line arrays of all varieties and sizes are commonplace these days, but back in 2000, your choice was limited to L-Acoustics’ pioneering 1992 V-DOSC line source array and its 1999 modular DV-DOSC systems, based on the Wavefront Sculpture Technology developed by company founder Dr. Christian Heil and Marcel Urban.

Competition from JBL Professional’s VerTec system didn’t arrive until later in the year, first employed at the 2000 Democratic National Convention at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

On the digital console front, Yamaha’s first large-format live digital console, the PM1D, had officially made its debut (Sept. 22, 1999, at Carnegie Hall in New York City) but didn’t become widely available until 2001. Yamaha had previous digital mixers — most notably 1995’s 02R 20-bit 8-bus console, which although designed for recording applications, had some fans in the live world — notably longtime Neil Diamond FOH engineer Stan Miller. However, the PM1D really set the pace for Yamaha’s later forays into live digital mixing.

Other successful live digital console entries were years away. DiGiCo was founded in 2002; the (pre-Avid) Digidesign announced its VENUE series in 2005; and Midas’ first digital console, the XL8, was launched at Musikmesse in Frankfurt in 2006.

‡‡         No Nostalgia Here

Other than vintage mics and musical instruments, I like new gear. I have no fondness for 90-pound analog 8-bus consoles, likewise for $1/watt power amp pricing. And my back shows a definite preference for lightweight Class-D designs in amp racks and powered speakers. I’m looking forward to checking out some cool new stuff at this month’s NAMM show. (Check out our preview of gear that starts on page 24.) See you in Anaheim!

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