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AES San Francisco 2008

FOH Staff • New Gear • November 14, 2008

Meyer SB-3F Sound Field Synthesis Loudspeaker

Great city, great weather, OK gear

If you didn’t make it to the City by the Bay for this year’s AES, you missed out. Fun show. Great chance to see and meet old friends. Lots of new and shiny gear. How much of it is applicable to what we as live audio providers do every day? Well, that’s a different story.

In fact, it is telling to look at the list of companies whose focus is on live event and installed audio that were not exhibiting at the show. Midas, KT, TC, EV, Martin Audio, L-ACOUSTICS, DAS, DiGiCo (sort of, they had an SD8 in the Adamson booth), InnovaSON. Yamaha was there, but had no booth on the show floor, opting instead to do training classes in an adjacent meeting room. Watch that last one. As costs for doing these kinds of shows rise, I expect to see more companies looking for hands-on demo and training opportunities than traditional “walk-up-and-down-the-aisles” trade shows.

But it was not a total draught for live audio, although most of the coolest stuff was very niched, not really ready for live gigs or closer to the musi-cian and band side of the business.

Leading the niche pack was Meyer with the new SB-3F Sound Field Synthesis Loudspeaker. This big (at least four-feet-across) hexagon is de-signed for projecting mid- and high-frequency energy over distances up to 1 km. The high-powered device employs Meyer’s sound field synthesis technology, which uses multiple small-point sources (a total of 448 high-powered, one-inch neodymium transducers purpose-built to create a highly directional wavefront) to create a focused, coherent long-range sound field. According to Meyer, it will project mid- and high-frequency en-ergy over distances up to 1 km. Very cool, but it will likely not show up on a lot of riders or make it to your next corporate gig.

Another cool thing that will not be on a gig was the “subwoofer fan” by Eminent Technology. Yes, I said a fan. While the output is only enough for home theatre use, the company claims it moves enough air to push a door open at frequencies all the way down to 1 Hz.

Audio-Technica BP8022

Hi-Tech Can’t Have It
Our next category is technically brilliant stuff that will likely — eventually — make it into our little world. Audio-Technica (in addition to intro-ducing the AT8022 and BP4025 stereo mics) won a TEC award for its ultra-wideband wireless technology that negates the issues we will all be facing with wireless come February.

Also on the wireless tip, Sony introduced fully digital wireless for the broadcast market. That’s initially, and they expect the technology to make it down to the live audio market — again — eventually. Hopefully, at a price that is quite a bit less than the $7K-range-per-channel price tag that the broadcast units will carry. But with the ability to transmit up to 12 channels in the bandwidth of a single UHF station it could go a long way in clearing the digital landscape.

Modular Snake System from Planet Waves

One piece of gear that is almost at the “you-can-actually-buy-it” stage is the Mongoose from Music Sciences. Mongoose as in it eats snakes. This 64-x-32 digital snake is wireless and transmits all that information in the microwave range and uses proven true-diversity technology to avoid dropouts. The cost saving in fuel alone for trucking a 500’ copper snake capable of carrying that kind of traffic is going to make it very attractive to touring acts, and the lack or wires makes it a natural for sensitive installs including houses of worship.

There was some stuff that was ready to ship that we could use right way. Renkus-Heinz introduced an addition to their Versys line of line arrays, which we profiled in the last issue of FOH. Yamaha previewed the SB168-ES — an Ethernet equipped 16-x-8 stage box that is scalable. Four units can be chained together to get up to 64 x 32. The unit is being billed as a “perfect companion” to the popular M7CL and LS9 digital mixers.

DiGiCo SD8

DiGiCo had a working version of the SD8 in the Adamson booth. Besides the cool gold tone, it has many of the features beloved by DiGiCo users and — for the first time — at a price point under $50 grand.

JBL EON powered speakers

Useful, but Less than High End
First up in this batch of stuff that may seem more apropos to bands and musicians than to soundcos (but don’t be too quick to judge. I am guessing I will see most of this stuff on small and mid-sized gigs in the next year) is the new iteration of the ubiquitous EON powered speakers from JBL. Next up is a pair of mixers that are too small in channel count for anything but small gigs, but are way cool nonetheless.

PreSonus StudioLive

First, from PreSonus is a digital board called the StudioLive with their comps and gates on every channel, full re-callability, a couple of effects processors and FireWire out for recording. With a price tag of just $1,999, this may be the perfect way for the anklebiters among us to dip our toes in the digital mixing world.

Allen & Heath took a very different route to get to the same “use-it-in-the-studio-and-then-take-it-out-on-a-gig” place with the ZED-R16. This is a 16-channel ANALOG with FireWire out for recording. “Big deal,” you say, noting that this is hardly the first of that variety of mixer. But check this: Some of the knobs and every fader on the R16 send MIDI continuous controller info, which means it can double as a control surface for any digital recording program except Pro Tools. In addition to the analog ins and outs, it sports LightPipe. Even being a Pro Tools guy, I would be in-terested in it just as a mixer for live recordings made with my trusty old Alesis HD 24.

Finally, under the “how-come-I-never-thought-of-that” heading is a new series of sub-snakes from Planet Waves (part of the string-making com-pany D’Addario and best known for well-made but still affordable cables sold in places like Guitar Center). This modular system can only do eight channels, but it uses three different lengths of “snake” and three different “breakouts” — XLR male, XLR female and 1/4” TRS. All of them termi-nate in DB-25 connectors, which means that the core snake can have any ends on it that you need. The core and two breakouts are already priced well-below similar snakes on the market, and when you add a couple of extra breakouts and one snake can take on several different forms, the sav-ings really add up.

Midas Pro6

Let’s Go To Vegas
I always said LDI was a squint show, and with the apparent demise of the ET Live “shoot-out” event, there was way less audio there than in the past few years. But there were a few noteworthy exceptions, including the U.S. introduction of the Midas Pro6 (which we told you about a couple of issues ago).

On the show floor itself, Production Intercom was doing the “little-guy-leapfrogs-the-corporate-competition” thing with a very cool “comm.-over-IP” device called the IP 901. It connects via and XLR and Cat 5 and lets any Internet-connected-device signal, call or listen to the comm. system from anywhere in the world. It also includes automatic echo cancellation and DSP, which means you don’t have to deal with the calibration time suck. At just $5K, I expect to see these in a bunch of places.

JBL VerTec DP Seroes powered full-siz 4889 line array.

A few miles away at a local production company, JBL unveiled the new VerTec DP Series powered full-size 4889 line array. With the same wood construction that 4889 fans are used to now coupled with three channels of what is basically Crown iTech and the dbx version 4 settings from the DriveRack 4800, they sounded, to me, more musical than any other set of 4889s I have heard (well, except for the ones that were already running those 4800 version 4 settings).

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