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2016 AES Los Angeles Show Highlights

What caught our eye at AES this year? Plenty!

By Phil O'Keefe



An AES convention is a lot of fun. In some ways it's similar to a NAMM show, but they're smaller, quieter, and with much more emphasis on recording and live sound equipment as opposed to musical instruments. There's also the white paper presentations as well as the Live Sound and Project Studio Expos, which seemed to be more popular than ever this year. There are also numerous famous engineers and producers wandering around, so if you're a fan of what these people do, there's always the chance you could bump into one of your heroes; I was fortunate to meet Geoff Emerick this time around. But for many, the biggest part of the convention is the new gear announcements, product releases, gear displays and demonstrations and there was quite a bit this year; here are some of the things that caught our attention.



Ocean Way Audio had their new RM1-B ribbon microphone on display. Designed by Cliff Hendricksen, it has the same ribbon as its predecessor (the RM1), and a redesigned outer perimeter that is clad in stainless steel.


Shure was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the legendary SM58 dynamic microphone with the SM58-50A anniversary version, which has a silver finish and comes with a commemorative certificate, sticker and photo, as well as a historical user guide, mic clip and zipper storage bag.


Audio-Technica was showing their new ATM350a Microphone Systems, which are designed with a variety of mounting configurations that will work on multiple types of instruments.


sE Electronics has three new microphones, including their first dynamic models and a new condenser. The two dynamics are the V7, a super cardioid dynamic, and the V3, a cardioid dynamic. Both offer low handling noise and attractive prices - $129 MSRP for the V7 and $89 MSRP for the V3. The new condenser is the X1 A, which offers a newly developed acoustical design and similar features to the X1 at a stunning $129 MSRP price point. 

Brahma Microphones was displaying their affordable calibrated ambisonics microphones including a model built into a Zoom H2N. Brahma's offerings use four cardioid capsules in a tetrahedral array and are currently the least expensive ambisonic microphones on the market, with prices starting under $1,000. They support just about any polar pattern and B-format playback configuration you can imagine. 

Soundelux USA was showing the U195, an updated microphone based on the Soundelux U195 (sold from 1996-2006) and the Bock Audio U195 (which sold from 2007-2014), which features an updated K67 style capsule and retains the famous Fat switch.

MXL's new DX-2 is a side-address dynamic microphone designed for guitar amps that utilizes two different capsules - one a small diaphragm cardioid, the other a large diaphragm super cardioid. On the rear, a crossfade knob allows you to select either capsule, or to blend them together in whatever ratio you want.


Cloud Microphones was showing off their new Cloudlifter Zi. This double-purpose box does what Cloud's Mic Activators have always done (increase low output levels and optimize impedance loads) but in addition to working with your low output dynamic and ribbon mikes, it can also do the same when running passive, low-output / high impedance instruments direct to the board.  


Warm Audio announced their first microphone - the $599 MSRP WA87. No prizes for guessing what mic it's based on. It should be available sometime in December.



Mixers and Recorders

While QSC didn't have a booth at AES this time around, they did sponsor the Live Sound Expo and their new TouchMix-30 Pro was in use providing sound reinforcement in some of the seminars. The QSC TouchMix-30 Pro is a 32 channel digital mixer with 24 mic preamps, six stereo effects processors, a built-in 10" multi-touch touchscreen, anti-feedback and room-tuning wizards, two RTAs, 8 subgroups, 32 channel DAW interface and 32 channel direct to hard drive recording and playback.

TASCAM displayed the DR-701D, a portable audio system designed for single shooter video production, with an onboard timecode generator, HDMI in and out that allows your DSLR camera to start recording on both devices, and a video clock to prevent drift between the audio and picture. It also has four mic inputs that can be recorded separately as well as a mixed stereo track for a total of six-track recording, and multiple units can be cascaded if you need more.


Plugins and Software

Line 6 Amp Farm and Echo Farm are being re-introduced!

iZotope was demonstrating Neutron, a plugin designed to assist you with mixing by automatically detecting different instruments such as drums and guitars and creating custom optimized starting points based on your audio tracks through spectral shaping, multi band processing, compression and a unique masking meter to help identify perceptual frequency collisions.


Focusrite announced RedNet Control 2.0, an update to its remote control software for products in the RedNet range of Dante-based audio-over-IP systems.

SoundRadix was demonstrating the all-new SurferEQ2, which now has a side-chain input, spectral gate, morphing filters, zero latency mode and a redesigned interface. Stay tuned for a HC review.

Dysonics unveiled their new Rondo360 VR audio software at the AES show. It's compatible with all major DAW programs and allows you to take several audio tracks from the DAW and output them in various formats, including surround and ambisonic formats for 360 degree spatial mixing.



Softube announced two new modules that are free for all Modular owners - Dual X-Fade and Dual Pan.

Waves SoundGrid Connect allows users to use their own ASIO audio interface along with Waves Soundgrid DSP server and SoundGrid I/O in a single system.

Waves also released the new Abbey Road Vinyl plugin, which models the vinyl cutting and mastering equipment at Abbey Road Studios and allows you to give your tracks that vintage vinyl sound.

Empirical Labs was celebrating their 20th anniversary and founder Dave Derr was demonstrating the new Empirical Labs Arouser, their very first software compressor plugin.


Soundtoys showed off their new Sie-Q, which is available for a limited time as a free download. This EQ plugin is based on the Siemens W295b hardware equalizer.

DAW Software and Audio Interfaces

Focusrite had their new Red 8Pre Thunderbolt 2 interface on display. This 24 bit / 192kHz bad boy has 64 channels of fully assignable and routable I/O, 8 Red mic preamps, Dante networking, and is compatible with Pro Tools HD. It is scheduled for a December release.

The latest news from Cakewalk is the SONAR 2016.09 update, which they had running on a diminutive yet powerful NUC computer at the Gibson Pro Audio booth. This one is all about increased efficiency, with new Plug-in Load Balancing across multiple CPU cores, selectable CPU Metering Modes, and Quick Group Freezing which allows you to freeze multiple tracks at once.

MOTU's new UltraLite Mk4 interface packs 18 inputs and 22 outputs in a compact enclosure, and features USB2 interfacing, switchable ADAT / TOSLink optical I/O, RCA S/PDIF I/O, and built in MIDI I/O and supports same rates of up to 192kHz.


Avid announced Pro Tools 12.6 and HD Software standalone, which is available independent of HD hardware bundles.

Apogee was showing off their new Element series Thunderbolt interfaces. There are three models, each with different I/O configurations. The $595 MSRP Element 24 has 10 in and 12 out, the Element 46 ($895 MSRP) has 12 in and 14 out while the Element 88 ($1,495 MSRP) offers 16 inputs and 16 outputs. All support sample rates of up to 192kHz.

Speakers, Amps and Headphones

KRK was showing off their revamped V series studio monitors. The range was developed in collaboration with hundreds of producers and engineers and includes three two-way powered monitors, with 4" (V4) 6" (V6) and 8" (V8) woofers. Stay tuned for a HC review.

Ocean Way Audio had their new HiRes3.5 Studio Reference Monitors on display. These are based on the acclaimed HR4 studio monitors but are larger, and can be installed in soffits or used free standing, and have a 20 Hz-22 kHz frequency response and can deliver a whopping 120dB SPL.

Sennheiser was showing off their updated HD 280 headphones, with a new design and improved comfort. The headband features improved padding , while the closed-back circumaural headphones have a frequency response of 8 Hz - 25 kHz.

L-Acoustics was displaying their newly launched Kiva II compact line source, as well as the KS28 reference subwoofer and X Series coaxial enclosures.

At the Radial Engineering booth, Hafler unveiled its three new CI series amplifiers with multi-channel capabilities.  Designed for installations, the new Hafler CI-1255 is a 12 channel power amplifier, with 55 watts per channel and all in only two rack spaces. The six channel CI-6120 has 120W per channel while the CI-855 has eight channels and delivers 55W per channel.  


Preamps and Outboard Processors

AEA had their new RPQ2 Ribbon Microphone preamp on display. It is a high impedance, high gain preamp with EQ and DI that's intended to be the perfect partner for your ribbon microphones.


Neve had their 1073DPX preamp / EQ at the show. This two rackspace unit has two channels of world famous Neve preamplification and EQ and the big fat sound that the 1073 is famous for.


Manley Labs was displaying their Nu Mu stereo compressor which has the special T-Bar mod tube front end of their famous Variable Mu, and a high voltage discrete FET amplifying and output stage for fast, punchy performance. Think of it as a "clean" version of the Variable Mu.

Warm Audio announced the WA412, a four-channel mic preamp based on the classic 312. It carries a $1,199.00 MSRP, and should be available sometime in December.


Miscellaneous and Wrap-Up

BAE Audio launched their new Hot Fuzz Dual Stomp Boost / Fuzz. This is their first guitar pedal, and it incorporates a classic top boost and 70's style fuzz in a single unit, with individual footswitches for each.

SPARS (the Society of Professional Audio Recording Studios) also had a booth and was doing mentoring sessions at AES.

At the RackFX booth they were discussing their interesting program that allows you to rent your gear, but without it leaving your studio. It's all done online.

It was a really good AES Show this year. There was plenty more going on and lots more to see, so make sure you also check out our AES Show report forum thread right here on Harmony Central too, and don't forget to tell us what you saw and liked at the show! -HC-




Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  

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