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The Art of Sound - 117th Annual AES Convention

by November 03, 2004

Our good friends at DTS sponsored my Audioholics trip to the AES convention this year. In conjunction with four other leading pro audio companies, DTS had put together a program called " Understanding Surround Production ". I was delighted to find out how comprehensive this program was in addressing the requirements of recording studio set-up.

Tackling surround recording studio acoustics was Room Tunes . In the very large and reverberant room (~100'L x ~80'W x ~25'H) the Room Tunes folks had valiantly attempted to tame a 1.6 second reverberation time within an oblong circle of about 50' into which the chairs for the audience and the mixing console, display screens and huge 6.1 Genelec speaker systems were placed.

[DTS007001] [DTS011001]

Genelec , the powered speaker pros from Finland, were up next to explain their 6.1 set-up which had been laid out according to the 1994 ITU recommended surround standard. The Genelec speaker complement of speakers included 1038B 15" three-ways for the left and right fronts and for the left, center and rear surrounds. In the center was the 1038BC double 15" three-way and taking up the subwoofing duties was the mighty 7073A subwoofer with 4 12" woofers, a 1kW power amp and the built-in 6.1 bass management system.

Next up, on the input end of the system, was Soundfield 's demonstration of their multi-capsule 5.1 microphone made expressly for live surround production and post-production. Using proprietary software which controls the multiple figure-eight configured capsule pairs inside this single-enclosure mic the total surround environment is next fed through Steinberg's Nuendo surround editing and mixing software which has a DTS encoder plug-in on board.

We were treated to numerous examples of sound effects; a rare WWII-vintage Messerschmitt ME109 flying directly overhead from back to front sounded so real that it was hard to believe we were inside a room and not hearing it live. And Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" showed the limits of how far the surround version could go before you were forced to realize that the original recording was probably far too poor to begin with.

It's at this juncture that I'm sometimes queried as to how you can tell how good a medium like DTS is when you're starting out with such a poor recording. The answer is that a well executed, high data rate system such as DTS, to which we were listening acts like a surgeon's scalpel, dissecting and holding up for examination each bit of the original recording. Once taken down to its composite parts it was easy, for instance, to hear the poor quality, hooded sounding vocal mic'ing from the master original. Similarly the dense layering and orchestration on this famous cut sounds positively amateurish in it's re-assembled into a 6.1 format.

More details later of the DTS seminar on our main Audioholics pages. Here are other points of interest from AES:

1. For all our Audioholics' students, musicians and other readers who need to make several CD copies of a single album we found the Condre Tracer Express 52X record-speed duplication system. The Tracer Express is designed from the get-go to sustain a much more strenuous duty cycle than your typical consumer CD burner and at only $279 it's priced right in there. A DVD Tracer express will soon be available at $399.


2. Audioholics' Prez Gene DellaSala's ongoing investigation into potential "snake oil free" vendors of wire and exotic wiring harnesses which come in so handy for Home Theater work led me to the the WireWorks ( www.wireworks.com ) booth.

For thirty years these guys have supplied custom wire, wiring harnesses and one-off custom panels for the audio and audio-visual industries. Their 13-gauge wire, available in a variety of multiple conductor configurations all wrapped in a single sleeve, looks like just the ticket for running through walls to multiple speaker systems. And their AV2000 Multi-Media cabling system may make for easier single-bundle hook-ups in a complicated projection video system combined with several pairs of rear surround speakers.

3. The room acoustics companies flock in droves to educate and supply the burgeoning industry of transforming stereo recording and mixing environments to multi-channel use. Since the publication of the Recording Academy 's "Recommendations for Surround Sound Production" which we reported on from the EMX show in August there is now more clear cut direction as to the goals for absorptive and diffusive treatment within these rooms.

Some of the better known room acoustics treatment vendors in attendance were Acoustical Solutions Inc., Acoustics First Corporation, Aurelux Acoustics, Real Traps and RPG . Products from most of these manufacturers could be seen in each of the demonstration rooms in another area of the convention center usually being used in conjunction with one of the many pro-audio speaker vendor's active displays.

4. There were at least a couple more new speaker manufacturers at this show. I've been a big fan of powered speakers for Home Theater use ever since I designed the Alesis M1 Active 6 ½" bi-amplied monitor for them 6 years ago. The benefits and sound quality of built-in amplification are just too good to keep the secret of only musicians and professional recording engineers. So I've recently acquired a trio of NHT Pro 's M-00 Minimonitor for use as left center rights in my home theater rig. I'll be reporting on these beautifully built little gems shortly.

A new entrant (to me anyway) to the studio monitor arena was EMES from Germany ( www.emes.de ) and their American distribution is handled by Synthax . While I did look askance at their Owl and Mini Owl systems they had the "Pink TV active" ($1149/pr.) and the "Kobalt with Bl-Port technologie" sporting three angular ports surrounding the tweeter ($699) which may deserve a second look.

Bag End was presenting for the first time a paper on a new technology which they call their "Electronic Bass Trap". This is a feedback controlled scheme in a powered subwoofer which they claim will make their sub exhibit the same dynamics of a bass trap. I have let to wade through the equations and such in this AES preprint but this sounds like their invention is trying to do pretty much what a 1/20 octave parametric equalizer will do in the bass region. Production models are supposed to be available "around January".

5. JBL Professional has come out with updated versions of their acclaimed LSR studio monitors in the 6300 Series. Two models, the LDR 6312SP subwoofer and LSR 6328P 8" two-way feature JBL RMC Room Mode Correction feature. Peter Chaikin, JBL Professional Director of Recording and Broadcast confirmed that RMC is similar to the RABOS system which select upscale Infinity subwoofers have employed but that certain test parameters had been modified for studio application.

RMC may be but the first of such narrow-band-capable parametric equalization systems to be offered for studio application. It addresses the dire need for controlling room mode problems which can become quite complex if 5 (or more) full range monitors are employed in a surround mixing environment.

6. Last but certainly not least was JSX Audio 's Sound Design System


The overview of this beautiful beast says the SD System is "designed to translate mix stage and exhibition theater system sound field properties to sound design and screening rooms while retaining cinema standard measures of accuracy, frequency response, sound field dimensions and dynamic range". I actually couldn't stand back far enough in the crowded AES show aisles so I asked the JSX folks for their own beauty shot. Some Particulars;

- With the folding "wings" extended each channel of the 3-channel LCR portion of this

system measures 35 7/16"W x 67"H x 20 7/8"D (including the 1kW amps bolted to the

upper back portion of the cabinets

- 3 main LCR speakers utilize a TAD-Pioneer compression driver working into a complex 90° x 40° horn and one 8" woofer in an infinite baffle

- 3 Low Frequency Extension cabinets with dual 8" woofers in an infinite baffle cabinet

- 3 Subwoofers with 12" long throw pistons powered by integrated 1 kilowatt class D amplification

- 6 Integrated dual-channel JSX SDA class A/AB amplification, one channel per speaker

- 6 Concentric 2-way surround speakers individually amplified and process in an array.


DSP processing is programmed with JSX proprietary algorithms configurable to all cinema standards, formats and sound design configurations. The DSP system can be IP addressed and can be remotely configured and set by JSX. Also available is a console mounted remote with a simple user interface for controlling the system. $65,000

That's all for now. We'll give more details and updates on these exciting companies and products as soon as we get it!

About the author:
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Gene manages this organization, establishes relations with manufacturers and keeps Audioholics a well oiled machine. His goal is to educate about home theater and develop more standards in the industry to eliminate consumer confusion clouded by industry snake oil.

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