Feeling Too Old?

With the year’s first audio shows behind us, we have seen several technical breakthroughs and innovations that give us reason to be excited. Thus far, we have attended the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) 2014, and the Integrated Systems Europe (ISE)!

The 2014 International CES was marked by the emergence of ultra-high definition (UHD) TV. Audio professionals need to be aware of the sound implications that accompany those stunning images. Most (giant) LCD panels are so thin there’s no space for high-quality speakers. The TVs may sound fine at home for sports, talk shows, and news, but there is a market for new speaker systems to complement these 4K TVs. And (sorry) I don’t think consumers will opt for multichannel unless we see new speaker designs that combine great quality with convenience.

In the majority of homes, the key will be perceptual audio algorithms and a better consumer experience with less hassle. That also means wireless solutions, especially for surround sound. At the 2014 International CES, we particularly liked the Philips Fidelio E5 wireless surround cinema speakers, a “Best of Innovations” in the Home Theater category.

Also, it is critical to understand that 4K content will not arrive at homes as physical media. As we saw at the 2014 International CES, Sony’s vision for 4K includes new cloud/online services, where hi-res audio and interactive gaming are also considerations. In my opinion, this means speaker and audio systems designers have good reason to work hard on new designs.

Another major trend at the 2014 International CES was wearable electronics, which will provide new opportunities, related to headsets, wireless audio, and maybe immersive/awareness experiences.
The NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA, was also a vibrant event, complete with several major announcements for the studio and stage environments and, increasingly, many incredible options for iPad and portable devices. Apps for iPad (e.g., Korg’s Gadget featuring 15 virtual synths and instruments or Cakewalk’s Z3TA+ iOS) sound and look amazing.

There was also a new trend that combined portable wireless speakers with guitar rehearsal amplifiers. Take a look at the VOX SoundBox Mini and IK Multimedia iLoud portable speaker and you will understand. An outstanding example came from Line 6, after its recent acquisition by Yamaha. The new Line 6 AMPLIFi combines a high-performance guitar amplifier, a streaming Bluetooth speaker, and an iOS app in one powerful solution.

The NAMM Show also saw several new studio monitors and many Thunderbolt recording interface announcements, with Zoom making a grand entrance in that category. Our favorite recording solution was the new Universal Audio Apollo Twin, a desktop 2 × 6 Thunderbolt audio interface, which enables real-time universal audio digital (UAD) processing of its high-quality plug-ins.

The greatest NAMM surprise came from QSC Audio, which revealed its first digital mixer line, the TouchMix series. Behringer also announced a new Dante network option for its X32 range of digital consoles, adding that more than 100,000 units have been sold worldwide. Perhaps inspired by that incredible success, the Music Group also announced a new 40-input Midas digital console, the M32, which is available for less than $5,000.

If you don’t feel excited by these announcements, the music is probably too loud and you may be a tad too old.

Music Key and Energy Analysis Gets Better with Mixed In Key 6.0

MixedInKeyMore and more DJ’s – even the better paid ones… – are using Mixed In Key software to create new session playlists and music mixes. Just released, the brand new 6.0 version of this leading key detection software for DJs is now able to create automatic segmentation of tracks based on “energy” levels, combined with more accurate key detection, thanks to a new music analysis algorithm. According to Mixed In Key creators, the new algorithm is now able to separate melodic elements on the music and detect notes and octaves in different instruments on the recording. The new version also introduces a new “Grand Piano” interface, allowing to instantly checking the analysis results against an instrument.

Mixed In Key 6.0 costs only $58 for new users and should help many demos at the Venetian during the CES 2014. Ready to compare the energy level on those Norah Jones tracks?

http://www.mixedinkey.com/

Bridging Audio Worlds

In the last three months, the audioXpress team attended several audio shows, including the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands; the Expomusic show in São Paulo, Brazil; the CEDIA EXPO 2013 in Denver, CO; the PLASA London show in London, England; the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver, CO; and the 135th International Audio Engineering Society (AES) Convention in New York, NY.

At the AES convention, we had the opportunity to publicly showcase our redesigned and expanded magazine and the feedback was extremely positive. We would like to thank all our authors, contributors, and members who offered very encouraging messages and positive suggestions.

In the midst of one of the most vibrant and well-attended AES conferences, we engaged in interesting discussions with manufacturers, students, and colleagues about the audio industry’s challenges and perspectives. Overall, we returned from New York with the sentiment that we are on the right track. More than ever, we feel there is a greater need for reliable, trustworthy, and relevant sources of technical information, which only an independent and highly focused publication can provide.

Based on the main product demonstrations and many of the excellent workshop sessions at AES, clearly there are exciting trends in all application fields. From the analog vs. digital signal debate, it seems we are transitioning to a clear acceptance of the fundamental values of good-quality analog in direct connection with digital systems and networking. That is, the audio industry is in a better position to leverage the benefits of the best analog audio electronics with the flexibility of the highest-quality digital hardware and software. And the implications are important.

The main implication is the typical “interconnect” and point-to-point signal transmission is “blurring” into the—as yet unknown to many—concept of network architectures. As witnessed at the 2013 AES convention, the pro audio industry is embracing Audinate’s Dante technology. And, the interoperability with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.1-AVB systems and the Ravenna technologies could benefit from the new Networked Audio-Over-IP (AoIP) Interoperability Standard: AES67-2013.

Still, independent of the network signals, we will certainly see more evolution in the next few years. As Michael Johas Teener, IEEE 802.1 Time Sensitive Networking Task Group Chairman, recently stated in a video testimony shared by the IEEE Standards Association, “Networks shouldn’t just be created for devices that are far apart; short ranges should be considered too. And once again, with its ability to replace many cables such as USB and HDMI, Ethernet could be the solution. Eliminating the RJ45 connector—or making it smaller and easier to use—is one good place to start.”

We think one of key factors in the adoption of technologies (e.g., HDBase-T) is the ability to transition from commercial installations into consumer electronics. Everyone concurs that hybrid A/D audio systems depend on too many connectivity issues. It is likely the audio network architectures will also have to evolve into simpler interfaces, the most popular of which—at least in the consumer space—will probably not even use cables. It will be wireless.

João Martins
Editor-in-Chief

Audinate Releases New 4×4 Channel Dante Ultimo Silicon Platform

Audinate's 4x4 Dante Ultimo

Audinate’s 4×4 Dante Ultimo

Audinate’s new 4×4 channels Dante Ultimo silicon platform will enable more audio networking systems for A/V, conferencing, public address, and broadcast applications. The new Audionate Dante Ultimo (ULT-01-004) solution supports 4 channels in and 4 channels out of uncompressed audio, double the capacity of the Ultimo chip (ULT-01-002) introduced at the beginning of 2013. This family of complete, ready-to-use, single-chip Dante solutions for networked audio products will accelerate the implementation for powered speakers, microphones, AV wall plates, paging stations, intercoms, and analog/digital break-in/break out interfaces, etc. With this announcement, Audinate also confirmed that the complete Ultimo product family will be enhanced to support an increased range of sample rates (44.1KHz, 48KHz, 88.2KHz, 96KHz); pull up / pull down support; remote signal presence indication; latency monitoring; improved clock statistics reporting; and GPIO pin activation. Audinate also confirms that several OEMs are already developing products based on the new Ultimo features and options, which will be generally available in Q1, 2014.

www.audinate.com

Q&A: Daniel Weiss – Audio Engineer Focuses on the “Masters”

Daniel Weiss founded Weiss Engineering in 1985. The company designs and manufactures digital audio equipment for mastering studios.

Daniel Weiss founded Weiss Engineering in 1985. The company designs and manufactures digital audio equipment for mastering studios.

SHANNON BECKER: Tell us a little about your background and where you live.

DANIEL WEISS: I live in Uster, a small city close to Zurich in Switzerland. In the 1970s and 1980s, I played music in a band, first as a violin player and later as the bass guitarist, which seemed preferable to the other band members. I also built various synthesizers, amplifiers, and speakers. I did a four-year apprenticeship as an electronics technician and during that time two friends and I formed a company called “White Amplifiers.” We built amplifiers and speakers for musicians in our spare time. After the apprenticeship, I studied electronics engineering and eventually graduated with a BSEE.

SHANNON: In 1979, you joined Studer-Revox as an electronics engineer working in the digital audio lab. Can you share details regarding your work on the sampling frequency converter design?

DANIEL: In 1979, Willi Studer decided to enter the digital audio era and established the “PCM laboratory” with almost all the lab members being newly recruited engineers and technicians. We were kind of an isolated group as the other labs were slightly suspicious of digital audio technology. We also had a hard time (at least it seemed to me) defining digital audio products that would make sense in a mainly analog world.

There were several digital audio recorders around at the beginning of the 1980s (e.g., Sony, 3M, Soundstream, JVC, Mitsubishi, etc.). There wasn’t much standardization back then so the sampling rates and interface formats greatly varied. Thus, it made sense to create a universal sampling rate converter with custom wired interfaces. This became the SFC16, and I did most of the hardware design. It was a 6HU/19” unit with digital filters built in so-called distributed arithmetic. It is a very clever architecture that avoids the need for DSP or multiplier chips. For most of the units sold—I think 30 of them were manufactured—I also did custom interfaces.

One of the largest setups of a 102 Series system was used at Sony Music in New York in the form of the IBIS digital mixing console.

One of the largest setups of a 102 Series system was used at Sony Music in New York in the form of the IBIS digital mixing console.

SHANNON: What other types of audio products did you design? Can you share some of the challenges involved with the design(s)?

DANIEL: My colleagues at the PCM lab pursued various other projects, such as A/D and D/A design, analog reconstruction filter design (I also was involved), research in de-noising, and a preview unit for the delay required in vinyl cutting. This resulted in a A/D and D/A 6HU box, with enough memory to do the delay. It was not a simple task back then.

As Studer was mainly a tape recorder company, the design of a digital tape recorder was inevitable. The first model was an eight-channel unit using the newly established Digital Audio Stationary Head (DASH) format, which enabled you to interchange tapes with ones recorded on other DASH recorders. I did the audio processing unit for that eight-channel recorder, which was required for interpolation in case the data read from the tape could not be reconstructed via the error correction scheme employed.

Those were interesting times at Studer, as we were pioneers in the pulse code modulation (PCM) audio field. We did many side projects, such as a digital sine generator for measuring purposes (Audio Precision did not exist back then) or a study on TIM measurements with a new approach or a PWM-based analog track on the digital tape and so forth.

SHANNON: In 1985 you founded your own company, Weiss Engineering (www.weiss.ch). Initially, your company focused solely on designing and manufacturing digital audio equipment for mastering studios. How and why did you select that specific market niche?

DANIEL: One day in 1984, when I still was at Studer, a customer came to our lab and asked for an interface between a Sony F1 portable digital audio recorder and a Sony 1610 digital audio recorder. The F1 did not have any digital I/O, so it had to be a custom made interface box. Studer does not do such custom work, so I made that interface for the customer in my spare time. The customer was Ben Bernfeld, a recording and mastering engineer from Harmonia Mundi Acustica in Germany. He knew exactly what was required in terms of equipment for CD mastering (or pre-mastering to be exact). So we decided to build a modular digital audio system to interface and process digital audio. I did the design and manufacturing while he organized the sales. CD pre-mastering was popular in the US mainly, so we concentrated on that market.

SHANNON: Tell us about Weiss’s first product. Is it still being sold today?

The potential of a Weiss Engineering Mastering Studio “Mastering Mansion Madrid” uses  Weiss Gambit Series equipment, which are the white faceplate units on the left.

The potential of a Weiss Engineering Mastering Studio “Mastering Mansion Madrid” uses Weiss Gambit Series equipment, which are the white faceplate units on the left.

DANIEL: The first system became the Harmonia Mundi Acustica BW-102 unit, starting with modules for F1, 1610 interfacing, a digital high-pass filter for DC offset elimination, a digital de-emphasis and a digital level control module.

Over the years, dozens of modules were added. We even did digital mixing consoles based on the BW-102. The largest one was a 32-channel console with four auxiliary buses. Another one was a 24-channel configuration with GML fader automation used by Sony Classical in New York. Those consoles were a bit awkward in terms of hardware requirements, because the BW-102 initially was designed for two-channel applications. Later, we also upgraded most of the modules to handle 96 kHz. Quite a few customers still use the BW-102, we even occasionally sell modules. Technically it is still up-to-date with 96/24 capability and 32-bit floating point processing.

After the BW-102, we started the Gambit Series with 19” units (e.g., analog to digital, digital to analog, parametric equalizer, dynamics processor, de-noiser/de-clicker, sampling rate converter, and more).

SHANNON: In 2000, Weiss entered the high-end consumer audio market with a new product line. What was the impetus behind that decision?

DANIEL: We thought that our DAC1 DAC could find a market within the high-end community. So we built the Medea DAC, based on the DAC1, to test the waters. The Medea became a huge success and it did not take long for customers to ask for more. So we built the Jason CD transport to complement the Medea. Other high-end products followed, up to the latest one, the MAN301 network player.

SHANNON: With the two separate aspects of your company—professional equipment for mastering studios and high-end consumer products—you are in the unique position of controlling, in part, the “production” of the masters and their reproductions. Do you think there is a direct correlation between the two “worlds?”

The Weiss 102 Series consists of digital audio processing modules suited for CD mastering, mixing, and digital audio signal processing. You can configure a system according to your requirements.

The Weiss 102 Series consists of digital audio processing modules suited for CD mastering, mixing, and digital audio signal processing. You can configure a system according to your requirements.

DANIEL: Correlation maybe in that both mastering engineers and audiophiles are interested in getting topnotch sonic quality and ergonomics. We can use our design philosophy—with the utmost transparency—with both markets. But in the end, we simply supply tools. The mastering engineer needs to know how to use them properly.

SHANNON: To what do you attribute your company’s continuing success?

DANIEL: At first, it was the fact that we built the right product at the right time (i.e., when the CD took off there was a huge demand for decent audio processing in the digital domain). In the consumer market, I think our customers like our “no bull” approach. I don’t hold back with my opinions about $1,000 mains cords, gold-plated fuses, small wood blocks for acoustics treatment, or CD demagnetizing, and so forth. I wrote some white papers firmly based on the laws of physics on various audio topics in an attempt to fight the snake oil with facts. This is something I like about the pro audio people, they are down-to-earth guys.

SHANNON: Tell us about your favorite high-end consumer product? What makes it different from other products on the market today?

DANIEL: One of my favorites is the MAN301 network player—from our product line, of course. It is an incredibly versatile unit for CD playback and ripping, and metadata tagging/artwork. It uses the Gracenote database and this is hardly seen on any other high-end network player. It also includes file playback (including DSD), DAC, preamplifier functions, and so forth. I use one at home and enjoy it every day. We continue to develop additional software for the MAN301 (e.g., for room equalization, creative equalization, vinyl simulation, and so on).

I also like to listen to as many different speakers as possible to explore the various philosophies and designs. I think the speaker/room system has, by far, the greatest potential for improvement of the whole audio chain. Audiophiles should acknowledge that and stop messing around with mains cords. The industry still has a long way to go when it comes to speaker/room optimization.

SHANNON: Could you share your opinion on mastering for digital file distribution and, in particular, the mastering for iTunes initiative?

DANIEL: If it is mastering for an uncompressed format, then the procedure should not be different from a standard CD mastering—except maybe if the format is at a higher sampling rate and/or word length than for a CD.

Mastering for iTunes is different, as it means mastering for a lossy format (for the time being at least). But I think the best thing about that initiative is Apple imposes specific criteria on the technical quality of the supplied music, in particular that the music must not be clipped. There are also a number of recommendations available at http://images.apple.com/itunes/mastered-for-itunes/docs/mastered_for_itunes.pdf.

The Weiss-designed MAN301 network player’s front boasts a sleek design. It is a versatile unit that uses the Gracenote database.

The Weiss-designed MAN301 network player’s front boasts a sleek design. It is a versatile unit that uses the Gracenote database.

SHANNON: Where do you see the audio market headed in the next five years? Do you think we will eventually evolve to “high-end” streaming audio services rather than downloading files?

DANIEL: There always will be both variants. Many people like to “own” the music so they can play it anytime and anywhere. And, I think the emotional relationship to the music is different if you’ve got it “on file” and not just via a stream.

Streaming services are great to check out new music. They should have a “buy” button on their websites though. Streaming during travel can get expensive and/or can be annoying when the stream gets disrupted in the tunnel or because of too many people try to get streams on a train, for instance.

Also it seems that for artists streaming services are far from lucrative. That could be changed maybe if they would simplify the buying process right from the streaming site.

In any case, the majority of high-end playback systems will use computer-based playback devices because it is so much more convenient and easily enables people to discover new music from streaming services or even in their own libraries.

Steinberg, MXL, Mogami, and Yamaha Offer High-Value Recording Packs

Cubase7-UR22RecordingPacksMontageWebFour of the top names in recording, Steinberg, MXL, Mogami, and Yamaha announce the Cubase Recording Pack and the UR22 Recording Pack, two new recording packs that offer musicians, engineers, and producers the best brands in the box.

The Cubase Recording Pack comes with Cubase 7 and the UR22 audio interface from Steinberg, along with an MXL1022 condenser microphone, a MXL-57 shock mount, and a Mogami 10’ XLR-XLR cable. The Cubase Recording Pack also includes a pair of Yamaha RH5MA headphones, which is the final component in this instant recording studio solution.

The second bundle, the hardware-oriented UR22 Recording Pack, features the UR22, an MXL1022 condenser microphone, an MXL-57 shock mount, and a Mogami 10’ XLR-XLR cable. The UR22 Recording Pack is designed for first-time audio interface users who seek a high-quality solution featuring trustworthy brands.

One of the world’s most popular digital audio workstations, the Cubase 7 features the new MixConsole, enhanced workflow options, and a new channel strip that offers epic pro-console sound. The rock-solid UR22 USB 2.0 audio interface includes two D-PRE preamps and 192-kHz support, providing professional-grade sound in a portable package.

The MXL1022 large-diaphragm condenser microphone captures vocals and instruments in crisp detail. It features an FET preamp with balanced output and wide frequency response to pick up a broad range of sound, from vocals to a variety of instruments. The microphone is internally wired with world-class Mogami cable for precise recordings and, when placed into the MXL-57 shock mount, ensures professional performance.

The 10’ XLR-XLR Cable from Mogami, the largest-selling cable brand for major recording facilities, delivers the purest recordings. Each cable is made from Mogami’s 2552 microphone cable with signature Mogami 100% spiral coverage for extremely low noise. The cable is finished with high quality gold-contact XLR connectors.
Yamaha RH5MA headphones, which provide accurate sound reproduction, represent an excellent choice for pro studio monitoring. Featuring a semi-closed design, they come with 0.25” and 0.125” inch jacks along with an 8’ long cable. The frequency response is 20 Hz to 20 kHz and the impedance is 32 Ω.

The Cubase Recording Pack costs $1,119.99. The UR22 Recording Pack costs $439.99.

The Cubase Recording Pack includes Cubase 7 Upgrade 4 to “upgrade” the existing license, pre-loaded onto the included eLicenser USB key. The UR22 Recording Pack includes a Full Version of Cubase AI 7.

TurboCal Provides a Low-Cost Solution

HAA’s TurboCal Suite is designed for quick acoustic calibrations.

HAA’s TurboCal Suite is designed for quick acoustic calibrations.

Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA) now offers an audio TurboCal package. This kit is designed for quick acoustic calibrations you suitable for every job. AVPro 2.0 will even walk you through the process. With this setup, you only need to add the AVPro iMux 4 and you will have the complete professional kit. Just add an iPad and a few apps.

The kit includes an iAudioInterface2 preamp/generator, an HAA-approved Type 2 measurement microphone, AVPro 2.0 audio reporting software, and a SC05 sound-level calibrator. The TurboCal package costs $1,150.

For more information, visit www.avproalliance.com.

Avid Announces Automixing Dugan-VN16 Option Card for Avid Live Systems

AvidDuganOptionWebDesigned to help live sound professionals meet the most demanding and complex workflow challenges, the Dugan-VN16 card offers a modular, integrated solution that improves audio quality and simplifies mixing for multi-microphone applications.

Developed and manufactured by Dan Dugan Sound Design, the Dugan-VN16 option card provides Avid live system users with industry-leading dialog automixing functionality, improving audio quality in situations where multiple speech microphones are used, including broadcast events, conferences, house of worship services, theater performances, and more.

The card automatically adjusts microphone levels faster than what would be possible using manual workflows. Unlike a noise gate, which can introduce distracting sonic artifacts, the Dugan patented technology utilizes real-time voice activation to automatically lower the volume of unused live speech microphones and raise volume when presenters begin speaking, greatly reducing feedback, comb filtering, and background noise without having to manually adjust levels.

The Dugan-VN16 card is available for the Avid SC48, FOH Rack- or Mix Rack-based systems. It manages and mixes up to 16 open microphones with 16 channels of ADAT optical I/O, offering three operating modes to fit different application needs, via the Dugan Control Panel software (included) or the Dugan Control Panel for iPad (sold separately). For more information, visit www.avid.com.

Lawo Introduces RAVENNA-Based Commentary Solution for Standard IP Networks

Lawo LCU_SetupWebLawo’s cost-efficient and flexible Commentary Unit (LCU) was developed in close cooperation with Host Broadcast Services (HBS), a Swiss company specializing in producing multilateral video and audio feeds for TV and radio from world-class international sports events. The fully digital system is based on RAVENNA, a real-time audio-over-IP networking technology that enables the use of standard IP networks to interconnect venues and devices, which provides savings in cabling while increasing the system’s flexibility.

“Good commentary plays a key role in the success of global events. The Lawo Commentary solution was developed in the very best interest of the Rights Holding Broadcasters of these events”, says Jörg Sander, CTO at HBS.

The LCU is designed to be easy-to-use for commentators, freeing them to focus on their tasks rather than managing the technology. It provides an intuitive user interface for up to three commentators per LCU. Lawo quality mic pre-amps and uncompressed real-time audio-over-IP (24 bit/48 kHz) ensure audio quality. All activity is indicated in a backlit LCD, indicating each control’s label and current setting. The unit also features three coordination lines, again with individual volume and pan settings. A Help key completes the user interface, giving commentators fast access to a support engineer. For emergency operation, the device provides an analog Mix Out and an analog input to feed the phones’ monitor mix. The Aux In can also be used to feed external sources (e.g., audio recorders) locally to the LCU.

The LCU is complemented by the Lawo Commentary Control Software, which replaces the commentary control units usually associated with two-part commentary systems, providing an integrated user interface to operate a complete commentary installation. The software is optimized for touchscreen operation, offering easy and efficient support for up to 20 commentators per screen. It shows the real-time status of all connected devices and manages all LCUs within the network, as well as the system’s DALLIS frame, which is Lawo’s modular I/O system for interfacing the commentary installation to the outside world. The software also enables a support engineer to listen to any signal of any LCU. Its remote-control facilities mean that most help requests can be resolved with a mouse click. To learn more, visit www.lawo.de.