The recent AES Convention held in San Francisco had its typical share of new product introductions — which is, of course, great. Even better for the Surround Professional, however, is that the trend started a few years back is continuing and is more prominent than ever. The trend of which we speak is the inclusion of surround features on nearly every major new product introduction. Combine this with the addition of a surround sound category to the GRAMMYs, and it safe to say that surround mixers will be quite busy in the year to come.
Heres a glance at some of the surround-related product introductions at AES.
Live and in Surround
From Paul Wolff, formerly of API, comes his new company Tonelux (distributed by Gil Griffith), making discrete audio products for audio production and live recording, the MX5.1 Mixer module. The MX5.1 is one of the modular and customizable multifunction line of products from Tonelux that was previewed at AES and is designed for companion use with a DAW and made to work together in myriad combination with up to 16 modules fitting in the 3U V-Rack housing.
The MX5.1 Mixer is a surround line mixer with many features of a large-frame console. The MX5.1 has a unique mute circuit that, when pressed, the LED turns red, but when the module is on, the LED serves as a level presence indicator, illuminating green to show signal presence. This is very useful in live recording when you need to know quickly if a channel has signal or which has the loudest signal on it. It is also perfect for identifying which channel has the Kick and which has the Snare, etc.
The 5.1 switch turns on the signal to the surround bus, allowing the module to send signal to the aux sends without going to the surround bus. The LCR button switches the pan pot from stereo to LCR, and pans from left, through center, to right, or in 2 channel stereo, allowing phantom center. The two sends are internally configurable for pre- or post-fader signal. One of the sends can be used as the LFE send for Surround Mixes.
Price is $449 or $549 with a direct output option. For more information, visit www.tonelux.com.
Putting the Plus in Dolby Digital Plus
Dolby Laboratories showcased additional features of the Dolby Digital Plus audio format. Originally announced at 2004’s NAB, Dolby Digital Plus offers bit-rate and channel extendibility as an enhancement of the Dolby Digital format.
The next generation of consumer hardware — set-top boxes and DVD players, for example — will be fitted with Dolby Digital Plus hardware that provides backward compatibility with existing Dolby Digital- and Pro Logic-equipped hardware.
While Dolby Digital Plus has new features for low bit-rate coding, the four main benefits of the Dolby Digital Plus codec apply to applications such as the new HD DVD media format (where it, along with the Dolby licensed MLP lossless coding, has been designated a mandatory audio standard) and the format’s anticipated future use in advanced television systems.
One major new advantage of Dolby Digital plus is dubbed Transient Pre-Noise Processing, which is designed to improve audio performance by eliminating pre-noise distortion often associated with “difficult to encode” transient material. Another new enhancement, called Enhanced Channel Coupling, improves audio performance by adding phase compensation to the channel coupling process in effect on high frequencies, increasingly with lower bit rates. The main ECC benefits come where surround channels are matrix encoded-multichannel information encoded into a stereo signal.
Dolby says their new Adaptive Hybrid Transform processing “improves coding efficiency and quality by combining improved spectral resolution, higher resolution bit allocation and improved quantization techniques for pseudo-stationary signals.”
Finally, Dolby Digital Plus can now carry multichannels to “7.1 and beyond.”
Visit www.dolby.com for more details.
Streamlining Surround with Steinberg
Steinberg is showed how their products streamline surround sound production workflow at AES. The company demonstrated how its Nuendo 3 Media Production System can be used to mix, edit, and sweeten surround-format audio locked to HD video, and how their Wave-lab 5 software can be used to edit, master, and burn the final product to DVD-A format audio discs.
With the introduction of new versions of Nuendo and Wavelab, Steinberg now provides a complete solution for audio engineers and producers who are working with surround-format audio. Nuendo is a host-based software system and leaves the user free to choose from hundreds of ASIO compliant hardware I/O options, allowing audio to be captured with a vast array of computers including laptops for location recording. Final mixes can then be opened in Wavelab 5, Steinberg’s multichannel audio mastering and editing tool, for playlist editing, mastering, further sweetening and burning directly onto a DVD-A disc prior to release to production.
For more information, visit www.steinberg.net.
New Soundfield Surround Zone Software For Pro Tools
SoundField has announced the release of the new Surround Zone plug-in for Digidesign’s Pro Tools software on both Mac and PC platforms.
The Surround Zone brings SoundField’s surround and stereo processing to the digital domain. It combines the hardware features of both the SP451 surround processor and the MKV System and is designed to accept the B-Format information generated by any of the current SoundField microphone models.
A full surround recording can be captured using a single SoundField microphone incorporating a patented multi-capsule array. Because the microphone captures the sound at a “single point,” as opposed to multiple spaced microphones, all channels are completely phase coherent. This enables surround mixes to be collapsed back to stereo or mono without the loss of any vital audio information. Each microphone system outputs SoundField B-Format, which is a three-dimensional snapshot of any acoustic event.
Once the SoundField B-Format is in the Digidesign environment, the plug-in enables the user to generate various surround mic-arrays with variable polar patterns. Specifically the Surround Zone provides a choice of three separate 5.1 arrays, individual 6.1 and 7.1 arrays, independently variable width of both the front and rear pairs, phase coherent LFE and individual level controls with mute and solo all with bargraph metering.
For more details, visit www.soundfieldusa.com.
New Features, Effects for Two Yamaha Mixers
Past and future converge for the computer-based music production and recording markets with the AES release of Version 2 (V2) software for the 02R96 and 01V96 digital mixers, and five Add-on Effects packages from Yamaha Corporation of America.
V2 software is a major upgrade that provides more than 50 new features, including expanded DAW control and application-specific functions. The advanced DAW integration for Nuendo and Cubase includes Selected Channel Control, which allows hands-on control of all Nuendo’s EQs and dynamics, and complete MMC transport control. Advanced Surround Monitoring features include 6.1 Panning and Monitoring, plus Flexible Surround Bus Setups.
One of the major new features of V2 is the ability to use Yamaha’s Add-On Effects series of plug-ins for the mixer’s internal DSP chips built on Virtual Circuit Modeling (VCM). VCM technology (developed Toshi Kunimoto and his team at Yamaha Japan who created the world’s first physical modeling synthesizer) actually models exact analog circuits of studio classics-right down to the last resistor and capacitor.
For more information, visit www.yamaha.com/proaudio.
Surround Recording According to Holophone
Holophone, a division of Rising Sun Productions, Ltd., presented a specialized surround sound recording seminar at AES. Michael Godfrey, the inventor of the new Holophone H2-PRO surround sound microphone, was the featured presenter.
The presentation provided an in-depth look at the new Holophone H2-PRO, the background behind its development, and its applications. In addition, the audience was treated to live demonstrations of rare 5.1 surround sound recordings made from around the world using the Holophone, including pieces from the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra recorded at the recently opened Moscow International House of Music.
For more information on H2-PRO, visit www.holophone.com.
Waves Debuts IR Reverb Surround Version
In a bid to position itself as the new leader in sampled reverb software, Waves Ltd. Initiated a major expansion of their IR Convolution Reverb plug-in series. New entries include the IR-360 for multichannel surround sound; the IR-1 Version 2, which now lets users capture their own samples; and the IR-L, an entry-level light version offering simpler controls. Waves also launched www.Acousics.net, a dedicated Web site that offers a newly expanded library of downloadable impulse response samples created by the company and submitted by users.
A new feature now lets IR-360 and IR-1 Version 2 users capture the sound acoustic spaces and hardware devices by playing an included sweep signal into an acoustic space or through an outboard processor and recording the result. The software then lets users import the recording to create a custom impulse response that’s ready to use. In addition to the new releases, Waves is introducing a set of IR libraries on DVD, with improved sound and additional miking options, as well as surround versions for most sampled venues. A new library preset handling system will organize presets dynamically by scanning the preset folder and developing menu contents based on its findings. Existing and old IR libraries will be supported.
For more details, visit www.waves.com.
Cakewalk Ships SONAR 4 Producer, Studio Editions
Cakewalk released SONAR 4 Producer Edition and Studio Edition. With new version 4, Cakewalk has added powerful recording, editing, comping and navigation tools that optimize workflow for today’s professional. In addition, version 4 combines surround and AV capabilities along with precise engineering tools.
A sample of SONAR 4 Producer Edition’s new features include:
SONAR 4 Studio Edition is a special version of SONAR 4 designed for project studios and aspiring professionals. Studio Edition is built upon the same core engine and feature set of SONAR 4 Producer Edition.
For more information, visit www.cakewalk.com.
DTS Unveils New Software Encoders
DTS introduced two new DTS audio software encoders: the Pro Series 6.1 Surround Encoder, which is an affordable stand-alone solution for the Mac or PC, and the DTS Pro Series Network Encoder, which is a cost-effective networked solution for large postproduction facilities based on the Apple’s Xserve RAID storage system. Both encoders can be used to create multi-channel DTS soundtracks for DVD-Audio, DVD-Video and 5.1 CD titles.
The first commercially-available solutions for creating high-quality 96 kHz and 6.1-channel discrete DTS-ES soundtracks, the DTS Pro Series encoders provide the only 96 kHz multichannel audio solution for video content DVD-Audio and DVD-Video discs.
Presenting solutions for the different workflows utilized in most pro-audio facilities worldwide, the encoders are available through the DTS’ international distribution network (www.dtsonline.com/proaudio/find/).
Peter Gabriel is the first artist to use Pro Series 6.1 Surround Encoder on a commercial project. At his Real World Studios, he is currently using encode the DVD music title Play: Videos,which was released in the fall. All 5.1 surround tracks on Play were encoded in DTS 96/24.
The Smart Console
The Smart Console is a new breed of audio mixing console that delivers a five-fold improvement in ergonomic efficiency when mixing and editing large numbers of channels, according to the manufacturer.
The Smart Console is the first audio control surface incorporating patented ARC Technology, which uses a physical arc located above the controls and within arms reach of the sound engineer to represent all the channels on a traditional long console. Simply touch the arc at any location and the desired channel and the channels surrounding it immediately appear in front of the sound engineer, as though he/she had instantaneously moved in front of those channels on a traditional long console. With this single touch, 800 previously out-of-reach controls snap to within reach.
Even the handwritten channel description is transferred to the digital scribble strip in front of you. Alternatively, the sound engineer can access individual channels in any order as easily and as quickly as a musical director can point to his players.
The Smart Console is the first audio console design to both reduce the number of knobs on a panel and reduce the number of actions required in order to gain access to out of reach controls.
The Smart Console is initially available for use with the following mixing engines:
Smart AV is a Sydney, Australia based designer and manufacturer of premier ergonomically-advanced control surface technology.
For more information, visit www.smartav.net.
Euphonix Shows System 5-MC Integrated DAW Audio Mixing System
Euphonix introduced the System 5-MC, a new audio mixing system designed for full integration with Digital Audio Workstations that support Euphonix’s open architecture high-speed EuCon protocol.
With over two years development, the System 5-MC is an audio mixing system based upon the Euphonix System 5 control surface design that tightly integrates with EuCon aware applications such as Steinbergs Nuendo and Pyramix, via Mergings OASIS protocol. The control surface can be fitted with 848 channel strips and comes with the MC Intelligent Application Controller for master console functions and integral control of the DAW. The MC can also control any other software application running on the workstation through keyboard commands mapped to the 56 SmartSwitches.
EuCon is a high-speed protocol developed by Euphonix, initially to allow the System 5 surfaces to control the Euphonix DSP core. EuCon has now been standardized to allow the System 5 to control EuCon third party aware applications. The first companies to incorporate EuCon DAW connectivity include Steinberg and Merging.
The System 5-MC is packaged with the Euphonix’s Studio Monitor Pro, which resides on the application workstation and controls the way audio is routed between applications that support ASIO hardware and the ASIO hardware. ASIO applications send their audio outputs through the Studio Monitor Pro application, which acts as a monitoring system. The Studio Monitor Pro outputs feed directly into any ASIO hardware I/O and is controlled from the System 5-MC surface providing the workstation with a professional surround sound monitor matrix and supporting multiple speaker outputs each with level, dim, talkback and formats up to 7.1.
System 5-MC will be available for demo from Jan 2005 and will begin shipping in the Spring. For more information, visit www.euphonix.com.
Minnetonka Audio releases discWelder BRONZE for the Mac
Minnetonka Audio Software has announced shipment of its first DVD-Audio authoring tool for the Macintosh OS X platform: discWelder BRONZE.
Like the PC version, discWelder BRONZE for the Mac allows users of OS X 10.3 or higher to write their own high-resolution DVD-A’s. BRONZE can import all Linear PCM formats supported in the DVD-Audio specification, including surround (up to 6 channels of 24-bit/48 kHz audio) and high resolution stereo (two channels of 24-bit/192 kHz audio).
Surround and stereo may be used on the same disc in WAV or AIFF file format and the discWelder BRONZE burned DVD-Audio discs will play on any DVD-Audio player that supports DVD±R/W. discWelder BRONZE for the Mac is now available from authorized discWelder dealers worldwide or directly from Minnetonka Audio at www.discWelder.com.
The Mac and PC version are priced at $99 USD.
For more details, visit www.minnetonkaaudio.com.
Fairlight DREAM Suite Studio Package
In a move to provide sound-for-picture professionals across a wide variety of businesses with the most comprehensive mixing and editing tools in a turnkey, cost-effective package, Fairlight unveiled DREAM Suite at the AES Convention. DREAM Suite includes a fully featured 48-track DAW, StationPLUS fully automated 56-channel/24-bus surround sound mixing, Creamware plug-ins with 80 plug-in suite license, networking, and Pyxis NLV video system.
Available under Fairlight’s DREAM Suite Lease program, audio professionals are able to quickly and conveniently acquire Fairlight technology with little more that a personal credit check and a simple one-page application form — with a guaranteed a response within 48-hours. Customers may also apply for the DREAM Suite 90-day deferred payment option, allowing audio professionals to begin earning revenue with their DREAM Suite installed well before the first payment is due and with an assurance that interest rates are among the lowest in the industry. Monthly payments are initially estimated at $1,750..
The DREAM Suite is available for all confirmed orders until January 31st 2005. The DREAM Suite Package includes 1 QDC Engine fitted with two QDC Cards; 1 Fairlight Station Controller and a single Sidecar fader panel and Main Meter panel; 3 AES EBU Digital audio cards (24 Channels); 1 Speaker analog output card ( 8 channels); 1 Analog Input card (8 Channels); 1 Plug-ins card (6 DSP); 1 External PC; 1 License for plug-ins (80 plug-in Creamware library); 1 Media-Link Node license and 1 Pyxis NLV License including Coms card.
For more details, visit www.fairlightau.com.