AES Paris: A summary of the early sessions

Mel Lambert reports from the four-day AES Convention, which started Saturday at The Palais des Congrès in Paris and continues until Tuesday.

Despite a variety of transportation slowdowns, the 140th AES Convention opened here on Saturday at the popular Palais des Congrès in the centre of The City of Lights. As AES executive director Bob Moses revealed during the Opening Ceremonies, “this year’s European Convention has attracted a record number of pre-registrants, topping our previous high by some 25%. We have twice the number of pre-registrants compared to last year’s successful show in Warsaw, and we have over 100 exhibitors on the floor – compared to 50 in Warsaw – for which we must thank the European business community for its continuing commitment to the Society."

Moses also stated that next year’s convention will be held in Berlin, “probably in May."

AES president John Krivit paid tribute to the Parisian printer and librarian Édouard-Leon Scott de Martinville who, in 1857, created a device that recorded sound vibrations as a series of wavy lines on paper covered in a thin layer of lamp black. “Martinville’s Phoautograph represented the first known recordings of the human voice,” Krivit explained, “but were never actually heard until 2007, when scans were sent to Lawrence Berkeley Lab [at the University of California] where they were converted into sound by two scientists. I like to think that if he were alive today, Édouard-Leon Scott de Martinville would no doubt be here with us at the 140th AES Convention, to perhaps present a paper or a poster session.”

President-elect Alex Case’s riveting Keynote Address focused on historical examples of landmark signal processing, citing examples that he labelled as “Chance, Intuition, Courage and Rebellion.” His examples included Marty Robbins’ 1961 single Don’t Worry, whose distorted six-string tic-tac bass sound resulted from a failed input transformer on the mixing desk and which lead, Case recalled, to the development of the world’s first commercially available distortion pedal, the Maestro Fuzz-Tone. Jackie Brenson and his Delta Cats’ Rocket 88 from 1951 also was mentioned becaue of a dramatically damaged guitar amp, while Link Wray and his Ray Men’s Rumble from 1958 featured an overdriven Sears & Roebuck guitar amp, Case stated. The Kinks’ seminal 1964 single You Really Got Me used a guitar amp speaker which, reportedly, had been sliced with a razor blade, while The Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction from 1965 was the first commercial release to feature a Maestro Fuzz-Tone effect, courtesy of producer Andrew Loog Oldham and session engineer Dave Hassinger.

Case’s other examples of breakthrough effects included The Wallflowers’ 1996 single One Headlight, with its aggressively compressed and effected snare drum, Peter Gabriel’s Big Time from 1980 with gated reverb used to effectively on the snare, Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight from 1981, which featured engineer Hugh Padgham’s innovative gated-snare sound, ending with David Bowie’s 1974 recording of Sound and Vision, with its unique pitch-shifted and distorted snare sound, courtesy of engineer/producer Tony Visconti’s creative application of an Eventide H910 effects processor.

“Why do mistakes have value?” asked Case, who serves as associate professor of recording technology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. “Because they result in a novel sounds, not a novelty. And distortion radically reshapes timbre; it does not obscure musicality.”

My AES Technology Pick goes to Eventide, which demonstrated a new multichannel/multi-element signal-processing system that will be formally unveiled during the AES Convention in Los Angeles next October, and targeting the music-recording, film/TV post-production and live-performance communities.

Using a quartet of ARM processors mounted on plug-in boards that allow subsequent updates when newer-generation and/or faster chips became available, the new system features 32 inputs and 32 discrete outputs per DSP module, enabling four multichannel effects paths to be run simultaneously, if necessary. “Remote control plug-ins for Avid Pro Tools and other DAWs are in development; the device can also be used a stand-alone app,” stated Ray Maxwell, the firm’s VP of sales and marketing.

“Initially, effects will be draw from our existing H8000 and H9 processors – with other EQ, dynamics plus reverb effects in development – and can be run in parallel or series, to effectively create a fully-programmable, four-element channel strip per processing engine,” adds software engineer Joe Bamberg. End-user cost for the codenamed product, which will also feature Audinate Dante and AVB networking, is yet to be determined.

Picture (from left) Alex Case, John Krivit and Andres Mayo