AES Warsaw: The main highlights

Mel Lambert provides a summary of the show’s main highlights.

With a reported attendance of close to 1,600 registrants – slightly more that the total from last year’s gathering in Berlin – together with some 70-plus brands on show during the companion exhibition, the 138th AES Convention can be considered a major success for the 14,000-member Society.

Convention co-chairs Bozena Kostek and Umberto Zanghieri, together with their team of able volunteers, organised a rich and varied program of technical papers, workshops, tutorials and related events that provided a wide variety of thought-provoking sessions covering just about everything from converter design through PA systems to immersive playback via headphones. To say that there was something for just about everybody in Warsaw would be dramatic understatement; notably, the program showcased the talents of a wide cross-section of European scientists and technologists, with many representatives from the Polish music recording and film/TV post communities.

From an opening-day session on Subjective Loudness of 22.2 Multichannel Programs, which described Japanese state broadcaster NHK’s plans for 8K images with multichannel sound and investigations into suitable loudness measurements techniques based on the current ITU R BS.1770 standard, through MPEG D Spatial Audio Object Coding for Dialogue Enhancement for hearing-impaired and normal-hearing audiences, including the ability with object-based schemes to control, for example, the level a commentator’s voice, attendees were treated to presentations from talented academics and researchers at the top of their respective games.

During a well-attended workshop session on film sound developments, the co-owners of Dreamsound Studios – Warsaw’s first Dolby Atmos-certified re-recording stage – presented the results of a fascinating study into the correlation between Atmos panning and the localisation of phantom sound sources. Using various samples of filtered pink noise being directed at experienced listeners from nine targeted locations around a central seating area, Kacper Habisiak and Marcin Kasinski determined that such individuals could more easily identify sound coming from the front quadrant and rear corners, and less easily from the sides; the implications for immersive sound mixing are obvious, with enhanced localisation of height information at high rather than lower frequencies.

A subsequent Technical Tour of the facility enabled AES attendees to see for themselves Dreamsound’s new dubbing stage (pictured), which is equipped with a 32-fader Avid D-Command surface connected to three Pro Tools HD rigs and a total of 32 JBL Professional ScreenArray and SC12/SC 8 surround loudspeakers, plus Model 4632 subwoofers powered by Crown DSi and XLS Series amplifiers.

Ilpo Martikainen, founder and chairman of Genelec, delivered the 32nd Richard C. Heyser Memorial Lecture on the subject of Monitoring Loudspeakers – Can They Be Truthful Quality Control Tools? With close to 40 years of experience designing reference monitors, Martikainen concluded that improvements in directivity control and room-response functionality can be considered successful innovations, but that the role of the room in which the systems are located is still underestimated. "As much as possible, monitors should be immune to the room,” he stated, “and easily adaptable to a variety of environments. There are more than 300 different models designs available,” he concluded, encouraging the audience to make their own critical choices.

The popular Project Studio Expo, which has become a regular feature at recent AES Conventions, included a number of sessions on such topics as Plug-ins Considerations, presented by Maciej Polanski from, Warsaw, Tracking in the Box, by Warsaw-based sound engineer Sebastian Witkowski and Mixing in the Box from Warsaw music producer/engineer Jaroslaw Yaro Plocica.

The 138th AES Convention took place at the Sofitel Victoria Hotel in Warsaw, Poland from 7 – 10 May 2015.