AES@NAMM Pro Sound Symposium: Live & Studio

Mel Lambert has been intimately involved with production industries on both sides of the Atlantic for many years. He is principal of Content Creators, a Los Angeles-based copywriting and editorial service, and can be reached at; 818.558-3924. He is also a 30-year member of the UK’s National Union of Journalists.

The inaugural AES@NAMM Pro Sound Symposium: Live & Studio, held concurrently with the NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA, during late-January, represents a new direction for the Audio Engineering Society. The four-day event was developed specifically to deliver a unique education and training program targeted at professionals working in live sound, recording and audio for the performing arts. Held within the NAMM Education Campus located in 20 rooms on the fourth floor of the Anaheim Hilton Hotel, adjacent to a new pro-audio exhibit space, the symposium attracted close to 3,000 participants.

Visitors purchased either half- or whole-day tickets to Training Academies and other sessions on line-array loudspeakers, live-sound consoles, wireless systems and studio environments, as well as tutorials on system measurement and optimisation, plus technical papers. A discounted NAMM Show badge also enabled access to all on-site exhibits and other events attendees.

As AES President David Scheirman stated in an opening address: “The Audio Engineering Society is leveraging up-to-date expert knowledge from both its members and supportive pro-audio equipment manufacturers. This symposium will throw a creative spotlight on the application of audio science and technology to sound-system operations, along with studio workflow practices.”

Networking opportunities were underscored by AES@NAMM Executive Chair, Michael MacDonald. “This new symposium format has been designed to help AES members and non-members alike expand their ‘human network’,” he said. “Our program was formatted to merge in-person networking opportunities with hands-on training and expert tutorials.”

Pictured, above: In Ear Monitoring Academy: Mark Frink oversaw several sessions during the Symposium’s In-Ear Monitoring Academy, including “Stereo Is Your Friend & Other Tips.” His active demo explored techniques for building mixes for different types of musicians, based on what instruments they play and whether they sing while performing.

Manufacturers of live-sound consoles and studio technologies conducted training sessions, while classes on line-array loudspeaker systems were augmented by hands-on training on the hotel’s outdoor deck. Entertainment wireless and in-ear monitoring workshops comprised classroom training on various products, with studio and recording technology sessions covering a number of technical topics, plus science and technology sessions focusing on system measurement and optimisation. The program also included AES technical papers and workshops, in addition to Spanish- and Mandarin-language daily sessions.

The organising committee comprised Mark Frink as programme director & content manager, live sound, Bobby Owsinski as content manager, studio & recording technology, and John Murray as content manager, audio science & technology, with Anthony Schultz as manager of The Studios Academy.

“Our educational program was carefully developed to anticipate the learning expectations of working professionals that wanted to bring themselves up to speed with what’s happening in these critical technology areas,” Frink offered. “Participants learned about how to use high-tech systems in their day-to-day activities. Everybody needs a refresher course from time to time; AES@NAMM offered no-nonsense tuition on a range of key topics.”

The Studio Academy focused on key components within a production facility, including DAWs, microphones and monitor speakers, with Apogee, DigiGrid, Digital Audio Denmark, Eventide, Focal, Genelec, Meyer Sound Laboratories and Waves/Soundgrid as symposium supporters, while The Line Array Loudspeaker Academy targeted key features and use of line-source arrays, with Adamson, Bose Professional, dB Technologies and EAW as symposium supporters; Main Stage: Studio, hosted by Owsinski, comprised sessions presented by Andrew Scheps, Sylvia Massy, Jack Joseph Puig, Richard Chycki, Scott Gershin and others, on such topics as Outside The Box Recording, The State Of The Art of Do-It-Yourself and Sound Design for Tent-pole Films; Main Stage: Live, hosted by Robert Scovill, offered sessions from Dave Rat, Patrick Baltzell, Kenneth “Pooch” Van Druten and Dave Shadoan on live sound-system mixing and concert system engineering, with input from these rental sound company owners and leading FOH mixers.

As Owsinski told AMI: “My overarching concept while developing the Main Stage: Studio program was to only select presenters that have the social authority to attract an audience of symposium attendees. In other words, I first chose the presenters, and then built the sessions around them. Audiences varied from high-end professionals to students, sometimes both in the same session; quantity varied by day and topic, with positive comments from attendees.”

Entertainment Wireless Academy explored set-up and use of RF systems within a crowded UHF spectrum, with Alteros/Audio-Technica, Lectrosonics, Sennheiser and Ultimate Ears serving as symposium supporters; Live Mixing Console Academy comprised hands-on sessions about control-surface topologies for Allen & Heath dLive, QSC TouchMix, and Yamaha CL Series systems, with each firm serving as symposium supporters. Finally, the Sound System Measurement & Optimisation workshops considered current techniques for testing and fully optimising the performance of sound reinforcement and studio systems, while the In-Ear Monitoring Academy covered the installation and operation of in-ear monitoring systems, including hearing conservation.

“Our [measurement /optimisation] sessions highlighted popular platforms,” Murray stressed. “Topics included live-event SPL monitoring, system optimisation in under an hour, low-frequency room acoustics, how to avoid system set-up noise issues, subwoofer alignment and pattern control, and more.” The majority of sessions, he noted, had good attendance of between 20 and 40 people, “with very positive feedback.”

“AES@NAMM was designed to provide an audio knowledge sampler and hands-on training for the entire signal path, from microphone to speaker,” Scheirman concluded. “We’re grateful to see the enthusiastic response and support from the audio equipment manufacturing industry for our inaugural event.” Pre-planning is reportedly under way for an AES Board of Governors review and approval for next year’s event, which would be held concurrently with the 2019 NAMM Show in Anaheim.

IMAGES by Frank Wells/AES