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Positive Feedback ISSUE 6
april/may 2003


Dorsey on AES Amsterdam: Best Sound in Show
by Scott Dorsey


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(Photographs by Melissa McDowell; image processing and artistic enhancements by David W. Robinson)

Best Sound in Show

The Musikelectronic Gethein booth. They were showing off a variety of very clean and musical sounding monitoring speakers, at reasonable sound levels, with a surprisingly good demo environment given the show floor. This is the first time in years that I have actually enjoyed listening to something at a trade show.

Worst Sound in Show

You know, it's weird. Usually at shows I have a hard time trying to find something that sounds good but this year I had a hard time finding anything on the show floor that sounded really bad. Probably the worst sound I heard was the 1980s pop music that seemed to be piped into all the common areas around Amsterdam. (There was also the Schoenburg concert, but that was actually supposed to sound like that.)

Loudest Sound in Show

Even the loudest sound at the show this year wasn't really all that loud. The demos at the Digidesign booth were awfully loud compared with the overall level of sound on the show floor, but to be honest they weren't anything compared with the average demos at the New York shows. I don't know who thought it was a good idea to show off nifty Pro Tools features like gating the string section with the kick drum, though. Even at low levels, that is something I'd rather not listen to. On the other hand, they did at least show a few episodes of Blackadder at the end of the day.

Best Paper in Show

You know, I hate to say it, but I really enjoyed Error Correction in Class AB Power Amplifiers from D. Danyuk and M.J. Renardson, preprint #5776. It wasn't amazing, it wasn't earth shattering, it wasn't something to change the world. It was a slight refinement on a seventy-year-old technology that reduces crossover distortion in power amplifier stages a little bit. It's one of those little ingenious things that make you wonder why nobody else thought of it before.

Worst Paper in Show

One New Method for Calculating Reverberation Time in Car Compartment by Nagli Ning and Juan Wei from Xian, China, preprint #5759. The authors put a huge amount of effort in constructing a finite element model of an automobile and use it to generate accurate RT60 reverberation time estimates of cars. Unfortunately nobody seems to have told them that RT60 is effectively a useless measurement in such a small chamber, and that it fails to measure anything valuable. A new and accurate method to measure something of no value is not a scientific advance.

Best Free Thing

It wasn't the Neumann chocolate. It wasn't even the fine coffee mug from B&K. The best freebie I have seen in ages was the mastering demonstration disc produced by Bob Katz for Weiss, which has a number of various recordings before and after mastering. It's an education in itself about what can be done in the mastering house, as well as an education in what can't be done. I had a great time trying to duplicate what Katz was doing on my own and make the un-mastered track sound like his mastered track to get a sense of what he did to solve the various problems on the raw tracks. Better than any T-shirt I ever got at a show (although I was surprised to find not a single company giving out that an American thing?)

Best New Product

The Quolle izm 125 field production mixer from Tamura. 8 channels, DC power. A reasonably priced box actually designed for field recording work, but with the features of a full-sized console.

Most Secure Lock

Manley Laboratories.

Best New Cable Product

Neutrik's new STX series Speakon connectors will mate with the older 4-pole connectors but have a metal housing that is much more rugged. I have been aggressively promoting Speakons for a while because they just plain work, they don't color the sound and they don't break. These are even more solid.

Most Interesting Failures

Digidesign's Pro Tools demo (see "Loudest Sound in Show" above) managed to pop circuit breakers several times during the course of their demo and require cancellation. On the other hand, B&K's signal analysis demonstration software crashed on several occasions, locking up the computer they were using for their demo.

Best Pastry

J+C Intersonics. I can't even remember what products they were selling but the free pastry at their booth was spectacular.

Best Coffee

Universal Audio. Better than the Neumann coffee anyway.

Worst Coffee

The coffee in the press room after it had been sitting all day until 4:30.

Most Phallic New Product

The Sanken CUW-180 microphone has two capsules in round grilles, attached to the end of a shaft containing the electronics, and it looks just like, well, if you had a dirty mind it might look like, well, it looks an awful lot like you know what. And the glossy sheet on it invites us to "please step by Sanken booth and touch this microphone," which doesn't help.

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Best Butts in Show 

Our butt inspection team this year has decided to award a collective prize to Digidesign's Liz Cox (best girl butt) and Jender van der Rijken (best boy butt). They were selected from a list of literally thousands of butts inspected. "In general, I am surprised to find European butts much better-toned," said one of our team, "although too many are obscured by long jackets."