Vintage Audio Technology for the Modern Studio
127th AES Recap

127th AES Recap

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Photo courtesy of Terry Manning

It's taken us a while to get this up, but here it is!

October 8, 2009:  Load-in.  It had been a hectic journey just to get to load-in.  Oliver was working furiously to get the prototype V series front and back plates to fit on our show samples until the wee hours throughout the week.  He was also helping with some of our OEM partners get parts and assemble prototypes for them as well.  With that in mind, we had scheduled Oliver to arrive on site about 2 hours after the show would open on Friday (the 9th).  So load-in was a solo affair.  I finally arrived at the Jacob K. Javits Center in NYC at around 3PM.  Fortunately, everything that we had shipped to Freeman was in our booth and undisturbed.  Unfortunately, my camera's battery was dead so I was unable to take any before and after pictures of the set-up and someone had stolen our chairs.  Thanks to some rigorous pre-planning, general set-up only took under 2 hours and the booth looked pretty good. 

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Photo courtesy of Terry Manning

October 9, 2009 Surprise!  With the chairs missing and with extra items delivered to the hotel that needed to get to the show, I got over to the Javits center the second that it opened up to make sure that I would have plenty of time to deal with all remaining issues before the doors opened.  The folks at Freeman were SUPER helpful and got us the chairs (including an extra one thrown in for free!) right away.  The person in charge of the whole Freeman operation swung by the booth to check in to make sure everything was ok and chat.  Frankly, I had heard horror stories about Freeman's convention services and I walked away from the show thoroughly impressed.  As a result of their helpfulness, I had finalized set up and fixed all of our issues by 9AM.  The doors opened at noon.  Let me tell ya, there is NOTHING to do in that part of town.  Zip, nada.  I had brought nothing to read so I wandered the hall, talked to a few folks and found productive ways to pass the time.  I have to admit, given that his was my first time attending a trade show with AMI, I was a little nervous that I would be manning the booth by myself as I didn't know what to expect when the doors would open.

And then, surprise!  Terry Manning shows up to the booth.  Now I knew that Terry was coming to the show as he was doing a seminar with Oliver, Larry Janus and Jeff Roberts on Saturday and I also knew that he was going to swing by the booth because we were showing the Lucas CS mics in our booth.  I just had no idea when.  I was a little surprised to see him at the start of the show, but more surprised by the giant rolling suitcase that he had with him containing a bunch of "stuff".  We were formally introduced by Jeff Roberts from Latch Lake Music and Terry started pulling out signs, Lucas Limiters, extra mic parts, Moonray prototypes and literature.  At first, I started to panic trying to figure out how this would all fit with our stuff on our 3' x 6' table.  And then remembering the lessons learned in The Cat in the Hat, I just said, this will be fun!  Which was the right attitude because 5 minutes after Terry showed up, Larry Janus and his business partner Chris Juried showed up, which was a surprise.  They are working on the Moonray mic pre with Terry and they also brought their SR-71 limiter.  Inspired by the Fairchild 670, this baby is stereo in a 4 rack space unit.  Weighing in the neighborhood of 60-80 pounds, our table was now officially over flowing.  It was at this point that Larry quoted Jaws saying, "we're gonna need a bigger booth"...  The booth was packed with gear, but I had three new friends to help man the booth as the doors opened.  Which was a good thing as we got slammed! 

Jeff, Oliver and Terry
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Photo courtesy of Jeff Roberts

About an hour into the show, Oliver called me to let me know that he had landed and was on his way.  He couldn't hear me because the booth was so noisy.  When Oliver arrived, he saw the party in our booth.  The only thing missing was the beer and pizza, which we could have purchased at the concession stand for the low, low price of $3,526.73 for two large cheese pies and a six pack of Schmidt's...  We dediced to wait for a big sushi dinner instead.  The rest of the day was busy with lots of attendees coming to the booth to ask either Terry, Oliver or Larry questions about their areas of expertise.  It was crazy.  That night, the five of us went to an awesome sushi place called Japonica.  Living in Seattle, I have access to a lot of great sushi but this place was mind blowing.  Awesome quality and volume, volume, volume at reasonable prices.  Oliver had missed every meal that day so he ordered two large combo dinners that came out on a square platter that was over 2 feet per side.  I'm not exaggerating, he ate over 4 square feet of sushi.

The Products

With a lot of hard work over the previous months, we were able to pull it all together and show some exciting new products at this year's AES Show.  Here is the list of products that you could have seen had you been able to make it to the show and our booth.

TAB Funkenwerk V72M:  Probably the most anticipated of our new products, our V72M is the mono version of Oliver's world famous V72S.  Based on the historic Siemens V72s, the V72M generates 60 dB of gain and comes with the modern features and controls expected in today's studios.

TAB Funkenwerk V77M:  This unit is based on the same circuit path as the V72M with a few twists.  Specifically designed for ribbon mics, the V77M uses transformers and voltages that have been modified to deliver 76 dB of gain while still sounding like a historic V72s.  The unit also features an input impedance selection system that allows you to match the input impedance of the mic pre to the output impedance of your ribbon mic.

TAB Funkenwerk V78M:  The V78M is also based on the same circuit path as the V72M but splits the gain into two separate controls; Input Sensitivity and Make-up gain.  This allows the user to set the V78M up like a stock historic V72s, properly match the input impedance to a particular mic or even overload the input to create tube harmonics.

TAB Funkenwerk V71DI:  Although not new, we had our V71DI on display.  An homage to the historic V71 made by Malotki, this half-rack sized unit is our V72M mic pre as a direct box without the input transformer or phantom power supply.

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The Oahu:  Also not new, but we decided to roll out our custom plexi-glass 15-watt Oahu for the show. 

Lucas CS-1:  For those who only had heard of this mic online, we had two units here on display.  One was mounted on the famous Latch Lake Music mic stand while the other was opened up for everyone to see what was inside.  Thanks to the success at the show, we were able to pesuade David Bock of Bock Audio to allow us to purchase an additional 100 of his proprietary capsules bringing the total number of CS-1's to be made up to 300.

Lucas CS-4:  While the odds were stacked against us, we were able to show the prototype of the body of this mic at the show.  Oliver worked feverishly to make the grill.  Jeff called in favors to get the grill plated in time for the show.  Jeff's employees had to drive to the airport to rescue the body from Homeland Security...  The CS-4 will be modelled after the sonic family of large diaphragm mics that include the historic U47. 

Lucas Limiting Amplifier:  This compressor is designed so that you are using the tube as the actual voltage control amplifier.  Terry uses the Lucas Limiters on every recording session that he is involved with and they are a regular fixture at Compass Point Studios.

Lucas Moonray:  A joint project between Terry and Larry, this high quality tube mic pre-amp sits on a desktop rather than in a rack.  Unique looking and sounding.

Tube Equipment Corporation SR-71:  This unit is inspired by the historic Fairchild 670 with some important differences.  First off, the SR-71 is stereo inside the same size package as the mono 670.  Secondly, the design has been tweaked to handle a wider frequency response as well as provide more controls and faster response times for the modern studio.

As you can see, we had a lot of products to squeeze on that small table and a lot of information to discuss with attendees who visited our booth.  It was incredibly helpful having everyone there.

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Jeff, Oliver, Terry and Larry

October 10, 2009 The Seminar  Saturday morning opened with a bang as again we had plenty of people coming to the booth to check out our new products and ask questions.  Terry, Larry and Oliver all headed to their seminar late that morning.  The seminar was titled Can 21st Century Technology Outdo the Audio Achievements of the 20th Century?  For those of you unable to attend, the panel's consensus answer was no.  Specifially, the answer depends on whether you take the question as a small or big picture question.  Yes, it is possible to make incremental gains that are improvements over specific audio inventions of the 20th century.  For example, the C-12 tube microphone is an outstanding microphone.  However, in one aspect, the Lucas CS-1 has one technical advantage to the C-12 in that it has a true cardiod pattern that eliminates any phase issues introduced by cardiod patterns created through controling the back capsule rather than shutting it off completely.  This improvement is only achievable through a relay that has become small enough to fit on the mic's circuit board due to advancements in 21st century technology.

The panel however, thought that it was more responsible to look at the question from the big picture.  Instead of focusing on incremental technological gains over historic classics, will the audio industry generate more ground breaking discoveries or advancements than the scientists of the 20th century?  To this question, the panel felt that the answer is no.  Back in the day, some of the best scientific minds were focused on understanding electromagnetism and electronic engineering to further refine radio broadcasts.  Now those minds are focused on computers, quantum physics and astrophysics.  Back in the day, there was an abundance of money flowing into R&D for audio designs from governments and the recording industry.  Today, radio stations are owned by corporations looking for profits and the equipment that they have is "good enough" while record labels are reeling from the economic changes due to file sharing and digital downloads.  In the early to mid 20th century, there was a driving need to improve radio communications and a drive to have the best possible audio equipment money could buy.  That drive no longer exists.  Without the funding or the scientists, the amount of pure advancement in the audio industry most likely will not exceed or even match what was achieved in the 20th century. 

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David Bock and Oliver Archut. Photo courtesy of Terry Manning

After the seminar, the crew returned to the booth which was still busy even after the doors were supposed to be closed.  That night, our dinner plans included a trip to Japonica this time with David Bock and Josh Kessler joining us and Larry and Chris seeking something other than sushi.  There was a food theme throughout the show; too busy to eat lunch, go to sushi at Japonica for dinner...

October 11th and 12th  The show soldiered on for two more days.  The hall definitely was slower on both Sunday and Monday but we still were busy throughout each day to the point where getting lunch was challenging.  We still had lots of interest in all of our products and met some interesting industry folks who talked to us not only about our current products but future projects that they would like to see us make in the future.  Load out was easier than anticipated.  Larry and Chris had left Sunday night and Oliver had to catch a flight early Monday afternoon.  Terry and I tore down the booth and had everything packed up in less than an hour which left us each with enough time to catch our trains at Penn Station.  The show was a great success for everyone involved in our group and we decided that next year we need a bigger booth...