My AES New York 2023 Highlights

My AES New York 2023 Highlights

As the show wraps, I’d like to share some of my experience at AES this year. For those who don’t know, The Audio Engineering Society (AES) is the only professional society devoted exclusively to audio technology. It is a membership-based organization, but you don’t need to be a member to attend their conferences. Check this screenshot from their website for a synopsis of membership benefits.

AES member benefits screenshot

Per the AES website, “A Member may be anyone active in audio engineering or acoustics who has an academic degree or the equivalent in scientific or professional experience in audio engineering and its allied arts and is familiar with the application of engineering principles and data in that field.” An Associate Member “may be anyone interested in audio engineering and in the society’s objectives, but who does not yet have the degree or the equivalent in professional experience required of a Member.” Membership for both levels of membership at the time of writing is $125 a year.

The event includes panel discussions, presentations from member engineers, and an exhibition floor with booths from a lot of vendors in the industry you would recognize, as well as many you wouldn’t.

AES was 3 days - I only attended for 2 of the three. Here are just some of the sessions I attended…

Day 1

I didn't attend day 1. haha!

Some of the booths at AES NYC 2023
Some AES Booths

Day 2

Student Mix Critiques

I popped into the student mix critiques session to hear how the panel provided feedback to students and how they approached communicating their ideas. The panelists for this session included the likes of Joel Hamilton (Owner of Studio G in Brooklyn) and Prince Charles Alexander (3 Grammys, 40 platinum and gold certifications from the RIAA).

(Paper: Presentation) Implementation of and application scenarios for plausible immersive audio via headphones:

Ngl, way over my head. Some kind of study/test about speaker placement within the room and if test subjects with VR headsets and headphones on could accurately predict real-world speaker position based on the spatial audio they were being fed in the headphones? I think?

Building a Brand with Bainz, Jess Jackson, and Alex Tumay:

This session was great - These are engineers who were in some serious trenches as recording engineers, came up with artists who became big over their working partnership, who were resilient to the industry, and all have made transitions into becoming mixing engineers as opposed to just recording engineers. There wasn’t a ton said about building a brand - The consensus was simple and clear from the panel. Do great work with great artists, and that becomes your brand. I’ve been following Tumay for a while now, probably since 2017, and he is really sticking his neck out there and becoming a voice for the engineering community which I deeply admire and respect.

(Paper: Presentation) Microphone Comparison for Female R&B Vocal Recording:

This one, I could follow - Key takeaway for me was a lot of the stereotypes you hear about mics with a longstanding history tend to be true. There are workhorse mics that will always give you a satisfactory result, and other mics that offer more character one way or the other which might positively or negatively impact the outcome of the captured recording because of how it compliments (or exacerbates) certain qualities of the source.

(Paper: Presentation) Master Bus Coloring with Microphone Preamps:

This presenter didn’t really offer many conclusions to their studies (instead, opting to publish all research open source so it could be utilized by others), but essentially claimed that you can achieve coloration by using mic-pres, which are a prerequisite for many recording applications, as a viable alternative to purchasing a summing mixer which can cost thousands of dollars. Interesting!

Day 2

Neumann presents Jeff Balding:

Immersive audio… I had only heard about it prior to the session with Jeff. Neumann set up a Dolby Atmos/Immersive audio room at AES in (i think) a 9.1.5 configuration and had star engineers like Jeff play their atmos mixes, make commentary, and answer questions. I’m not sold on immersive audio yet as a viable, easily adoptable, sonic improvement for consumers. However, Apple, Dolby, and labels are putting in a lot of effort to make offerings in these new mediums including music. All I know is companies are paying some serious breesh for this service. Perhaps I’ll dive more into it and write more in the future. Thanks Jeff!

Alex Tumay, Bainz, Nickie Jon Pabón, and Linda Briceño speaking at AES
Alex Tumay, Bainz, Nickie Jon Pabón, and Linda Briceño speaking at AES

Modern Music Panel:

Another panel featuring Bainz and Alex Tumay, this time with Nickie Jon Pabon and Linda Briceño. Tumay “hijacked” the session and turned it into content for an episode of his podcast “This Sounds Better”. This was a great discussion facilitated by Alex. They left plenty of time for Q/A at the end (I asked a question 🤣). All of the panelists are resilient, humble, and hardworking engineers who are worth their weight in gold as far as I can tell.

In Conclusion...

The event is inspiring if nothing else for those working in audio. One of my most impactful takeaways was from the second panel with Tumay (I believe it was Tumay who said this) when he said working in audio is very much a game of attrition. It’s almost as if they people who are still around are the ones that become great. 

As for what's up like, 'RIGHT NOW' right now?

schwag Fairchild lighter

This is just a picture of the only schwag I got from the booths - The sickest schwag ever. A Fairchild lighter. This might go in a glass case and get mounted in the studio lmao.

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Ciao ciao.