FICS Congress 2005 in Lugano, CH

Report of the Representative for Audio

Uwe Mehlhaff

Uwe Mehlhaff
Photo: Wolfgang Simon, Dortmund

Table of Contents

  1. Trends and facts
    1.1 Trends
    1.2 Facts
  2. Visit to the "prolight + sound 2005" convention in Frankfurt/Main
  3. Visit to the "High End 2005" convention in Munich
  4. Summary or journals and specialist literature for hi-fi and sound engineering
  5. Diary 2005-2006
  6. Useful addresses from the Worldwide Web
    Annexes
  1. Pictures from Frankfurt and Munich (1)
  2. Pictures from Frankfurt and Munich (2)

1. Trends and facts

1.1 Trends

Last year (2004) I wrote, that the analogue technology wouldn't disappear. In the recording sector this means cassette recorders and tape machines (two or more tracks), which are still in use. In the mean time well known music labels are rediscovering high quality analogue recording equipment for records because of the more natural sound.

More or less good digital solutions dominate the market in the recording sector. Stationary DAT and Mini Disc recorders are past, even if some equipment is still offered by hi-fi and professional dealers. The successor is the flashcard recorder which works without moving mechanical parts and offers a lot of new features.

Those working with computerised recording solutions find a growing choice in software. The prices for software are coming down because of increasing competition.

Also in 2005 there are no revolutionary new playback units (CD-players, loudspeakers, headphones).

Mixers are getting more and more digital. The prices of mixers reduce because of growing competition. Modern chips make the equipment more and more complex. Anyway it still makes sense, to invest in good analogue mixers, even if there are no groundbreaking new products in the market.

Years ago, digital microphones had been exhibited. This technology is still not accepted because there are hardly any microphones in the market.

Anyone who wants to buy professional equipment and thinks that the prices are too high, may have a look at the disc jockey (dj) sector.

Below you'll find reports about the highlights of the conventions "Prolight + Sound" in Frankfurt/Main and "High End" in Munich. The convention in Munich is the biggest show for audio systems in Europe. "prolight + sound" took place in April 2005, the "High End" one month later. In the reports, you'll also find photos (taken from internet) from the presented equipment.

Uwe Mehlhaff

1.2 Facts

In 2004 178.5 million sound carriers had been sold in Germany. Sound carriers means singles, music cassettes, CDs, Super Audio CDs (SACDs), Sound DVDs (sound only), DVDs (sound and picture) and music videos (VHS). Prerecorded DATs, minidiscs or recording tapes don't play a part in sales figures.

The following table gives an overview of sales figures for different sound carriers in Germany from 1995 to 2004:

Table 1. Sale of sound carriers in Germany (millions)

  1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Single 44.1 48,5 52.0 54.0 53.7 51.1 48.6 36.3 24.4 21.3
CD 176.9 184.5 196.9 196.5 198.0 195.1 173.3 166.8 133.6 133.1
Music Cassette 31.4 30.0 26.9 25.3 20.3 19.4 20.9 13.3 14.1 11.9
LP (Vinyl) 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.6 0.6 0.8 1.0 1.0 1.0 0.8
Sound DVD/SACD - - - - - 0.0 0.1 0.2 0.5 0.3
DVD (sound/pict.) - - - - - 0,6 1.3 3.4 7.9 10.1
Music video (VHS) 0.7 0.8 0.9 1.2 1.0 0.6 0.8 2.9 1.7 1.0
Total sales 253.5 264.2 277.1 277.6 273.6 267.6 246.0 223.9 183.5 178.5

Altogether in nearly ten years (period 1995 to 2004) there's been a drop from nearly 30%. You'll see a drastic drop of 25% in this period for the most widespread sound carrier, the CD. One important reason for this drop is the downloading of music (legal or illegal) from music servers on the internet.

The hits at present are music videos on DVD. The sale for this sound carrier increased seventeen-fold from 2000 (the year of introduction) to 2004.

Let's have a look at the sales of video and audio systems in Germany. I took numerical data from 2003 and 2004 from GFU (an official German company for video and audio systems):

Table 2. Sales of hi-fi equipment in Germany in 2003 and 2004
  2003 2004 change
  turnover
(Mil. EUR)
Units
(1,000s)
turnover
(Mil. EUR)
Units
(1,000s)
turnover
Hi-fi equipment total 1,094 no information 913 no information -16,5%
Portable Audio-equipment 511 no information 614 no information +20.2%
MP3-players 108 870 299 3,160 +176.9%
Video and audio systems total 10,255 no information 10,770 no information +5.1%

The trend in video and audio systems relating to sound is small, handy and cheap, and this applies to MP3 equipment. The quality of sound from MP3 equipment is still not the best because it's data-compressed. At present MP3-equipment is not useful for high grade records and music listening. The quality is getting better and the difference to CD or minidisc is shrinking. But data compression is data compression and will be data comressed in future. MP3 will allways have a difference in sound quality to high spec systems such as good analogue equipment, sound DVDs and Super Audio CDs.

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2. Visit to "Prolight + Sound 2005" in Frankurt-am-Main

PROLIGHT + SOUND PROLIGHT + SOUND

THE INTERNATIONAL FAIR FOR THE MUSIC SECTOR, SOUND/VIDEO PRODUCTION AND ENTERAINMENT

The "Prolight + Sound" in Frankfurt-am-Main took place from 06.04 to 09.04.2005. As usual the first two days had been reserved for qualified visitors. I've seen no great news for soundhunters. Let's have a look at the fair where I went for a stroll.
BCS 50 A dream for each "sound engineer" is the mixer BCS 50 from Dateq, a producer from the Netherlands. In the middle of the mixer, there's place for scripts. The mixer can be indvidually equiped with inputs. The level meters can be switched between VU and peak-programme display with 50 leds per channel. A phase meter, a radio controlled clock and an indicator for the remaining time are options.

The mixer is very flexible, the manufacture exemplary. An employee of Dateq told me that prices start at 5,000 EUR.

Marantz Professional showed the handheld flash card recorder/player PMD660. Compared with DAT recorders there are no moving parts inside. The sound carrier is a flash card, which can be processed after recording on a computer with a flash card reader. Alternatively the recording can be copied to the computer by USB cable (USB 1.0).

This recorder works with the usual sampling rates 44.1 and 48 kHz. Additionally you can also use MP3 or WAV (WAV being uncompressed). The PMD660 has digital, analogue and two balanced microphone inputs with 48v phantom power.

Marantz PMD660
PMD 660 rear The microphone inputs are placed at the back, which can be impractical, for example when working with stereo microphones and 3.5/6.35 mm connectors).

The PMD660 makes a good and solid impression. The price is less than 700 EUR.

The Marantz PMD670 is also a portable flashcard recorder/player. It's bigger than the PMD660. Marantz also showed the PMD671, the successor of the PMD670. Both recorders are the same size and are nearly double the size of the PMD660. In contrast to the PMD 660, which has a USB 1.0 interface, PMD670 and PMD671 have the faster USB 2.0 interface.

The PMD671 uses additional 24-bit (96 kHz) sampling rate converters and variable sampling frequencies (16 to 96 kHz).

PMD 670

The small controls are used for infrequent adjustments and can be protected from unintentional operation by a screw-on cover.

There's a switch for the balanced microphone inputs (48 volts). PMD670 and 671 are the right equipment for perfectionists who want to make top quality recordings. The sound of PMD670 and 671 satifies and is, compared with High End-CD-players, great! Without case and rechargeable NiCd battery, the price of the PMD 671 is around 1,200 EUR. The PMD670 is a phase-out model and therefore much cheaper.
PMD 570 The PMD570 is a stationary flashcard redorder/player designed for use in 19" racks for professional equipment.

The sampling frequencies are variable (16 to 48 kHz), but not as variable as at PMD671 (16 bis 96 kHz). The PMD570 is not build for location recording. Therefore there are no microphone inputs. But the PMD570 has balanced line inputs. The price of the PMD 570 is around 1,000 EUR.

Fostex again showed the Field Memory Recorder FR-2, also a flashcard redorder/player. Specifications are comparable to the Marantz PMD670/671. The weight of this recorder is nearly 1.5kg and the price is around 1,750 EUR. I found this recorder on the web with a price around 1,500 EUR. The FR-2 is, compared with the Marantz recorders, bulkier and more unwieldy.

Fostex also showed an 8-channel DVD multitrack recorder, the DV824. The price for this recorder is around 4,000 EUR and therefore not so interesting for soundhunters.

Fostex FR2

Let's have a look at loudspeakers:

Professional studios normally use active speakers for monitoring. Focal (also well known for the brand JM Lab) from France showed a complete series of studio monitors. At the time of the fair, Focal hadn't any representative in Germany. I had no chance to get any information about prices or to hear the speakers.

[We noted that RTSI were using Focal active speakers for the CIMES playback. -Ed]
Focal SM8 I've been listening to passive two-way loudspeakers from JM Lab in my study at home for two years. I'm happy with my JM Labs because they're very well made, sound very good and were really inexpensive. So I think that the prices of the active speakers are not too high.

On the left you'll see the SM 8 from Focal which weighs about 15kg and measures 380 x 268 x 320 mm (H x W x D). Type Solo 6 Be (Be stands for Beryllium Tweeter) from the same outfit is a little bit smaller and at 11 kg somewhat lighter.

Another producer of active studio monitors is Genelec from Finland - "Genelec goes home fidelity". This producer is now offering its monitors also in wood veneer. In the past all monitors from Genelec had a black cabinet so were less suitable for a living room. Now you can get Genelec speakers in cherry or birch veneer.
Monacor showed the MPA-202 (picture on the right), a small preamplifier for microphones with two balanced inputs and unbalanced outputs. The MPA-202 has a variable amplification with 11 steps. The weight is about 1.2kg and the price around 150 EUR. Monacor also offers the MPA-102, a mono microphone preamplifier. MPA-202
MPA 102 Monacor's VU-800 is a tricolored LED display with 40 leds per channel. The price is less than 100 EUR. This display is better than many of the displays you'll find in cheap mixers. But good, professional studio meters from RTW or db Audio are more expensive and much better than the VU-800.
The metal headphone hook, the HPH-10 from Monacor (right) is very handy. It swivels. The price is around 10 EUR. bracket

Tascam offers the High Definition Audio/DSD Master recorder DV-RA1000 (price around 1.400 EUR). The recorder is a professional solution for high resolution audio (up to 192kHz/24-bit). The DV-RA1000 also features normal CD Recording (44.1 kHz/16-bit) as well as Sony's DSD format, the basis for Super Audio CDs (SACD). Balanced inputs and outputs, and a USB 2.0 interface are additional features of this recorder. To enter names, a keyboard can be connected.
Tascam DV-RA1000 Further features include an illuminated display with a high resoluted meter, wired remote control (as usual in professional studios), varibale speed (±6%). We don't have enough space here to specify all the features of the DV-RA1000.

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3. Visit to "High End 2005" in Munich

High End banner

The High End fair in Munich is the biggest convention in Europe for audio systems. All the notables of the hi-fi scene came to Munich - me too!!! Representatives of big hi-fi companies from Asia, Australia and of course America. They all have the biggest, heaviest, best and most expensive equipment in their luggage.

The exhibition had - compared with 2004 - more ground and more space. So it was possible to hear good sound in small stands.

High End is the high art of music reproduction and I spent three day at the fair. The equipment may be very good, but if the rooms where music is played are acoustically lousy, it makes no sense to hear the good equipment. I had the chance to hear good loudspeakers and amplifiers (valve and transistor) in low price ranges - but equipment which is not suitable in recording studios (for soundhunters). I also heard good record players with prices lower than 1,000 EUR. They are also not suitable in recording studios (for soundhunters).

Surround-sound shows, the hit in Munich in 2004 (I wrote about it), were hardly represented. There's a change in trend from surround to 2-channel hi-fi (stereo). Anyone who's interested in surround-sound equipmet, can get it for low money at big food shops and supermarkets (Aldi, Lidl and so on) or as phase-out models in hifi-shops.

Nevertheless I found some good equipment for soundhunters:
Ultrasone, a German producer of headphones and microphones, presented a new generation of headphones with detachable cables. So if your headphones are defective because the cable is broken, buy a new cable and the problem is solved - no repair of the headphones so less cost. In former times Sennheiser had headphones with a similar arrangement. Beyer Dynamic (DT 100) or AKG (K171, K271) actual also use headphones with a detachable cable but the plugs are different, so that the cables can't be used with headphones from other producers.

Ultrasone on the other hand uses an adapter with 3.5mm plugs for the detachable cable. The sound of the headphones from Ultrasone, compared to other competitors, is quite good.

Ultrasone

Lack of space in the studio to line up good loudspeakers? Everyone knows this problem. I've seen loudspeakers in soundhunters' studios standing on cupboards or on the ground because there was nowhere else to put them. How can they hear their own productions in a good quality if the loudspeakers are standing in the wrong place? The answer to this problem comes from Creakustik, a German producer from Bad Honnef on the river Rhine.
sunflower loudspeaker Creakustik is producing loudspeakers to put up on the wall - loudspeakers looking like pictures and not recognizable as loudspeakers. You can have the loudspeakers with different covers, for example as shown on the right or left.

Anyone who wants to have loudspeakers with a little bit individuality can take his own photos - perhaps of the mother-in-law - to Creakustik and they will make a cover for the loudspeaker from the photo. So it's possible to make mother-in-law into an opera singer, because she's on the cover of the loudspeaker. Why not?

frog speaker

Creakustic offers two sizes and states a frequency range from 50Hz to 22kHz for the bigger one and 55Hz to 22kHz for the smaller type. In Munich, I hade a chance to listen to the loudspeakers from Creakustik and was surprised by the good sound and the good build quality.

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4. Summary or Journals and Specialist Literature for Hi-Fi and Sound Engineering.

The following is a summary of new journals and books:
Neumann Roessler, Anselm: Neumann - The Microphone Company
includes Audio CD: A Story of Innovation, Excellence and the Spirit of Audio Engineering.
language: ENG, DE; price/Germany: 58.00 EUR
Mikrofon-Aufnahmetechnik
Dickreiter, Michael: Mikrofon-Aufnahmetechnik (Aufnahmeräume, Schallquellen, Mikrofone, räumliches Hören, Aufnahmeverfahren, Aufnahme einzelner Instrumente und Stimmen)
language: DE, price/Germany: 48.00 EUR
Metering Friesecke, Andreas: Metering (Studio-Anzeigen lesen und verstehen. Vom VU-Meter bis zum Analyser. Technik, Formate, Normen)
language: DE; price/Germany: 18.00 EUR
Monitoring
Steffen Bergweiler, Thomas Görne: Monitoring (Lautsprecher in Studio- und HiFi-Technik. Von der Aktivbox bis zur Surround-Abhöre. Technik, Akustik, Aufstellung)
language: DE; price/Germany: 18.00 EUR
das Homerecording Handbuch Enders, Roland: Das Homerecording Handbuch (Der Weg zu optimalen Aufnahmen) mit Audio-CD
language: DE; price/Germany: 26.50 EUR
Tonstudio Handbuch
Henle, Hubert: Das Tonstudio Handbuch (Praktische Einführung in die professionelle Aufnahmetechnik)
language: DE, price/Germany: 25.50 EUR
Taxliste Tetzner, Radke, Dernedde: Taxliste 2005, 52. Jahrgang, Bewertungsliste für gebrauchte Geräte der Unterhaltungselektronik (Hersteller Europa und Fernost) - Tax
language: DE; price/Germany: 24.95 EUR
LP Magazin
LP - Magazin für analoges HiFi & Vinyl-Kultur: Im zweimonatigen Rhythmus erscheinende Zeitschrift rein um analoge Themen aus dem Michael E. Brieden-Verlag
language: DE, price/Germany: 4.80 EUR (9.50 CHF each edition, countries with Euros: 5.00 EUR)

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5. Diary 2005-2006

The following diary with dates from 2005 (November/December) and 2006 gives a worldwide overview of video and audio system shows. All the listened dates are from the web and without guarantee.
Date(s) City (Country) Show (Location) See
04-06.11.2005 London (GB) What Hifi Sound and Vision (Novotel London) [1]
05-06.11.2005 Hamburg (D) World of Hifi (Hotel Dorint Sofitel) [1]
12-13.11.2005 Brussels (B) High Fidelity Belgium (Crown Plaza & Courtyard) [1]
05-08.01.2006 Las Vegas (USA) Consumer Electronic Show (convention center) [1]
01-03.02.2006 Brussels (B) Integrated Systems Europe (Expo-site) [1]
11-12.02.2006 Dortmund (D) World of Hifi (Convention Center Westfalenhalle Dortmund) [1]
24-26.02.2006 Bristol (GB) Sound & Vision (Marriott City Centre Hotel) [1]
02-05.03.2006 Moscow (RUS) HDI Show 2006 (Iris hotel, Moscow) [1]
04-05.03.2006 Eschborn near Frankfurt/Main (D) Analog-Forum (Novotel hotel, Frankfurt-Eschborn) [2]
09-15.03.2006 Hannover (D) CEBIT (Fair Hannover) [3]
10-12.03.2006 Erlangen (D) Hifi at Atzelsberg palace near Erlangen - the fair for high-quality hifi, homecinema, Multi-room [4]
25-26.03.2006 Stuttgart (D) World of Hifi (Hotel Le Meridien) [1]
29-01.04.2006 Frankfurt/Main (D) Prolight + Sound 2006 (fair Frankfurt) [5]
25-28.05.2006 Munich-Freimann (D) High End 2006 (M,O,C,) [1]
10.06.2006 Worms-Herrnsheim (D) Workshop for soundhunters organized by Analog Audio Association (Gasthof/restaurant zur Krone, Worms-Herrnsheim) [2]
23-24.09.2006 Bremen (D) World of Hifi (Congresscentrum Bremen) [1]
October 2006 Düsseldorf (D) Analog-Forum (Novotel hotel, Düsseldorf) [2]

Additional Information
[1] www.highendsociety.de
[2] www.AAAnalog.de
[3] www.cebit.de
[4] www.heimkinomarkt.de
[5] www.pls.messefrankfurt.com

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6. Useful Addresses from the Web

The following list contains usefull addresses from the worldwide web which deal with analogue recording. Useful addresses for digital recording are still not available on the internet.

description Do you like vintage hi-fi?
The Audio Engineering Society (USA) - AES is the only professional society in the world which is concerned with sound engineering. Members of the AES are sound engineers, scientists and producers. Every year the AES organizes meetings in different countries and cities. In 2005 there were meetings in Copenhagen (Denmark) from 02 to 04.09 and in New York (USA) from 07 to 10.10. This site is in English. NAGRA
Nagra
The Analogue Audio Association - AAA is a registered club to keep and support the analogue music reproduction. Since 1990, the year of its foundation, this club has tried to preserve the analogue record. Additionally this club is busy with analogue recording and reproduction. Two times a year the AAA in Germany organizes hi-fi shows (you'll find details in Chapter 5, Diary 2005/2006). There's a Swiss section with its own web site. EMT
EMT
DTSF

www.dtsf.de - This club, consisting of tape- and stereo fans from Darmstadt near Frankfurt, has been in existence for 21 years. Every week members of this club produce a sound magazine called Darmstädter Echo. The homepage is interesting but the advertising is troublesome.

Elvis is back!
SHURE
Shure Mic
hifi-forum.de - This is a platform for discussion about audio, home cinema, hifi, high end, surround, car-hifi and music. SABA
SABA tape deck
reeltoreel.de - Interest in the story of Revox or Studer? You'll find it here in detail and with a lot of pictures. STUDER
Studer open reel deck
Revox

revoxforum.de - language DE, some ENG, NL. This platform should be named as "Revox-Fan-Forum" and not "Revoxforum". Anyone looking for manuals, wiring diagramms and other documentation on Revox will find them on this site.

STUDER
Studer
tonbandwelt - Here you'll find information and tips on tape machines, tapes and accessories. PHILIPS
Philips N4522
tonbandwelt and bandmaschine - language DE with some ENG, NL. You'll find tips on tape machines and tapes at these web sites. But you've to search a little bit to find the link "Bandmaschinen-Forum". MARANTZ
Marantz 7700

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