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Exhibition small but “magic will happen” at AES Budapest

The Audio Engineering Society’s first international conference in Hungary commences later this week, though the associated expo has diminished to the smallest number of exhibitors ever, writes Dave Robinson.

The Audio Engineering Society’s first international conference in Hungary begins later this week, though the associated expo has diminished to the smallest number of exhibitors ever.

The AES’ 132nd Conference – to be held at the Budapest Congress & World Trade Center from this Thursday 26 to Sunday 29 April – boasts a healthy timetable of papers, seminars and workshops. However, as of 16 April, only 11 companies were confirmed as exhibiting.

The exhibitors named are Auro Technologies, CB Electronics, CharterOak, Crane Song, Delta Senselab, Linear Audio, Microtech Gefell, Neutrik, Profusion, and Roland Systems Group East Europe, alongside Hungarian distributor Audiomonde.

Some weeks before the publication of this list, the APRS in the UK declared its withdrawal from the event. In a statement to its membership, Peter Filleul, former APRS executive director Peter Filleul explained: “It has become clear that the [exhibitor] numbers are so low that we would be unable to meet our target commitments under the Tradeshow Access Programme agreements with UKTI. We very much regret having to abandon the show at this stage but we have a duty to our members and the industry not to be extravagantly optimistic.

“We have had a very solid relationship with the AES for many years but the gamble of going to Hungary hasn’t worked,” continued Filleul. “We do [however] expect to be in full sail for the San Francisco AES in October.”

In response to the current state of the exhibition, AES’ Bob Moses told PSNEurope: “I’m very grateful to the excellent companies who are exhibiting.”

In a lengthy statement (in full, below), he continued: “There are very valid reasons why the AES exhibition in Europe has shrunk, and I, as the new AES executive director, am working hard to understand them.”

However, Moses insisted “Budapest will be a wonderful event with a lot of great people sharing a lot of great knowledge”, and that “a lot of magic will happen”.

In the last few weeks, the AES conference organising committee has sought to emphasise certain sessions to be held during the four-day conference. These include a ‘Distributed Music Panel’ workshop, covering the emerging field of music intended for performance over networks; the ‘Reality Is Not a Recording/A Recording Is Not Reality’ presentation by Jim Anderson; and an ‘Audio Hardware in Smartphones’ session chaired by Antti Kelloniemi.

Highlighted tutorials include: ‘The Making of The Beach Boys Smile Sessions’, where producer/educator Barry Marshall will conduct a rare interview with project co-producer Mark Linett about the legendary 1966-67 sessions; ‘Noise on the Brain – Hearing Damage on the Other Side’, where presenter Poppy Crum considers recent research in chemically preserving hearing and combating hearing loss; and ‘How Does It Sound Now? The Evolution of Audio’ with Gary Gottlieb.

As ever, there will be a number of paper and post sessions, covering subjects as diverse as ‘The Hand Clap as an Impulse Source for Measuring Room Acoustic’, ‘Emerging and Innovative Audio Virtual Microphones – Using Ultrasonic Sound to Receive Audio Waves’ and ‘Audio for Games and Mobile/PDA, Efficient Binaural Audio Rendering Using Independent Early and Diffuse Paths’.

The developer of the Soundcraft mixer brand, Graham Blyth (pictured), has been confirmed as the speaker at the Richard C Heyser Lecture on Friday 27 April at 7pm. Blyth, who is also performing an organ recital in Budapest, has prepared a talk entitled ‘In Pursuit of Elegant Simplicity: Life, Luck, and Learning in Music and Audio’. In addition, the AES has organised tours of the Hungarian Parliament Building and the impressive Palace of Arts in the capital.

However, it is an apparent lack of support for the show from the wider pro-audio industry, combined with an absence of pre-event marketing and promotion from the AES board itself, which paints a shaky picture for the next few days in Hungary.

Following a request from PSNEurope for clarity and comment ahead of the show, January 2012-appointed executive director (ED) Bob Moses responded in some detail:

“Yes, there will be a small exhibition in Budapest. It’s no secret that we wish it were larger. I’m very grateful to the excellent companies who are exhibiting, and for their support as we evolve the European show.

“There are very valid reasons why the AES exhibition in Europe has shrunk, and I, as the new AES ED, am working hard to understand them. Here’s what I have learned so far.

“Europe is not the USA. The retail market in Europe, indeed everything, is much more fragmented. The model that works so well in the USA doesn’t work well in Europe. So what does Europe need from AES? I don’t think that conversation has happened effectively before, but I’m having it now. I’m hearing that the whole process in which our industry does sales, marketing and distribution is changing. Sales reps are going away, distribution is consolidating, there are too many conventions, companies are scaling back marketing budgets, magazine advertising is down, the internet has taken over everything, and so on. It appears that humans only communicate with machines and not with each other anymore. There are big changes in the underlying infrastructure of our industry that we have to realign ourselves with.

“But I hear everyone say they still want AES to bring quality people together so we can learn from each other and keep the human side of the business alive. That’s where AES really shines. No other show brings all the top developers, users, and decision-makers in practically every audio field together like AES. That’s why we’ve seen most of the seminal audio technology developments come through AES over the past 60 years: stereophonic recording, the CD, MP3, digital audio, etc. The ED of one of the mega audio/video shows recently told me AES is the place where everything good and new comes from, and even though we are the mouse and he is the elephant, he really wants us to succeed because his world (the retail business) would stagnate without the innovation incubated within the AES.

“Indeed, it seems that everyone I talk to, even the people who are the most angry at AES for some reason, is pulling for us. So maybe the retail business has something better happening on the web now, but the people creating and using all that equipment still need to get together and listen, learn, and connect with each other. And the manufactures need to remain in the conversation. So don’t count AES out in Europe yet. I’m not going to turn my back on the very real needs I’m discovering over there.

“I can’t promise we will please everyone, but AES is here to serve its stakeholders with as much value as possible – in today’s world, not yesterday. We get that. Budapest will be a wonderful event with a lot of great people sharing a lot of great knowledge. Numerous new connections will be made between professionals from the far corners of the world. People will leave the AES show smarter, with a pocket full of ideas and new leads. A lot of magic will happen.

“And let us not forget the exhibitors who stayed in the game with us. Each of them deserves everyone’s appreciation for recognising the value of AES and supporting us as we change with the times. I hope they are overwhelmed by the many highly qualified audio professionals attending the rest of the convention. We’re listening to them, and everyone else, and hopefully this sparks the beginning of a new and revitalized AES show in Europe, not an ending.”

The 132nd AES Convention begins at 08.30 on Thursday 26 April (registration), while the technical programme begins at 09.00; the exhibition hours are from 10.00 to 19.00, Friday 27 to Sunday 29 April.