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That was the year that was

2010? It’s history, says David Davies, who reflects on the highlights – and one or two low points – of the year almost gone. From the Midas/Klark Teknik acquisition to the innovations of AES 129, it's been a busy old twelve-month.

2010? It’s history, says David Davies, who reflects on the highlights – and one or two low points – of the year almost gone.

The Midas effect

As January began, the industry was continuing to absorb the news of Behringer parent company the Music Group’s acquisition of Midas and Klark Teknik. A hot industry topic discussed at exhaustive length on various forum sites, the story also brought an unprecedented number of visitors to the Pro Sound News Europe website.

The other principal focal point of the month was more inevitable: the Winter NAMM Show. Several launches stood out: two new additions to Allen & Heath’s iLive digital mixing series; the introduction of a software-controlled analogue routing system, X-Patch, by SSL; Mathias von Heydekampf’s new venture, MOVEK, and its myMix networked personal mixer and multi-track recorder; and the announcement that Waves and DiGiCo had agreed to work together to integrate Waves’ new SoundGrid technology into DiGiCo’s single FPGA Stealth Digital Processing products for the live sound industry.

The impossible: now possible

There was an acronymic flavour to February. Following the 2009 introduction of Celemony’s Melodyne Direct Note Access (DNA) Editor, Audionamix became the latest company to step up to the plate with a technology claiming to achieve what many had previously thought impossible. Developed over the course of five years, the ADX algorithm enables users to run a stereo or mono file through a computer and extract separate elements.

Whilst ADX was a major industry story, the rumours about the future of Abbey Road Studios that began to circulate on 15 February attracted the attention of the global mainstream media. Major name artists, producers, engineers and even the National Trust all joined the call for the safeguarding of the 79-year-old studio. After staying out of the debate for six days, studio owner EMI issued a statement confirming that it had no plans to sell the facility. The future prospects of EMI, however, would remain a topic of debate for the rest of the year.

Forward to Frankfurt

March was all about the product, with an impressive haul of new items occupying the booths at Prolight + Sound 2010. On the console side, there was no denying the trend towards more compact versions of existing favourites, eg. Soundcraft’s Vi1 and DiGiCo’s SD9. Yamaha and Lab.gruppen were among the many other companies to make significant launches, whilst Martin Audio conducted a ‘behind closed doors’-style preview of its game-changing Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array.

The show also served to highlight the rise of the emerging AVB (audio/video bridging) networking standards via a panel session organised by AVB-supporting organisation the AVnu Alliance. This cross-industry group would go on to announce a raft of new ‘Promoter Members’ as the year continued, including Biamp, Shure and Yamaha.

Studio tan

After February’s tribulations, there was something delightfully pleasing about Abbey Road being named Studio of the Year at the 2010 Music Week Awards. In fact, April was rather awash with positive stories about European studios; a genuine tonic after so much debate regarding the viability of larger commercial facilities.

Ten months after a fire wreaked severe damage to its Soho premises, leading post-production studio De Lane Lea confirmed its resurgence with a refurbished Studio One, while Hook End looked set to reconfirm its status as one of Europe’s leading residential facilities with new owner Mark White’s expansion of both analogue and digital specs. Also on a residential tip, former Jamiroquai keyboardist/songwriter Toby Smith went public with his new Northamptonshire complex, Angelic Studios, which was made available for bookings via Miloco.

And it was acquisition time once more with Avid’s purchase of Euphonix clearing the way for Avid to offer a broader range of control surfaces and consoles for film/video post-production, music recording and broadcast.

Collaboration time again

Whilst Avid might have been uncorking the champagne, many people returning home after the NAB Show were left crying into their beer as air travel fell victim to the effects of the Icelandic volcano with an unpronounceable name. Fortunately, this didn’t overshadow a slew of important developments during the April event, many of them possessing a collaborative hue: RTW and Lawo announcing that the new RTW TouchMonitor TM7 would be available as a fully integrated hardware option for the Lawo mc2 range of digital audio consoles; also involving RTW, a partnership with TC Electronic to develop new audio metering products; the integration of SSL’s digital broadcast console range with the Optocore Optical Digital Network System; and a strategic business partnership between RTS and IntraCom Systems to develop a platform that “intelligently marries” each company’s intercom systems.

Courtroom drama

In the latest instalment of a long-running story (see PSNE June 2010), plug-in developer Waves made further progress in its battle against copyright infringement – winning one lawsuit and seeing a defendant admit liability for intellectual property infringements and illegal use of Waves software in a second case.

Otherwise, all eyes were on South Africa, the FIFA World Cup 2010 and a very significant prize for pro-audio. Chief amongst the recipients was distributor/installer Prosound, which supplied and installed equipment to nine out of ten arena used for the footballing extravaganza, as well as creating the sound design for eight. The final sound reinforcement inventory was frankly breathtaking and included 974 Electro-Voice loudspeakers and eight wireless microphone systems, 480 Crest Audio Cki amplifiers, 1,256 Dynacord DLP and SP series enclosures, and 24 MediaMatrix Nion audio processors.

Keeping it live

Greeting the arrival of the hectic summer festival season, the 2010 PSNLive survey – published in early July – captured the live sound industry in overwhelmingly upbeat mood. A whopping 87% of manufacturers expected their sales to increase during the full-year, whilst 56% of rental companies predicted a rise in the overall value of their work. Proof if proof be required that, as income from recorded music continued to decline, more and more emphasis was being placed on live work.

Spectrum blues

After months of speculation, 5 August saw UK communications regulator Ofcom announce details of the government funding scheme to assist PMSE (performance making & special events) users affected by forthcoming 800MHz spectrum reallocation. The package revealed that eligible Channel 69 users would receive “roughly 55%” of the cost of replacement equipment.

With one chapter of the spectrum saga drawing to an end, the focus began to shift towards the prospect of a new generation of ‘white space’ wireless devices, with Ofcom launching a further consultation on the subject in November.

From Amsterdam to Earls Court

The second peak of the trade show calendar was reached in the first part of September with the IBC and PLASA shows. At the former, SADiE’s 6 software marked the first time that SADiE products had been made available as software-only versions, while there was plenty of excitement around various networking and/or distribution technologies – some brand new, others less so. ALC NetworX (whose parent company is Lawo) showcased the new RAVENNA technology; elsewhere, the surge of interest in the nearly 20-years-old MADI standard was confirmed by new products from Avid (HD MADI interface) and SSL (SDI-MADI de-embedder interface, MADI-X8 system).

PLASA 2010 highlights included the introduction by Nexo of the ‘line monitor’ concept, manifested in the 45o N-12 wedge; the UK debut of Martin Audio’s aforementioned Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array; Soundcraft’s Si Compact console; Midas’s ‘digilog’ VeniceF ultra-compact mixing desk; and Apex Audio’s Intelli-X248 and Intelli-X226 audio system management devices.

Also during PLASA show week, PSNE and sister title Installation Europe drew a positive reaction to their new networking technology conference, AVNetworks.

Pillar to post

The weeks after the early September trade show frenzy were, inevitably, more muted, but there was at least one significant business story and it concerned the ever-evolving post-production sector. A new alliance involving west London-based film and TV editing facility The Coach House Studios, Soho post sound provider De Lane Lea and post services company The Look paved the way for them to offer their specialist boutique services to long-form producers as part of a full post-production package deal.

California bound

The growing impression that 2010 had brought more significant launches than at any time since the middle years of the Noughties was further confirmed in November by a very upbeat edition of the AES Convention. Avid’s Pro Tools 9 heralded the first-ever software-only option for the music creation and audio production software, whilst CEDAR Audio exhibited its new Forensic Audio Starter System. PMC (AML2 powered studio monitors) and TC Electronic (LM2 stereo loudness and true-peak level meter) were among the many others with new items in tow.

Weeks after the announcement of a merger between Digigram and ACP Group, November saw another notable business story with Prism Sound’s acquisition of certain assets of Imerge Ltd, a leading name in the home media server business.

Ring out the old…

So, it has been a year of contrasts: a wealth of innovation and new products on the one hand; a persistently uncertain economic climate on the other. The chances of this polarity continuing into 2011 are good, but the year’s early highlights seem even more certain: Winter NAMM in Anaheim from 13-16 January; the next edition of Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) in Amsterdam from 1-3 February; and the MPG Awards, scheduled for 9 February at Floridita in central London.