Fort Wayne, IN (February 17, 2021)—The past year was one for the record books in the U.S., and not in a good way, thanks to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet there was a silver lining for some, including pro audio equipment and music instrument retailer Sweetwater, which set its own record in 2020.
With professionals gearing up to work from home during lockdown, individuals and organizations implementing new video streaming and podcasting solutions, and a good chunk of the population looking to further its musical ambitions, Sweetwater served more than 1.5 million customers last year. That proved to be a significant increase from 2019, and 2020 ultimately drove the company’s annual revenues past the $1 billion milestone in for the first time in Sweetwater’s 42-year history.
Caring customer engagement has been key, according to CEO Chuck Surack, who famously started Sweetwater Sound as a mobile recording studio in the back of his VW microbus in 1979. Initially working from home, the company’s sales engineers struggled with how to best contact and communicate with customers, he reports. “I advised them to follow suit with our company’s mission, which is to simply ‘do the right thing’ and call just to ask them how they’re doing. No hidden agendas or sneaky ways to try and push or sell products.”
Noting that 82% of calls with customers are outgoing, Surack adds, “We’re continuing with this frequency and form of communication as it’s been preferred by our customers.” Most of Sweetwater’s 500-plus sales engineers have returned to the company’s campus during the pandemic, where they are following CDC and local government guidelines.
That campus is ever-growing, too. Just prior to the pandemic, Sweetwater opened a new 480,000-square-foot distribution center—four times the size of the previous building—that added 50,000 more square feet for inventory. The company also added 400 new jobs last year, a 30% bump in the total workforce, which now numbers around 2,000.
“We built a brand-new sales floor in November that can house around 1,100 sales engineers,” says Surack, who plans to hire up to 130 new sales engineers. “We also have some expansion plans in the works for our on-campus music store. It will be double the size of the current store and should open late this spring.”
Sweetwater’s annual summer GearFest attracted more than 18,000 people to the campus in 2019. In 2020, in response to the pandemic, the company took the event online. More than 125,000 people participated worldwide, tuning in for 16-plus hours of livestreamed panel sessions and interviews, educational content and, of course, deals and giveaways, during the two-day event.
“We’ll plan to continue offering a virtual component so that we can meet our customers and fans of music where they are,” says Surack. “While there’s nothing like having nearly 20,000 people in-person at our campus in Fort Wayne from all around the world, we still want to allow the opportunity for people to experience GearFest from the comfort of their home if they can’t make it to us. With Covid-19 still a concern, we’re working out the plans and logistics for GearFest 2021; however, we look forward to the future where we can offer both experiences.”
There has been one constant during the pandemic, says Surack, a former touring sax and keyboard player. “Despite how much of the way we live, work and gather has changed over the last year, especially for the audio community, one thing has remained consistent—music. While many stadiums and concert venues have been empty and will likely stay that way for some time, people will continue to play and make music virtually or from a distance. In 2020, we experienced skyrocketing sales for gear like audio interfaces, microphones, preamps and other devices that allow you to pre-record and put things on YouTube or use for Zoom and live broadcasts. We anticipate that this will remain consistent as more people take up an interest in making music remotely, perhaps for the long haul.”
Hopefully, that love of music will see us through to whatever comes next. “While the industry has definitely not remained unscathed by the pandemic,” he says, “I am confident that music will continue to prevail until the community is able to return to a sense of normalcy.”
New York, NY 2020 (December 24, 2020)—As we look back at 2020, it is impossible to think of the year without remembering all the people we’ve lost. The Coronavirus has taken over 300,000 people in the U.S. at this writing, and sadly more will join that terrible number in the weeks and months to come. We offer our sympathies to all who have lost someone this year.
In the pro-audio industry, many succumbed to the virus, but there were likewise many who came to the end of their travels for other reasons. Here, we honor audio pros the industry lost this year that were memorialized in the pages of Pro Sound News, starting in January, 2020 and moving chronologically through the year to December.
New York, NY (December 24, 2020)—With the end of 2020 upon us (and not a second too soon), we look back at the year that was, presenting the Top 10 Pro Sound News articles of 2020 that appeared on prosoundnetwork.com, as ranked by the site’s Google Analytics readership statistics. Intriguingly, while the biggest news of the year was the pandemic, virtually none of these articles even mention it. Instead, audio pros like yourself were mostly interested in either looking ahead to when things would get back to normal by checking out the latest gear, or looking back at great moments in audio, whether it was the recording of classic albums or the earliest known stereo recordings. No one knows what 2021 will bring, but for now, enjoy the most popular articles from our site, and we’ll see you in the new year.
8. The METAlliance Report: The Recording of Steely Dan’s Aja By The METAlliance. Widely considered a pinnacle of recording excellence, Steely Dan’s 1977 album Aja had an occasionally tortured gestation—but it won the Grammy for Best Engineered Album. Now METAlliance members Al Schmitt and Elliot Scheiner share the inside scoop on how…
6. Inside the Live Sound of Live Aid, Part 1: London By Steve Harvey. We look back at the live sound effort that went into the legendary charity concert Live Aid, held simultaneously in London and Philadelphia. With 60+ acts on the bill and 160,000 in attendance—not to mention 1.9 billion watching it…
3. Tool Tours with Intricate, Immersive Sound By Steve Harvey. Touring the world behind Fear Inoculum, Tool’s first album in 13 years, the prog-metal heroes are filling arenas with a massive audio system that takes a new approach to immersive live sound.
The brand new TA-10R follows up on xDuoo’s former DAC/Hybrid Tube-AMP design. It supports Optical input, Coaxial input, and DOP64 input. In addition, xDuoo have made some internal upgrades, implementing the newer AK4493EQ DAC chip, and XU208 USB Chip.
The xDuoo TA-10R is available for $299 USD. You can read all about it and treat yourself to a unit on Apos Audio!
2020 will be remembered as the year we’d like to forget, but when 2021 is recalled one day as the year everything bounced back, much of that will be due to groundwork laid down in the preceding 12 months. That includes the pro-audio industry—next year, when live events and concerts return, new hits rule the airwaves and the latest must-hear podcasts land in your listening queue, many of them will be created using pro-audio equipment that was introduced over the last 12 months. With that in mind, here’s the Gear of the Year for 2020.
So what was the Gear of the Year? That’s not an easy thing to determine, so rather than weigh a hot new plug-in against an arena-filling P.A. or an audio console years in development, we decided to let our readers show the way.
Product announcements have always been among the most popular stories on prosoundnetwork.com, so we dug through our Google Analytics (readership statistics), sifting through all the “new product” stories we ran 2020 (well into the triple digits!) to determine which ones were the most popular with PSN readers. With that in mind, here’s the Gear of the Year that YOU unknowingly picked—a true Top-20 for 2020.
1. YAMAHA RIVAGE PM3 AND PM5 DIGITAL MIXING SYSTEMS
This dual product launch in May was far and away the most popular product announcement of 2020 with our readers. Yamaha introduced two consoles—the PM5 and PM3—as well as a pair of DSP engines—DSPRX and DSP-RX-EX—and version 4 firmware that provides features to new and legacy Rivage systems.
Both of the new consoles feature large capacitive touchscreens that allow users to use multi-finger gestures, with the PM5 sporting three screens and the PM3 getting one. As with their predecessors, the PM5 and PM3 sport 38 faders—three bays of 12, with two masters—but each of the new control surfaces is laid out with an eye toward increased efficiency.
2. SOLID STATE LOGIC 2 AND 2+ USB AUDIO INTERFACES Solid State Logic unveiled its first personal studio-market products—the USB-powered SSL 2 (2-in/2-out) and SSL 2+ (2-in/4-out) audio interfaces—at the Winter NAMM Show. The 2+ in particular caught our readers’ eyes, with a 4K analog enhancement mode “inspired by classic SSL consoles,” monitoring and an SSL Production Pack software bundle. Offering expanded I/O for musicians collaborating, it includes two analog mic preamps, 24-bit/192 kHz AD/DA AKM converters, multiple headphone outputs with independent monitor mix, MIDI I/O, and additional unbalanced outputs for DJ mixers.
3. JBL 4349 STUDIO MONITOR
The JBL 4349 studio monitor is a compact, high-performance monitor loudspeaker built around the JBL D2415K dual 1.5-inch compression driver mated to a large format, High-Definition Imaging (HDI) horn, paired with a 12-inch cast-frame and pure-pulp cone woofer. The JBL D2415K compression driver features a pair of lightweight polymer annular diaphragms with reduced diaphragm mass, while the V-shaped geometry of the annular diaphragm reduces breakup modes, eliminates time smear and reduces distortion, according to JBL.
4. APPLE LOGIC PRO X 10.5 Apple updated Logic Pro X with a “professional” version of Live Loops, new sampling features and new and revamped beatmaking tools. Live Loops lets users arrange loops, samples and recordings on a grid to build musical ideas, which can then be further developed on Logic’s timeline. Remix FX brings effects to Live Loops that can be used in real time, while the updated Sampler augments the EXS24 plug-in with new sound shaping controls. Other new tools include Quick Sampler, Step Sequencer, Drum Synth and Drum Machine Designer.
5. AMS NEVE 8424 CONSOLE
The AMS Neve 8424 is a small-format desk based on the 80-series console range. Intended for hybrid studios, the desk provides a center point between analog outboard gear, synths and the like, and the digital world of DAW workflows, software plug-ins and session recall. As an analog mixing platform, the 8424 offers 24 DAW returns across 24 channel faders or, for larger DAW sessions, a 48-Mix mode that allows a total of 48 mono inputs with individual level and pan controls to be mixed through the stereo mix bus.
6. MILLENNIA MEDIA HV-316 MIC PREAMP Millennia Media bowed its fully remote-controllable microphone preamplifier, the HV-316. Offering 12V battery operation, the HV-316 is housed in a 10-pound, 1U aluminum chassis housing 16 channels of Millennia HV-3 microphone preamplifiers with simultaneous analog and Dante 32-bit/192 kHz Ethernet outputs. Other digital audio output options are planned, including USB and MADI. The unit is designed for high-temperature continuous operation (up to 150° F), is powered by both 12V DC and worldwide 80–264V AC, and features “pi filter” shielding on audio and digital feeds to prevent interference.
7. SHURE SLX-D DIGITAL WIRELESS SYSTEM
The Shure SLX-D, offered in single- and dual-channel models, provides operation of up to 32 channels per frequency band. Transmitters run on standard AA batteries or an optional lithium-ion rechargeable battery solution with a dual-docking charging station. For less technically inclined users, it offers Guided Frequency Setup and a Group Scan feature that sets up multiple channels by assigning frequencies to all receivers automatically via Ethernet connections, allowing a 30-plus channel system can be set up via Group Scan within a few seconds.
8. MEYER SOUND SPACEMAP GO
The Meyer Sound Spacemap Go is a free Apple iPad app for spatial sound design and mixing. Working with the company’s Galaxy Network Platform, Spacemap Go can control Galaxy processors using a single or multiple iPads as long as the units have current firmware and Compass control software. Spacemap Go is compatible with various sound design/show control programs such as QLab, so designs assembled using them can be implemented into a multichannel spatial mix using Spacemap Go’s templates for common multichannel configurations.
9. D&B AUDIOTECHNIK 44S LOUDSPEAKER
Housed in a flush-mountable cabinet, the d&b audiotechnik 44S is a two-way passive, point source installation loudspeaker with 2 x 4.5-inch neodymium LF drivers and 2 x 1.25-inch HF dome tweeters, delivering a frequency response of 90 Hz–17 kHz. The 44S features a waveguide and baffle design intended to provide horizontal dispersion down to the lower frequencies while being focused vertically, providing a 90° x 30° dispersion pattern to direct sound to specific spaces.
10. BEYERDYNAMIC TG D70 AND TG 151 MICS Beyerdynamic made two additions to its Touring Gear (TG) series. The second-generation TG D70 dynamic kickdrum mic is meant for capturing the impact of bass drums and similar low-frequency-intensive instruments, while the TG 151 instrument mic is a lean microphone with a short shaft that can be used on everything from snares and toms to brass instruments and guitar amplifiers.
11. QSC Q-SYS CORE PROCESSORS QSC’s Q-SYS Core 8 Flex and Nano audio, video and control processors provide scalable DSP processing, video routing and bridging for web conferencing, as well as third-party endpoint integration without the need for separate dedicated control processors. The 8 Flex includes onboard analog audio I/O and GPIO plus network I/O, while Nano offers network-only audio I/O processing and control.
12. TELEFUNKEN TF11 MICROPHONE Telefunken‘s TF11 is the company’s first phantom-powered large-diaphragm condenser mic. The CK12-style edge-terminated capsule is a single-membrane version of the capsule featured in the TF51, and the amplifier is a proprietary take on the FET mic amplifier similar to the M60, coupled with a custom large-format nickel-iron core transformer.
13. L-ACOUSTICS K3 LOUDSPEAKER
K3 is a compact loudspeaker from L-Acoustics that is intended as a main system to cover up to 10,000 people, or for use as outfills or delays for K1 or K2 systems. Designed as a full-range line source, K3 integrates 12-inch transducers for large-format system performance in the form factor of a 10-inch design.
14. CLEAR-COM HEADSET SANITIZATION KITS Clear-Com has sanitization kits for its CC-300, CC-400, CC-110, CC-220 and CC-26K headsets. They include replacement ear pads, pop filters, sanitizing wipes, ear sock covers and temple pads in a cloth bag. Items for each kit vary depending on the headset, and can also be purchased separately.
15. ZOOM PODTRAK P8 PODCAST STUDIO
The Zoom PodTrak P8 provides recording, editing and mixing capabilities all in one unit. Six mics, a smartphone and PC can be recorded simultaneously, each with its own fader and preamp with 70 dB of gain. A touchscreen controls monitoring, adjusting, onboard editing and more.
16. WAVES SHIPS KALEIDOSCOPES PLUG-IN Waves’ Kaleidoscopes plug-in creates classic analog studio effects such as 1960s phasing and tape flanging, 1970s stadium tremolo-guitar vibes and 1980s chorus sounds.
17. OUTLINE STADIA 28 LINE ARRAY SYSTEM
The Outline Stadia 28 is a medium-throw system intended for use in permanent outdoor installations. A single enclosure weighs 46.2 pounds and can reportedly reach 139 dB SPL.
18. LAB.GRUPPEN FA SERIES AMPLIFIERS Lab.gruppen‘s FA Series Energy Star-certified amplifiers are intended for commercial and industrial applications, and are offered in 2 x 60W, 2 x 120W and 2 x 240W.
19. D.W. FEARN VT-2 PREAMPLIFIER
The updated D.W. Fearn VT-2 Dual-Channel Vacuum Tube Microphone Preamplifier now features an integrated, switchable 43 dB pad, aiding patching into a master bus.
20. KEF LS50 META SPEAKER
Our Gear of the Year list concludes with the LS50, featuring KEF’s Metamaterial Absorption Technology driver array, a cone neck decoupler, offset flexible bass port, low-diffraction curved baffle and more.
Black Friday is upon us along with all the lightning deals we’ve come to expect. If you’re like us, you’ll want to know about all the top deals that will be running for the upcoming holiday season, read on for all the details!
Apos Audio are running deals across their ensemble bundles, experience savings across various products as well.
Lowest Price Guarantee Extension
Apos are extending their price match guarantee throughout the holiday period until Dec 31st, meaning that Apos will match the lowest price buyers can find within 30-days of purchase or refund the difference – and this includes sales and deals from other authorised sellers. The usual price match disclaimers apply, see here or contact Apos staff to confirm whether your purchase satisfies their criteria.
Free SPC balanced cable with Meze Rai Penta valued at $149 USD.
Exclusive 20-30% discount of nearly all Ultimate Ears products (until Dec 4th)
Dan Clark Spotlight Sale, gain discounts across DCA’s product range up to 15%!
New Ensemble Bundles
Apos Ensemble provides discounts on pre-made bundles. Each includes a DAC and AMP with or without a select range of headphones and in-ears. This holiday season, Apos introduce:
Topping-50S Ensemble: D50s DAC, A50s amp, power supply, interconnect cable, and your choice of headphones.
SMSL-9 Ensemble: SU-9 DAC, SH-9 amp, interconnect cable, and your choice of headphones.
Gustard-16 Ensemble: X16 DAC, H16 amp, interconnect cable, and your choice of headphones.
Extended Product Range
Apos are ever-expanding their product range to suit all buyers. We recently announced that they are authorised sellers for Ultimate Ears. Apos are proud to announce they are now also an authorised seller for Unique Melody. UM have created some of the most stunning and unique IEMs on the market, with a focus on innovative acoustic designs such as the new MEST that features a bone conduction driver to augment the bass response. Their latest IEMs have been hugely well-received and can now be enjoyed with Apos’ legendary support and price-matching.
It’s with a heavy heart that we report that the AKM production line has been closed until the end of April 2021 at the soonest due to a devastating fire. Our best wishes on behalf of all THL members go out to those affected in any way or form.
Unfortunately, this also means that AKM products will be experiencing stock shortages and limited restocking. We have also experienced price jumps over 20% since this news made light. Apos highly encourages those looking into products using AKM chips to purchase now as stock will be limited for some time to come.
We recently featured Apos’ SMSL SU-9 giveaway, this is another reminder to enter as sign-ups end on Nov 30th. See Apos’ product page for more details and specifications, enter the giveaway here and see our full review of the SU-9 on THL here.
It’s an exciting time to be shopping for a new headphone amplifier or DAC setup in tome for the upcoming holidays! Following the SU-9, SMSL are proud to announce the SH-9 amplifier to play complement. On the DAC side, Gustard follow up on their successful A18 with the X16, now featuring the latest dual ESS Sabre ES9068S DAC chips, the new flagship (succeeding the 9038 line) for the company with native MQA rendering. Let’s take a first look.
The SH-9 arrives two years after the SH-8 before it. It aims to fix issues with its predecessor and further improve performance in a small, desktop-friendly footprint. Those familiar with the SU-9 that we recently reviewed here, will find a similarly modern design here with similar dimensions for stacking and high-res colour screen enabling smart GUI front and centre. It remains a balanced amplifier design, utilising the renowned AAA-888 amp chips, the most exceptionally measuring and sophisticated design from THX yet. Though independent measurements of the SH-9 are yet to surface as of the post date of this article, earlier designs such as the SMSL SP200 with the same chip have offered reference-grade performance in measurements and a healthy step up from the immensely popular THX-789. It also appears SMSL know how to implement this chip well as the SH-9 looks to offer slightly higher measurable performance at the same price point in addition to offering a more modern design and interface. Expect a review on THL in the coming week!
The SH-9 launches at $289.99 USD. For purchase and specifications, please see the product page on Apos Audio (affiliate). Apos Audio are also including both the SU-9 and SH-9 in a bundle on their ensemble program at a discounted price here.
Gustard X-16 DAC
Gustard is a relatively new name in audio, but have certainly garnered a cult following for their cost-effective implementations of flagship hardware. In particular, their previous model, the A18, was one of the best measuring DACs of all times, implementing AKM’s AK4499 chipset. The X16 is their latest model using two of ESS’ latest flagship DAC chips, the ES9068S. In turn, it offers native MQA rendering and seeks to offer summit-fi performance at a mid-range price. Initial independent measurements suggest this may indeed be the case, as the DAC currently holds the 2nd place on Amirm’s DAC SINAD list with the highest place being occupied by a substantially pricier model. It bundles this performance with an OLED display and modern GUI in addition to BT 5.0 support and wide connectivity options.
The X-16 is available for $499.99 USD. For purchase and specifications please see the product page on Apos Audio (affiliate).
The Now Listen Here (a Tenacious Sound company) micro-show listening event was held at the Hyatt House Hotel in King of Prussia, PA. An event location with quick access to main highways, decent shopping, and open restaurants. Which made for easy day-travel to the event and allowed one to find other things to do if audiophilia wasn’t exactly their idea of a good time. As for the space inside the hotel, the NLH event was perfectly distanced away from the main lobby of the hotel on the lower level grounds, with adequate space for sprawling out, access to fresh air, and dedicated facilities. Reporting by Eric Franklin Shook A few days after the show I reached out to Jessica Sherrick of Now Listen Here to ask a few questions and get a few takes on the first ever pandemic micro-show as she distinctly had a bird’s eye view of what was going on (and going down) all weekend. As just a press member, I could tell that the Now Listen Here micro-show was well-attended despite the slow start with Saturday’s early morning rain. Jessica Sherrick tells me that “Sunday was nearly a 100% in attendance from registered show attendees, and [...]
Los Angeles, CA (September 17, 2019)—With the pandemic still in full swing, this year’s 72nd annual Emmy Awards are presenting the Creative Arts Emmy Awards in an unusual fashion: The awards are being announced across five nights of award presentations, which began Monday, September 14 and will end Saturday, September 17. All the sound-related awards were announced across the September 14-16 presentations, so while the Creative Arts ceremonies continue, this year’s winners for the sound categories are as follows:
OUTSTANDING SOUND MIXING FOR A NONFICTION OR REALITY PROGRAM (SINGLE OR MULTI-CAMERA)
Apollo 11 – CNN
ERIC MILANO, Re-Recording Mixer
OUTSTANDING SOUND EDITING FOR A NONFICTION OR REALITY PROGRAM (SINGLE OR MULTI-CAMERA)
Apollo 11 – CNN
ERIC MILANO, Sound Design
OUTSTANDING SOUND MIXING FOR A VARIETY SERIES OR SPECIAL
The Oscars – ABC
PAUL SANDWEISS, Production Mixer
TOMMY VICARI, Orchestra Music Mixer
BIFF DAWES, Music Mixer
PABLO MUNGUIA, Pro Tools Mixer
KRISTIAN PEDREGON, Post Audio
PATRICK BALTZELL, House P.A. Mixer
MICHAEL PARKER, Monitor Mixer
CHRISTIAN SCHRADER, Supplemental Audio
JOHN PEREZ, VO Mixer
MARC REPP, Music Mix Engineer
THOMAS PESA, Orchestra Monitor Mixer
OUTSTANDING SOUND MIXING FOR A COMEDY OR DRAMA SERIES (HALF-HOUR)
The Mandalorian – Chapter 2: The Child – Disney +
SHAWN HOLDEN, Production Mixer
BONNIE WILD, Re-Recording Mixer
CHRIS FOGEL, Scoring Mixer
OUTSTANDING SOUND MIXING FOR A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Watchmen – This Extraordinary Being – HBO
DOUGLAS AXTELL, Production Mixer
JOE DEANGELIS, Re-Recording Mixer
CHRIS CARPENTER, Re-Recording Mixer
OUTSTANDING SOUND EDITING FOR A COMEDY OR DRAMA SERIES (ONE HOUR)
Stranger Things – Chapter Eight: The Battle Of Starcourt – Netflix
CRAIG HENIGHAN, Co-Supervising Sound Editor
WILLIAM FILES, Co-Supervising Sound Editor
RYAN COLE, Sound Editor
KERRY DEAN WILLIAMS, Sound Editor
ANGELO PALAZZO, Sound Editor
KATIE HALLIDAY, Sound Editor
DAVID KLOTZ, Music Editor
STEVE BAINE, Foley Artist
OUTSTANDING SOUND EDITING FOR A COMEDY OR DRAMA SERIES (HALF-HOUR)
The Mandalorian – Chapter 1: The Mandalorian – Disney+
DAVID ACORD, Co-Supervising Sound Editor/Sound Designer