Best Sound in Show
The 78 project brought in a live acoustic band, Sean Walsh and Ray Williams, sat them down in the conference room, stuck a microphone in front of them and recorded them with a portable Presto lathe. The recording, well, it sounded like something out of an old Presto, but the band was fabulous and incredibly tight. Part of that tightness might have come from the pressure of having to get it perfect in one take, but part of it might just have been that they were really good.
Worst Sound in Show
Okay, not really in the show, but nearby, Brother Jimmy's BBQ had a distributed sound system with aggressive slow compression, so after any short break between songs, the first note of the next song would come in deafeningly loud and then be squished down. Even worse, they had one channel of a stereo system (rather than summing two channels to mono) so listening to 1960s pop with wide panning meant you could hear the Mamas but not the Papas. We had to leave without dessert because it was so excruciating.
Loudest Sound in Show
This was a difficult one to award since the show noise floor was higher than it has been in several years, to the point where I was wearing ear plugs just to walk around. But the loudest actual sound coming out of a booth this year was most certainly from the Sound Toys booth.
Best New Product
SSL came out with a gadget called the "Beta" which is an empty module with a perforated PC board that slides into an SSL 500-series console or rack. It is a convenient device for building any electronics you want into it, great for prototyping work or making that one-off gadget you need badly for one job. I have been asking for a while why nobody has made anything like this, and now SSL has.
Cadac was showing off their CDC Six mixing console, a digital console mostly intended for the Broadway and theatre market. It was just set up in a quiet room without much in the way of inputs and outputs, but it was accompanied by a sales guy who absolutely knew the product, and whenever I asked about how any particular thing could be done, he showed it right there. I have always liked the Cadac consoles but in a world where digital consoles all are different and don't have obvious controls, it was a pleasant change to have a sales person who knew the product and knew production applications thoroughly.
A sort of mention should go out to K-Array, maker of some of the most amazing array loudspeakers around. They were doing demos for the show at on offsite facility, but didn't advertise them and so apparently I was the only person to actually request a demo... and so they cancelled.
Traditional speaker protection devices have included things like nonlinear limiters or fuses in series with drivers, but in the digital world it's possible to do a more effective job with less sonic degradation by processing the signal before the amplifier. The problem is that to do this you need a very good model of the driver; since you can't know the exact state of the driver by measurement you have to be able to predict it. In Active Transducer Protection Part 1: Mechanical Overload, Wolfgang Klippel makes the first attempts toward being able to this for arbitrary drivers and provide the background to evaluate such adaptive protection systems. Preprint 911.
I gave a paper entitled Some Observations on Vinegar Syndrome which first of all described some research that didn't work in an attempt to keep other people from going down that path. But it got moved to the Cinema Sound track where few people were interested in the particular details of the process I was discussing, so the actual presentation became more background material than discussion of the work, and it wasn't very well-prepared. Oh, well.
Best Free Thing
Bruel and Kajer's Pocket Handbook of Sound and Vibration. This is just the handiest little reference for all kinds of acoustical information and formulae all in one place.
Best Halloween Costume
Catgirl Nuku Nuku
Dave from Latch Lake Music