By Marc Loftus
Issue: November 1, 2004


I recently returned from San Francisco and this year's AES convention. While there, I noticed that the same trends that are affecting the video and animation industries are touching the audio community as well.

Democratization of post production tools has been lowering the cost of entry for professionals looking to do video, animation and audio work, and this year's AES show further supported the theme of manufacturers making their tools more affordable with announcements of several new releases.

For pros looking to create custom tracks in a desktop environment, Sony Media Software showed Version 5 of its Acid Pro loop-based music creation tool, a $499.95 release that has been upgraded to include more that 1,000 new loops and samples.

DTS introduced a new software-based encoder that allows pros using PCs or Macs to create multi-channel DTS soundtracks for DVD-Audio, DVD-Video and 5.1 CD titles. The release is one of the only tools currently available for creating 96kHz and 6.1 channel discrete DTS-ES soundtracks for video content on DVD-Audio and DVD-Video discs. And it's only $1,200.

Lexicon Pro had a cool recording solution on display at the Harman booth. The new Omega Studio is a desktop recording studio that packages a hardware I/O interface and mixer with a software DAW application. Lexicon is packaging Omega Studio with Steinberg's Cubase LE multitrack, a PC- and Mac OS X-based recording software tool. They are also including a VST version of Pantheon, its own reverb plug-in. When paired with a PC or Mac, the collection comes together to create a 24-bit, 48-track recording suite containing all the modules needed to track, edit and mix audio. And it's just $299!

I came across TASCAM's VL-S21 monitoring system almost by accident when touring their booth. The self-powered satellite system provides 5W per channel to a pair of incredibly thin desktop speakers and 15W to a small sub. Unlike multimedia speakers designed for listening to MP3s or videogames, the VL-S21 package was designed with a flat frequency response for critical listening and mixing. While you probably wouldn't mix a feature film with them, they'd work nicely as part of a desktop or laptop nonlinear editing system. To boot, the three-piece package only costs $99!

Sound pros should be pretty excited about the low-cost tools that are now available to them.