The 142nd Audio Engineering Society International Convention is now another one for the books. Held May 20 to 23 at the Maritim Hotel in the heart of Berlin near Potzdamer Platz, the venue was a larger and more convenient location than when the Society last visited Berlin in 2014. AES Berlin 2017 featured the traditional strengths of these annual gatherings: intensive and expansive technical program offerings; variety, with session topics that span the gamut of professional audio; engaged and energetic students; and an exhibition floor with the latest audio hardware and software on display.

The keynote address, offered by Dr. Alex Arteaga, was a cerebral presentation entitled “Auditory Architecture: Bringing Phenomenology, Aesthetic Practices and Engineering together.” Beyond traditional concepts of perception, Dr. Arteaga’s research incorporates the ways perception is influenced by environment – heady stuff. Perception was also key to Dr. Jörg Sennheiser’s address as the guest speaker in the Heyser Lecture series, presented by the AES Technical Council (Dr. Sennheiser quipped that it would perhaps be appropriate for the evening to rename the event the Senn-heyser lecture). Titled “The foundations of human audio perception,” Dr. Sennheiser provided illustrations of how our various senses work together to create an experience and how the absence of one sensory input can alter perception. He then followed the chain of audio perception via a microphone and headphone history, ending with a glimpse into next generation immersive technologies.

Student activities at AES Conventions, particularly at the European version, are highly visible and fuelled by idealistic and contagious enthusiasm – more so than at any other professional convention or show. The depth of knowledge in these young minds gives hope for the future of the industry. Fun was interspersed with serious networking at the annual AES Student Party, supported by Interfacio and held at Belushi’s bar (self-proclaimed as “home to the cheapest Jäger bombs in Berlin”). Student networking continued at the Student Education and Career Fair, another traditional element of AES Conventions.  The Career Fair offers undergraduate and graduate programs as well as manufacturers and industry professionals, including the Interfacio team, offering advice and answering student questions.

The Student Design Exhibit showed 5 inspiring entries, showcasing just a few of the exceptional projects being undertaken by AES students as part of their studies. The winner of Interfacio’s “Mentoring for Industrialisation” prize was awarded to Michael Romavov from Graz, for his development of a DIY head-tracking device, and all of the projects demonstrated how the excellent courses available within academia provide a grounding for the future of audio engineering and product development.

The technical program footprint of AES Berlin 2017 was similar to that of AES Paris 2016, though the exhibition space was a bit more compact. Happening just a few months after the biannual Tonmeister event in Berlin and immediately after the Munich HiFi show, the exhibition size at AES Berlin 2017 was smaller than AES Paris 2016, while larger than AES Europe in 2015 (Warsaw) and 2014 (Berlin). It’s almost cliché to say that attendee quality was high, even though floor traffic was sometimes modest. Yet, that was the unsolicited opinion expressed by a number of exhibitors, not just a claim by event organisers.

The Berlin exhibition laid claim to the continental European launch of Genelec’s “The Ones” family of three-way, triaxial, point source monitors (the new smaller models required a complete re-engineering of the dual concentric mid/tweeter driver, and of the flat pair of flanking LF drivers on each speaker). Klang in-ear monitoring drew further attention as a strikingly good application of immersive 3D sound processing. With so many monitor speakers on the market, PSI stood out with the wide breadth of engineering skills within its small design team, enabling PSI to look “outside of the box” for applications and technology.

Eventide demoed the soon-to-be-released H9000, resurrecting the external multi-effects processor category with a box oozing with DSP capability combined with multi-channel interfacing/networking. The H9000 can thus compete with plug-ins by offering numerous parallel processing paths. A digital audio networking theme packed the Professional Sound Expo (PSE) seating on the final day of the exhibition, complimented by the Dante Network Pavilion, a booth interconnected with numerous other exhibitor’s stands. The PSE stage hosted three full days of sessions open to all attendees.

Immersive sound and audio for VR continue to be topics on the leading edge of audio research, as proven by the AES Berlin 2017 technical program. That’s sure to continue to be the case when AES Europe next stops in Milan in the Spring of 2018, where the topic of loudspeakers will also be inevitably front and centre, given the preponderance of loudspeaker manufacturing activity in the surrounding region.