AES Section Meeting Reports

Pacific Northwest - February 8, 2017

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For those that still know and embrace the turntable, the PNW Section February 2017 meeting showed the advanced science and technology behind what's known as turntablism. World-touring turntablist Jamie Simmonds showed the art form, while former Rane employees Steve Macatee and Steve Turnidge provided additional technical details. 11 AES Members and 14 non-members attended the presentation held at Shoreline Community College in Shoreline, WA.

Jamie performed three long-running Hip Hop shows Off-Broadway, then toured the world, selling out large venues including the Sydney Opera House. Steve Macatee spent 29 years in product development at Rane, which produced many popular DJ products. Steve Turnidge is past chair of the PNW AES Section, a mastering engineer, author and PCB designer, who also worked at Rane for 11 years.

Casual observers may remember the analog disc turntable, where 2 units were long used in radio to segue between discs. More recently, performers discovered artistic manipulation of the turntable platter and tonearm, but you would be wrong to assume stagnation of the traditional analog turntable systems and a mixer. Instead, we were shown how several digital control systems have been developed to allow manual turntable manipulations to digitally control sound files. Limitations of the old analog system included the size and weight of vinyl collections, catalog limitations and inability to manipulate audio that is simple with computer systems. However, the human/platter/tonearm interface was still the heart of the artistic expression.

The answer, as developed by several companies, was to make "control vinyl" discs with a time code or noise/tones pressed into the groove instead of the music. Computer software reads the control vinyl signal from the analog turntable, and can emulate the sound and motion of turntablist moves on a platter and tonearm, but on a digital music source. Clever programming senses the speed and direction of the platter, even reproducing what the RIAA response curve is like at various manual speeds, and translates these effects to the digital music files. We were also shown some types of cross faders, an early weak point due to turntablists constant hard use. Traditional conductive track crossfaders simply would break in months, if not weeks. The answer lay in non-contact devices, utilizing magnetic or optical sensors.

Finally, we were shown some troubleshooting techniques, as now both analog phonograph and digital computer systems are involved.

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AES - Audio Engineering Society