Tonmeister grows to new levels
WORLD: Now in its 29th outing, the recent Tonmeistertagung exhibition returned to the Congress-Centrum Nord of Cologne’s Koelnmesse GmbH international trade fair and exhibition centre from 17-20 November 2016. Continuing to grow in size, the 2016 edition was spread across three levels and offered a multitude of listening demonstrations and an all-encompassing seminar programme.
Translating to ‘sound master’ or a person who creates recordings or broadcasts of music, the German term Tonmeister acknowledges the musically trained with detailed theoretical and practical knowledge of virtually all aspects of sound recording. When describing the degree in Germany, the term is applied to those people who have graduated at a bachelor's level in music and applied physics and who have gathered at least one year of appropriate industrial experience in the music or recording business. Dating back to 1946, Tonmeistertagung (TTG) as a trade show entity is the epitome of expert audio knowledge.
The biennial exhibition relocated from Karlsruhe in the 1990s to Hannover and then onto Leipzig. However, its roots appear to be growing in the preferred backdrop of Cologne. Here in the West German city that is also home to broadcaster, WDR, a steady through flow of experienced broadcasters, studio engineers and theatre technicians satisfy the predominantly German exhibitors. The audio convention cannot be compared to the likes of Frankfurt Pro Light & Sound. Many manufacturers dismiss TTG for being over-technical and for not attracting large crowds of dealers and buyers, but this is missing the point of the TTG’s very existence.
This year’s exhibition welcomed products from the TV, live/installed sound, film and video domains, for which the exhibits were presented on all three levels of the Cologne Messe. The German brands that have progressed onto the global market over the years first and foremost continue to serve the needs of their domestic market and so the TTG is a vital return to their grass roots. The booths taking pride of place on the Messe’s ground floor have similarly swelled in size alongside the exhibition, and d&b audiotechnik, Yamaha, Meyer Sound, RCF were all out in force with sizable ground floor booths. Since the turn of the Millennium, companies such as Lawo, Salzbrenner Media and Stage Tec have all increased their international stature, but they have also been the preferred brands amongst the German broadcasters for so much longer. As such, all three exhibitors took central stage on the main floor.
Stage Tec showcased the Nexus XRT router together with the Aurus Platinum and Crescendo consoles. ‘We’re continuously developing our product lines,’ stated vice president René Harder. ‘Our systems are forward-compatible, conceived with the basic principles of future technologies in mind. In addition they are also backward compatible should they require integration into new developments being created in existing systems.’
Salzbrenner Media demonstrated its Polaris evolution digital mixing DSP concept that can be controlled from a touch screen GUI, while Lawo displayed a selection of IP remote production, radio/on-air and networkable video products such as Crystal and V_link 4. Whilst the MC266 console took a prominent position, a large garnering of interest was shown at the Kick 2.0 display where Schoeps SuperCMIT mics followed the action on a mini football field. ‘Managing this show the same time as InterBEE in Tokyo is tricky,’ commented Lawo marketing director Andreas Hilmer. ‘But it’s important for us to continue exhibiting here and connecting with our core customers by demonstrating our latest software and hardware innovations.’
Away from the German console manufacturer booths there was no shortage of other boards on offer for the broadcast, postproduction or theatre technicians. The latest wares from Allen & Heath, Avid, Calrec, DiGiCo, Soundcraft, SSL, Studer and a large portfolio of Yamaha boards including the QL series and Rivage platform were all prominently displayed.
In addition to consoles, there was a wide selection of microphones, speakers and monitors on display. The booths remained largely quiet while some of the more popular seminars were conducted in the five main theatres, but once the doors opened signalling the end of a seminar, exhibitors were kept busy explaining how their equipment could be used for various applications.
Despite the fact that the TTG’s roots are deeply entrenched in high-end recording, broadcasting and postproduction, the large presence of theatre technicians and A/V consultants has allowed it to diversify its exhibitor fabric. German loudspeaker manufacturer Fohhn joined the German brands d&b audiotechnik and Kling & Freitag on the ground floor. In addition, KV2 Audio, L-Acoustics, Meyer Sound and RCF were presenting bespoke ranges of enclosures designed to attract the attention of postproduction and theatre technicians. ‘We’re presenting our X series and Kiva II technology away from the booth in a demonstration room,’ explained director of business development Jochen Frohn. ‘Additionally, we’re also presenting seminars on our L-ISA multichannel solution for creating immersive, three-dimensional sound spaces.’ Like many of the pro audio trade shows on the 2016 calendar, conversation on 3D and directional sound could frequently be overheard on the show floor.
Germany is home to more microphone manufacturers than any other country in the world and was reflected at the 29th TTG. beyerdynamic, Microtech Geffell (SRM100 smartphone recorder), Neumann, Schoeps (CMIT5), Sennheiser (Ambeo) and were all present, whilst AKG, Audio-Technica, DPA, Lectrosonics, Rode and Shure represented the non-German brands. In terms of monitoring, Genelec (8351), KS Digital and Musik Elektronic Geithein were the most prominent brands and were all offering demonstrations to showcase their prowess. In terms of intercoms, Clear-Com and Riedel presented their latest technologies. CEDAR Audio demonstrated its latest DNS 2 dialogue noise suppressor and CEDAR Studio 7 suite of plugins together with DNS 8 Live, whilst Jünger Audio was present to showcase the D*AP8 series digital audio processor.
The show offering wasn’t solely made up of consoles, speakers and microphones however, and Sommer Cable exhibited its range of cables and accessories in order to entice those TTG technicians looking to be advised on new time and cost saving solutions. ‘It is a really good show for us,’ confirmed Sommer Cables’ Martin Elsner. ‘The visitors at this show are very knowledgeable and come here looking for new ideas and innovations that will help them in their workplaces. With our extensive catalogue of products including our DI boxes, we’re more than happy to assist them.’
Despite this wide offering, the TTG’s attraction for many visitors isn't the product offering but rather its comprehensive seminar programme, which compared to a show like Frankfurt Pro Light & Sound offers extensive tuition rather than bite size nibbles. The atmosphere is business like with an emphasis on technical guidance rather than frenzied sales with dealers and distributors. Educational highlights this year included the regular tried and tested Live Mixing Workshop organised by d&b, Sennheiser, Neumann & Müller and Yamaha, as well as a thought-provoking session by ex-Sydney Opera House technical director, David Claringbold, titled Sound Futures and held in partnership with d&b. d&b also offered a seminar covering its NoiseCalc solution, Meyer Sound’s Bob McCarthy discussed Real World SPL and Low-Mid Beam Control, while beyerdynamic, Yamaha and Lectrosonics discussed various wireless mic systems.
With it being the end of the year, there were very few product launches. Pro Light & Sound used to be the central trade show of the year, but is the equivalent of a fast food outlet appeasing the masses, whilst Tonmeister prefers to offer Michelin-star dining amongst the German elite. The 7pm close of show was perhaps an hour later than most exhibitors required, but they were happy to roll out the crates of beer to visitors once the bulk of business had been conducted. Sound masters served by exhibition masters.
The organiser is envisaging a high turnout for the next TTG, and has planned even more exhibition space, with larger halls for presenting papers and workshops and a relocated reception to handle the increasing number of visitors. The question is, can a tonmeister’s appetite last for two years without food.