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History doesn’t weigh down the Ton

Click to play video History doesn’t weigh down the Ton

History doesn’t weigh down the Ton

Translating to ‘sound master’ or a person who creates recordings or broadcasts of music, Tonmeister entices 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, the biennial Tonmeistertagung (TTG) convention relocated from Karlsruhe in the 1990s, first to Hannover, and then Leipzig. However, its roots appear to be growing in the preferred backdrop of Cologne.

Here in the West German city that is home to the main 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 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 TTG’s very existence.

While the rich history of the show can sometimes benefit TTG’s credentials, it can also work against drawing in a much-needed younger crowd to keep it current. ‘The topics presented this year helped,’ assessed Riedel’s Christian Bockskopf. ‘For example, AoIP and immersive audio seem to be dominant subjects this year. The fact that this is a biennial exhibition helps its cause as the changes are much more noticeable.’

This year’s exhibition welcomed products from the TV, live and installed sound, film and video domains, for which the exhibits were presented on three levels of the Cologne Messe. The German brands that have progressed into the global market continue to serve the needs of their domestic market first and foremost, and so TTG is a vital return to their roots. Since the turn of the millennium both Lawo and Stage Tec have increased their international stature in APAC, but they have been the preferred brands among the German broadcasters for so much longer. As such, these exhibitors took centre stage on the main floor.

Away from the German console manufacturer booths, there was no shortage of other desks and boards on offer for the broadcast, postproduction or theatre technicians to get up close and personal with. The latest wares from Allen & Heath, Avid, 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 usually busy explaining how their equipment could be used for various applications.

Despite the fact that TTG’s roots are deeply entrenched in high-end recording, broadcasting and postproduction, the large presence of theatre technicians and AV consultants has allowed it to diversify its exhibitor fabric. German loudspeaker manufacturers d&b audiotechnik, HK Audio, Kling & Freitag, Pan Acoustics and Voice Acoustics exhibited in their own rights in order to meet such qualified professionals. In addition, KV2 Audio, L-Acoustics, Meyer Sound and RCF were present with a bespoke range of enclosures designed to attract the attention of postproduction and theatre technicians.

Germany is home to more microphone manufacturers than any other country in the world and the 28th TTG didn’t disappoint. Celebrating their joint 90th birthdays, Microtech Gefell and Neumann were in reflective moods, while Schoeps and Sennheiser presented a selection of immersive and surround sound recording technologies. Audio-Technica, DPA, Lectrosonics, Rode and Shure represented the non-German brands. In terms of monitoring, Genelec, KS Digital, Musik Elektronic Geithein and Quested were the most prominent brands in evidence. Clear-Com, Riedel and RTS presented their latest comms technologies, while CEDAR demonstrated its latest DNS 2 dialogue noise suppressor and DNS 8 Live. On the same mezzanine level, local producer RTW presented a range of visual audio meters and monitoring devices in addition to its new speech intelligibility technology and Version 7 software for its TouchMonitor Series.

Compared to Frankfurt Pro Light & Sound, Tonmeistertagung offers extensive portions of 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. 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, yet is the equivalent of a fast food outlet appeasing the masses, while Tonmeister prefers to offer Michelin-Star dining among 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.

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