What’s the Audio Engineering Society Convention Like?

Written by Michael Harvey, Instructor in the Department of Performing Arts

The 139th Audio Engineering Society (AES) Convention was hosted last week in New York City. I had the opportunity to attend with a few of our graduate students. It was a pretty cool experience.

When talking to students about the AES Convention, I often hear the question: What’s it like?

Well, there’s enough gear there to excite or cure your G.A.S., (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). There’s also plenty of timely, obscure, and/or fascinating information to feed your head in all-access pass presentations, and enough after parties to make you feel like a rock star.

For me, AES is all about connection. I had the chance to meet and interact with people from all walks of the professional audio industry. There were vets there to hawk their latest memoir and newbies dreaming of making their magic connection. There were hot producers and engineers at the height of their game, surfing the buzz, and equipment providers out to show why you need to own their latest must-have box, microphone, or plug-in.


Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Talking with Peter Reardon, the nattily dressed head of Shadow Hills, whose gear defines G.A.S., but whose story is even more compelling.
  • Listening to a presentation on early British Recording studios chaired by Howard Massey, who besides being a model for audio-guy-turned-journalist is a super nice guy.
  • Meeting one of my recording hero producer/engineers Tony Visconti, who was sitting on Howard’s panel, and besides having a career that stretches from early Bowie to right now, is actively doing live gigs as a player!
  • Having dinner after a long day of conventioneering with graduate students and listening to their takes on the day.
  • Taking a subway ride to the Village with some of my undergraduate seniors and listening to and talking about music late into the night, I heard so much new and compelling music!
  • Talking to reps from SSL, Waves, Eventide, Slate, Telefunken, and Soundtoys, and getting a glimpse of each company’s differing cultures.
  • Connecting with American University alum, Rob Christiansen (audio technology ’93), who is currently working in Public Radio in New York and starting a conversation about a potential student internship path in NYC!


If you take the time to ask, each individual’s path to the AES Convention is an interesting story of his or her dreams, detours, failures, and successes. As an educator whose students are knocking on the doors of the industry, this is an eye opener for me: sometimes what looks like genius from afar is a combination of hard work and strong mentorship.

Walking back from the Village to my hotel south of Broadway, I passed revelers in Halloween costumes, fans in Mets jerseys, and cops on street corners. Breathing in the cool air of a late October evening in Manhattan, I thought back on my own journey in the audio and music world from gigging musician to audio educator.

At 2 a.m. when I should have been dead tired, I was exhilarated—ready to make new connections, explore new software, read a few more books. And stop at that awesome diner on the corner before turning in.


Interested in connecting with mentors and networking at events like the AES Convention? Learn more about the master’s degree in audio technology at American.

About the Author

Mike Harvey
is a highly respected music recorder, mixer, and producer with over 25 years of music industry experience. He has taught in the Audio Technology Program at AU since the fall of 2007.


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