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Gear, With Personality

I write this in the Thursday early morning from Room 335 of the Anaheim Marriott, just a football field and a few hours away from the doors opening on the 2016 NAMM Show.

I write this in the Thursday early morning from Room 335 of the Anaheim Marriott, just a football field and a few hours away from the doors opening on the 2016 NAMM Show. Three huge halls of products on display for musicians and recording types, with Yamaha alone annexing the Marriott and filling the ballrooms, enough space to showcase the 100 new products the company is expected to announce. It’s mostly instruments up and down the aisles, but over the past decade there’s been an ever-increasing pro audio presence bursting out of Hall A. Let the games begin!

There will be consoles and controllers from the likes of API, Trident, Avid, SSL, Yamaha, Mackie, Allen & Heath, Slate Pro, DiGiCo, Studer, Soundcraft, Audiotonix, PreSonus and many others. There will be hardware and software outboard gear from companies including Universal Audio, Focusrite, Manley, Waves, Chandler, Plugin Alliance, Radial and countless others.

There will be plenty of mics and monitors, of course, there always are, spanning the range of studio and stage. Audio-Technica, Royer, AEA, Shure, Marshall/MXL, CAD, DPA, Sennheiser, AKG, JBL, Genelec, Neumann, Yorkville Sound, EAW, VUE Audiotechnik, Electro-Voice, RCF… the list goes on and on. And each stop is punctuated with descriptive adjectives like “warm,” “smooth” and “robust.” Each of the products has a “personality.”

But that’s not the personality I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the people. With all due apologies to AES, NAMM has become leading pro audio convention and while the wealth of product introductions and the bombardment of features makes Anaheim our own personal candy store for a few days, it’s the people I’ve met over the past 20-plus years that I look forward to bumping into.

I typically start with Dan Zimbelman at API, the consummate salesman’s salesman who has been carrying the analog torch for a long time and is always good for a joke or three. Then Phil Wagner at Focusrite, a longtime friend who has an astute a take on the direction of the industry as anybody in the building. Peter Janis at Radial will walk me through the company’s annual double-digit product introductions, and Erika and the team at UA always put on a show with some fabulous guest artists. There is Udi from Waves; we sneak outside to talk about the company’s latest plugs. And running into EveAnna Manley is always a treat, as is stopping in on Wes Dooley and his son in matching top hats.

I like to stop in on Peter Chaikin at JBL, to see where they are headed with small-room monitoring, and around the corner is Frank Oglethorpe of Prism Media, each year seemingly introducing a new high-end interface. From there I like to run down the aisle by the wall and say hello to Dusty Wakeman and John Jennings of Mojave and Royer. Great mics. Great guys. Then it is almost de rigueur to swing by the Avid booth at noon to catch a glimpse of Pensado’s Place Live.

All of this gear and all of these personalities come together on Saturday night at the NAMM TEC Awards. I have a special fondness for the TEC Awards, having been stage manager for nearly 20 years and writing the script through the 1990s and into the 2000s. TEC stands for Technical Excellence and Creativity, and it celebrates the technologies and the talent, the two driving forces of the professional audio industry, the left brain and the right brain of the production process. That has always appealed to me; it’s what Mix is all about.

So let’s get on with the Show! It’s a sunny day in Anaheim, but we’re headed inside. For the tools and the talent.

Tom Kenny, Editor, Mix