As an editor, for most of the past 28 visits to NAMM, I’ve followed a schedule of pre-arranged booth visits, pretty much a new one every half-hour. This year, though I carried a master list of those I planned to see, I made only a couple of appointments. That approach sometimes required a return visit, depending on whether my contact was deep in conversation, but it did allow for more spontaneity and a few random surprises.
Here, then, is a sampling of what I found on Friday and Saturday at NAMM 2024—but first, I had to make a call. Friday the 26th was my parents’ 67th wedding anniversary, and they are both still alive. I am blessed, and some acknowledgments require more than a text…
FRIDAY, JANUARY 26, 2024
First, I stopped by NUGEN Audio, right next to the first-floor entrance of North Hall, to say hello to the always colorful Freddy Vinehill-Cliffe. I remember last year when he first showed me Jotter, a relatively simple but effective app that allows a user to add notes at the precise point in the timeline, kind of like Frame.io in the video world. Simple and effective. He showed me the updated VisLM3, which adds stem and segment monitoring features, along with an aesthetics overhaul and the integration of Jotter.
Just a few doors down, in a big booth, it was a treat to see Wolff Audio emblazoned across the top. The talented Paul Wolff was back on the floor! In October 2023, the legendary product designer partnered with Jared Vogt of startup DCA (digitally controlled analog) to form Wolff Audio. He was constantly in deep conversations, all day long, standing in front of the no-compromise, large-format Fix analog console, occasionally touting its immersive audio capabilities. More to come, no doubt.
Headphones have become a big deal, especially with the rise of immersive music and the need to monitor the binaural mix. Two years ago, Audeze debuted the premium pro MM Series, endorsed by top mix engineer Manny Marroquin. This year the company announced the integration of head-tracking into its Maxwell model, popular with gamers, It’s also ideal for monitoring the binaural render, so it’s a pretty safe bet that the technology will ripple through other Audeze models.
I ran into mastering engineer Pete Lyman. A great guy. He gave me contact info for J Clark. We’re looking to have Clark as a panelist at our March 2 immersive music event.
Time to head upstairs to meet Jennifer Lee of Sennheiser/Neumann for lunch. But I had a little time, so I dropped in d&b audiotechnik to see Marc Lopez, who had been answering a lot of questions on the announcement a few days earlier that d&b and L-Acoustics would be teaming up to create a new software platform called Milan Manager, to be unveiled at Infocomm in June. I wanted to ask him about how I might set up a small, immersive, line array-based Atmos monitor system inside a large studio with a rotating front end. For our upcoming Mix Nashville event in May. Stay tuned….
After lunch, I took the opportunity to run through the Sennheiser Group’s two-room showcase. Neumann had a few new products, including an updated MT 48 audio interface, which will allow working in immersive audio formats, and an omni capsule for the Miniature Clip Microphone system. Dear Reality showed dearVR PRO 2, the successor of its popular immersive spatializer plug-in. And Merging Technologies showed new Venue Mission software for the Anubis audio interface, which has a full 16-channel mixer at its heart.
Then I walked next door to the immersive demo room and listened to a couple of Jimmy Douglass’ Atmos remixes of Justin Timberlake. Awesome. Playful and appropriate at the same time. Made me want to dance!
Seeing as I was already on the second floor, I walked across the skyway to Hall A, Room 204B, to say hello to a longtime and dear friend David Schwartz, who organizes the excellent TEC Tracks program for NAMM. He is also one of the co-founders of Mix and the guy who hired me back in 1988. Thanks, David!
One hallway down, I stopped in a demo room to hear Ocean Way Audios’s AeroWave, the new “large-venue sound system technology” from the crazy-smart and talented Allen Sides. It is decidedly not a line array and not immersive. It promises true stereo to the entire audience. It’s stunning, even in a convention hall. You just have to hear it.
Back to North Hall, where I ran into the always-interesting and ever-insightful Nithin Cherian, a longtime friend I first met when he worked for Steinberg/Yamaha. He’s now a consultant and was walking the floor with his brother, Neil Cherian, M.D., who works at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic and specializes in the brain. Neil also knows audio. We discussed the possibility of a regular Mix blog on hearing health. I’m in!
A few more quick visits, a stop by PMC for a Happy Hour Glenlivet, then back to Hotel Lulu to change before dinner at Morton’s.
I don’t remember much about the salmon or the vegetables. I was too starstruck. Chris Lord-Alge and Robbie Clyne put together a one-of-a-kind gathering in a private affair to honor the late Lisa Roy and a few others who have passed in recent years. It was a magical night. The level of talent in the room was off the charts, and I’ll just leave it at that…Except… I ended up having a wonderful conversation with the great Ellis Sorkin, whom I hadn’t known before. What a story he has! And what a genuinely nice guy. We already have a Joni Mitchell Classic Track under way. I miss you, Lisa.
I walked the one block back to Lulu, with the hotel workers drumming and chanting across the street, and fell right asleep.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 27, 2024
My last day at NAMM involved a lot of bouncing around. I started off at KIT Plugins, after bumping into the company’s publicist, Michelle Lorge, on Friday. Company founder and CEO Matt Kleinman took me through the new BB A Chamber, modeled from Blackbird Studio A’s famous movable echo chamber. He also showed me the soon-to-be-released KIT Drums, what he calls a Drum Plug-in platform. The first version was recorded at The Castle in Nashville with drummer Connor Dennis. Future versions, ove by Joe Chiccarelli and another from Norman Petty’s legendary Santa Fe, N.M., studio are on the way.
A quick jump over to Hall A and a stop by the American Music & Sound booth to talk to Allen & Heath. There I ran into Tim Schaeffer, whom I first met back in the ’90s while he was at Otari. Allen & Heath’s dLive range is hot right now. You’ll see a dLive 500 on the Performance Stage at the Mix event on March 2. It’s driving the live 13.1.8 Atmos rig.
Back to North Hall, where I stopped by Eventide after hearing that they had gone immersive. Sure enough, I got a quick run-through of Blackhole Immersive and Micropitch Immersive, which debuted at AES in October. This was my first look. Quite impressive.
I made a quick stop upstairs at Adamson to find out who I talk to now that Mark Bertrand has gone to another company. I met up with Pieter van Hoogdalem, business development strategist, who comes from Montreal. I look forward to chatting more.
Back downstairs, after a quick, late bite to eat, I stopped by API to say hello to Larry Droppa. API had a busy booth, with the introduction of the 5500 Anniversary Edition, based on the best-selling 5500 Dual Equalizer; an updated version of the TCS Channel Strip, now called the TCS-II; and two new 500 Series modules—the SV12 Compressor and SV14 4-band EQ. Plus, they sold a console right off the floor! Just like the old days!
My final stop for the day, and for the show, was at Neve to say hello and goodbye to Huw Gwilym, my new friend from the Thursday night dinner. We sat back on the couch, talked about immersive music, and eventually turned to the new products: the ADA 16, the company’s first analog line-level to Dante AD/DA converter; StarNet DM256, a high-channel-count, MADI to Dante and Dante to MADI format converter in a 1U 19-inch rack chassis; and, of course the new Genesys 3D, with digital control of an analog front end. Precisely what the world wants for immersive music production. People need to check this out.
Finally, it’s back to Lulu, then a solo dinner at the P.F. Chang’s bar. I was done and just wanted to watch the Warriors-Lakers game. My Warriors lost in overtime. Rats. In the morning, back to Oakland.