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NAMM Show 2018: Pro Audio Edition

By Kevin Becka. This year’s NAMM show was a jaw-dropper in many ways. The following represents just some of the great gear I saw at the show, much of it breakthrough technology.

This year’s NAMM show was a jaw-dropper in many ways. It broke all records, with more than 115,000 attendees visiting more than 2,000 exhibitors showing 7,000-plus brands, while at the same time the new 100,000 square foot, two-story audio hall brought more exhibitor organization, and lower SPL to the event than ever before.

On the downside, attendees entering the halls, especially in the mornings, passed through the new and tightened security, fraying a few nerves. But the spirit of the event that brings music, musicians and audio professionals together eventually soothed the crowds. The following represents just some of the great gear I saw at the show, much of it breakthrough technology.

Related story: NAMM Bonus Coverage, by Kevin Becka, Mix, Jan. 30, 2018

Kevin’s Top 10

Focal revealed the Shape Twin, a 2.5-way monitoring loudspeaker that offers ultimate performance, and from a distance of only 1 meter. It offers a lot of the same breakthrough tech as the Shape released last year, but in a new three-way design.

Lynx Studio Technology broke new ground with the introduction of its first-ever microphone preamp. The Aurora(n) PRE 1608 features 16 inputs and 8 outputs, but can be configured through the newly formed Lynx Custom Shop.

Radial Engineering shocked many with the news of the company’s sale to Ultimate Support Systems and the exit of founder Peter Janis, but as usual, they revealed a range of innovative products, including the Radial Catapult Mini, allowing users to drive four analog audio channels over a single shielded CAT 5 cable.

Focusrite showed the new Clarett 2Pre USB (10-in, 4-out), Clarett 4Pre USB (18-in, 8-out) and Clarett 8Pre USB (18-in, 20-out), fleshing out an already impressive line of interfaces fitting nearly any budget.

Lewitt launched the LCT 441 FLEX microphone, featuring a 1-inch true condenser capsule with eight types of directionality to choose from, plus three reverse polar patterns for higher flexibility experimentation. It’s a great mic for customizing your feed to the DAW right at the source.

The result6 studio monitor from PMC features a two-way design with a 27mm soft-dome tweeter, dispersion grille, and a mid/bass unit composed of a doped natural fiber. The most affordable PMC yet, it features built-in dual Class-D amplifiers that supply 65W and 100W of power to the HF and LF drivers, respectively.

Related stories:

NAMM 2018 Day Two, by Kevin Becka, Mix, Jan. 26, 2018

NAMM 2018 Day Three, by Kevin Becka, Mix, Jan. 30, 2018

Raising the bar on the high end, and with mastering engineers in mind, Apogee announced the 2×6 Special Edition AD/DA module for the flagship Symphony I/O MkII Series, offering the highest quality AD/DA conversion of any Apogee converter.

Antares Audio Technologies demoed an impressive ground-up redo of Auto-Tune at the NAMM Show that includes a whole new look, ARA (Audio Random Access) support, and Classic Mode for getting that legendary Auto-Tune 5 sound.

Offering a sneak peek for NAMM-goers, the soon-to-be-released RMP-D8 from Rupert Neve Designs is an 8-channel, Class A, remote control Dante Mic Preamp. Features include a dual power supply, operation up to 24-bit/192kHz, and eight stellar 1dB stepped preamps with 60dB of clean gain.

Audinate introduced Dante AVIO, a family of cost-effective endpoint adapters allowing easy connection of legacy analog and digital audio equipment to Dante networks.

Related story: Bob Weir Honored at NAMM, by Tom Kenny, Mix, Jan. 25, 2018

Quality Gear Everywhere

Steinberg demoed three (count ’em!) updates to its software line, including WaveLab Pro 9.5 with more tools than ever, Dorico 1.2 professional music notation software, and Cubase Pro 9.5 with a new 64-bit audio engine.

Pro Tools 2018 from Avid introduces a new way of naming updates (Year/Month), the ability to capture MIDI performances, even when you’re not recording, Track Presets, and new comping features and shortcuts.

Bringing its top-quality transducers to the masses, ADAM Audio introduced the T Series, the company’s new affordably priced range of studio monitors for audio recording and production pros. Models include the 5-inch woofer T5V and the 7-inch woofer T7V.

Aimed at the desktop producer on the go, Universal Audio bowed its new Arrow Thunderbolt 3 audio interface for Mac and Windows. Arrow features an onboard UAD-2 SOLO Core processor, letting musicians monitor and record through the full library of UAD Powered Plug-Ins.

Offering some high-end eye candy for attendees, Eventide had its flagship rackmount processor, the H9000, plus the recently released Euro DDL module and Anthology XI plug-in bundle all on display. The H9000 features eight times the processing power of the current-generation H8000, with the emote remote control application available as a standalone app for Mac and PC.

Peter Chaikin from JBL showed booth visitors the HARMAN 3 Series MkII powered studio monitors featuring the JBL Image Control Waveguide and refined transducers. The models are available in three configurations including the 305P MkII (5-inch woofer), 306P MkII (6.5-inch) and 308P MkII (8-inch).

Along with a full range of ribbon transducers at the show, AEA also brought the new half-rackspace, 2-channel TRP2 preamp. The gainer offers 85dB of clean amplification and is a solid companion for any ribbon, high-priced or low.

Audient expanded its audio interface range with the USB 2 iD44, operating at up to 96k/24-bit, sporting high-grade components, and with enhancements inspired by customer feedback. The package comes with more than $500 of plug-ins and software.

The busy PreSonus booth had the Studio 1810 and Studio 1824 USB 2 audio/MIDI interfaces. Both feature XMAX Class A microphone preamps, audiophile-grade digital converters, low-jitter clocking and MIDI I/O.

CEntrance announced the new MixerFace R4 mobile recording interface featuring a built-in rechargeable battery and the ability to pair the R4 with a smartphone or tablet.

For the Live Sound Engineer

There was plenty of live music at NAMM, both at the Hilton and Marriott, plus the stages outside the new hall and on Convention Way. Live sound pros gawked at the new PreSonus NSB 16.8 and 8.8 AVB-networked stage boxes, designed to work with the company’s StudioLive Series III mixers/recorders.

The one thing the NAMM live stages had in common was Yamaha consoles at FOH and monitors. New for the show was the RIVAGE PM7 digital mixing system, featuring the CSD-R7 digital mixing console, the Rio3224-D2 and Rio1608-D2 Dante-equipped I/O rack units, and firmware V4.5 for the CL and QL Series digital mixing consoles.

Great for getting plenty of boom out to the back row and balconies, QSC introduced the newest K Family member, the small-footprint KS112 powered subwoofer. Features include a single 12-inch transducer in a 6th order bandpass premium birch cabinet.

In the bottom floor of the new hall, VUE Audiotechnik showed off two new models in its premium h-Class family of high-definition powered systems. The hm-108A is a precision slant stage monitor packing the full arsenal of VUE’s most advanced technologies into a compact, fidelity-first monitoring system.

Celestion launched two new small-format coaxial drivers for fixed-install sound reinforcement and cinema audio. Also in the booth was the AF Line Array drivers, a value-priced range of weather-resistant, compact, low-profile drivers for use in compact line arrays, column speakers and compact single-speaker applications.

D.A.S. showed its new Event-212A powered, three-way line array employing two D.A.S. 12-inch loudspeakers in a dual-band configuration in which each speaker operates in a specific frequency range. The units have been teamed with a single M-75 compression driver and purpose-designed injected aluminum high-frequency waveguide.

Back in Hall A, Allen & Heath had its SQ series consoles at NAMM for the first time. The rack-mountable SQ-5 has 16 onboard preamps, 17 faders and eight softkeys, while the SQ-6 provides 24 preamps, 25 faders, four assignable rotary controls and 16 softkeys. Both models support up to 56 input channels via remote expanders and both feature a networking slot for optional Dante, Waves and other cards.