The 2017 NAMM Show, held January 19-22 in Anaheim, Calif., was loaded with new-product introductions, from high-end monitors and microphones to bargain-bundle plug-ins and boutique processors. The editors of Mix and Pro Sound News, representing the NewBay Media Pro A/V Group, roamed the aisles and came away with our picks for Best of Show.
Note: Products are selected from submissions made by the manufacturers, then judged by editors in-person at the convention. It must be a product’s first appearance at a NAMM Show; it must be on public display and scheduled to ship before next year’s show. Products presented in alphabetical order by manufacturer.
Orion32 HD delivers 64 channels of stunning audio quality via HDX or USB3, and is compatible with any DAW on the market, making it an excellent choice for users of both Pro Tools and Native systems. It also delivers Antelope Audio's superior clocking technology and powerful Field Programmable Gate Array real-time effects modeling capabilities. With HDX, USB3, MADI, ADAT and S/PDIF connectivity and 32-in/32-out analog input via DB25, the Orion32 HD has all the connectivity needed for a wide variety of configurations in studios of all sizes. The Orion32 HD’s versatile routing and mixing software console for Mac and Windows further increases the possibilities, now featuring both Antelope’s classic color-coded routing matrix and an alternate matrix-style view to make routing easy and intuitive.
The Orion32 HD delivers incredibly clear, accurate conversion thanks to Antelope’s best-in-class 64-bit Acoustically Focused Clocking jitter management technology, achieving depth and detail in stereo imaging and transient accuracy that ensures the most precise audio capture and playback. Two Word Clock or Loopsync Outs allow the Orion to serve as the centerpiece of your recording setup, and it also features mastering-grade monitor output borrowed from Antelope’s popular Pure2 Mastering Converter to ensure signal integrity in the analog domain. The Orion32 HD has no need for an internal fan, and only requires a single rackspace to deliver its dizzying 64 channels of I/O, making it perfect for space-conscious home and project studios, as well as gear-saturated professional studios.
Audio-Technica ATM350a Instrument Microphone Systems
Audio-Technica’s new ATM350a Instrument Microphone Systems provide musicians with discreet, rock-solid mounting solutions for a host of instruments, including woodwinds, strings, brass, percussion, drums and piano. Each of the six specially designed systems features a high-performance ATM350a cardioid condenser microphone that delivers clear, well-balanced response even at extreme SPLs and reduces side and rear pickup for excellent isolation of the instrument. Each system also includes a mount designed to work with a particular instrument (or range of instruments), along with a robust 5-inch or 9-inch gooseneck. The sturdy gooseneck stays where it is set, retaining its shape until manually readjusted by the musician. All but the ATM350UcW wireless system include an in-line power module with switchable 80 Hz highpass filter.
The ATM350a Microphone Systems include: ATM350U Universal Mounting System (short): With a 5-inch gooseneck and universal clip-on mount, the ATM350U is ideal for brass and sax players, yet is versatile enough to fit nearly any application. ATM350UcW Wireless Universal Mounting System: The microphone included in this wireless version of the ATM350U system is terminated with a locking 4-pin connector for use with Audio-Technica UniPak® body-pack wireless transmitters, giving musicians additional freedom in their performance. ATM350UL Universal Mounting System (long): The long Universal Mounting System includes the same adjustable clip-on mount as the shorter version, but with a 9-inch gooseneck. ATM350PL Piano Mounting System: This system’s unique magnetic mount attaches to the piano’s cast iron frame or other metal part, allowing musicians to easily position the mic exactly where they want it. The mount comes with a 9-inch gooseneck and its base is lined with felt to prevent damage to the instrument. ATM350D Drum Mounting System: The Drum Mounting System is designed to stand up to powerful drumming. The spring-loaded mount clamps onto a tension rod (without hindering the drummer’s ability to adjust the tension with a tuning key) and provides excellent shock resistance for the mic. The sturdiness of the 5-inch gooseneck ensures that the mic will stay in place and won’t bounce around, no matter how hard the drums are played. ATM350W Woodwind Mounting System: The adjustable hook-and-loop strap on the woodwind mount allows it to be easily attached just above the bell of the instrument. The sturdy 5-inch gooseneck lets musicians adjust the proximity of the mic to the bell, as desired.
BLUE Microphones Bluebird SL
Bluebird SL delivers pristine, highly versatile sound that makes every detail of a performance come to life. With a highpass filter and -20dB pad, Bluebird SL is ideal for capturing standout vocal performances, expressing the true tone of guitars, piano and more with extended upper clarity, smooth mids and rich lows. Bluebird SL advances the Blue legacy by providing exceptionally transparent, powerful and versatile sound. Add in an updated design that looks great in any studio and Blue unveils the enhanced new version of its best-selling Essentials Series condenser mic.
Every component of Bluebird SL is specially designed to deliver modern, crystal-clear tone. The hand-built capsule utilizes a fine, gold-sputtered Mylar diaphragm to deliver superior resonance at higher frequencies. The rear backplate ensures balanced sound across the entire frequency spectrum. And discrete Class-A circuitry maximizes the accuracy of your sound. Bluebird SL features a new onboard switchable highpass filter and -20dB pad that provides the flexibility to track a wide variety of sound sources and keep recordings clear at any volume. Record in stereo with two Bluebird SL mics to add depth and ambience to any instrument. Bluebird SL comes in a wooden storage box and includes a custom shockmount.
Mackie Big Knob Series
Now with three products in the Big Knob lineup, studios of any size will benefit from the professional source/monitor selection and precise level control that made the original such a popular choice. Plus, with the addition of high-resolution Onyx™ USB recording and playback, studios get a powerful, hybrid solution that is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
The most compact and affordable, Big Knob Passive, offers a rock-solid monitor control solution, allowing users to choose between two sources, two monitors and control it all with one Big Knob. Its no-power-required passive design ensures pristine sonic integrity for any home studio application or for integration into a large studio or group of editing suites. Big Knob Studio adds USB recording/playback and expands on the I/O, offering a routing choice between three sources and two monitor pairs. It includes great studio features like integrated talkback and dual headphone outs. Big Knob Studio+ adds even more features, offering the right I/O for flexible integration into professional studios. The 4x3 routing delivers choice, including a USB playback from a DAW with 192kHz/24-bit audio conversion. Other tools like a dedicated, amp-driven studio out for a headphone distribution system are ideal for project and professional studios. Both the Big Knob Studio and Big Knob Studio+ offer high-resolution USB interfacing featuring dual Onyx mic preamps, delivering an ultra-wide 60dB of gain range and award-winning sound quality.
PMC MB3 & BB6 Reference Monitors
Building on the legendary MB2 and the BB5 (PMC’s first product, still going strong more than 25 years after its launch), these new speakers combine the profound low-frequency response, tonal accuracy and consistency of the company’s ATL™ designs with the power and flexibility of the proprietary Class-D amplification first used in the QB1-A, the latest generation of PMC’s industry-leading drivers, and intelligently applied cutting-edge DSP, in cabinet designs re-engineered to further improve imaging and dispersion.
Like their predecessors, the MB3 and BB6 are available in single-cabinet and twin-cabinet (XBD) versions, making for four variants in all. All feature a hand-built, precision-matched 34mm soft-dome tweeter and 75mm fabric midrange driver, coupled with the latest generation of the Radial™ low-frequency driver built specifically for use with PMC's ATL™ designs (a 12-inch Radial on the MB3 and a 15-inch on the BB6). The twin-cabinet XBD versions of both speakers each offer 3dB more headroom and a smoother in-room response in larger listening environments when compared to the single-cabinet versions.
Proprietary Control 1200 and Power 2400 Class-D amplifiers ensure that there will always be ample headroom, supplying 3275W of power per channel to the MB3 systems and the BB6-A (275W to the HF driver, 550W to the midrange, and 2400W to the bass). The BB6 XBD-A has an additional Power 2400 dedicated exclusively to the 15-inch bass driver in its XBD cabinet—a total of 5625W of power per channel. The amplifer modules also incorporate the advanced DSP, which optimizes the drivers and crossovers, and provides shelving EQ for in-room tuning; up to four presets may be stored for each system. Access to the DSP functions is made easier by the desktop remote control supplied as standard with each system.