Musikmesse/Prolight + Sound 2008

Top 10 Product Hits From Frankfurt
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Musikmesse/Prolight+Sound has developed into the premier international marketplace for audio, music, DJ and lighting gear. The combined event is something like attending Winter NAMM, LDI, AES, DJ Expo, NSCA and more—all squeezed into four exhausting days. Yet even with the Euro at an all-time high against the dollar, manufacturers were out in force and buyers were buying as Frankfurt’s Musikmesse convention saw another banner year. With 112,000 visitors (a 3% increase over 2007) from 126 countries, this convention is easily the largest music trade show in the world.

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The show is immense in scale (and nearly twice as many booths as NAMM), yet Musikmesse and the Pro Light+Sound expo held next door is surprisingly manageable to attend from a logistics standpoint, and the show's organizers put in extra effort to make for a pleasant Messe. Your Musikmesse badge gets you into Pro Light+Sound, and vice versa. And that same show pass also grants free access to Frankfurt's excellent public transit system.

PRE-SHOW EXCITEMENT

Like most large European cities, Frankfurt is highly dependent on its efficient subway, streetcar and bus systems, and one of the pleasures of Musikmesse is its easy access, with tram service just across the street and an S-Bahn subway station directly within the fairgrounds. ("Messe" is the German word for "fair.") Unfortunately, wildcat nationwide strikes broke out among German transport workers in early March and threatened to last a month. Besides disrupting railroad and airport workers, it also included public transit unions. Fortunately for all concerned, the strike was settled just days before the show and everything ran smoothly.

MIPA AWARDS TAKE CENTER STAGE

In keeping with the "Music Unites the World" theme of this year's Musikmesse show, Mix, Electronic Musician and Remix joined the editors of other music and audio magazines worldwide to vote for the best products of 2007/2008 at MIPA, the ninth annual Musikmesse International Press Awards. Chosen from three finalists in each of 40 categories, the winners were announced at a packed awards ceremony held during Musikmesse/Pro Light+Sound. Highlights of this year's MIPA ceremony included the presentation of the MIPA Lifetime Achievement Award to Jim D'Addario. The coveted "Best Innovative Product" award went to Gibson's revolutionary auto-tuning Robot Guitar. For a complete listing of this year's MIPA award winners, visit www1.mipa-award.de/2008/winner.htm.

THE HITS KEEP COMING

And with a solid mile of exhibit halls displaying everything from band instruments to lighting to high-end recording and live sound gear, there's a lot of ground to cover. Even coming on the heels of Winter NAMM—just two months before, there were plenty of new products, including a couple jaw-dropping surprises. The latter ranged from Celemony's Direct Note Access (by far the most talked-about new technology at Messe) to Solid State Logic's new Matrix console/DAW controller, which comes in at a rock bottom $25,000—at least rock bottom by SSL standards.

Here, listed alphabetically, are our Certified Hits of Musikmesse—our top ten product picks from the show.

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ADAM showed the A5 powered monitors, which are based on A7 technology, in a smaller footprint. Powered by two 25W amps, the speakers combine ADAM's ART (Accelerated Ribbon Technology) folded ribbon tweeter with 5-inch woofer. List is $699. A matching Sub 7 subwoofer is $479.

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No doubt about it, Celemony’s Direct Note Access was big news. This mind-boggling app breaks a single polyphonic audio track into individual notes, which can then be edited using Melodyne parameters: pitch, timing, duration, vibrato, pitch drift, formant spectrum, volume and even the internal evolution of each note. (Sample libraries, anyone?) During one of the mobbed demo sessions, where we watched in amazement as founder Peter Neubäcker exploded Chet Baker’s signature “My Funny Valentine” into individual parts, and then essentially rewrote the trumpet solo. The technology won’t be available until the fall, when it will appear in version 2 of Melodyne. For a video demo of Celemony DNA, click here.

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The crowds at DiGiCo's booth, weren’t queuing up at its fully stocked bar but clamored for a peek at the SD7 “concept console”—now finally a reality. The new digital live sound board uses DiGiCo’s Stealth mixing and routing system based on Super FPGA technology, which, along with two Tiger SHARC processors, gives the SD7 eight times the processing power of a D5 Live—translating to a possible 128 simultaneous 192kHz signal paths. Users can have 448 simultaneous optical and 224 MADI and 24 integral connections, and 128 buses plus 32 matrix buses and 32 graphic EQs. Click here for a video tour of the DigiCo SD7, click here.

Built like a tank, HHB's CDR-882 DualBurn pro dual-drive CD recorder supports recording on two discs simultaneously, high-speed duplication and seamless extended recording across two or more discs. Standard I/O includes analog, AES/EBU and S/PDIF digital (with onboard SRC that accept inputs from 32k to 96k, with 24 bit dithering) and a choice of internal or external clocking.

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Powered loudspeakers continue their popularity. JBL expands its VerTec line array family with the JBLVT4889ADP (dual-15s, quad 8-inch mids and triple 1.5-inch HF) and the companion VT4880ADP ultra-long-excursion arrayable double-18 sub. The available DrivePack DP-3 module adds 6,000 watts of Crown power, dbx signal processing and optional HiQnet networking.

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Happy birthday to Neumann, which celebrated its 80th anniversary, and launched the TLM 103D—a digital version of its best-selling TLM 103 studio mic. Ahe onboard Neumann A/D converter eliminates the need for external converters and preamps and an integrated, fast peak limiter optimizes recording levels and output options include AES-42, USB, S/PDIF and AES/EBU. The TLM 103 D is available in nickel and black. Neumann also launched the limited-edition TLM 7, a solid state version of its classic U67.

PreSonus branches into the live market with StudioLive 1642, a 16-channel digital mixer designed for studio or live use. It's based around a 22x18 FireWire recording/playback engine, with 16 high XMAX microphone pres, “Fat-Channel” processing with 4-band EQs, compressors, limiters and gates, DSP effects, six aux buses, four sub-groups, mixer save and recall, and channel-strip save/recall/copy/paste. Shipments are slated to begin in time for the summer touring season.

SSL blew us away with Matrix, a small-format console integrating a 16-channel, 40-input analog line mixer with a multilayer 16-fader DAW controller that lets users easily route outboard processors plug-in-style. Key features: onboard Total Recall supports up to six SSL X-Racks, two separate inputs per strip, 32x16x16 insert router for up to 16 external processing devices, stereo aux send and four mono sends per channel, dual stereo mix buses with summing inserts and reassign, four stereo returns with full stereo mix bus routing, stereo monitoring with independent main and mini monitor outputs. And the clincher? It’s only $25k. SSL also showed the PCIe Duende card and MadiXtreme multichannel PCIe audio cards. For a video tour of the SSL Matrix, click here.

Hardware was the star at Steinberg. The company previewed the CC121 Advanced Integration Controller, providing full Cubase 4 integration by combining Steinberg’s flexible AI Knob controller for “point-and-control” parameter adjustment with a range of dedicated controls that mirror Cubase 4 functions. Steinberg also introduced the MRS 16CSX and MRS 16X 16-channel integrated FireWire interfaces.

We got a preview of Thermionic’s Fat Bustard tube mixer back at AES, but the 4U rackmount unit has been upgraded to 12 channels: four stereo pairs and four mono channels, plus bass and treble EQ, stereo width control, plus the all-important “Attitude” knob. Dial in some…

Musikmesse/ProLight + Sound returns to Frankfurt next year from April 1 to 4, 2009. See you there!