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Top 10 Products from Winter NAMM 2009

Under sunny skies and unseasonably warm weather, Winter NAMM 2009 opened to an economically cautious, yet enthusiastic, audience

Under sunny skies and unseasonably warm weather, Winter NAMM 2009 opened to an economically cautious, yet enthusiastic, audience. Attendance was well below the record-setting crowds of previous years, although traffic—particularly in the high-tech Hall A—was surprisingly brisk. Following the CES show, where this year’s attendance plummeted, NAMM looked pretty good in comparison. True, the guest and visitor badges walking the show outnumbered the coveted blue “buyer” badges by about 10 to one, but those who did attend were serious about business and NAMM officials seemed genuinely relieved by the respectable turnout.

Any industry trade show offers a trend in products, ranging from the resurgence in ribbon technologies to plug-ins for live consoles. NAMM had a bit of that, from Royer Labs’ new active stereo ribbon mic, to Waves’ announcement about creating a new division to create plugs for sound reinforcement applications. This year’s NAMM seemed to focus on “value,” as many new-product debuts catered to the end-user seeking gear slanted to the low-cost/max-performance approach. One example of this was JBL’s new LSR2300 studio monitor line, priced from $249/each, yet offering the Linear Spatial Reference criteria of the award-winning LSR6300 and LSR4300 Series.

Bling was well represented at NAMM. Everywhere we looked, there were guitars with flashing LEDs in the bodies and necks. And pro audio wasn’t immune to the bling thing. Neutrik showed its new CrystalCon XLR and ¼-inch connectors, with rhinestones inset into the metal bodies; Sennheiser unveiled interchangeable mic “skins” that pull over wireless mic bodies for a new multicolored look; Audix had versions of some of its popular handheld mics in stylish camo schemes ranging from desert tan to hot pink and beyerdynamic now offers the M(y) 88, with custom finishes for its classic M88 vocal mics.

This time around, there was no single “gotta see it” hit, but there were plenty of updates of existing products—such as Universal Audio’s UAD-2 Solo/Laptop, an ExpressCard version of its breakthrough UAD-2 Solo DSP plug-in host. Throughout the show, there was plenty of good news in the form of gear that’s finally shipping—such as PreSonus’ StudioLive console or Hagstrom’s 8-string bass reissues—but as always, and there were lots of “almost-dones,” i.e., “N.A.M.M’s:” Not Available—Maybe Musikmesse.

From a pure technology standpoint, this was a great NAMM, with lots to see and hear. Making our selections for the crème de la crème was tough, but here (listed alphabetically) are our selections for the Mix Certified Hits—our editors’ choices for the Top 10 products from NAMM.


Akai APC40

Akai APC40
Akai Professional worked in partnership with software developer Ableton to create the Ableton Performance Controller APC40, an awesome stage or studio hardware control surface for Ableton Live. Designed specifically for Live, the unit is plug-and-go—no mapping required, although advanced users can tweak the controls to their individual tastes, if desired. The APC40 communicates bi-directionally with Live, enabling the controller to display information from the software on its clip matrix of 40 triggers and on LED rings surrounding each knob. And the APC40 is the ideal match for Ableton’s hot new Live 8 software, which also debuted at NAMM. Click here to watch an exclusive video demo of the Akai APC40.

Allen & Heath iLive-T112 and iDR-48

Allen & Heath iLive T Series
Keeping with the movement toward more powerful, compact digital consoles for sound reinforcement, Allen & Heath’s T Series comprises the iDR-32 (32 mic/line inputs, 16 outs) or iDR-48 (48 mic/line ins and 24 outs) MixRacks with either the iLive-T80 or iLive-T112 mix controller. The mix surfaces boast touchscreen control and add another 8-in/8-out and 16-in/12-out, respectively, providing 40-in/24-out to 64-in/36-out systems with eight stereo FX engines and full dynamic/EQ/delays on all channels and a single Cat-5 cable-linking controller and MixRack. Check out this video of the iLive-T features.

Celemony Melodyne Editor

Celemony Melodyne Editor
After leaving the industry
jaw-dropped at Musikmesse 2008 with its Direct Note Access (DNA)
technology last year, Celemony takes the concept to the next level. The
new Melodyne Editor
($349) can run as a plug-in or stand-alone, allowing users to edit
individual chord tones in audio recordings. The app recognizes and
edits pitch, timing and other parameters of notes within the audio
material, especially for vocals, guitar, sax or piano. Users can alter
the pitch, position and duration of the note detected, make it louder
or quieter, copy or cut it and paste it in some other position.
Adjustments can also be made to the formant register, vibrato and drift
of the notes, as well as any pitch, volume or formant transitions and
more. Click here for a video tour of the new Melodyne Editor.

Keith McMillen Instruments K-Bow

Keith McMillen Instruments K-Bow
We were floored by a debut from a new company by Zeta Violin founder Keith McMillen, who launched the remarkable K-Bow Bluetooth Sensor.
This wireless, Bluetooth-enabled bow has a sensor that detects and
translates bow technique and movements into signals for controlling
synthesizers, audio processors and workstations. It’s a brilliant
hardware/software system that takes bowed instruments well into the
21st century and beyond. Bravo, Keith! In this video, violinist Marielle Jakobson walks the K-Bow through its paces.

Lexicon I-ONIX U42S USB interface

Lexicon I-ONIX U42S
The I·onix U42S
USB interface from Lexicon provides all the tools to transform a
computer into a pro-quality 24-bit/96kHz digital studio, including a
USB 2 desktop recording interface with MIDI and S/PDIF I/O, four dbx
mic/line preamps, monitor control, Steinberg Cubase LE4 software,
Toontrack EZdrummer Lite, Lexicon’s Pantheon II VST/Audio Units reverb
plug-in, and more. But we also liked the angled desktop package, which
tilts all the controls so you can actually see them!

Native Instruments Maschine

Native Instruments Maschine
This next-generation groove production studio from Native Instruments
is a hardware/software (Mac/Win) combination offering the flexibility
of plug-ins with the ease and standalone operation of a hardware drum
machine. The hardware has 16 backlit pads, 11 rotary encoders, two
large LCDs, and a host of buttons, and it doubles as a MIDI control
surface for your DAW. Real-time polyphonic-keyboard and
drum-machine-style record modes make Maschine equally at home with
tonal and percussive material. The $699 price includes a 5 GB sound
library with Kore-style browser, integrated performance effects,
recording on the fly and live sampling/resampling. To see Maschine’s features in action, watch Electronic Musician’s exclusive video.

PreSonus StudioLive

PreSonus StudioLive
Now shipping, PreSonus’ StudioLive
16x4x2 digital live performance/recording digital mixer features
FireWire output offering 22 channels of recording and 18 channels of
simultaneous playback. A Fat Channel puts EQ and dynamics on every
input, as well as on every aux, subgroup and main output. Other
features include 100mm faders, talkback, Mac/PC multitrack recording
software and the ability to export to WAV file formats for
compatibility with any other DAW. The unit has 16 XMAX mic preamps and
two programmable 24-bit stereo DSP engines offering reverbs, delays and
time-based effects.

Steinberg Cubase 5

Steinberg Cubase 5
More than a mere “update,” Steinberg’s Cubase 5
offers new workflow features and enhancements, with native 64-bit
Halion64 sampling, 12 GB of samples, a new user interface and a
zero-latency stability engine. New rhythm-oriented tools include the
LoopMash and Groove Agent One VST instrument plug-ins and Beat Designer
for groove alignment. VariAudio lets users edit pitch directly in the
Sample Editor, while the PitchCorrect plug-in uses Yamaha Pitch Fix
technology to correct intonation on the fly. The REVerence convolution
reverb is also included, as is full Windows Vista 64-bit support.
Shipping now. Check out the new features of Cubase 5 in this clip.

TC Electronic PowerCore 6000

TC Electronic PowerCore 6000
Also shipping now, TC Electronic’s System 6000 algorithms are now available on the PowerCore 6000
platform for a fraction of the 6000’s price. The unit’s eight FreeScale
DSP engines are the same DSPs used in System 6000, and its SRAM memory
design lets users run the 6000’s many reverb and delay algorithms with
popular DAWs, as well as with any other VST- or Audio Units-compatible
host. PowerCore 6000 is expandable, with MD3 Stereo Mastering Tools. M
and S components of a stereo signal can be processed separately and
provide even more control, making full use of the Spectral Stereo
Enhancer, along with Brickwall Limiter and Unwrap 5.1 for smooth, fast
stereo-to-5.1 up-conversion.

Waves Signature Series Tony Maserati Collection

Waves Signature Series Tony Maserati Collection
Multi-Platinum producer/engineer/mix engineer collaborated with Waves Audio to create the $800 Tony Maserati Collection,
featuring six Native-only, application-specific plug-ins that capture
Maserati’s personal production, engineering and mixing style. Available
now, the six new plugs (Vocal Enhancer, Drum Slammer, Acoustic Guitar
Designer, Harmonics Generator, Bass Phattener and Guitar Toner) use a
simple, remarkably intuitive interface that provides great-sounding
audio results in a hurry. Check out this video demo of the Tony Maserati Collection.

XT Software energyXT 2.5

XT Software energyXT 2.5
While other DAW programs move ever closer to bloatware, XT Software
has taken a different approach, with energyXT2.5, a no-install-required
sequencing/recording/mixing/editing application that lives on a USB
thumb drive. Plug into almost any computer—Mac OS X, Linux or PC
Windows (including Vista)—and you’ll be recording/creating sounds in
minutes, even on a borrowed or friend’s machine. It includes effects,
synths and drum sounds, and tracks can be exported to any other DAW.
energyXT2.5 is offered in $99 standard and $149 “Plus” versions—the
latter adds unlimited tracks and ReWire Energizer support to control
apps like Reason and Ableton Live. energyXT2.5 is shipping now and
distributed worldwide through Behringer.

Obviously, with some 1,500 exhibitors, there was a lot more to NAMM that what’s covered here. Visit our 2009 NAMM portal
for new products, additional video coverage and more. Plus, we’ll
present other highlights from NAMM in the future, both in print and at

Meanwhile, Summer NAMM returns to Nashville from July 17 to 19, 2009. For more info, go to