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Bigger, Better, Cheaper, Cooler

Products Hits of Winter NAMM '044

From January 15 to 18, 2004, as the East Coast was locked in one of
the worst cold snaps in memory, some 74,000 music and audio industry
pros made the annual pilgrimage to Winter NAMM in sunny Anaheim, Calif.
With six-plus exhibition halls of musical instruments and sound
technologies and a record 1,340 exhibitors, there was plenty to see.
Here are a few of the hits.

were enough plug-ins, synths, DAWs, live sound and pro audio debuts to
fill a couple of AES shows, but NAMM would not be NAMM without
gee-tars. Fender ( kicked off 2004 celebrating the
Stratocaster’s 50th birthday, unveiling several special models
(retailing from $1,599) that commemorate the anniversary of the most
popular and influential electric guitar of all time. Ampmeister Jim
( turns a still-young 80 and is
honored in Jim Marshall: The Father of Loud (, a new 256-page biography by
Rich Maloof. Meanwhile, Allen & Heath distributors North American
Pro Audio announced the return of Hagstrom guitars—a fave
of notables such as Frank Zappa, Elvis, The Beatles and Bryan
Ferry—later this year. Stay tuned for more!

With the explosion of virtual synths,
sometimes it’s nice to get a little hands-on. Korg ( announced
Triton Extreme, which features tube processing with an actual 12AU7
built in, a whopping 160 MB of ROM—including 1,334 programs, 50
drum kits and 1,280 combinations—audio CD burning capability and
USB connectivity. Kurzweil (
debuted the VA1 analog modeling synth, featuring patented Power Shaped
Oscillators that generate classic analog-style waveforms that can be
smoothly “shaped” from one into another without using

Last year’s underground favorite, Open Labs (, has
come of age. The company is now shipping its OpenSynth NEKO and NEKO 64
line of AMD Opteron processor-based keyboards, which host VSTi plug-ins
and use standard micro-ATX motherboards and processors capable of
running Microsoft Windows with standard PC hardware. The OpenStudio OMX
64 integrated 64-bit digital audio workstation is also shipping.

E-mu ( had a big crowd in its
booth—maybe it was for the debut of the Emulator X and Emulator X
Studio desktop sampling systems, which combine E-mu sampling
technologies and hardware DSP with software features such as disk
streaming and file management. Both systems feature an integrated
waveform editor and powerful synth functions, with a 24-bit/192kHz
audio interface with hardware-accelerated effects. (The Emulator X
Studio comes with a sync daughter card.)

Apple ( is making inroads into the audio
market, as evidenced by its GarageBand announcement at MacWorld a week
prior to its first-ever presence at NAMM. At the Apple booth, we saw
rebranded versions of the Logic line, which now comprises a
full-featured Logic Pro (including Logic Platinum and 53 software
instruments) and a more basic Logic Express, which is designed for
students and educators. We also previewed some hip new software
instruments, including the Ultrabeat percussion synth and the Guitar
Amp modeling plug-in. We were especially wowed by Sculpture, however,
which simulates the behavioral characteristics of a string or bar and
lets users tweak and morph parameters such as material and environment.
Sound designers, check it out.

At BIAS (, we checked out Peak 4.1, which
now includes Roxio Jam for Mac OS X, boosting Peak’s CD-burning
capability to allow full access to the Red Book spec to create
pre-glass masters for mass commercial replication in OS X. Want more?
Peak also adds a lite version of the SFX Machine multi-effects

Cycling ’74 ( announced Soundflower, a free
system extension for Mac OS 10.2/10.3, that lets users route audio
between CoreAudio apps. Although Soundflower is perfect for general
routing tasks, it enables applications developed with Max/MSP to
process audio originating from other programs—one can only
imagine the possibilities. Cycling ’74 also released Sustained
Encounters, the first volume in the Cycles Series of audio source
libraries from Ron MacLeod, who created the Poke in the Ear

Last year, we were floored by hearing Vocaloid ( at
Musikmesse. Now, the voice-synthesis software that lets users generate
authentic-sounding vocals on their PCs by simply typing in the lyrics
and music notes of their compositions is distributed by East West
Communications ( Click here to hear a sample of Vocaloid in

Minnetonka ( broke the two-digit price
barrier with Discwelder Bronze, a $99 DVD-Audio authoring package. And
Digidesign ( surprised us with its
acquisition of the assets of Bomb Factory (see “Current,” page 16).

Plug-ins, Plug-ins,

There are more cool apps than ever. Universal
( showed a Fairchild 670 compressor
for the UAD-1 card and a new UAD-1 Studio Pak Powered Plug-Ins bundle
featuring 20 UA plugs, including the 1176LN/SE, LA-2A, Pultec EQP-1,
RealVerb Pro and a lot more. TC Electronic ( is shipping the Virus virtual
synth from Access, the TC Thirty classic Vox amp modeler and PowerCore
Version 1.8, which features the Tubifex amp simulator.

Waves‘ ( IR-1 convolution reverb plug-in
features impulse responses from some of the best rooms on the planet.
The interface gives users a wide variety of tweakable settings and
promises to include numerous room updates in years to come.

We previewed the new Advanced Groove Engine from
Spectrasonics (, a product of the new
in-house development team. This technology will beef up plug-ins such
as the upcoming Stylus RMX, which was previewed at the show.

SoundShuttle from PowerFX ( is a VST plug-in that lets users
preview, audition and download loops directly within applications such
as Cubase, Live and Fruity Loops. PowerFX also showed Miracle Beats, a
combination sample CD/VST instrument that slices drum loops and
separates elements of the drum kit into individual tracks for separate
control. More than 500 drum loops are included.

Sony ( added to its plug-in line with
the Oxford TransMod for Pro Tools TDM (Mix, Accel), LE and PowerCore.
The dynamic wonder-worker radically changes the dynamics of a track by
sculpting transients and increasing or reducing ambience.

The two new SRS ( Circle Surround encoder/decoder
TDM plug-ins support seven channels, operate at up to 96 kHz and are
cross-platform (Mac and PC).

Eventide ( was craning necks at the Digi
booth with the H3000 Band Delays TDM plug-in, with eight tempo-based
delays featuring programmable resonant filters and independent panning
controls. Also at the Digi booth, URS ( unveiled the SSL 4000e 4-band
EQ emulator.

In addition to announcing Melodyne 2.5, Celemony ( is
teaming up with Ueberschall to develop sample-based VST instruments for
Melodyne users.

It felt like Christmas at the Ilio ( booth,
with the company distributing more software packages than ever.
Applied Acoustic Systems is the newest developer to join the
fold, showing Tassman 3 and Lounge Lizard EP-2. We also checked out
Ultimate Sound Bank‘s new Charlie classic organ module, Ultra
Focus virtual synth and X-Treme FX sound design tool, plus
Synthology‘s Ivory virtual piano and Sonic Reality‘s
I-Drums kit library.

M-Audio ( made a splash with composer Jeff
Rona’s Liquid Cinema, a collection of loops and samples for soundtrack
creation. The company also showed FireWire 18/14, an 18-in/14-out
FireWire audio/MIDI interface with eight channels of ADAT Lightpipe
I/O, 8×4 analog I/O and two channels of mic/instrument pre’s; the
Octane 8-channel Pre and A/D Converter with ADAT Lightpipe; and new
Keystation USB MIDI controllers.

Consoles, Interfaces and Such

Mackie ( unveiled a number of products,
including the slick-looking Big Knob, a desktop monitor switching and
level control box with built-in talkback functions. Also at the show
was a scaled-down, more affordable version of the dXb that the company
showed at AES last October. Yamaha ( introduced V. 2 software
and five add-on effects packages for its 02R96 mixing console.
Compatible for both Mac OS X and Windows 2000/XP platforms, the $300 V.
2 upgrade includes more than 40 new features.

Tascam ( revealed the US-2400, a 25-fader
DAW controller for under $2,000. The unit features 25 100mm moving
faders, 24 assignable encoders, a full transport section and a joystick
for surround panning. Also at the booth was the new GigaStudio 3.0, a
ground-up rewrite of the original application, adding dozens of new

Allen & Heath‘s ( Xone:92 is a killer 6-channel
DJ club mixer with 4-band EQ, two LFOs, a tap-tempo feature, two
independent filter systems and MIDI output for tweaking outboard
effects, lighting, etc. Slammin!

PreSonus ( debuted Firepod, a 24-bit/96k
recording studio, including eight microphone preamplifiers and
Steinberg’s Cubase SE 48-track, 24-bit/96k recording software. The
cross-platform (Windows XP/Mac OS X) box is priced at less than $700.
Edirol ( showed FA-101, a 10×10 FireWire
audio interface capable of 24-bit/96kHz operation. The unit also offers
stereo recording and playback at 24-bit/192 kHz.

Studio Essentials

Dynaudio Acoustics ( released the AIR 25, a
three-way active near-field with two 10-inch woofers, a 5.5-inch
midrange and a 1.1-inch soft-dome tweeter. The quad-amped unit offers
1,200 watts of power and retails for $7,495. KRK‘s ( Rokit
RP-5 and RP-8 powered bi-amped monitors incorporate key design elements
from the company’s higher-end models and feature volume control, XLR,
RCA and TRS inputs.

SE Electronics ( showed several unique entries:
Gemini is a large-diaphragm cardioid studio condenser with dual-tube
(12AU7 and 12AX7) electronics; Icis has a superlarge 35mm (1.5-inch)
cardioid capsule paired with tube electronics. Both mics include flight
case, shock-mount and cables. For stage or studio, the I-5 from
Audix ( is a $179 retail, cardioid
dynamic for high-SPL applications, such as close-miked snare or guitar

Fiber Nation

Light Viper from Fiberplex ( uses military-grade fiber
optics to transport 40 line-level signals up to 1.25 miles without
degradation from a stage box with 32 inputs of phantom-powered mic/line
amps. At the other end, a single-rackspace box has D-25 sub connectors
breaking out to any analog configuration that the user needs.

The first CobraNet-based digital snake, Whirlwind‘s ( E-Snake, sends/receives
24-bit audio over standard Cat-5 cable. Each E Snake Frame module
handles eight to 32 channels with a capacity of hundreds of channels
over a Gigabit Ethernet network. Control software remotely tweaks
mic/line levels, pads and limiting.

Going Outboard!

NAMM had
tons of hot new outboard toys, including some exotic entries.
Complementing its ViPRE preamp, Groove Tubes‘ ( Glory Comp is a $2,999
all-tube compressor featuring built-in sidechain EQ and a “Glory”
(second-harmonics boost) knob, with adjustment between Earth (no
effect) and Heaven (full effect). The new 162SL from dbx ( packs
the punch and quality of its flagship 160SL Blue Series compressor, but
in a more affordable package featuring Jensen output transformers,
full-manual AutoVelocity and OverEasy modes, and a groovy purple

Most clever NAMM product name? The NY-2A from
Electro-Harmonix (, a $2,999 2-channel tube compressor
with a choice of three opto-coupler (slow incandescent, high-velocity
clear LED or electro-luminescent panel) light sources, Lundahl
transformer I/O, and VU and EM80 “magic eye” output displays. At the
other end of the price scale, Phonic‘s ( $250
T8200 TubeOptimizer is a stereo/dual-mono, 2-band (HF/LF) compressor
with balanced I/Os, tube warmth controls and eight VU meters showing

The $2,495 Aphex ( Model 1100 MkII is an update of
the discrete Class-A tube stereo preamp with MicLim limiting,
24-bit/192kHz AES and S/PDIF digital outs and an amazing -135dB EIN
spec. A Designs‘ ( Pultec-like EQ-1 mono tube
equalizer features hand-wound output and Jensen input transformers,
custom capacitors, EC99 tube and a custom spec transducer.
Demeter‘s $1,899 (direct from VTMP-2c dual-channel tube mic
preamp is a limited edition of the VTMP-2 released in 1985. Nautilus
Master Technology
( unveiled a number
of new high-end products, including the Commander back-end summing bus.
The unit features eight Class-A inputs, pan and mute, a stereo insert,
aux input, stereo VU meters, left/right mute switches and a mono

Apogee‘s ( new AD-16X and DA-16X
converters operate at up to 192kHz sampling rates and feature the same
clocking technology found in Big Ben (reviewed in Mix December
2003), and optional Pro Tools|HD and FireWire expansion cards.

More to Come!

Too many toys, too little space! There were lots of other cool items
at NAMM, and we’ll include some of these in our regular new product
sections in future issues. Meanwhile, Summer NAMM returns to Nashville
from July 23-25, 2004. See you there!

Mix correspondents contributing to this report included George
Petersen, Sarah Jones, Kevin Becka, Maureen Droney, Michael Cooper,
Nick Batzdorf, Barry Rudolph and Erik Hawkins.


Roland ( V-Studio users are celebrating
the biggest news of the show, the company’s announcement that it has
opened the platform to plug-in developers with the debut of the VS8F-3
Plug-In Effect Expansion Board. The board is compatible with the entire
VS Series, from the new VS-2480DVD, which lets users burn up to 4.7 GB
of song data to a single DVD-R or DVD-RW disc, down to the 1680, giving
thousands of Roland users the opportunity to upgrade their systems at
any level.

Not only will Roland plug-ins be available, but Antares, IK
Multimedia, George Massenburg Labs, Universal Audio, Cakewalk, McDSP,
TC Electronic, Sound Toys and other developers are porting plug-ins
over to the V-Studio platform; many of these plug-ins are already
available. The VS8F-3 boasts 56-bit processing and sampling rates up to
96 kHz, depending on the V-Studio host. Each VS8F-3 can run two
plug-ins; Roland includes five plug-ins with each board.

Hits You Might Have Missed…

These didn’t grab all headlines, but they could sure make your life

Atlas SoundQR2: This adapter for your Atlas mic
stands attaches between the 7/8-inch-lower tube and the cast-iron base
and features a quick-release button allowing the stand to easily
separate into two pieces for transport. Slick!

Atomic Reactor 112: Here’s a $699 single-12 tube guitar amp,
but with a twist: You insert a desktop modeling/DSP box (Pod, VAMP,
etc.) into a docking adapter on top of the amp and you’ve got a killer
tube amp for recording or stage with your fave tones preloaded.

Furman SB-1000 UPS: The single-rackspace SB-1000
uninterruptible power supply offers three minutes of power at a 5-amp
draw or 32 minutes with a typical computer/monitor load—plenty of
time to save important files or avoid crashes during brownouts/power
failures. At $699, insurance was never so affordable.

Latch Lake Music Microphone Jam Nuts!”: These large-diameter
rings replace those stupid, pinkie-ring-sized threaded nuts that secure
mic clips/shock-mounts to mic stands. At $4 each, these will change
your life for the better, and while you’re on the LLM Website, check
out the company’s amazing micKing booms for serious users. Brilliant!

Radial Engineering JPC Direct Box: This 2-channel DI is
specifically designed for use with computer sound cards, consumer
electronics, audio/visual post systems and electronic media. Smart!

Live Sound Rocks NAMM

Long considered solely a “music store” market, NAMM has evolved into
a premier showcase for pro products for live sound and touring. Here
are some hits that caught our eye.


Midas ( has finally entered the
mid-market with Verona, an affordable analog 8-bus for front of house
or monitors, with six models from 24 to 64 inputs, premium mic preamps,
sweepable 4-band EQ, eight aux buses, 12×4 matrix, four mute groups,
optional redundant PSU and more. Altair Audio‘s ( Electra E-3 analog console has
32/40/48-input channels and features eight subgroups, 16 auxes, eight
VCAs with motorized faders, 8×16 matrix, LCR outputs and 4-band input
EQ with parametric mids. Eight mute masters store 128 scenes, and
digital parametric EQ and onboard dynamics complement the aux outs.

With 24 mic inputs for FOH/monitor work, the
Mackie ( TT24 Digital Mixer is a 56×45,
8-group, 24-bit, 96kHz-capable LCR design featuring 100mm
touch-sensitive moving faders, onboard analog and digital I/O, digital
recall, 4-band EQ, 12 aux sends, dynamics, effects, 11×8 matrix and two
expansion slots. A 5-inch touchscreen, eight function buttons and 12
rotary encoders provide quick access to key live functions.

Hear Technologies ( Mix Back is an affordable
($1,495) 16-in monitor mixer with 12 mono and two stereo outputs for
live or studio cue use. The 11-rackspace unit can be cascaded for more
inputs. An optional $100 talkback remote instantly connects the
engineer with any (or all) of the musicians.

Designed to optimize sound from inexperienced house-of-worship
users, Peavey‘s ( Sanctuary Series mixers
offer onboard effects, auto feedback elimination and Automix!” to
automatically switch from lapel to pulpit mics and mute unused

Distributed by ART, Alto‘s ( new Dragonfly Series powered
6- to 20-channel mixers have onboard digital amps. The 2×450-watts
(into 4 ohms) PM16 is a svelte 18 pounds and retails at $749. The
Soundcraft ( GigRac has two low-cost
($430/650) powered mixers to make gigging easy with eight line/mic
inputs (with 2-band EQ and phantom power), 7-band master EQ, internal
digital effects, single or dual 300W amps and a road-ready case that
also stores mics and cables.

Mics and Wireless

Aussie mic company RØDE (
brings its studio sound to the stage with the S1, a high-performance
handheld vocal mic with low-noise FET electronics, an internally
shock-mounted true (externally biased) condenser capsule and five-year

Audio-Technica ( updated its entry-level
cardioid mic line with Midnight Blues higher-output designs and lower
handling noise, including the MB1k and MB3k dynamic vocal models, the
MB2k dynamic instrument mic and the MB4k (battery or phantom)
condenser. Price: $49 to $129.

Wharfedale Pro ( enters the mic market with
the DM 2.0, a tough, handheld dynamic featuring a non-dent,
spring-steel grille and shock-mounted cardioid capsule. They’re sold in
a three-pack priced comparably to a single competitive pro mic.

Sennheiser ( announced Evolution Wireless
G2, taking Evolution UHF wireless second generation with new handhelds,
smaller bodypacks, expanded receivers, 1,440 available channels, free
channel search scan, rechargeable or battery operation, true diversity
receivers and compatibility with earlier E Series models.
Shure‘s ( new midline SLX UHF Series feature
Audio Reference Companding technology, Auto Transmitter Setup, with
support of up to 20 systems in an area, a choice of 960 channels, and a
variety of handhelds, beltpacks and receivers. Systems are priced from


Eastern Acoustic Works‘ ( industry-standard KF850s got better.
The new KF850zF (flyable) and KF850zR (road) versions include new
internal components, such as Radial Phase Plugs, a neodymium Orbital
Magnet Array HF driver, new HF horn and new dual 1,000W 18-inch
woofers. Cerwin-Vega ( showed Vision, a serious new
flagship series including two three-way, bi-ampable trapezoidal
enclosures with ATM-equipped fly points; two subs; a single-12 coaxial
that doubles as a floor monitor; and flyable install speaker.

Community ( turned heads with its DnD12
($239) and DnD15 ($259) speakers with 12- or 15-inch woofers and twin
1-inch PZT drivers on a 40°x90° horn that operates as upright
(standing or pole-mount) mains or at two different angles for
monitoring. JBL Pro‘s ( JRX115 and JRX112M (doubles as
monitor) two-way speakers with 12- or 15-inch woofers have unique
dual-angle pole sockets for vertical or -10° downward aiming. Also
new are dual-15 JRX1215 and two (passive or powered) 18-inch sub boxes.
Non-hardware installation versions, JRX112Mi and JRX115i, are also

Integrating the functions of telephone, e-mail and Web interaction
into a single online resource, QSC‘s (
eBOX personalizes tech support with FAQs, submitted questions/answer
archives, product content and messaging—all customized to each
user’s needs.