It's difficult to describe Musikmesse/Pro Light+Sound(March 31-April 3, 2004) to anyone who's never attended the show. It'slike a NAMM/AES/NSCA/LDI/DJ Expo all rolled into one huge conventionthat fills 14 exposition halls on the Messe fairgrounds in Frankfurt,Germany. It's huge, to say the least. This year's show featured nearly1,500 exhibitors and 92,000 attendees from more than 100 countries, alllooking for the latest music and pro audio toys. Coming on the heels ofNSCA and NAMM shows, you might think there was nothing new, but therewere plenty of debuts to see and hear. Here are our picks for best ofshow.
Yamaha (www.yamaha.com/dmi) launched its flagship PM5Ddigital console (see NSCA report for more, http://mixonline.com/ar/audio_nsca_show_report/),but also showed new preamp cards for its PM-1D, as well as new remotepreamp racks and other accessories. A far more interesting developmentwas the Studio Connections alliance from Yamaha/Steinberg (www.steinberg.net),which develops new protocols for using Yamaha's Studio Manager 2software to integrate Yamaha hardware with Cubase SX and Nuendo, aswell as VST plug-ins. Keep an eye on this one.
Digidesign (www.digidesign.com) didn't exhibit, but held aspirited press event to announce its Command|8 automated mix controllerfor Pro Tools. This Digi/Focusrite co-design puts eight bankable faderswith rotary controls, soft buttons, transport control, alphanumericchannel displays and analog monitor control into a compact housing withMIDI and USB interfacing to your TDM or LE system.
Allen & Heath (www.allen-heath.com) unveiled its third-generationMixWizard line of multipurpose 12 to 16-input stereo analog mixers,with enhanced preamps and jumpers for customizing aux sends and directouts; a 14x4x2 version with 6x2 matrix is also offered. The companyalso debuted Ledlamp, a 4-pin XLR console lamp on an 18-inch gooseneckwith built-in thumbwheel dimmer, offering cool white light and lesscurrent draw.
Alto Pro Audio's (www.altoproaudio.com) Typhoon offers a16-channel/8-group mixer that fits in a 19-inch rack and a 48-channelmodel in a 48-inch-wide/50-pound package. Features include 4-band sweepEQ, eight mute groups, eight auxes (pre/post-assignable), built-inintercom and direct out and insert on all inputs.
Musikmesse wouldn't be Musikmesse without instruments.Roland's (www.rolandus.com) new V-Accordions feature digitalmodeling of accordion and other instruments with bellows articulation,MIDI output and unpowered (line-out) or built-in speaker versions. Inthe new genre of vocal synthesis/simulation, Virsyn (www.virsyn.com) demoedCantor, an 8-part vocal synthesis engine where you type in lyrics andthey "sing" back to your MIDI melody. This Mac/PC app can runstand-alone or as a VST2/AudioUnit/ReWire/RTAS plug-in, and offersplenty of editing parameters to make the voice sound as natural or asstrange as you want. Sonic Reality (www.sonicreality.com) and IK Multimedia (www.ikmultimedia.com) announced StudioPhonik, whichcombines an entire band's instruments—with reverb, delays,effects, stomp boxes, comp/limiters, EQ, etc.—to create a virtualband for any sequencer platform from a single Mac/PC plug-in.
With a ton of new products, Native Instruments (www.native-instruments.com) pulled out all thestops—literally. The BD4 ($449, or $559 with software) is ahardware controller for its B4 virtual organ software, with ninedrawbars, 22 dedicated buttons and two rotary encoders. NI's new GuitarRig system ($499) combines a hardware pedal controller with softwarethat emulates classic and neo amps, cabinets, microphones andeffects/stomp boxes. Elektrik Piano ($229) re-creates Rhodes, Clavinetand Wurlitzer sounds with 256 simultaneous voices. The company supportsall major sequencer and plug-in formats.
The most talked about pro product at the show wasAKG's (www.akg.com) next generation of itsindustry-standard C 414 studio condenser. Available in C-414 B-XLS(ultralinear) and C414 B-XL II (transformerless) versions, the new micshave the same pricing as their predecessors but incorporate many newimprovements, such as five polar patterns (wide-cardioid was added),6dBA self-noise spec, internal elastic iso capsule-mount, three bassroll-off choices, three-position pad (-6/12/18 dB), +6 dB moresensitivity and a provision for future optional remote control of allfunctions. Also new: AKG's WMS 400 wireless puts many of the featuresof its flagship WMS 4000 systems into a more affordable package.
Audix (www.audixusa.com) unveiled the RAD-360, its firstwireless system, which pairs its OM Series capsules with a193-frequency system in the 638 to 806MHz UHF band, with menu-driven,true-diversity receivers. Bodypack and guitar versions are alsooffered.
KS Digital (www.ksdigital.de) demoed ADMControl, a stereo/5.1controller for its acclaimed ADM monitors, offering bass management,FIR equalization, mute/solo and level functions. These are sweet withstartling imaging. Oooooh! Roland's DS Series studio near-fieldsfeature analog and digital (AES/EBU or S/PDIF) inputs at up to 192kHzsampling. All are active bi-amped, two-way systems with 5, 6.5, or8-inch woofers and 1-inch dome tweeter. Wharfedale Pro (www.wharfedale.co.uk) finally debuted pro versionsof its popular consumer Diamond 8 speakers. The new Diamond Studio ProActive 8.1 and 8.2 have 5- or 8-inch shielded woofers, with dome HF andonboard bi-amping. ADAM (www.adam-audio.com) launched the ANF-10, anunpowered, compact two-way with 7-inch woofer and ART folded-ribbontweeter at an affordable $700/pair. Quested (www.quested.com)showed the first of its new Silver range, with two compact, bi-ampednear-fields: the SR6 (6.5-inch woofer) and SR5 (5-inch LF), both with11 D8-inch dome tweeters.
Interfaces and DAW front ends were everywhere. Mindprint (www.mindprint.com)updated its popular En-Voice tube preamp/EQ/compressor channel strip.The new En-Voice Mk II has optional USB interfacing, 24-bit/96kHzconversion and an internal switching power supply to work anywhere inthe world. Terratec (www.terratec.net) added FireWire to its successfulPhase 88 interface rack, which features eight analog balanced I/Os (andtwo mic preamps), S/PDIF digital I/O and two FireWire ports. Thecompany also debuted Producer Phase 24 FireWire, a 2-channel interfacewith 24/192 capability, MIDI I/O and 114dB noise spec. RME(dist. by Synthax, www.synthax.com) showed several new interfaces andconverters, but the coolest of all was the FireFace 800, asingle-rackspace 24-bit/192 box that crams a total of 56 I/Os (analog,ADAT, S/PDIF) that can be used simultaneously to record up to 35sources onto 28 tracks. Whew!
Some Hits You Missed
Behringer (www.behringer.com) kicked off its 15th anniversarywith 16 new products, including new bass cabs and modeling guitar amps,but its Vintager AC108—a 20-watt amp with an 8-inch speaker and atube preamp stage—smoked us, especially with its $79 list/$59street pricing.
DSound (www.dsound1.com) showed a software solution thatallows real-time audio/MIDI streaming between two PCs over a singleFireWire cable. Launch a VST host on one CPU, a VST host on the otherand enjoy the power of a multiprocessor system. Slick!
Neutrik's (www.neutrik.com) Combo XLR/1 D4-inch connector isan industry standard. Now, the company has expanded the line withSpeakon Combo, which puts a 1 D4-inch jack down the center of a 2-poleSpeakon panel jack. Yeah!
Randall's (www.randallamplifiers.com) MTS Series tube amps arebased on a 2U chassis that holds four interchangeable preamp sections,each based on the actual tube front ends of classic amps. The buyerchooses four modules from a list of 15 or so and can add more as needsgrow. A matching dual 50-watt power amp lets players switch between 6L6or EL34 power tubes for more tonal variation. A studio dream!
There were plenty more products to see, and we'll run these in ourupcoming new product columns. Meanwhile, mark April 6-9, 2005, for nextyear's Musikmesse. See you there!