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NAMM’s Encore

In last issue’s Software Tech, we covered the iPad takeover of the Winter 2012 NAMM show, but there were many other developments with major implications for pro audio.

In last issue’s Software Tech, we covered the iPad takeover of the Winter 2012 NAMM show, but there were many other developments with major implications for pro audio.

For example, wireless was huge as “cable replacement.” Although wireless setups for individual instruments like mics and guitars have been around for a while, wireless is now poised to hit a whole other level of market penetration. And with commodity prices going through the roof, wireless is not just about convenience, but has economic consequences—being able to control a mixer remotely via an iPad can actually be more cost-effective than buying a snake. Several mixers also allow control via multiple iOS devices, so each person in a band could, for example, dial in their own monitor mix.

So where does this leave “Ethernet snakes”? That remains to be seen, but for everything from wireless in-ear monitors (Wi Digital Systems), to DI boxes (SM Pro Audio), to mixer control (PreSonus, Mackie, Yamaha, etc.), to speakers (Alto Professional, Behringer), it looks like the 2.4 GHz band is going to be very busy this year.

It will also be interesting to see if there’s a backlash. Some people remain convinced that constant bombardment from wireless devices represents a threat to health, and while I’m certainly not qualified to comment, studies do seem inconclusive. If additional studies crop up that cast doubt about the safety of RF emissions, then that could put the brakes on a rapidly accelerating trend.

There were also a couple announcements that qualified as genuine bombshells. Starting with its Version 9 plug-ins due this month, Waves will offer the option for users to ditch the iLok as a means of copy protection. Instead, Waves will offer its own, cloud-based authorization system that lets you manage your licenses.

When you go to its activation page, there are three columns: The left column shows connected devices with licenses, which can be your hard drives or USB memory sticks. The middle column shows your “license cloud” which lists all your licenses, including demos and licenses you own, while the right column shows possible destinations for your licenses (i.e., a connected device, or the license cloud). You check the license you want to transfer in the middle column, select the license destination, then transfer as desired—simple. What’s more, Waves claims that its plug-ins will load faster, which isn’t hard to believe given that the “checking for licenses” process is probably a lot simpler when the system has to deal with only Waves plug-ins.

I asked a Waves representative if the company was going to make this system available to other manufacturers who don’t want to use an iLok, and I basically got a response of “I didn’t hear the question, and even if I had, I didn’t hear your question.” Hmm…

Another big announcement: MOTU is making Digital Performer available not only for Windows, but in both 32- and 64-bit versions. The official response was that the company needed to revamp the program for 64-bit operation anyway, so why not bring Windows into the mix? Yet I can’t help but wonder if Apple’s price cut on Logic 9, coupled with the app store-only distribution—and the outcry against Final Cut Pro X, with fears Logic will be headed down the same path—might have also been a factor. DP has acquired an excellent rep as the audio-for-video application on the Mac, and perhaps it can repeat that on Windows.

Are FCP X users going to switch to Windows and run something like Sony Vegas? Probably not—they can just move sideways on the Mac to Adobe Premiere. But Premiere is also available for Windows, and several people told me that they were considering moving to Windows as a preemptive measure, given Apple’s huge success in the consumer arena and concerns about the company’s commitment to the minuscule pro market. That’s probably an overreaction, but maybe not.

Finally, there was Thunderbolt. Universal Audio had an optional Thunderbolt interface card for its Apollo interface/DSP farm (itself a very interesting product), and Intel was touting Thunderbolt as also appearing on Windows machines toward mid-2012. Granted, Thunderbolt is probably overkill for audio-only applications; if people were feeling serious bandwidth limitations, we’d be seeing USB 3.0 audio interfaces replacing 2.0 models. But it’s not just about bandwidth, it’s connectivity, too. When your “mobile solution” laptop comes back to the studio, you just plug it into your Thunderbolt interface and voilà—audio, video, display and other peripherals turn your laptop into a desktop.

Maybe the “2012 end of the world” cults have it right in one respect—it will be the end of the world as we know it. But what will replace that world looks increasingly interesting.

Craig Anderton is executive editor of Electronic Musician magazine and editor in chief of