Among pro audio/M.I. events, Frankfurt, Germany's Musikmesse/Pro Light+Sound (held March 28 to 31, 2007) takes the prize, with 15 exhibit halls showing the latest gear from 2,400 companies. This year's show drew 108,000 attendees (including 38,000 foreigners) from 120 countries, a six-percent increase over last year's figures.
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 show's immense scale (with nearly twice as many booths as NAMM), 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. For example, your show badge also grants free access to Frankfurt's excellent public transit system, and an S-Bahn subway station is conveniently located in the center of the fairgrounds. ("Messe" is the German word for "fair.") And your Musikmesse badge gets you into Pro Light+Sound, and vice versa.
With a weak dollar reaching near-record lows versus the Euro (about $1.34 = 1 Euro at press time), the show can be expensive for visiting Americanos. However, there's a bright side to this silver cloud, and this same exchange rate imbalance makes U.S. gear more affordable to the European market. As a result, American manufacturers—ranging from Harman, Electro-Voice, Mackie, Apple, Peavey/Crest, Numark/Alesis, Digidesign, E-mu, M-Audio, MOTU, Cakewalk, ART and Meyer Sound, to smaller companies such as Event, PreSonus, PMI, Groove Tubes, Audix and Universal Audio—reported brisk business. Meanwhile, when you see high-end audio exhibitors such as SSL, Neve, DPA, Neumann and Millennia Media at a Musikmesse show, you gotta figure something's up. And a walk through Musikmesse/PL+S quickly provided a confirmation of the ever-blurring lines between pro and M.I.
Overall, the joint was packed and the weather cooperated, with the rain and occasional snow flurries from the week before disappearing, leaving clear skies for the show days. Attendees (mostly dealers and distributors) were spending and everybody was in a good mood. If you've never attended a European show, you should know that there's a bar (and occasional complete lounge) built into nearly every booth. Now you know the real reason why it's hard to make it through all of those halls in a couple days!
ON WITH THE SHOW!
Coming on the heels of the 2007 NAMM (http://mixonline.com/wnamm/Show-Report/) and NSCA (http://mixonline.com/news/nsca-expo-2007-040607/) shows, one might assume that this gargantuan (15-exhibit hall) Euro convention might lose some of its attraction as a launchpad for new gear, but as in years past, we found plenty of cool product debuts—from fun musical toys to serious high-end pro gear. Here are a few highlights...
Alesis iMultiMix 8 USB
The iMultiMix 8 USB from Alesis (www.alesis.com) lets users mix stereo WAV files (16-bit/44.1 kHz) directly to an iPod. Priced at $449, the Mac/Win system includes a dock that supports second- through fifth-generation iPods. The mixer has eight analog inputs (four of which are phantom powered mic preamps), two instrument inputs, digital effects and 3-band EQ on each channel. Steinberg Cubase LE is included.
BIAS (www.bias-inc.com) demoed its $599 Mac-based Peak Pro 6 editing/processing/mastering/delivery software. The update features a redesign of the GUI, and enhancements to the playlist, including new cross fades and the ability to tweak volume envelopes. Other interesting features include Pitch Envelope, Convolve Envelope, Perpetual Looper and Vbox Link. The new version will ship this summer and a variety of upgrade paths are available.
CEntrance (www.centrance.com) showed the MicPort 24/96, a small device that turns any mic into a USB mic. The MicPort 24/96 plugs directly into your microphone and offers 48-volt phantom power, a built-in no-latency headphone output and controls for mic gain and playback level. A 16-bit, 48kHz version is also in the works.
Chandler/EMI (www.chandlerlimited.com) offered two interesting units based on vintage designs found at Abbey Road Studios. The TG 12413 Zener Limiter ($5,000) is a stereo dynamics processor with three compression modes, impedance switching, a sidechain filter and a subtle overdrive function. The TG 12345 Curve Bender ($5,000) is a stereo 4-band EQ with highpass and lowpass shelving, a hold function, a stepped gain control (±10 dB) and a germanium-based line driver that you can use with the EQ circuit bypassed. Note that you'll have to throw in an additional $160 for a power supply for each unit.
The long-awaited Crane Song (www.cranesong.com) $4,500 Egret 8-channel A/D converter and stereo line mixer is finally scheduled to ship this July. The device offers AES/EBU, ADAT and S/MUX digital inputs; eight TRS analog inputs; eight balanced direct outputs; a stereo bus output; and cue send and returns.
Digidesign 003 Factory
Digidesign (www.digidesign.com) drew crowds with its 003 family of analog and digital I/O recording interfaces bundled with Pro Tools LE software and various instrument/effects plug-ins. Priced at $2,495, the 003 Factory has eight touch-sensitive moving faders, eight motion-sensitive rotary encoders and a jog/shuttle wheel. It comes with the premium collection of Digidesign and Bomb Factory plug-ins. Two rackmount versions are also offered: the 003 Rack ($1,295) includes the Pro Tools Ignition Pack 2, and the 003 Rack Factory ($1,695) ships with the same extended software bundle as the 003 Factory.
Dirk Brauner Microphones Phantera
For the engineer who wants high-end Euro mic performance at an affordable price is the Phantera from Dirk Brauner Microphones (www.brauner-microphones.com). This solid-state (FET), German-made studio condenser has a cardioid response, a low 11dBA noise spec and a max SPL handling of 142 dB.
Makers of the alpha channel compressor, elysia (www.elysia.com), introduced the Mpressor ($4,500), a compressor designed for recording and offering settings for extreme dynamics control. The stereo device has balanced analog I/O and sidechain I/O, and includes an Autofast function, an AntiLog release feature and a Max Reduction function.
Equator Audio Q15
The newly launched Equator Audio Research (www.equatoraudio.com) announced its new line of Q Series powered coaxial reference monitors. Available with 10/12/15-inch woofers, the monitors include software for tuning the system to your room, including Secondary Reflection Correction, which is said to compensate for gear such as consoles and computer monitors. The main monitor connects to your computer via USB, and Cat-5 connections are used between monitors. The Q line is designed to provide accurate playback, no matter what the room conditions, with high-SPL capabilities when needed. We had a chance to hear the Q12s, which sounded great.
Focusrite (www.focusrite.com) released Liquid Mix Version 2 software for Liquid Mix, the DSP-powered system delivering 32 channels of EQ and compression that the company unveiled at Musikmesse a year ago. The update will be offered as a free download later this month and adds features such as an EQ sidechain on the compressor, variable buffer size and support of large DAW buffer sizes for lower latency and compatibility with software packages such as WaveLab, Sound Forge and Audition.
JazzMutant (www.jazzmutant.com) unveiled Dexter, a Lemur-like control surface that comes with preset templates for the majority of digital audio workstations. It's expected to be priced slightly higher than the award-winning Lemur and is slated to ship by June.
Replacing its previous HR824 and HR624 monitors, the new THX-approved HR824mk2 ($779/each) and HR624mk2 ($579/each) from Mackie (www.mackie.com) have a cast-aluminum enclosure with a Zero Edge Baffle design. Both have 1-inch titanium dome tweeters paired with 6.7-inch (HR624mk2) or 8.75-inch (HR824mk2) woofers.
Priced around $5,000, Orpheus from Prism Sound (www.prismsound.com) is a FireWire interface with eight analog inputs and outputs, as well as S/PDIF coax and Toslink ports for a total of 18 I/O channels. The interface features four digitally controlled mic preamps, two instrument inputs, two headphone outputs and a Mac/Win application for routing signals and controlling the built-in mixer. ASIO, WDM and Core Audio drivers are supported, as is 5.1 and 7.1 surround capability.
SPL (www.spl-usa.com) and Tonehunter (www.tonehunter.de/eng_index.html) teamed up to create Transducer Model 2601 ($1,500), an analog speaker simulator for recording guitar amps up to 200W. The front panel has switches for selecting parameters such as open/closed speaker cabinet, a simulated dynamic or condenser mic, speaker voicing and mic distance. The rear panel has a mic preamp output, a pair of line outputs and a speaker-thru jack that lets you send a signal back into your speaker cabinet. SPL also showed RackPack, a modular three-rackspace unit that can houses up to eight of the new Transient Designer, De-Esser, DynaMaxx compressor and transformer/transformerless preamp modules.
Steinberg (www.steinberg.net) is shipping Sequel, an entry level, $99 Mac/Win sequencer with recording and editing capabilities that comes with 3.5 GB of sample and loop content. The application includes a live-performance mode.
TC Electronic (www.tcelectronic.com) announced more than a dozen new products. The best among them are the Konnekt Live ($795), an audio interface designed for use with laptops that includes all the features and DSP effects of the Konnekt 24D, as well as a phono input and RIAA EQ curves and the new ResFilter plug-in. The C400XL ($395) is a single-rackspace dual stereo compressor with analog and digital I/O.
AKG Elle C
Created for female vocals is AKG's (www.akg.com) Elle C. This handheld cardioid condenser features a gold-plated XLR output, a rugged spring steel wire mesh grill and is offered in high-gloss metallic or white pearlescent finishes.
Allen & Heath (www.allen-heath.com) unveiled a fourth control surface for its iLive digital mixing system. Intended for applications where space is an issue, the new compact iLive-80 has 80 control strips in two sections, each with four banks and a multicolor-backlit LCD above each fader for labeling and color-coding channel info. Rotary channel encoders with LED indicators control preamp, filter and EQ, and a color LCD touchscreen shows/controls gates, compressors, limiter/de-essers, graphic EQs, effects, automation and more. An Ethernet connection links iLive80 to the iDR-10 stage rack (with 10 slots for 8-channel analog or digital I/Os) and the iDR-64 DSP module processes 64 channels into 32 mixes—assignable as auxes, groups, matrix and main outputs.
Bose (www.bose.com) debuted the L1 Model II system and T1 ToneMatch™ audio engine that extend its 2003 Cylindrical Radiator series (see the Mix profile at http://mixonline.com/livesound/applications/audio_doctor_house/index.html). New Articulated Array speakers allow the L1 Model II to deliver more uniform sound coverage across the stage and into the audience, while the T1 ToneMatch audio engine offers a complete suite of studio-class effects and processing, as well as additional channels for instruments or mics.
DiGiCo (www.digiconsoles.com) announced a package from Advanced Design of Kentucky (www.adkproaudio.com/digico.asp) that adds plug-in capability and simultaneous 56-track recording to DiGiCo mixers—or 112-track recording if plug-ins are not required. The entire system is housed in a four-rackspace unit with 640 GB of audio storage and two removable drive bays. The Pick ‘n Mix solution lets users specify specific plug-in cards for their preferred effects such as UAD, Waves and TC PowerCore. Recordings are made in the industry-standard Broadcast WAV for playback and editing on any software/DAW package. Connection is via two MADI cables and pricing is affordable: less than $10k.
Meyer Sound UPJunior VariO™
The latest addition to Meyer Sound's (www.meyersound.com) popular UltraSeries, the UPJunior VariO™ loudspeaker brings the sonic signature, flexible mounting/rigging options and high power-to-size ratio of the award-winning UPJ-1P to a small package. The 28-pound, self-powered, two-way enclosure is capable of 126dB peak SPLs from its 8-inch neodymium magnet woofer and 0.75-inch exit/2-inch diaphragm HF compression driver, providing a 65 to 20k Hz response. Meyer also unveiled its MJF-212 high-output stage wedge. Inside its low-profile enclosure, 1,275 bi-amped watts drive dual 12-inch woofers and a 4-inch diaphragm compression driver on a 50x50-degreee CD horn.
Nexo (www.nexo-sa.com) broadens its GEO S Series of tangent-array loudspeakers. The new GEO S1230 can be used stand-alone, arrayable horizontally or vertically and either flown or ground stacked with subwoofers. This two-way, 30° trapezoidal cabinet achieves 103dB SPLs from a single 12-inch driver, coupled to a proprietary Directivity Phase Device (DPD). Horizontal coverage is configurable at 80° or 120°. The GEO S1210 operates to a similar specification, but with 10° dispersion characteristics coming from a more rectangular enclosure.
Making its PL+S debut was RHAON (Renkus-Heinz Audio Operations Network), the new loudspeaker network from Renkus-Heinz (www.renkus-heinz.com). Available for every R-H powered speaker, RHAON (pronounced "rayon") provides network control, digital audio distribution, DSP and system monitoring via standard Ethernet hardware. Using the CobraNet standard for digital audio distribution, RHAON allows 64 channels of 24-bit audio at up to 96 kHz. RHAON speakers have onboard DSP for crossover, parametric EQ, driver alignment and overdrive protection and RHAON PC software, which features drag-and-drop signal routing/network management.
Sennheiser (www.sennheiserusa.com) showed the MD 5235, a cardioid dynamic mic head for its top of the line SKM 5200 UHF wireless. Available in black or silver finishes, the head is ideal for use on high-SPL stages and can be used with all handheld transmitters of its 5000 Series—SKM 5000, SKM 5000 N and SKM 5200.
Soundcraft (www.soundcraftdigital.com) expanded its Vi digital live console series with the Vi4, which includes all of the Vi6's capabilities, but in a compact package for venues where space is at a premium. Just under five feet in length, the Vi4 offers access to 48 inputs on 24 faders with a total of 27 output buses and inherits the Vistonics II touchscreen interface and Soundcraft FaderGlow features from the Vi6.
Extending its successful V-Series, Tannoy (www.tannoy.com) introduced the PowerV line of active loudspeakers, including five full-range models and two subs. The full-range systems employ Tannoy’s Dual Concentric point source drive unit and all models include onboard Class-D amplification with multiple flying points/mounting hardware options and integral carrying handles.
TC Electronic Konnekt Live
Konnekt Live, from TC Electronic (www.tcelectronic.com) is an audio interface for live performers that puts the preamps, audio conversion, onboard DSP and effects from the company's Konnekt 24D in a tough, road-ready case. It's bundled with a version of Ableton Live Lite 6, TC's Fabrik R live and Fabrik C Live, a turntable cable, RIAA filter plug-in and ResFilter filtering effects plug-in.
Offered in digitally self-powered or discrete passive models optimized for use with its controllers and power amps, Turbosound's (www.turbosound.com) NuQ line of networked loudspeakers feature neodymium magnets, rotatable HF waveguides and pre-formed plywood construction. Available in various sizes with similar voicing, NuQ systems range from the ultra-compact 8-inch, passive, two-way NuQ-8 up to the 15-inch two-way NuQ-15, which delivers 133dB SPLs. TurboDrive software adds intuitive, real-time, control of Turbosound controllers and NuQ loudspeakers individually or over a network.
Musikmesse just wouldn't be Musikmesse without us checking out some hot new musical toys, and this show didn't disappoint.
Akai MPK 49
Akai (www.akaipro.com) demonstrated the MPK 49, a USB MIDI keyboard controller with 12 MPC-style pads, eight knobs, eight sliders, transport buttons and a built-in sequencer. The semi-weighted keyboard offers aftertouch and the pads sense velocity and pressure.
Arturia (www.arturia.com) unveiled the Origin Keyboard synth, which adds a 5-octave keyboard, ribbon controller and modulation and pitch-bend wheels to the Origin desktop unit announced at Winter NAMM. The main control panel swivels flat across the keyboard for storage. The Origin instruments feature TigerSHARC DSP processors and are designed to let you use four patches from several of the company's soft synths, each with 32-note polyphony. Retail prices are yet to be determined and both items will hit the streets near the end of this year.
Boss (www.bosscorp.co.jp/en/index.html) showed the ME-20 and ME-20B multi-effects pedals for guitar and bass, respectively. But our fave Boss item of the show was the RE-20, a dual-pedal recreation of the Roland Space Echo. Even over headphones—and with the din of demos in the background—we were transported back decades while playing a Fender Strat through the RE-20. It’s months away, but expect to hear more about these products at Summer NAMM.
John Bowen Solaris
Designer John Bowen (www.johnbowen.com), whose past projects include working on Korg's Wavestation and OASYS as well as classics from Sequential Circuits, teamed with Holger Drenkelfort and Juergen Kindermann of SonicCore GmbH to produce the Solaris keyboard synthesizer, which offers an array of sound generators (analog-modeling, wavetable, sample playback, among others) and a number of popular filter types. A pair of vector-synthesis mixers, a host of envelopes and LFOs, an effects section and a button/knob-filled front panel complete the scene. October is the target date for release. Although there is no definitive word on the price, it’s said to be in the $3,500 range. Based on what we heard at the show, this could be a formidable synthesizer once it hits the streets. Keep your eyes (and ears) on this one.
Eowave (www.eowave.com) showed the Eobody 2 analog sensor-to-MIDI system, which now uses a USB cable to connect the hardware box to a computer and RJ45 cables to connect the main box to the eight-input breakout boxes. The updated Eobody increases the sensor system's resolution to 12 bits and offers lower latency times. A collection of new sensors is also in the works. Eowave says the Eobody 2 will be priced about the same as the original Eobody.
Novation (www.novationmusic.com) showed the Nio 2|4, a USB-powered tabletop interface offering two simultaneous inputs (chosen from pairs of XLR, 1/4-inch, or RCA jacks), four RCA outs, MIDI I/O, an onboard multi-effects processor and dual headphone outs. The prototype of the small, portable device had a solid, heavy duty feel about it.
Native Instruments (www.native-instruments.com) announced Kore 2 (due in June), which includes a redesigned interface/controller, a library of 500 KoreSounds, and the ability to have eight variations of a sound and morph between them.
Peter Tools (www.petertools.com) says it will release a Mac OS X version of Hammer this summer. The application lets users run audio into Propellerhead Reason.
New from Roland (www.rolandus.com) is the HD-1, a compact budget-priced V-drum kit. Seven pads are attached to a single vertical stand, while the pair of support legs each have a built-in pedal. Also on view was the SonicCell 128-voice synth module and USB audio interface. The device supports WAV, AIFF and MP3 audio and it plays Standard MIDI Files.
Ultimate Sound Bank (www.ultimatesupport.com) demonstrated Beat Inc., a $399 sample player with an MPC-style interface. The application includes a waveform editor, as well as construction kits and one-shots.
Yellow Tools (www.yellowtools.com) will release its Independence Version 1.5 sample library/player as a free update to registered users. (The boxed version ships this month.) Also due in April, Yellow Tools plans to release the Independence Free player, which will include some content but won't require a dongle to use.
Selecting our Top 10 list out of thousands of products from hundreds of exhibits was tough—there were many fine runner-ups—but we somehow managed to whittle down our selection to the following finalists. Listed alphabetically, here are our choices.
Alesis iMultiMix 8 USB Mixer
John Bowen Solaris
Chandler TG12345 Curve Bender
Elysia Mpressor Compressor
Equator Studio Monitors
Meyer Sound UPJunior
Native Instruments Core 2
Europe's favorite music/pro audio show returns to Frankfurt next year, March 12-15, 2008. Meanwhile for more Musikmesse information, visit http://musik.messefrankfurt.com or http://pls.messefrankfurt.com for details about ProLight+Sound.
Mix would like to thank Gino Robair and Marian Sandberg for their assistance with this report.
MORE ON MESSE
Musikmesse/PL+S Survival Tips: Mix's executive editor George Petersen reveals the insider secrets for navigating the world's largest pro audio/M.I. tradeshow; go to http://blog.mixonline.com/audiobites/2007/03/18/musikmesse-survival-tips/.
The 2007 Musikmesse International Press Awards (MIPA): Mix, Electronic Musician and Remix joined music and pro audio journalists from around the world to pick the best new product offerings of 2007. The results are at http://mixonline.com/news/mipa-awards-2007-033007/.