It was magic all over again in the Magic Kingdom. This year — as in years past — California's torrential rains stopped and the sun shined while blizzards struck the Northeast and Midwest. Inside the show, the mood was optimistic: Business is back! Some 78,000 attendees turned out for the party and NAMM's halls were filled with blue-badged store buyers.
On the tech side, non-music companies such as Dell and Intel upped their presence considerably, hosting a huge Black Eyed Peas concert with Digidesign, whose booth sported mostly PC-driven DAWs. Apple touted both Logic Pro 7 and the 24-track recording capabilities of GarageBand 2. As low-cost gear becomes more powerful, the lines between consumer and pro continue to blur. Perfect for laptop production, compact all-in-one recording interfaces were everywhere, and USB ports showed up on everything — even microphones. With NAMM's record-setting 1,428 exhibitors, there was plenty to see. Here are a few debuts that caught our attention.
It's a workstation, it's an instrument, it's OASYS, the latest incarnation of Korg's (www.korg.com) Open Architecture Synthesis Studio platform in the form of an all-in-one synth workstation. OASYS offers a wealth of synthesis options, including PCM, wave sequencing, vector synthesis, analog modeling and tonewheel organ modeling, plus Korg's KARMA algorithmic performance technology, sequencing and dozens of onboard effects. OASYS integrates a 16-track hard disk recorder, CD burner and hardware keyboard with multiple real-time controllers, including joystick, ribbon controllers and sliders, plus velocity-sensitive drum pads. A 10.4-inch TouchView display is built in.
Newcomers Synful demoed innovative new synth technology for generating natural orchestral phrasing and articulation. Synful Reconstructive Phrase Modeling uses additive synthesis to model orchestral instruments based on analysis of idiomatic phrases played on each wind or string instrument. Download a VST/DXi Synful Orchestra plug-in demo at www.synful.com.
Tascam (www.tascam.com) packed 'em in with its DM-3200 48-channel pro digital console. Based on the simple ergonomics of the DM-24, the desk records at up to 96 kHz/24-bit, features 32 channel inputs, 16 return inputs, 16 output buses, eight aux buses, 4-band fully parametric EQ, dynamics on each of the 32 channels and moving fader automation. Up to 6.1 surround panning is available, and with the optional 24-channel FireWire interface card, the DM-3200 becomes a powerful all-in-one computer interface/control surface/full-function digital mixer.
Priced at a remarkable $199 (street), the Lexicon (www.lexiconpro.com) MX200 dual reverb/effects has a USB/VST interface that lets it function as a “hardware plug-in” within any VST-compatible DAW. In non-DAW applications, the MX200's analog ¼-inch I/Os, intuitive front panel and great sounds make it ideal for any live or studio rack.
Attendees were mesmerized by the demos of VoicePro, the all-in-one voice processor from TC-Helicon (www.tcelectronic.com). The unit offers EQ, dynamics, pitch correction, de-essing, multipart harmony and the ability to morph the human voice from male to female and back again at the touch of a button. The dual-rackspace unit also features a color screen, browser and help screen with the entire manual.
At M-Audio (www.m-audio.com), drum machine granddaddy Roger Linn demoed the Black Box, a creative tool that he helped design for guitarists. The $299 unit features amp modeling, beat-synched effects, guitar/mic preamps and a drum machine based on Linn's Adrenalinn technology, plus a USB interface. M-Audio also kicked off a software line with Key Rig, a virtual keyboard rack, and Drum & Bass Rig, a virtual bass and drums rack.
The Aphex (www.aphex.com) Model 230 Master Voice Channel ($799) features RPA tube preamplification, Easyrider compression, Logic Assisted gating, split-band de-essing, parametric EQ, and Aphex's Aural Exciter and Big Bottom psychacoustic effects.
Besides balanced I/O, ADK's AP-1 mic preamp (www.adkmic.com) has a hi-Z input and a loading switch for adding extra series resistance to very low-impedance vintage mics, and lets users swap optional input transformers from Lundahl, Sowter, API 2520, John Hardy 990, Fred Forssell 992 and more.
Audient's (dist. by Audio Exchange International (www.axidistribution.com) Sumo high-resolution summing amplifier offers 16-paired input channels (through DA-88 D-subs), pre/post-switchable balanced TRS mix inserts, and balanced XLR mix and monitor outs. A bus compressor based on the Audient ASP8024 console is available; an AES/EBU output card is optional and units can be expanded for up to 64 analog inputs.
The Dangerous Music (www.dangerousmusic.com) booth was abuzz about the new “Master” mastering tool. Crafted to the usual tweakhead specs, it offers two stereo ins, three outs, three inserts, another insert capable of M/S operation and attenuators stepped in 0.5dB increments.
Cakewalk showed an early incarnation of SONAR x64, touted as the world's first “truly native 64-bit host DAW application.” A preview version (available at www.cakewalk.com/x64) extends the amount of RAM available for music production on the PC to a staggering 1 terabyte — letting users load entire audio clips, sample banks and libraries into RAM; future versions will offer a high-res mix engine. Cakewalk also showed Version 2 of Project5, with a streamlined design, high-performance engine, integrated audio and more.
The Lemur programmable touchscreen from Cycling '74 (www.cycling74.com) and French company Jazz Mutant SAS is an addictively interactive tabletop controller with a remarkably pro feel, despite the fact that it has no moving parts. The screen can display faders, panners and other tactile necessities for DAW tweaking. The Cyclists also demoed HIPNO 1, a suite with more than 40 VST effects and instrument plug-ins. The granular, spectral and filter/delay-based plug-ins feature the unique Hipnoscope user interface and is a must-see/hear.
Waves (www.waves.com) had some voodoo going in the shape of the Q-Clone. The native or Pro Tools-based plug-in uses convolution technology to capture and then “freeze” the sound of an outboard hardware equalizer, allowing use on multiple tracks. Users can save the settings and easily add to them via a button push.
Additions to Eventide's (www.eventide.com) plug-in line will make old-school users happy. The H3000 Factory and H3000 Band Delay plug-ins are available as part of the Anthology bundle of plugs, which also includes the Clockworks Legacy, Eventide Reverb and Octavox plug-ins previously released by themselves.
The Oxford Restoration Tools plug-ins from Sony (www.sonyplugins.com) offer De-Buzz, De-Noise and De-Click options, all for $1,195. Sony's Sound Forge 8 adds a bevy of new features including Windows XP theme support, updated playlist and regions list windows, and the ability to save paths in rendered media.
Synthax (www.synthax.com) unveiled upgrades of Magix's Samplitude and Sequoia workstations. Samplitude V8 is beefed up for surround, with 5.1 panning, multichannel EQ and a convolution-based real-time surround room simulator. Other enhancements include expanded MIDI tools, an analog modeling suite and Magix's Elastic Audio, which lets users pitch-shift audio as flexibly as MIDI. Sequoia V8 offers 12-channel surround, a multi-source manager, surround room simulator, 48-channel mixer and more.
Propellerhead Software (www.propellerheads.se), now distributed by Line 6, announced V. 3 of its popular Reason software. The update focuses on live performance and features a Combinator module for creating and saving patches built from elaborate chains of Reason devices. Also new in V. 3: instant integration with most major hardware controllers, an expanded soundbank with more multisampled instruments and the Mclass mastering suite of effects.
IK Multimedia (www.ikmultimedia.com) had a bevy of new goodies, including the Amplitube 2 amp modeling plug-in, a SampleTank 2.1 upgrade, the newly acquired Miroslav Philharmonik Orchestral Sample Collection, a TDM version of T-Racks and the Studiophonik sound module. The big news at Native Instruments (www.native-instruments.com) was NI Komplete Sound, a package including Reaktor Electronic Instruments Vol. 1 and 2, Battery Studio Drums, Synthetic Drums, FM7 Sounds Vol. 1 and 2, Absynth Sounds Vol. 1 and the B4 “Vintage Expansion” Tonewheel Set — all for $339 list.
Sometimes less is more: Celemony's (www.celemony.com) Uno is a streamlined, single-track version of Melodyne. The $199 Uno offers Melodyne's “melody editing” functions in a simple drag-and-drop interface, and employs macros to correct with a single key press, retaining phrasing including vibrato.
PSP showed V. 2 of DSP-Quattro (www.dsp-quattro.com), a 2-track Mac-based audio editor from i3 Software Engineering. The upgrade adds batch processing, a plug-in database, improved file processing speed and enhanced file management to its feature set.
In other NAMM news, Applied Acoustics Systems' (www.applied-acoustics.com) showed Tassman 4, which adds a Performance mode, expanded library, audio input processing and improved algorithms. Arturia (www.arturia.com) debuted the ARP 2600V, a plug-in version of the famous “Blue Meanie.” URS (www.ursplugins.com) released a VST version of its Classic Console Equalizer Bundle. Universal Audio (www.uaudio.com) added the UA Precision Equalizer to its Mastering Series UAD-1 plug-ins, and announced that it will develop UAD-1 plug-in versions of classic Roland processors, starting with the Dimension D chorus, the CE-1 chorus and the RE-201 Space Echo. The Spectrasonics (www.spectrasonics.net) S.A.G.E. engine is picking up steam: ILIO debuted four Groove Control — activated collections as new S.A.G.E. Xpanders for Stylus RMX, including a Stark Raving Beats multitrack live drum collection and Skippy's Noizbox. WaveMachine Labs (www.drumagog.com) announced V. 4 of the Drumagog drum replacement app, now available for VST and RTAS, plus a BFD add-on.
NEW MICS, NEW IDEAS
Samson (www.samsontech.com) and BLUE (www.bluemic.com) showed mics with USB outputs. MXL's (www.mxlmics.com) V6 and V12 are the first in its Silicon Valve™ Series of solid-state designs that emulate the warmth of tube mics. Beyer (www.beyerdynamic.com) expanded its Opus Series of vocal and instrument mics with nine models for critical live and studio applications. Telefunken USA's (www.telefunkenusa.com) affordable R-F-T M16 is a $1,399, nine-pattern, large-diaphragm tube mic with shock-mount.
One trend at NAMM was different-looking mics. Studio Projects' (www.studioprojects.com) lollipop-shaped CS1 is a cardioid, large-diaphragm condenser with high/lowpass filters and pad — each with four selections. The similar CS3 adds five pattern choices. The Red (www.vintagemicrophone.com) Type B is a discrete, solid-state Class-A mic featuring an interchangeable lollipop element. The $699 mic's bayonet top also accommodates capsules from Gefell or BLUE's renowned Bottle mic. In addition to the clip-on condenser ADX10-F flute mic from Audix (www.audix-usa.com), its crimson-hued FireBall™ is a handheld dy-namic designed for harmonica players, with a flat 50 to 16k Hz response and 150-ohm XLR output. The Titan from SE Electronics (www.sonic-distribution.com) has a unique look, is built like a rock and features a large-diaphragm titanium capsule and shock-mount. Electro-Voice's (www.electrovoice.com) The Raven™ dynamic mic features a vintage look and a large swivel yoke-mount; the Cardinal™ is similarly shaped (but in a cherry finish) with a cardioid condenser capsule with low-noise, Class-A discrete electronics. Designed for studio vocals, CAD's (www.cadmics.com) e3002 has a huge black-and-gold body housing a 1.1-inch diameter, dual-diaphragm, 3-pattern capsule and low-noise servo condenser electronics. Weirdest shape? AKG's (www.akg.com) C542BL recording boundary mic is a 3-inch diameter, indestructible metal plate for use on any reflective surface: walls, ceilings, floors, piano lids, etc.
Focusrite (www.focusrite.com) showed Saffire, a 24-bit/192kHz FireWire interface with onboard DSP. It features four inputs (two mic preamps) and 10 outs for creating multiple headphone mixes or 5.1/7.1 monitoring. Saffire ships with plug-ins for compression, EQ, reverb and amp modeling and monitor control software that works with your recording application.
The AudioFire12 from Echo Digital Audio (www.echoaudio.com) takes its Gina and Layla technology to the next step. This $799 24-bit FireWire recording interface has 12 analog inputs and 12 analog outputs (all +4dBu TRS), 44.1/48/96/192kHz operation, 24 front panel LED meters, word clock sync (to gang multiple units) and MIDI I/O — all in a single rackspace.
Tascam DM-3200 digital console
Edirol's (www.edirol.com) $495 FA-66 FireWire interface records up to six channels at 24-bit/96 kHz, or up to four channels at 24-bit/192 kHz. The twin XLR/TRS combo jacks can record two phantom-powered mics, a stereo line-level device or two hi-Z inputs directly into the computer.
API (www.apiaudio.com) expanded its DSM modular “mixer in a rack.” The new DSM 24, DSM 48 and DSM 72 units are the final summing outputs for the rack, supporting 24, 48 and 72 output channels, respectively. Rear panel XLRs and Tascam D-subs handle DAW outputs, aux sends and buses.
SLS (www.slsloudspeakers.com) demoed PS8R, an active 220-watt bi-amped version of its popular S8R two-way studio monitor, featuring an 8-inch woofer and ultrasmooth large ribbon tweeter.
Ultrasone (www.ultrasoneusa.com) introduced PROline, a new series of headphones featuring larger transducers, removable earpieces and removable straight or coiled cables. Prices range from $239 to $399.
There were plenty of other neat toys at NAMM, and we will present these in our new products sections in future issues. Meanwhile, NAMM Summer Session 2005 takes place in Indianapolis, July 22 to 24, 2005. Start revving those engines now!
George Petersen, Kevin Becka, Sarah Jones, Maureen Droney, Barry Rudolph and Michael Cooper contributed to this report.
HITS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
DigiTech's (www.digitech.com) DF-7 pedal uses modeling technology to re-create the sound of seven classic distortion boxes. Going further, its Eric Clapton Crossroads and Jimi Hendrix Experience pedals precisely model the tones of these guitar legends. The pedals really do the task, but guitar chops and batteries are not included.
Discrete Drums' (www.discretedrums.com) Heavy Mental Drums ($249) and Ruff Drumz Bitch! ($229) collections feature drummers Tony Morra and Andy Kravitz performing on tracks that are sliced-and-diced for easy integration into your DAW.
EZQuest's (www.ezq.com) Thunder Pro A/V drives hold up to 400 GB and feature three FireWire ports, a USB port and PC/Mac compatibility.
Neutrik's (www.neutrikusa.com) new NC**XX line of no-screw, fast-assembly XLR connectors were cool, but we also previewed its XLRs coming later this year that swivel to work as straight or 90-degree connectors. Yeah!
THAT Corporation (www.thatcorp.com) is now shipping its InGenius™ balanced line driver ICs, which act like a transformer, maximizing interference protection while providing ultralow-noise performance.
LIVE SOUND HITS AT NAMM
NAMM has a whole lot more than just musical instruments and recording gear. Listed alphabetically, here are our top live sound reinforcement picks.
The Alto (www.altoproaudio.com) PS5HA molded speakers pack a 15-inch woofer, 1.75-inch compression driver and 500-watt bi-amping into an enclosure with fly points and 128dB SPL, but they are sized like competitive 12-inch models. Onboard 40-bit DSP processing handles crossover, 20-band EQ, multiband dynamics, delay/phase alignment and more.
dbx's (www.dbxpro.com) DriveRack 4800 has a 96kHz processing engine, four analog and AES/EBU inputs, eight analog and AES/EBU outputs, Harman HiQnet support and optional CobraNet interfacing. Features include DSP inserts on the I/Os, EQ, delay, dbx compression/limiting, bandpass and crossover filters, and a new ergonomic front panel with full-color screen.
Ideal for small installs or drive-rack snaking, LightViper 1608 from FiberPlex (www.fiberplex.com) is a bi-directional, 8-channel (four AES3 digital or 8 line-level analog) digital snake system with single-rackspace send/receive units and up to 1.25 miles of fiber-optic cabling that also carries RS-422 data.
JBL's (www.jblpro.com) VRX932LA compact 12-inch, two-way line array is designed for small to mid-size venues with up to six units flown, stacked or tripod/pole-mounted over a companion SRX718S subwoofer.
Developed with EAW, Mackie's (www.mackie.com) new flagship Super Active Series sports silver grilles and a “z” model designation. These powered speakers range from 500 to 1,300 watts and feature single or dual 15-inch woofers, neodymium MF/HF drivers and 18mm Baltic birch ply enclosures.
Available in frame sizes from 24 to 64 channels, the Midas (www.midasconsoles.com) Siena console features 16 aux sends (reconfigurable as stereo pairs), preamps/4-band EQ based on the flagship XL4, switchable insert points on all outputs and a unique solo tracking system that allows the soloed outputs to be shown on Klark Teknik's Helix EQ system.
Soundcraft's (www.soundcraft.com) GB8 is an 8-bus version of its successful GB4 mixers in 16 to 64-channel models. Features include an 11×4 matrix, four mute groups, optional backup PSU, L/R plus mono outputs and a dual-mode design for front-of-house or monitor duties.
UREI (www.ureidj.com) is back — at least in the form of a Soundcraft-produced updated reissue of the classic UREI 1620 DJ mixer. The new 1620LE has six inputs (two phono, three line and one mic), 2-band master EQ, balanced house and booth volumes, and headphone monitoring of any input. UREI also showed the 1601S and 1601, two new 2-channel digital scratch mixers.Wharfedale's (www.wharfedalepro.com) Comax Series is based on a high-power, coaxial 12-inch driver mounted in a compact molded enclosure with 400W of bi-amping. Its multiple flying points can also be fitted with removeable casters for portable P.A., while a matching 600W subwoofer creates a high-SPL, full-range system. Deliveries are planned for mid-2005.