Frankfurt, Germany’s Musikmesse (March 21-24, 2011) is a musician’s Mecca that everyone in the music production industry should experience at least once in his/her lifetime. It is by far the world’s biggest show for musical instruments, live music production and even the music business, dwarfing other tradeshows here in the U.S. Held annually for more than 25 years, the show is so expansive that it takes each of the four days that the show takes place just to see most of what you want to see, but even then you’re moving at a fevered pace to do so.
This year, my trip found me really focusing on the ProLight and Sound areas of the show, while taking an occasional stroll into the vintage guitar room to look at some amazing instrument collections. As much fun as looking at old guitars is for me, my real joy was in learning about the amazing array of new products available for audio and music production.
I can’t possibly cover everything I saw but here are the Top 10 new audio tools I saw at Musikmesse 2011.
BIAS Peak Studio XT
One of the most amazing things I saw demo'd was the new Peak Studio line. Not only has the company made a number of improvements in Version 7 of Peak Pro, but the Peak Studio XT suite comes bundled with full editions of SoundSoap 2, SoundSoap Pro 2 and the impressive Master Perfection Suite in AU, RTAS and VST formats, allowing you to use these awesome plug-ins in your other DAW applications. What really saved my skin at Musikmesse was Peak Pro’s new feature called Declipper. I was shooting Web videos with my iPhone 4 and using the iRig microphone from IK Multimedia, a handheld condenser microphone that looks and feels like a famous-brand dynamic mic. I was constantly reminding the people being filmed to hold the mic low and not eat the thing, but inevitably it would drift up toward their mouth while talking, causing the audio input to clip. Thanks to Declipper—which looks in front of and behind the clipped signal and then interpolates the correct volume and fixes the clipping—I was able to salvage several videos that otherwise would not have been usable. Not only was that handy for this show report’s videos, but the ability to now save an otherwise awesome take while recording by removing a few wayward clips made this the most impressive software technology I saw.
Neumann KH Monitors
Neumann announced its new KH line of studio monitors at last year’s Musikmesse, but wasn’t showing them until this year, which the company did with a brilliant surround sound presentation using the KH120 models while simultaneously launching the new KH810subwoofer. These monitors are exactly what you expect from Neumann. Even in a noisy tradeshow, sitting in the sweet spot for the demo was a delight to the ear, and I could only imagine just how sweet they would sound in a proper environment.
ADAM A77X Monitor
Speaking of monitor speakers, I also checked out the debut of the new ADAM A77X monitor model. If the new Neumann monitors are the Ferrari of speakers, surely ADAM is the Lamborghini. The attention to design aesthetics and amazing reproduction of sound already well-known to ADAM monitor fans has firmly established ADAM as a premier monitor manufacturer, but its new A77X is an astounding new redesign within its award-winning AX Series, completely re-engineered from scratch to include larger voice coils and more powerful amplification for more output and great linear excursion. How did they sound? Brilliant. There horizontally designed speakers feature ADAM’s proprietary X-ART tweeter, two 7-inch woofers with 1.5-inch voice coils, making them capable of both deep registers and maximum sound pressure levels. If horizontal monitors are what you want for your mixing room, I highly recommend checking out the new A77X monitors from ADAM.
Apogee Duet 2 and JAM
First things first, the new Duet 2 is an amazing upgrade from the original Duet, which first brought Apogee's astounding audio conversion to the masses with its 2-channel Duet. The new Duet 2 is about $100 pricier than the original model, but the company pumped in some new bells and whistles to make it well-worth the extra money. New features in the Duet 2 include completely redesigned mic preamps and converters, four outputs, independent speaker and headphone outs, balanced outputs, USB 2 high-speed connectivity, 24-bit/192kHz recording, full-color OLED display, configurable touch pads, Maestro 2 software, redesigned breakout cable, soft limiting of inputs and, by popular demand, Apogee’s new Breakout box (sold separately). This was clearly the overall Best in Show product for me. However, Apogee didn’t stop there. In a pro audio show that seemed to have iPads on display at every other booth, Apogee was also showing its new JAM guitar interface that allows you to connect your electric guitar directly to your iPad, which Apogee demo'd with some nice Gibson Les Paul guitars and GarageBand for iPad. It’s a great little product, very handy and I’m a sucker for a display with a Les Paul and a set of headphones that let me noodle away for a few minute.
Spectrasonics Tribute to Bob Moog With the Bob Moog Tribute Library
Under the “this is just too cool” category, Spectrasonics announced that owner Eric Persing has created and released the Bob Moog Tribute library, which features more than 700 stunning new sounds for Omnisphere, Spectrasonics’ flagship synthesizer virtual instrument. The sounds in the library were created by more than 40 of the world's top synth artists, remixers and sound designers, including Hans Zimmer, Vince Clarke (Erasure/Depeche Mode), Jean Michel Jarre, the Crystal Method, Jordan Rudess, Money Mark (Beastie Boys/Beck), Bernie Worrell (P-Funk/Talking Heads), Larry Fast (Peter Gabriel/Synergy), Roger Joseph Manning Jr. (Air/Fiona Apple), Ryuichi Sakamoto (YMO), Morgan Page (Madonna/Katy Perry), Keith Shocklee (Bomb Squad/Public Enemy), Steve Porcaro (Toto), Fredwreck (Snoop Dogg/50 Cent), Jan Hammer (Jeff Beck/Mahavishnu Orchestra), Michael Boddicker (Michael Jackson), Richard Devine (Aphex Twin), Patrick Moraz (Yes/Moody Blues), Eddie Jobson (UK/Roxy Music), Diego Stocco, Danny Elfman, the Moog Cookbook and many more.
The 2.4 GB of new sound sources in the library were developed using highly creative processing techniques, often with exotic gear like rare Buchla Modulars, Jean Michel Jarre's EMS Synthi AKS, Hans Zimmer's massive Modular Moog (including 1,027 round-robin Moog drum samples!) and Persing's unique OMG-1. With so many different world-class artists contributing, the library is very rich in style and filled with inspiring, cutting-edge sounds. Coolest of all, Spectrasonics is giving all of the proceeds from the sale of the new Bob Moog Tribute Library to support the innovative projects of the Bob Moog Foundation, including the MoogLab student outreach program, the creation of the Moogseum in Moog's hometown of Asheville, N.C., and to preserve and share Moog's extensive and historic archives. Bob Moog Tribute Library product page
If all that wasn’t enough, Persing and Spectrasonics launched a very cool contest where the lucky winner is going to win an OMG-1 hardware synthesizer, which was was designed by Persing as a live performance instrument and is not a commercial product; it’s truly one-of-a-kind, integrating the worlds of analog synthesis, computers, software synthesis and the latest multitouch surfaces into one extraordinary instrument. The state-of-the-art, dual-manual OMG-1 combines a Moog Little Phatty® analog synthesizer, Omnisphere, a powerful internal Apple Mac Mini computer, dual Apple iPads®, dual iPods® and Spectrasonics’ new Omni TR™ iPad app—all integrated into a beautiful, hand-crafted curly maple cabinet created by American artisan Daniel Auon. Contest page
Dangerous Music Liaison
I stopped by the Dangerous Music booth to score a cool toy yo-yo for my son and get a first-hand look at the company's recently announced new product, Liaison, which is a hand-wired, point-to-point, high-end routing/switching and patching tool for mixing and mastering with analog equipment that provides six insert points and parallel effects loops, giving you tons of flexibility in using your favorite analog compressors, EQs, leveling amps and other equipment. No price or release date has been set as of Musikmesse for Liaison, so keep an eye out for that information.
IK Multimedia iRig
As previously mentioned, I used my iPhone 4 and IK Multimedia’s iRig microphone to capture sound and video at the Messe booths I visited. The new iRig microphone is an amazing product that provides the user with a handheld microphone experience with the look and feel of a dynamic microphone, but with a variable sensitivity condenser microphone capsule inside. The iRig gets its phantom power from the iPad or iPhone. At a mere $59.95 MSRP, it’s a really great bargain and provides a very directional pattern with crisp sound that also includes a 1/8-inch headphone jack for monitoring the microphone input. It's compatible with apps that use the microphone input on an iPad or iPhone, and with the release of GarageBand for iPad, it's one of the few ways to get good-sounding vocals recorded on your 21st-century tablet studio device. In addition to the iRig, the folks at IK Multimedia gave me a look at their various products for iPad and iPhone, including VocaLive (a vocal processor app with 12 effects and multitrack recording) and iRig Recorder (perfect for capturing interviews, podcasts and other simple recording needs on an iPad or iPhone).
ADK Microphones Frankfurt Edition and More
ADK introduced three cool new products, including from their 3 Zigma line, a new transformer-coupled small-diaphragm head amp mic with a pad and highpass filter, great for high-SPL sources like snare drums. Appropriately, ADK used Musikmesse as the place to announce the new Frankfurt Edition 49 Custom FET mic, which emulates an old M49 but with a more slow saturation circuit with an Oxford transformer. Also, finally releasing is the T7 tri-polar high-SPL microphone with similar specs to a Neumann U87 for around $400.
Universal Audio UA2 Satellite
The UAD-2 Powered Plug-Ins platform is now available to iMac and MacBook Pro or other portable computer users, or those who simply want to be able to take their UAD capabilities with them with this release. The UAD-2 Satellite DUO and QUAD (FireWire 400/800 format) lets you use Universal Audio's UAD Powered Plug-Ins, the kind of which most native Mac or PC-based systems would have trouble delivering without some serious under-the-hood power onboard. They are compatible with Logic, Cubase, Nuendo, Pro Tools, StudioOne, Digital Performer or SONAR and other DAW/production applications. Among other amazing new plug-ins, Universal Audio also showed off its emulation of the classic Lexicon 224 reverb, one of the most famous reverbs of all time.
Tonelux, a new line for PMI Audio Group, introduced the OTB16, a 16-channel line mixer with pan and level on every channel. Each channel has a detent in the center that is a calibrated unity gain point, with 9 dB above that point. Each pair of knobs on each channel can be switched to slave off of one pot to create a stereo pair with controllable levels. There are 16 total channels and one master pot, and the unit features D-sub inputs and XLR outputs that can come pre/post master pot, allowing multiple units to be linked together.
Mike Lawson is a musician, engineer, publisher and cartoon bluesman based in Nashville.