Frankfurt's Musikmesse/Prolight+Sound has developed into the premier international marketplace for music, DJ and lighting gear, with this year attracting 93,000 visitors from 100 countries. Coming on the heels of NAMM and NSCA — and a week before NAB — one might assume that the gargantuan (14-exhibit hall!) convention might lose some of its attraction as a launchpad for new gear, but as in years past, we found no shortage of cool product debuts — from fun musical toys to high-end pro gear. Here are just a few.
The big buzz at Musikmesse was the joint announcement by Digidesign (www.digidesign.com) and M-Audio (www.m-audio.com) about Pro Tools M-Powered, a new cross-platform (Mac/PC) version of Pro Tools that runs on select M-Audio hardware. The $349 software is similar to the familiar Pro Tools LE, but lacks certain features such as SMPTE timecode support. However, this powerhouse package includes 30 plug-ins and Digi Command|8 controller support, and sessions created on the software can be imported directly into Pro Tools TDM and LE systems, making it ideal for inter-studio collaborations.
Having purchased the company back from Mackie, Soundscape (www.sydec.be) has opened a U.S. office in Florida (954/572-6391) and previewed Editor Version 5. Adding the ability to play/record native (PC-based) tracks, V. 5 will be offered as an update to all Soundscape 32 and Red users later in the year. Also new are a full line of 24-bit/96kHz interfaces supporting 24 to 64 simultaneous I/O channels in various formats, two new hardware controllers and a remote 8-channel mic preamp.
RME (dist. by www.synthax.com) unveiled some serious pro I/O solutions. Its AES-32 puts 32 channels of 24-bit/192kHz AES (plus MIDI and timecode/MADI options) into a PCI card, with an optional rack breakout box with XLR (AES) jacks, as well as Tascam and Yamaha pin-outs on 25-pin D-subs. The ADI-642 handles multichannel MADI/AES conversions at up to 192 kHz, and the ADI-192 DD is a 192kHz-capable, 8-channel format/sample rate converter with ADAT/AES/TDIF ports.
TerraTec Producer's (www.terratecproducer.com) Phase X24 FW is a 24-bit/192kHz FireWire recording interface featuring two SPL-designed preamps (hi-Z/line/mic with phantom power), ¼-inch insert jacks, four TRS outputs, optical I/O (AC-3, DTS and S/PDIF), MIDI I/O and headphone monitoring in a compact chassis.
A stunningly powerful tool for real-time music looping/sequencing/arranging, Cakewalk's (www.cakewalk.com) Project5 V. 2 is now enhanced with the muscle of a full-on recording/editing DAW. Add in its pro-quality synths, loops, samplers, drums and the Roland Groove Engine™, and V. 2 is nothing short of a bargain. Reaktor 5 from Native Instruments (www.nativeinstruments.com) takes the concept of virtual instruments and sound design to a higher plateau, fusing synthesis, sampling and effects via new Reaktor Core Technology, opening a near-unlimited range of custom modules (oscillators, filters, delays, EQs, etc.). Yeah!
As if 1.5 million samples in its holdings weren't enough, the Opus 2 from Vienna Symphonic Library (www.vsl.co.at) adds 9.3 GB of orchestral articulations, strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion and more in EXS24, Giga, HALion and Kontakt formats. And Swar Systems expands its sampled Indian instruments and loops with a new collection of Carnatic (south Indian) sounds, all in VSTi and AudioUnits formats. Hear them at www.swarsystems.com and spice up your productions!
Offering the same edge as the PowerCore FireWire rack, TC Electronic's (www.tcelectronic.com) PowerCore PCI mkII packs four 150MHz DSP chips onto a short-length PCI card for a VST, RTAS (via FXpansion's VST-to-RTAS adapter) or AudioUnits-compatible system. The card includes 14 plugs and runs current and future PowerCore plugs.
MISCHPULTE — ANALOG UND DIGITAL
Lawo (www.lawo.ca) demoed new software for its MC2 66 broadcast/production console. The update adds a new, easy-to-use bus assign page and a slick sequence automation page that makes cue management a breeze and is ideal for theater snapshot tweaking, even during a show. SPL's (www.spl-usa.com) DMC dual-channel mastering console is a compact mastering mixer with the same superhigh-performance, 120-volt rails as its acclaimed MMC1 and MMC2 cousins, but in a stereo version. Alto (www.altoproaudio.com) showed its L Series of recording/live analog mixers, which feature an assignable USB port that can be set to either the main or sub 1/2 outputs for recording or routed to the main mix or channels 15/16 for playback.
On the live side is the first suite of plug-ins designed for Digidesign's VENUE console: Drawmer's (www.drawmer.com) TourBuss is a collection of dynamics (gate/compressor/limiter/expander) and HP/LP filters for live TDM applications. DiGiCo's (www.digiconsoles.com) D-Tube is a hardware 8-channel tube mic pre module that works with any of its digital mixers.
Universal Audio (www.uaudio.com) reissued the LA-3A — a clone of UREI's 1969 solid-state opto-compressor — that comes with an IEC power cord, XLR I/O and a switch for the popular “gain-mod” option. Waves (www.waves.com) previewed MaxxBCL, a 2U box that combines MaxxBass, L2 Ultramaximizer limiting and Renaissance compression for the ultimate in “mo bottom” bass enhancement for live, studio, post, broadcast or mastering. I finally got to hear Empirical Labs' (www.empiricallabs.com) Lil FrEQ, a monster that will destroy the way you think about EQ. This single-channel unit has two shelving bands, tunable low cut, four parametric bands, dynamic EQ for de-essing and direct box input — all noiseless and distortion-free. Best of all, its smooth processing is absolutely addictive.
For an MI show, Musikmesse showed some serious studio monitors. These are detailed in the monitor article on page 36, so I'll mention them briefly here. The $49,000/pair ADM Zero from KS Digital (www.ks-audio.de) combines FIRTEC DSP control and an amazing slot waveguide for wide, smooth response. Event's (www.event1.com) Active Linear Phase (ALP) 5 puts a sweet-sounding, bi-amplified design in a small cabinet. The tri-amped Twin 6 Be and bi-amped Solo 6 Be models from Focal (www.wavedistribution.com) feature a beryllium tweeter and single or dual 6.5-inch woofers. I got to preview Genelec's (www.genelec.com) 8020A, which was officially unveiled at last month's AES Barcelona. The 8020A pairs a 4-inch LF with a ¾-inch tweeter and bi-amping in a 10-inch aluminum cabinet. An optional LSE sub provides 25Hz lows and adds bass management for 2.1 or 5.1 systems.
The Tannoy (www.tannoy.com) Precision Series combines 6- or 8-inch dual-concentric coaxial drivers with a SuperTweeter™ for 51kHz response. The company also upgraded its entire Reveal line — now in active, passive and bi-amped digital input versions — with SuperTweeters on the high-end models. Also new is optional Activ-Assist software (Mac/PC) that includes a calibrated measurement mic to help users set speaker EQ to compensate for room acoustics or placement.
The BCM 705 from Neumann (www.neumannusa.com) is the company's first dynamic mic. This $799 supercardioid model is designed for broadcast and voice-over work, but would be equally at home on close-in vocals in the project or pro studio. A hypercardioid FET condenser for handheld vocals, the $149 Groove Tubes (www.groovetubes.com) GT Convertible features a removable ball windscreen that converts the mic for instrument miking use. Now distributing BLUE Microphones, Electro-Voice (www.electrovoice.com) debuted two models produced exclusively for Electro-Voice. The E-V/BLUE Cardinal (condenser) and Raven (dynamic) are front-address, cardioid models for vocal or instrument miking and feature a two-way integrated swivel mount for positioning ease.
Microtech-Gefell (www.microtech-gefell.de) expanded its line of excellent measurement mics — insiders know how good these really are. The MV230 Digital/MK221 package combines a ½-inch capsule condenser mic with onboard 24-bit A/D converter and AES43/AES3 output with a pocket-sized adapter providing USB for interfacing with laptops for field measurements. Also new is the M950, a wide-cardioid version of the company's popular studio condensers with 7dBA self-noise and the same pricing as the M930.
A zusatzgerät that anyone could use, RØDE's (www.rodemic.com) D-PowerPlug is a phantom-powerable, instrumentation-grade circuit that boosts a dynamic mic signal to a high-level, balanced line output that drives 100-meter cable runs without loss or signal degradation. It's available as an external XLR adapter that plugs into any mic or as a tiny PC board with attached XLR connector for retrofit into many standard dynamics.
Start packing your lederhosen now, because Musikmesse/Prolight+Sound returns to everyone's favorite German city next year, from March 29 to April 1, 2006. Auf wiedersehen, Messe!
George Petersen is Mix's editorial director.