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NAB 2008: Where Content—and Technology—Comes to Life

With its theme of “Where Content Comes to Life,” this year’s NAB expo—held April 11 to 17, 2008—offered all you’d expect from the world’s largest media show but with some considerable differences. A few major players opted out of exhibiting (notably Apple and Avid), but there was plenty of action nonetheless.

With its theme of “Where Content Comes to Life,” this year’s NAB expo—held April 11 to 17, 2008—offered all you’d expect from the world’s largest media show but with some considerable differences. A few major players opted out of exhibiting (notably Apple and Avid), but there was plenty of action nonetheless.

Although it’s not shipping for a year, the must-see on the visual side was Red Digital Cinema’s Epic 5K hi-def video camera ($40,000) with crowds packing in to see what 4,900×2,580 pixels looks like. Also popular was the company’s preview of its Scarlet camera, offering 3K resolution at a more modest $3,000 price tag.

Throughout NAB, attendees were talking high def, but conversations seemed to center on the gear being used on the Beijing Summer Olympics and on the expanding area of Internet Protocol Television (IPTV). In fact, NAB devoted an entire pavilion to spotlight this technology. Of course, with the changeover to digital TV broadcasting, many stations were still shopping for new systems, as the clock ticks closer to the February 2009 deadline.

DiGiCo SD7 console

New audio gear was well-represented in the North Hall. Codecs from Dolby and Minnetonka, and new consoles from SSL, Lawo, Studer and DiGiCo received a lot of attention, as did massive networked I/O systems from Lightwave and Aviom. And the “booth bling” award had to go to Holophone for bringing a live reggae band and a slick black Winnebago to lively up the company’s display. In the South Hall, most of the music library booths were consolidated together in a “Music Row,” providing convenient one-stop shopping for checking out all the latest offerings.

But whether in North, South or Central Hall, we had no problem uncovering interesting new audio gear.


Having attended Frankfurt’s Musikmesse/ProLight + Sound a few weeks earlier, there were some outstanding new products we’d just seen, but as these were making their U.S. debut at NAB, we’ll mention them again.

SSL Matrix console

Neumann’s TLM 103D is a digital version of its best-selling TLM 103 studio mic. The onboard ADC negates the need for external converters or preamps and output options include AES-42, USB, S/PDIF and AES/EBU. Designed for live sound or broadcasting, the DiGiCo SD7 console uses Super FPGA technology and two Tiger SHARC processors to provide 128 possible 192kHz signal paths. Users can have 448 simultaneous optical and 224 MADI and 24 integral connections, and 128 buses plus 32 matrix buses and 32 graphic EQs. The $25,000 Matrix small-format console from Solid State Logic integrates a 16-channel, 40-input analog line mixer with a multilayer 16-fader DAW controller that lets users easily route outboard processors plug-in-style.

Lawo mc²56 console

Digital consoles were hot, hot, hot. Lawo’s mc²56 offers the full performance of its mc² Series in a reduced surface with compact dimensions. The mc²56 uses the Lawo HD core with up to 512 DSP channels, 144 summing buses and a routing capacity of up to 8,192 crosspoints. The complete functionality of the mc² Series is available—including the transfer of snapshots within the mc² family, as well as dynamic automation and networking with other Lawo products.

Designed for film and video post, SSL‘s C300 HD Master Studio system is a compact, assignable console for fast, efficient sweetening/mix creation. The C300 HD fully addresses the requirements of nonlinear film and TV production, offering operational efficiency in a cost-effective, scalable solution.

Studer OnAir 2500 console

Studer toasted its 60th anniversary with the release of the OnAir 2500, a self-contained system that builds upon the design concepts of OnAir 2000, putting the control surface, I/O breakout, DSP core and power supply are all integrated within a single compact chassis. The desk’s fader strips each include a graphical OLED (Organic LED) screen, each providing a channel label, level and gain reduction meter and parameter readouts, adjustable via a rotary encoder and two push-buttons below the display.

Euphonix brought two new solution updates for its broadcast mixer range. The Fiber Stagebox Solution for broadcast applications—a modular, remote, high-density Stagebox capable of up to 56 mic preamps each—features redundant fiber audio connectivity and control. Also shown was Ross OverDrive Production Control, integrated with the System 5-B mixing system. The OverDrive offers centralized control of many studio devices including servers, routers and robotic cameras, as well as the audio console.

Roland M-400 V Mixing system

The M-400 V Mixing system from Roland Systems Group features a range of stage boxes that speak to the 24 fader console via Cat-5e. The system now also speaks to Edirol’s video products via V-Link which offers control of audio from the video devices interface.

Holophone’s PortaMic 5.1 features a 2.5×1.5-inch mic head with six separate mic elements mounted on an inch-high encoder that outputs two channels in the Dolby Pro Logic II format for routing to any broadcast camera or stereo recording device. Price: $599.

Sennheiser MKH 800 Twin

Taking its lineage directly from the MKH 800, the new Sennheiser MKH 800 Twin has both front and back capsules with separate outputs to a 5-pin XLR that breaks out to dual standard XLRs. These signals can be recorded to individual channels and then phase manipulated and combined later, effectively changing the pattern of the mic after the recording. Price: $3,356.

Audio-Technica introduced its AT8004 ($135) and AT8004L ($149) omnidirectional dynamic microphones, designed specifically for the broadcast market. The AT8004 (5.93 inches) and the longer AT8004L (9.43 inches) are ideal for handheld interviews, ENG/EFP and sports broadcasting applications, or as the “mono” mic when used in conjunction with a stereo mic.

Inspired by the company’s 40 years of experience with ribbon mics, the whisper-quiet, phantom-powered A440 from Audio Engineering Associates boasts the greatest useable dynamic range of any ribbon microphone manufactured today. Promising to deliver bass with authority, the A440 has a flat frequency response, holding an accurate figure-8 polar pattern down to 20 Hz.

Shure UR1M micro bodypack transmitter

DPA Microphones showed its 4017 shotgun microphone and the new 4080 miniature cardioid lavalier. The 4017 features roll-off and high boost switches and a permanent third-order high-pass filter at 50 Hz. The 4080 delivers isolation from mechanical noise by mounting the capsule in a foam windshield which is, in turn, held captive with a light, pliable mount.

Shure unveiled its UR1M micro bodypack transmitter, which features selectable battery metering, audio metering on the UR1M transmitter, a 60MHz RF tuning range in 25kHz steps, adjustable transmit power (10/50 mW) and either Lemo 3 or TA4F connectors.

Lightwave Audio Systems showed its G5-4M carbon-fibre boompole that weighs a mere 21.8 ounces and is just one meter long when collapsed. It’s shipping now.

Sound Devices 788T 8-track recorder

The Sound Devices 788T is a full-featured, 8-track location recorder with eight mic preamps, metering for all channels, 160GB internal SATA disk drive, CompactFlash card slot and the ability to record to an external drive via FireWire 400/800 or USB 2 all at the same time. The aluminum chassis weighs less than 4 pounds, accommodates individual controls and connectors for each of its eight inputs, plus numerous additional I/O and data connections.

Genelec 6010A monitors

Genelec’s 6010A and companion 5040A subwoofer handles signals from stereo to 5.1 and come in white, silver or grey. The two-way 6010As are 7.2×4.75×4.5 inches and feature a 3-inch bass driver and ¾-inch tweeter—each powered by 12-watt amps. The 5040A sub is powered by a 40W amp and extends the LF response down to 35 Hz. It features a volume control for the system, five main I/O channels and a dedicated LFE controls. Price: $750/each.

In addition to announcing that its Orpheus interface was shipping, Prism Sound revealed it acquired SADiE, the maker of PC-based DAW products. Existing customers will have full access to product support using the same telephone numbers and e-mail addresses, and new orders are being accepted through Prism Sound’s offices in the U.S. and UK.

The latest generation of CEDAR’s Dialogue Noise Suppression technology combines the features of the DNS1500 and DNS2000. Like its predecessor, the new DNS3000 integrates with and is controllable from Pro Tools via a plug-in interface, and also adds onboard scene save/recall and motorized faders for dynamic noise reduction locked to the session or SMPTE. Price: $10,000.

iZotope ANR-B noise-reduction unit

Available for the first time in a single rackpace unit, iZotope’s ANR-B uses advanced noise reduction technology to intelligently identify and suppress environmental broadband noise, hum, phone line artifacts and more. Ideal for radio call-in programs and on-location broadcasting, iZotope’s ANR-B actually detects noise in real-time and adapts to changing noise over time, allowing for automatic operation with little to no input required from the user. Price: $4,995.

Minnetonka’s SurCode for Dolby Digital is now available as a plug-in option for its AudioTools AWE. Fully licensed and certified, this $495 software-only Dolby Digital encoder allows access to the full complement of professional encoding features. Users can encode a single or thousands of files offline by simply dropping them into a special “Hot Folder.”

Linear Acoustic showed the new UPMAX:neo™ 2-channel to 5.1-channel surround upmixer based on its upMAX 2251 product. The UPMAX:neo comes in a single-rackspace chassis and adds more upmixing choices to the original upMAX algorithm for increased flexibility in post applications. Metadata input is standard, along with GPI inputs to control upmixing.

SmartSound gave a sneak peak at new timing control and music search features in its Sonicfire Pro 5 software. Editors can control timing of the music to better fit a corresponding video while still maintaining customization control. Additionally, new spotting and timing features increase the precision with which musical events can match visual cues.

The Dimension4™ Systems from MSR are pre-engineered acoustical systems for professional recording studios, project studios, media studios and game developers. Systems are available in three performance levels—entry-level (Prime System), intermediate (Project system) and high-end (Pro System).

The MSD100C meter from DK-Technologies tackles the audio signals’ perceived loudness using an ITU-recommended algorithm. It features analog/digital stereo inputs and displays both left/right channel and summed loudness, delivering the data as a numeric readout and in several languages with different scales to suit different users.

TC Electronic’s LM5 Loudness Radar Meter plug-in for Pro Tools HD derives statistical information from the ITU-R BS.1770 standard to visualize instant loudness and loudness history. The $1,245 software helps engineers monitor the dynamic range at their disposal during production, and the dynamic range restrictions needed for distribution to various platforms.

Disc Makers’ Forte duplicator

Disc Makers’ Forte is an easy-to-use $499 duplicator that requires no computer. Its 20x DVD±R/40x CD-R drive has an ample 25-disc capacity, a 160 GB hard drive that stores up to 31 full size DVD images and dupes at rates of seven DVDs (or 14 CDs) per hour.

Denon Professional’s DN635 pro CD player offers CD-R/RW and MP3-encoded disc compatibility. Features include Shock Proof Memory for uninterrupted audio, a high-speed Instant Start mechanism for instantaneous playback and an Auto Cue function to start playback at the first point in a track where audio is detected.

Studio Network Solutions announced Leopard/Tiger support for its PCIe and PCI-X Ellipse and Ellipse Enterprise Fibre Channel adapters. SANmp Version 2.5 supports Leopard, Tiger and Panther. The globalSAN iSCSI initiator for OS X Leopard is also available and can be downloaded at the SNS Website. In more feline news, the new Leopard-compatible version of Postmap (v.1.8) is now available for trial/download.

The Fiberplex LightViper Shadow media fiber optic transport system combines 16-channel bi-directional audio matrix modules (with 16 remote-controllable mic preamps) and the STP64, a 64-channel bi-directional matrix unit for 64 remotely-controllable mic preamps, an 8-channel intercom, two independent channels of 10/100 Ethernet with 1 GHz switches and more.

Aphex revealed the Model 824 Distribution Hub for its Anaconda 64-channel, bi-directional digital audio snake. The hub allows users to transmit signals to up to four receivers, and features redundant fiber connections and redundant power supplies.

MADIface from RME is the world’s first portable MADI solution for laptops. Comprising the HDSPe ExpressCard MADI and a small breakout box, the MADIface offers full MADI power: 64 input and output channels, and up to 192kHz sample rate.

Aviom 6416m

Aviom’s 6416m offers 16 mic-level analog inputs to a Pro64® audio network system, with continuously variable gain setting, multi-segment signal level LEDs and individual channel on/off switches. The 6416m supports all valid Pro64 sample rates, up to 192kHz.

To keep your post room under control, Brainstorm’s DCD-8 Word Clock Distriplyzer synchronizes all of the common audio and video formats, including SD and Tri-Level HD. It works in tandem with the company’s new Hi-Res VSG-4 Video Sync Generator, offering four different sync formats that can be generated simultaneously through four BNC outputs—two HD and two SD.

There was plenty to see at NAB, and narrowing down the list to a few faves picks wasn’t easy, but listed alphabetically, here are our Mix Certified Hits—the Top-10 picks from the show:

AEA A440 Ribbon Mic
Cedar DNS3000
DPA 4017 Shotgun Mic
Genelec 6010/5040 System
Holophone PortaMic 5.1
iZotope ANR-B
Lawo mc²56 Console
Minnetonka Surcode Dolby E
Sennheiser MKH800 Twin
Sound Devices 788T

We’ll present more products from NAB in the online and print editions of Mix. Meanwhile, NAB returns to Las Vegas next year from April 18-23, 2009. See you there!