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NAMM’s Hidden Gems

At every single trade show, you think, “Surely I won’t find anything else I need.” And without fail, you walk away with a wish list that makes your bank manager weep. Here are some choice products I found at Winter NAMM 2016.

Meris Mercury7. This is a 500 Series DSP reverb with some serious tricks up its sleeve. The algorithms are based around plate and cathedral reverbs, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s just another reverb. This box features extensive modulation capabilities, pitch shifting and envelope swells. You’ll have to hear it to believe it.

Due to the NAMM show floor layout, you really have to commit to stroll through all the sections and ensure you haven’t missed anything. I stumbled across Tegeler Audio Manufaktur, hiding among keyboards and whooshing synths. Based in Berlin, this company builds a couple of very cool units. Schwerkraftmaschine is a DAW-controlled multimode compressor. The Crème combines a passive EQ à la the Pultec principle and a bus compressor in one box.

Sonnox Envolution: Sonnox’s new plug-in is a must-have for every engineer’s toolbox. It’s a frequency-dependent envelope shaper with independent transient and sustain sections, allowing you to radically shape the envelope of your audio.

With so many 500 Series chassis available it would be insane not to jump on the bandwagon. Chameleon Labs launched its 560 inductor-based EQ, and the 7720 stereo compressor also caught my eye.

You can’t walk around this exhibition without a little drool detour into guitar land. That’s where I spotted JHS. Known as a pedal manufacturer, JHS surprised me with six pedal-inspired 500 Series boxes: The Colourbox (a 1073 style mic pre and EQ), Kodiak (tremolo), Emperor (modulation), Panther Cub (delay), Pul ’n’ Peel (compressor/distortion/EQ) and the Superbolt (distortion).

Jonathan Little from Little Labs is always good for cool and extremely useful inventions. The Monotor is an audiophile headphone amp designed with audio engineers in mind. This is a no-nonsense, accurate and fantastic-sounding unit, sporting an extensive mono monitoring section, ¼-inch and mini jack outs so you never have to hunt for those pesky adapters, and paralleled combo XLR and TRS inputs for easy in-line monitoring.

The Chandler Limited RS 124, a truthful re-creation of the original Abbey Road version, will deliver historic character and transient control to your mixes.

New microphone releases generally leave you thinking that it is yet another re-creation of an old classic, or they simple have an insane price tag. Aston Microphones decided to change that trend. The Spirit is a multipattern condenser at a fraction of the traditional cost.

NAMM also saw the launch of Manley’s Nu Mu Stereo Limiter Compressor, combining the famous Variable Mu T-Bar mod, all-tube front end and a new solid-state audio chain. It also features Manley’s brand-new HIP function.

Paul Wolff (formerly of API and Tonelux) has developed a couple of very cool products under the Fix Audio Designs moniker. The Blender combines dry and wet signals outside of the box. When you try to do this inside the DAW, you may incur delay issues. The Blender has just brought the DAW and outboard world closer together. Wolff has also designed a new customizable and adjustable console frame design based around his 802 module. And do not forget to check out Fix Audio Designs’ Fix Flanger and Fix Doubler plug-ins, made in collaboration with Softube.

Barefoot Sound’s new NAMM release is the MicroMain26. The brochure says that they are incredibly transparent and provide detailed midrange. I could not agree more, and I will add to that that the stereo imaging on these bad boys is simply stunning!

Sennehiser has been making some waves in the immersive audio field. Its Ambeo 3D umbrella now includes its own “Ambisonic” multicapsule sound field microphone. Stay tuned.

I first came across Louder Than Liftoff’s Silver Bullet at the original Coast recording studio in San Francisco. The company’s product designer Brad McGowan was demoing the prototype to mastering engineer Michael Romanowski and myself, and we got to implement it on a mix in the studio. Like all their units, it does more than what it says on the box. They call it a Tone-Amp. I’ll call it a tone-shaping, vintage-emulating Mojo EQ. I love it.

And last, but not least, Solo Dallas’ The Schaffer Replica. The true re-creation of this guitarist powerhouse does a lot more than give you an immense guitar sound. I’ve already used this on acoustic guitars, vocals, keyboards, bass and drums, and it has been a mix saver on several occasions. This thing rocks.