You've heard it all a thousand times about Summer NAMM: "That littleshow?" or "Not much high-tech—it's mostly acoustic guitars."Well, compared to the monstrous Winter show, Summer NAMM 2001 may havebeen small in space—but this "little" show was definitelybig on technology and had plenty of cool new products. Here area few that caught our attention...
The talk of the show was Tascam's (www.tascam.com)acquisition of NemeSys Music Technology, known for its acclaimedGigaSampler and GigaStudio, which will now be distributed under theTascam name, marking Tascam's entry into the field of software-basedmusic production tools. The new Tascam line features NemeSys’current products, including GigaStudio 160, GigaStudio 96, GigaSampler64, GigaSamplerLE and NemeSys sound libraries. The technology enablesstreaming samples directly from a computer’s hard disk, enablinghuge sample file sizes—up to 4.3 GB! NemeSys' softwareengineers/previous owners have signed long-term employment agreementsto continue developing "Giga" platform products. NemeSys—a smalloperation with great ideas—gets a major financial boost andTascam's marketing/distribution clout, a classic example of a win-winsituation.
PowerGoes Up, Prices go Down
Workstations keep getting better and more affordable. Yamaha's(www.yamaha.com)AW2816 takes the approach of the company's popular and powerful AW4416and puts it into a more affordable ($2,399 list) package that provides16 tracks of 24-bit digital audio recording with 28-input automateddigital mixing, moving faders, built-in 32-bit DSP effects, CD-RWdrive, 20GB hard disk and MIDI remote—all in a single compactunit.
The Zoom (www.samsontech.com) MRS 1044 is a grab-and-gosystem that offers 10 recording tracks—plus three more channelsfor its onboard bass and stereo drum machines—along withintegrated mixing, 24-bit DSP effects, and a 15GB hard disk for storingup to 15 hours of uncompressed 16-bit/44.1kHz recording. Retail is$1,199 ($799 street).
(distributed by Korg, www.korg.com) blew us away with its $500 PXR4: theultimate sketchpad recorder. This 4x4-inch system crams fourtracks—plus eight virtual tracks per channel—of 32kHz,MPEG-format recording with up to 270 track-minutes onto removeableSmartMedia cards. Due out in November, the PXR4 also includes 77studio-quality modeling effects, 55 onboard PCM rhythm patterns(including house, reggae, rock, funk, hip hop and more), full editingcapability, three selectable audio inputs (guitar, line or built-incondenser mic), stereo analog outs, and a USB port for transferringmixes to a PC or workstation.
Now owned by Numark, Alesis (www.alesis.com) showed a full line of products,including its HD24 rackmount, 24-track hard disk recorder, which,according to a company representative, is set to ship sometime thismonth. Retail is $2,495; street price is expected to be around $1,995.And to ensure that recording is accessible to musicians at any level,Fostex (www.fostex.com) has slashed the price of itsbest-selling X-12 Multitracker analog cassette 4-track recorder/mixerto a street price of only $99. It's a great gift idea for that futureLes Paul or George Martin on your block.
NAMM just isn't Summer NAMM without musical instruments. Fresh fromthe show floor, here are some innovative, new products that are idealfor the studio or on the road...
The "Synth du Show"
Yamaha's Motif (www.yamaha.com) was the synth du show. Available in61-key ($2,250), 76-key ($2,750) and weighted-action 88-key ($3,250)versions with 62-note polyphony, Motif combines state-of-the-art AWM2tone generation and an impressive 85 MB of Wave ROM (when converted to16-bit linear format), with the hands-on immediacy of a groove box anda 200,000-note Integrated Sampling Sequencer (ISS) function with 16tracks of MIDI or stereo audio phrase playback. Besides having16-channel onboard digital mixing capability, its four sliders and softknobs become 16 virtual pots and faders for quick fingertip control ofany track or parameter, or as a control surface with templates forCubase VST, Logic Audio, Cakewalk and Pro Tools. Motif also includesUSB (for Mac or PC connects), SCSI port, SmartMedia card slot and mLANnetwork interfacing.
Things that go up to 12...
NAMM just wouldn't be NAMM without some coolguitar products, and this year it was innovative new amps. Vox(www.voxamps.co.uk) teamed up with Korg to createValvetronix™, a modeling amp worthy of the Vox name. Availablenext month, Valvetronix combines Korg's acclaimed REMS™ modelingalgorithms in the preamp, a wide palette of delay, reverb andmodulation effects, and Vox's new Valve Reactor™ tube power ampsection, which actually modifies its circuit topology to match the ampbeing modeled. Two models are available—the 60-watt, single-12AD60VT is ($899); and the dual-12, 120W AD120VT is $1,199. Optionsinclude matching extension speakers, a full-function footswitch remoteand chrome stands (of course!). It sounded great, but besides the usualMarshall, Fender and HiWatt emulations, could it do an AC-30? Yeah,yeah, yeah!
No stranger to modeling amptechnology, Line6 (www.line6.com) countered with Vetta, ano-compromise amp system combining a state-of-the-art modeling amp withenough built-in stompbox and studio effects to fill two stadiums andThe Power Station. Vetta is available as a 50-watt/side, dual-12 comboamp (perfect for the studio player) or as a 100-watt/side head (eitheris $2,399), and a foot controller and various matching speaker cabinetsare optional.
In terms of sheer amp coolness, you couldn't beat Wiggy™, acollaboration of Peavey (www.peavey.com) and Dweezil Zappa. Styled like thedashboard of a '50s racecar, Wiggy features "high and low octane" inputjacks, MPH (master volume) and RPM (gain) controls, and a 3-band EQlabeled BATT, OIL and TEMP (low, mid and high). Best of all—itsounded as good as it looked!
NAMM isn't all about musical instruments: There was noshortage of solid, high-performance audio tools for the studio or soundreinforcement professional. Here are a few highlights...
Ten years ago, Audio-Technica (www.audio-technica.com) changed the studio micmarket with its AT4033, a low-cost/high-performance cardioid condenserthat became a popular choice among top producers and engineers. AtNAMM, A-T marked the anniversary by issuing the AT4033/SE, offering thesame sound as the original, but in a special edition model withimproved shock-mount, a custom mic dust cover and wooden case. Retailis $529. A-T also expanded its 30 Series line of cost-effective,high-performance mics with the AT3031 cardioid and AT3032 omni, twolow-profile condenser mics with wide 30-20,000Hz response, low 12dBAnoise specs and retail of $259.
Peavey (www.peavey.com) entered thelow-cost/large-diaphragm studio mic market with its StudioPro® micline. The $369 M2 is a dual-diaphragm, multipattern (omni, cardioid andfigure-8) model; the $249 M1 is a cardioid-only model.
Coming between its MPX100 and MPX500 models, the new MPX200 fromLexicon (www.lexicon.com) is a true stereo, 24-bit,dual-channel processor offering a newly designed digital compressor inaddition to 240 presets of classic Lexicon reverb andeffects—with up to eight adjustable parameters per program.Analog I/O is via 24-bit ADCs and DACs; S/PDIF digital I/O is alsostandard.
Peavey (www.peavey.com) shook things up with Kosmos™,a single-rackspace processor designed to enhance LF energy, HFarticulation and stereo image enhancement on recorded or live tracks.Essentially, Kosmos generates bass sub-harmonics combined with anXpanse control that simultaneously adjusts HF boost and stereo width. Aseparate crossover feeds a subwoofer output, or the unit can beswitched to operate in standard 2-speaker mode. All I/Os are balancedXLR or TRS, but with controls marked as "seismic activity," "quake" and"subterranean," I gotta check this one out myself! Retail is $300.
The Studio Modeler series of rack processors from Line 6 (www.line6.com) includethe Echo Pro (delay effects), Mod Pro (modulation effects) and FilterPro (filter effects) that offer the sound of classic analog effectswith the programming ease of digital presets and MIDI or real-time,hands-on control. All ship this fall/winter, and are $699/each.
Slick Picks You May Have Missed
At any show, there are always some cool products that you may haveoverlooked. Here are a few to check out:
Everybody knows the old live sound trick of putting a strip ofcolored tape around a handheld mic, so you can tell which mic is which,especially in festivals or gigs where multiple singers pass micsaround. One of those "why didn't I think of this first?" ideas,Peavey (www.peavey.com) showed a prototype of its newpatent-pending mic cables that include a lighted yellow, red, green orblue band on the female XLR to easily ID mics in dark performancespaces. It's phantom powered (no battteries) and works with any dynamicor condenser mic.
Sensaphonics (www.sensaphonics.com) showed ProPhonic 2X-S, thefirst custom-molded, dual-driver in-ear monitor that is made of softsilicone. Not only does it appear nearly invisible onstage and sealwell (even during excessive jaw movement), but it's far morecomfortable than the usual plastic models.
A huge line of low-cost/high-performance USB, MIDI and digitalrecording peripherals for the studio, priced from $49 to $1,195 areavailable from Edirol. There are way too many to detail here, sovisit www.edirol.com and check them out.
TheMicroMeek MQ1 from JOEMEEK (www.joemeek.com) packs a pro mic preamp, directbox, compressor and 3-band EQ into a compact chassis that slides intoan empty drive bay on your PC or Mac. Powered from your computer, theMQ1 includes a connector board that plugs into an empty expansion slotwith 1/4-inch line inputs/outputs, phantom power switch and breakoutcable with XLR mic input. Price: only $249!
There was plenty of other hip stuff at NAMM, and we'll present someof these in our regular new products columns in the months to come.Meanwhile, we're packing our bags for the AES show in New York. See youthere!