Looking for the place where pro meets M.I.? NAMM is it. With an exhibitor list featuring familiar names like API, Universal Audio, Focusrite, Crest, QSC, Studer, Manley, Crane Song, Rupert Neve Designs, Millennia Media, Neumann and dozens more, you might think you were at AES, but all were at NAMM.
Perhaps this year’s theme was product downsizing, as numerous top-end companies showed new gear appealing to lower-priced markets, such as Solid State Logic's Duende Mini, Waves' $99 iGTR guitar processor and Euphonix' new Artist Series mix controllers. At the same time, affordable, high-res pocket recorders were everywhere, from Edirol, Kaysound, Korg, M-Audio, Marantz, Olympus, Samson, Sony, Tascam, Yamaha and Zoom—offering a complete 24/96 remote rig for as little as $299. Click here to see a video demo of Tascam's new DR-1 mini recorder.
If there was ever a case for the democratization of audio production tools, you could find it at NAMM. Apple's iPod continues to show its versatility via interesting new third party add-ons.
The Alesis MultiPort is a pro-grade USB interface with XLR mic and ¼-inch inputs/outputs, transport control keys and the ability to record directly to computer—or iPod. Samson's StudioDock powered monitors have something extra—a built-in iPod dock and USB interfacing. And Numark is now shipping its Fit for Sound, a rackmount iPod dock with RCA/XLR outs and large transport keys.
JZ Microphones Black Hole
NAMM was also the launchpad for high-end products. JZ Microphones, a new company formed by mic designer Juris Zarins, debuted its $1,850 Black Hole multipattern studio mic. The mic's center hole accommodates a spring-loaded shock-mount, and inside you'll find Class-A discrete electronics and dual back-to-back condenser capsules with unique variable sputtering on the large diaphragms.
SE Electronics announced a range of Rupert Neve Signature Series mics under the SE name. Due to ship late summer, the first entry is an active ribbon design using discrete circuits and custom transformers designed by Mr. Rupert Neve. Following the new ribbon will be a large-diaphragm tube mic and a solid-state condenser model, with all three mics sharing a look combining retro with modern industrial chic.
Steve Good (left) and Jeff Klopmeyer point out the new Groove Tubes Velo 8T ribbon microphone.
Groove Tubes lived up to its moniker with the new Velo 8T ($1,199) tube ribbon mic. It comes with a spare engine that the user can easily swap out should the ribbon get damaged.
The Genesis mic from MXL is a large diaphragm cardioid condenser featuring a 1.2-inch capsule with a 6-micron, gold-sputtered diaphragm, Mullard 12AT7 tube and phantom powering. Retail is $799.
Violet Design launched The Wedge, a condenser model with a long, sleek dark red body housing a large, dual-diaphragm cardioid capsule.
Everybody seemed to have new USB mics, but we found a couple faves. Audio-Technica's AT2020 USB is a version of its popular model AT2020 studio condenser, but with USB output and detachable mini tripod stand. The Audix (www.audixusa.com) USB 12, features a mini condenser capsule set into a gooseneck desk stand with a USB output.
AKG announced its new D4, a short-body dynamic designed for high-SPL instrumental miking. Its name should not be confused with the Audix D4, a different short-body dynamic designed for high-SPL instrumental miking.
Karl Kassmaul demos Sony's new ECM-957PRO mic.
Goin' stereo? Sony's $449 ECM-957PRO is a battery-powered stereo/MS mic. Its slick design has two elements—one is rotatable to make the mic front or side address and changing the directivity from 90 to 120 degrees.
Avantone showed two stereo mics: the $599 multipattern CK40 and the $349 single-pattern CK33. The capsules sit one on top of another and rotate to change the stereo pattern.
RØDE previewed a high-performance shotgun mic (shipping around NAB) that slides into a foam-lined, indestructible aluminum transport case that resembles a Maglite flashlight and is ideal for location work. The company also announced "RØDE University", a Website hosting entertaining instructional videos on its entire line of mic products.
Euphonix created a lot of buzz with its MC Control ($1,499) and MC Mix ($999) DAW controllers. MC Control has eight rotary encoders, a touchscreen, jog wheel, four faders and more. MC Mix offers eight faders, dual level scribble strip and eight rotary encoders. Each unit can stand alone or work in tandem to create a large controller. Click here to watch a demo of Euphonix' Artist Series.
MOTU ran packed demos of its Digital Performer 6 DAW/sequencer software. The $795 program boasted among other things, track comping, multi-mono plug-ins, bounce-and-burn to CD and a streamlined GUI. Click here to watch a demo.
Some 20 years after it first arrived, the Akai MPC keeps improving. The MPC5000 features 8-track streaming disk recording, a 20-voice analog synth with arpeggiator, 64-voice drum/phrase sampler, 12 Q-Link controllers, onboard effects, internal 80GB hard drive, large 240x128 hinged backlit LCD and optional CD-R/DVD drive. Shipping in Q2, retail is $3,499.
Avantone introduced powered versions of its MixCubes, sporting 35-watt Class-A/B amps. These stylish "Auratones for the new millennium" have single 5.25-inch drivers, a non-skid neoprene pad on the bottom and a butter-cream lacquer finish. Retail: $359/pair.
Always expecting the unexpected, NAMM had some new studio acoustics products. KRK released Ergo, a breakthrough room correction box. The $599 desktop unit is not speaker-dependent, and can be used with any speakers and with DSP resident in the box, it's independent of a host computer. Ergo offers switching and separate correction for two sets of speakers, has a headphone output with two selectable sources and a large analog speaker level controller. Auralex debuted its Eco StudioFoam, now manufactured with 60% renewable soy-based material—using far less petroleum products, while offering the same acoustical performance. Keeping with the green theme, MSR unveiled its wood Dimension4 diffuser panels, providing hemispherical or planar 3-D/2-D-field sound reflection scattering for recording/performance spaces.
Primacoustic now offers its Recoil Stabilizers in several sizes. The units sit under your monitors, providing a rock-solid base that translates into better audio. Even on the show floor, the stereo image and low frequency information was more centered and full on the speakers sitting on the stabilizers.
API Model 550A Saul Walker Edition
Several companies showed signature versions of earlier products. Universal Audio's LA-610 Signature Edition ($2,399) is a limited-run version of its best-selling LA-610 channel strip, signed by Bill Putnam Jr. and featuring hand-selected parts. API's $2,300 550A Saul Walker Edition equalizer boasts a slick buffed aluminum front plate, point-to-point wiring and hand-picked components.
Named after company founder Dave Derr, Empirical Labs' DerrEsser (dist. by www.wavedistribution.com) is a 500-rack-compatible de-esser with a HP and LP filter, threshold, HF limiter and bypass controls.
Steinberg announced software developer kits for its next generation VST3 protocol. Now implemented in Cubase and Nuendo, VST3's enhancements include enhanced CPU efficiency, sample-accurate automation, the ability to assign audio inputs to VST instruments and much more.
Peavey ReValver Mk III
Peavey's ReValver Mk III guitar amp modeling software is amazing, providing unprecedented control over amp tonality, gain structure and coloration. Windows or Mac VST host/Audio Units users can simply click through presets or get tweakoid, selecting different tube combinations or adjusting parameters such as plate voltage, cathode/grid resistors, transformer impedances, bias voltages, the effect of a sagging power supply and more. It's $299.
TC Electronic's PowerCore X8 ($1,745) has twice the power as TC's original PowerCore. Compatible with VST, Audio Units and RTAS formats, its 14 included plug-ins can run with multiple instances with a near-zero hit to your computer's processing power.
The Sonic Maximizer plug-in from BBE Sound is compatible with all Audio Units, RTAS and VST host apps and features programmable patch memory. The $129 plug works across Mac OS X, and Windows XP/Vista.
SSL Duende Mini
SSL's Duende Mini offers up 32 channels of console-grade SSL dynamics and EQ processing. The $799 system is PC/Mac compatible, works with all popular DAWs and is upgradeable. Click here to watch a demo of the SSL Duende Mini.
Eventide's $199 E-Control RTAS plug-in offers Pro Tools control of its H8000FW, H7600 and Eclipse hardware processors letting users easily bring their hardware processors into the digital realm and save the settings to the session.
The Oxford Suppressor from Sonnox is a $315 de-esser and dynamic EQ plug-in providing a quick way to detect sibilance and other nasty artifacts in a track, and quickly and cleanly render them non-existent.
Waves introduced the Studio Classics bundle with combines modules and strips from legendary studio consoles—the SSL 4000, API and the V-Series, allowing users to create the console of their dreams. The company also celebrates its 15th anniversary with free downloadable presets from Waves software by top producers, engineers and musicians, starting with Steve Lillywhite, Mike Hedges and Dave Pensado.
INSTRUMENTS—REAL AND OTHERWISE
After more than a year of work and planning, the Fab Four Virtual Instrument collection from EastWest puts the kinds of instruments and studio gear used by the Beatles into the hands of composers. The $395 collection features newly recorded multisamples of a million dollars' worth of rare period guitars, basses, drums, amps and keys—recorded through vintage mics and EMI consoles/preamps to a Studer J-37 4-track tube tape deck. It also includes a software version of ADT (artificial double tracking) with built-in tape simulator. Yeah, yeah, yeah!
Spectrasonics previewed its brilliant Omnisphere virtual instrument, which combines a variety of hybrid real-time synthesis techniques, an huge library of "psychoacoustic" sounds and innovative features never seen on any hardware or software synth. Based on the company's new STEAM engine core technology, this $499 cross-platform (Windows XP/Vista and Mac OS 10.4 and higher) synth is slated for September release. Click here to watch an overview of Spectrasonics OmniSphere.
The real thing: The Minimoog Voyager OS (Old School) from Moog Music is a real analog synth with no digital functionality–no program memory, no fancy arpeggiator, just the same classic sound and hands-on controllability you got with the Model D. The $2,595 unit does everything the vintage Minimoog did in an all-new package. Click here to watch a demo of the Minimoog Voyager OS.
Original Prophet-5 designer Dave Smith showed the Prophet '08 ($2,199) an updated version of the Sequential classic with an all-analog signal path, 8-note polyphony and semiweighted 5-octave keyboard with Velocity and Aftertouch. Click here to watch Dave Smith's overview of the Prophet '08 and upcoming LinnDrum II drum machine.
Brand new to NAMM, P5 Audio was rockin' with its Loop sets. The numerous collections include Guitar and Bass loops, RnB Construction Loop Sets, Individual Loops, Hip Hop Construction Loop Sets and Rock Hybrid Construction Loop Sets.
Digidesign Mix Rack
LIVE SOUND AT NAMM
NAMM continues to be a major launchpad for sound reinforcement products. Digidesign showed Mix Rack, an affordable hardware option for VENUE systems, combining all stage, local audio I/O and DSP processing into a single 11-space rack. Just add a D-Show and D-Show Profile console and you're ready to roll. Peavey debuted its new large-format Versarray 212 line-array rig. Mackie updated its best-selling speakers, now as the SRM450 v2 and SRM350 v2, with lightweight neodymium drivers and onboard Class-D bi-amplification, resulting in a 20 percent weight reduction. Read the review of the Mackie SRM450 v2 here.
Newcomer Da-Cappo, an Australian company distributed by Hosa, showed a line of waterproof and EMI-resistant ear mount, headset and lavalier mics with adapters for hardwired use or most wireless beltpacks. Violet Design's The Pearl line of handheld mics have discrete Class-A transformerless electronics and an optional reflection ring that can change the tonal and directional characteristics.
Always interested in new gear, Stevie Wonder stopped by X2 during NAMM to check out the new XDR955 handheld wireless.
X2 Digital Wireless expanded its series of beltpack guitar and lavalier systems with the new XDR955 handheld wireless mic, which has an Audix OM3 capsule.
Lectrosonics and Heil Sound teamed up to create pro wireless products. The first is Lectrosonics' UTPR20, which combines Heil's PR20 dynamic capsule with Lectrosonic's compander-free UT Series Digital Hybrid Wireless transmitter. And after months of beta testing with top acts, Bob Heil has started shipping his new wired PR35 that puts the large-diaphragm element from his PR30 studio dynamic into a handheld body with a 3-position bass roll-off switch. Retail is $250. Click here to watch a preview of the Lectrosonics/Heil Sound wireless.
PICKS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
At any trade show, there are bound to be some products you may have overlooked. Here are our choices for affordable, hot new goodies that are worth checking out.
Audix's CabGrabber ($59) is an adjustable arm that locks into place for secure, no-stand mic placement on your guitar amp/cabinet.
Novation's Nocturn ($99) puts fast, intelligent control of automatable plug-ins in all DAWs from a USB remote with nine touch-sensitive rotary encoders with LED positional rings .
SM Pro Audio's iNano $69 passive volume controller is an easy, clean way to control master volume that's ideal for DAW users.
Tech 21's Sans Amp Character Series stomp boxes each emulate a different amp type—Fender, Vox, Marshall and Mesa-Boogie and are designed for live or studio use.
Waves iGTR Processor
Waves iGTR ($99) keeps with NAMM's "mini" theme, offering the sounds of its acclaimed guitar amp/effects modeling in this cigarette pack-size, battery powered processor .
Here are our picks for NAMM's Top-10 hits, listed alphabetically.
EastWest Fab Four Virtual Instruments
Euphonix Artist Series
MOTU Digital Performer 6
Peavey Revalver Mk III
Primacoustic Recoil Stabilizers
Sonnox Suppressor Plug-in
SSL Duende Mini
MORE TO COME
We'll present more highlights from NAMM, in our monthly new products sections and online at http://mixonline.com. Meanwhile, Summer NAMM returns to Nashville, June 20 to 22. See you there!