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Tech: New Product Hits of Winter NAMM 2011

This 2011 Winter NAMM show (held January 13-16, Anaheim, Calif.) was a record-setting event, with 90,114 registered attendees checking out 1,417 exhibitors in the Anaheim Convention Center. There was plenty of new gear and choosing the Mix Certified Hits (our choices for the show’s Top 20 products) proved particularly difficult. Listed here, alphabetically, are our selections.

This 2011 Winter NAMM show (held January 13-16, Anaheim, Calif.) was a record-setting event, with 90,114 registered attendees checking out 1,417 exhibitors in the Anaheim Convention Center. There was plenty of new gear and choosing the Mix Certified Hits (our choices for the show’s Top 20 products) proved particularly difficult. Listed here, alphabetically, are our selections.

Apple’s iPad has proven itself ideal in all sorts of pro audio/music applications, with a nearly endless supply of useful apps available. Its main drawback had been a lack of pro connectivity, but the Alesis StudioDock, an audio interface for the iPad, features two XLR/¼-inch jacks (each with its own gain control and switchable phantom power) and MIDI In/Out ports. StudioDock can also connect to a Mac or PC using its USB port to send MIDI back and forth for creative, new applications of the iPad and computer used in tandem.

Dangerous Music’s Liaison is a point-to-point, hand-wired box for ultra-fidelity switching/patching/routing of analog gear in mixing or mastering applications. Easy, switchable control—with six insert points and parallel effects loops—adds ease of operation for instantly trying various combinations or ordering of gear, such as EQ-before-compressor or parallel effects chains.

New from Crane Song founder Dave Hill is RA, a nonlinear plug-in that emulates amplifier overload, providing control over even-order harmonics, compression of low-level audio and peak level. It’s available for Mac TDM systems only, with a version for PC TDM in the works.

The new 2000 Series mics are DPA Microphone’s first models to be available for less than $1,000. The heads and bodies are separate, and the bodies are compatible with DPA’s higher-end capsules for easy upgrades.

Derived from E-V’s classic RE20, the new RE320 culls key features of the company’s venerable RE20 and RE27N/D mics into a versatile studio and live performance tool. The RE320’s “dual personality” essentially creates two mics in a single body: One setting engages a response curve that’s ideal for voice and most instrument miking; the other position activates a response designed for kick drums.

The classic Fairlight CMI sound is back as the CMI-30a 30th-anniversary model, which updates the sounds and power of the original CMI system in a retro-styled package (complete with light-pen control) but using a Fairlight CC-1 Crystal Core FPGA engine under the hood. The project is driven by Fairlight co-founder Peter Vogel, and sound quality is continuously variable using the unique Goodness control, which spans from Series I, II or III quality to the “best possible” 36-bit floating point.

Focusrite’s new professional audio networking system, RedNet delivers all the features required in a professional studio environment, offering a robust, reliable networking technology. It’s based on Audinate’s proven Dante digital audio networking technology, using standard IP-based networking and components such as Ethernet cables, routers and switches to carry up to 256 channels (128-in/128-out) of high-resolution digital audio over a standard Ethernet network.

JBL takes its popular 15-inch EON system to the next level with improved input sensitivity, a lowered noise floor, user-selectable EQ control and a re-voiced system for peak performance. EON515XT combines a JBL 2414H HF neodymium compression driver and a 15-inch JBL 265F-1 Differential Drive woofer matched to a Crown Class-D amplifier to deliver 132dB maximum SPL while keeping the weight at a low 32.5 pounds.

Offered in 88, 73 and 61-key versions, Kronos was one of the most talked-about products at the show. It features nine synth engines of various types and can switch sounds seamlessly (or instantaneously) while being played, thanks to its Virtual Memory Technology and a fast Solid State Disk, even from huge 4GB acoustic piano samples. From ethereal textures to complex layered tones, Kronos covers a huge range of sonic territory, as well as classic keyboards, pianos, tonewheel organs and electric pianos, and orchestral, percussion and pop sounds.

The Quadra digital wireless in-ear monitor system from Lectrosonics comprises the M4R ($1,765) beltpack diversity receiver and the M4T ($2,875 MSRP) half-rack transmitter, and features digital RF modulation, two or four channels of 24-bit/48kHz digital audio, and analog or digital inputs. A 4-channel mixer enables the performer to tailor the mix in real time based on what is sent to the transmitter from the monitor console.

The MRmk2 Series marks a complete redesign of Mackie’s ( best-selling line of affordable powered studio monitors. Both the 5.25-inch woofer MR5mk2 ($199 pair, MSRP) and 8-inch MR8mk2 ($329 pair) are powered two-way designs with a 1-inch soft-dome neodymium tweeter on a wide-dispersion waveguide. Inside the rear-ported cabinet is a Class-A/B amplifier section with XLR, TRS and RCA inputs, and controls for acoustical correction.

The new VeniceF analog console offers FireWire multichannel digital audio I/O with the full functionality and sound quality of the much-loved Midas XL3 EQ and filter section, as well as the company’s mic preamps, a dual 7×2 matrix and a reorganized master section layout. The VeniceF 320’s 32×32 FireWire capability adds 32 channels of multitrack recording/playback to any FireWire-equipped computer for virtual soundchecking or running third-party plug-ins on channel inserts or routed via aux sends and returns.

The PreSonus StudioLive Remote software offers wireless control of any StudioLive Series digital mixer’s channels, auxes, effects, subs, Fat Channel processors and more. We’ve seen a number of iPad mixing apps, but this takes it up a notch with slick features such as rotating the iPad from landscape to portrait view to instantly bring up a detailed view of DSP parameters (gate, compressor, EQ, etc.) with a flick of the wrist. The app is free and ships with PreSonus’ 24- and 16-channel digital mixers.

Built on the same power platform as the K Series and KW Series powered loudspeakers, the KLA active line array system from QSC combines the KLA12 12-inch, two-way line array element and the KLA181 18-inch subwoofer enclosure. Both models feature a 1,000W Class-D power module with QSC’s Intrinsic Correction for optimal acoustical performance. The KLA System’s self-contained SOLO (Single-Operator Logistics) rigging system lets users quickly assemble a line array in a fraction of the time of comparable systems.

Sennheiser’s first large-diaphragm side-address mic, the MK 4 is a cardioid, true condenser design. It features a nickel-colored finish and has a large gold-sputtered 1-inch diaphragm, while its elastically mounted capsule suppresses stand or handling noise. Specs include a max SPL of 140 dB and a low 10dBA self-noise.

The Axient wireless microphone system is designed to avoid interference by automatically changing frequencies, detecting RF interference and enabling the system to move to a clear and compatible frequency in milliseconds. A Frequency Diversity feature transmits full-bandwidth audio on two separate frequencies for seamless, uninterrupted audio for mission-critical channels, even in the face of direct RF interference. ShowLink remote control lets users make real-time remote adjustments of transmitter settings from the receiver or a laptop while the mic is live. Axient Spectrum Manager constantly scans the RF environment and performs frequency-compatibility calculations to assign clear frequencies to each transmitter.

Sonodyne monitors are now available in the U.S. The smallest monitor in the range, the SM 50Ak active design ($1,050 pair), delivers 45W to the 5.25-inch woofer and 45W to the tweeter for a 70-22k Hz response. Also bi-amplified, the SM 100Ak ($1,400 pair) supplies 80W to a 6.5-inch woofer and the same 45W powered tweeter for more low-end response and greater SPL.

Cubase 6 and Cubase Artist 6 from Steinberg offer a bevy of new features, including enhanced workflow options within the Project window and Track Edit Groups, which allows users to group and edit related events on multiple tracks at once. Other features include Lane Track for conveniently comping multiple takes; redesigned transient and automatic tempo detection; phase-accurate audio quantization; and drum-replacement functions to smooth out any glitches in live recorded drum tracks.

Universal Audio’s UAD-2 Duo and Quad Satellite family of DSP accelerator packages (with two or four SHARC processors) put the entire UAD Powered Plug-Ins library within easy reach of any FireWire 800- or 400-equipped computer, with no PCIe card installation required. Compatible with a wide range of modern Intel-based iMacs and MacBook Pros, these let users run larger mixes in Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, Nuendo, Digital Performer and more—without taxing the host computer’s CPU.

Waves has collaborated with Aphex to create the Waves Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter, a plug-in based on one of two prototype tube-powered Aural Exciter units developed during the mid-’70s. The software-modeled version is designed to deliver all of the unique character of the rare original hardware unit, with all the advantages of software control.