1/18/2011 4:23 AM
The annual Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA is one of the largest music tradeshows on the planet, attracting music and technology manufacturers, retailers, musicians, and hard-core groupies from around the world seeking to network, conduct business, jam, and learn about the latest in musical instruments and gear. The mammoth exhibition sprawls across five exhibit halls and an arena, and concerts run practically 24-7, with wall-to-wall music filling the Anaheim Convention Center and surrounding hotels, the surreal town center that is Downtown Disney, and in performance venues throughout Anaheim. This year, NAMM expanded its offerings with an App and Gaming Pavilion, a business-oriented Idea Center, and the H.O.T Zone, which offered seminars and workshops on everything from studio production to marketing. (EQ hosted a panel on mastering—watch for a video repeat this week at EQmag.com.)
This year's convention was the biggest yet, drawing 1,400 exhibitors (including 250 new exhibitors) and a record 90,000 attendees, ranging from superstars to technology innovators to hordes of musicians seeking out new goodies. The mood on the show floor was positive, as exhibitors and attendees alike expressed optimism for an economic recovery. NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond was upbeat: "After meeting with
NAMM members from around the world, I am continually impressed and
amazed at the resolve and optimism our industry has shown these past
years, and I believe that we are now on a path of recovery and future
growth as more people of all ages and talent levels discover the fun and
proven benefits of playing music."
By most accounts, 2011 is looking good. We saw more new gear at this show than in the past couple of years—and more true innovations, as well as the requisite upgrade and updates. Now, manufacturers play wait-and-see as cautious customers hopefully start spending...
But enough about business. You're here for the gear news! Well, we have plenty of that. EQ's team of roving reporters was out in full force to scout out the hottest new studio goodies on the show floor, and we'll be updating our report throughout the day. In the meantime, be sure to check out our latest videos and pics from the show. Stay tuned!
THE BIG PICTURE
At NAMM, there was certainly something for everyone and every budget, from free pens and picks to a million-dollar guitar. On the mic front, we're continuing to see more-for-your money models: Audio-Technica showed the AT2022, featuring two condenser capsules in an XY pattern, and a 3-pin XLRM out. The Blue Reactor multipattern condenser lets you select pickup pattern by adjusting a swiveling capsule head. Fans of the EV RE20 will dig the Electro-Voice RE320 ($499 list), which is modeled after the RE20 but adds a switchable EQ curve with a setting optimized for kick drum. The MK4 condenser ($479) is Sennheiser's first large-diaphragm, side-address mic. And DPA's 2000 Series mics are the company's first models coming in below $1,000.
High-end studio-monitor technology continues to make a strong showing at NAMM. ADAM Audio's compact AX Series features the same X-ART ribbon tweeter design as the company's more-expensive counterparts. Focal showed the SM9, introduced at AES but interesting to note at NAMM—the speaker is switchable between 2-way and 3-way operation. Sonodyne showed the SM50Ak, which is the newest, most compact monitor in the Sonodyne family. SE Electronics showed The Egg, a radical new monitor design. Guess what it's shaped like...We also saw some interesting modeling technology at NAMM, such as Kemper's Profiling Amplifier, which claims to "learn" the sound of any amp that you plug into it, and Focusrite's VRM Headphone Box, which lets you choose to "listen" through ten modeled studio monitors, via your headphones.
But you might say that 2011 is the Year of the iPad. This little tablet promises to revolutionize the way a lot of people are making music. We saw apps all over the show floor, with applications ranging from controlling your futuristic cymbals to front-of-house mixing. To name just a few...
It's not exactly an iPad app, per se, but you gotta check out the OMG-1 Synthesizer, designed by Eric Persing as a prize for a fundraiser for the Moog Foundation. This one-of-a-kind hardware unit combines a Moog Little Phatty analog synth, Spectasonics' Omnisphere software synth, a Mac Mini, dual iPads, dual iPods, and Spectrasonics' new Omni TR Omnisphere iPad app, all in a curvy maple cabinet. Tascam brings the Portastudio to the iPad, complete with "cassette" transport, all for ten bucks. Alesis StudioDock is a docking station for your iPad that provides XLR and 1/2-inch I/Os. Mixing a live show? Presonus StudioLive lets you control Virtual StudioLive app remotely from anywhere in the venue. Jammit for the iPad lets you isolate individual tracks from a master recording. Akai's SynthStation is a portable production studio with three synths. Allen & Heath released iTweak, a free
iPad app for its iLive digital mixing system. iLiveMixPad connects to an
iLive MixRack on a wireless network and provides controls for live
mixing. MOTU's DP Control offers, you guessed it, iPad control of Digital Performer. Free in the Apple app store. We also got a great demo of Agile Partners' Ampkit app from Collective Soul's Joel Kosche—watch for the video! There were way too many of these apps to cover here, so keep your eyes out for more comprehensive coverage in upcoming issues of EQ.
And of course, we love the random cool little goodies, like Tascam's solar-powered tuners, DR's Neon glow-in-the-dark guitar strings, and Soundwagon, the "world's smallest portable record player" plus toy car, all wrapped into one.
ALL KINDS OF AWESOME
Here's a stream-of-consciousness rundown of more amazing gear we saw at NAMM. Consider this a virtual walk with us along the show floor...
Avid had a strong showing at NAMM, following its blockbuster AES release of Pro Tools 9 with a bunch of new releases, including an Eleven Rack Expansion pack, V.2 of its Torq DJ software, and the very cool Venom analog synth.
We were totally rocked by the "hybrid" analog/electric cymbals in
Zildjian's Gen 16 line. These perforated metal cymbals model all sorts
of sounds through DSP-we'll have a video up soon...
The Korg KRONOS workstation combines multiple synthesis technologies,
including tonewheel and analog modeling, a color touchscreen, and the
PCM components are measured in GB, not MB. As Keyboard editor Steve
Fortner says, "it's basically the OASYS they've always wanted to make."
showed Stutter Edit, developed with producer/artist BT. The app is
based around a live sampling engine that lets users slice-and-dice
audio into small fragments and sequence the pieces as rhythmic effects. Watch a demo video.
Wonder Twin Powers, Activate! Roger Linn and Dave Smith Instruments have teamed up to create the Tempest analog drum machine. Check it out here, and watch for our video coverage later this week.
microphones' Reactor multi-pattern, large-diaphragm condenser
microphone is based on large-format capsule technology from Blue’s mic
line, and features a very cool pattern selection system with a
swiveling capsule head that lets you set up precise positioning. Check out a picture.
SSL showed us a new X-Rack goodie—a stereo dynamics module.
Mastering engineers: Sonnox introduced a Fraunhofer codec plug-in. You can tweak it in real time...
Over at Waves, we saw a new Aural Exciter plug-in. And, have you heard? Waves has slashed prices across its entire line.
Steinberg showed Cubase 6 (and Cubase Artist 6). Tons of new workflow features! Get the complete rundown.
Universal Audio's UAD-2 Satellite puts the entire UAD Powered Plug-Ins library within
easy reach of Firewire 800 and 400-equipped computers; no PCIe card
installation required. UA also showed the
Studer® A800 Multichannel Tape Recorder plug-in for the UAD-2 platform.
In the "why didn't we think of that?"
category, ribbon mic maker Cloud Microphones' Cloudlifter uses any
24-48V phantom powered device to safely supply up to 25 dB of initial
gain to any passive, low-output ribbon or dynamic microphone.
Muse showed us their latest VST plug-in players, the Receptor 2 and Receptor 2 Pro MAX+, which boast tons of storage capacity and serious speed.
Tascam's new TA-1VP vocal processor, co-developed with Antares, has built-in Auto-Tune.
JH Audio, formed by the founder of Ultimate Ears, showed a bunch of very high-end in-ear monitors, starting at $399.
Radial acquired Reamp. We should be seeing some interesting products come out of that partnership!
i-BLOX serves as an audio interface that connects an instrument to an
iPhone amplifier as well as mobile recording applications. Also,
RapcoHorizon and Taylor Guitars showed the VCable, an instrument cable
with a built-in volume control.
Auralex showed new entry-level,
cloth-wrapped foam panels: Sonolite 2x2-foot panels are $25 each; buy
then a la carte at your retailer.
Newcomer GrooveZoo showed an online collaboration app that
lets you search for and hire musicians, negotiate royalties, swap MP3
demos, generate contacts and more.Peterson tuners showed the Body Beat pulsating metronome, which clamps to your clothes and transmits vibrating beats. Very handy in a recording session!
two new mics at NAMM: The CU-29 "Copperhead" condenser mic with vintage
NOS tube, and the M80-WH wireless microphone capsule head
demoed the Axient wireless system, which detects interference, and
avoids dropouts by automatically switching to a different frequency.
new G3 Guitar Effects and Amp Simulator Pedal lets you control both
individual effects and amp modeling, so you can tweak your tones on the
fly. And it has an onboard drum machine, looper, and a USB interface.IK
Multimedia showed the iRig Mic, a microphone designed for the
iPhone/iPAD: It features a unidirectional electret-condenser microphone
capsule designed for close-miking and long-distance mic conditions, and
includes real-time monitoring with its dual mini-jack connector.
But there's so much more to see and hear from this year's show! Watch for ongoing video updates, and more analysis from the editors in the coming days.
What were your NAMM favorites? Let us know!