NAMM, the International Music Products Association, returned to Anaheim, Calif., from January 14 to 17, for its 2010 Winter Show to an uncertain market. Even in these economically challenging times, the 2010 expo attracted 1,373 exhibitors and a respectable 87,569 registrants, indicating a surge in market enthusiasm.
Yet we live in interesting times, and the lines between pro and MI continue to blur, with one such example being the acquisition of Midas and Klark Teknik by Behringer's parent company last month. This year also marked the first time Peavey exhibited its MediaMatrix line at the show, and with other top-end companies at NAMM—such as Aviom, Community, Crane Song, DPA, JBL, Manley, Neumann, Renkus-Heinz, Solid State Logic, Studer and more—most audio pros would feel right at home walking the exhibit floor.
“This year''s NAMM Show marks a critical turning point for the international music products industry,” says NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond. “A strong NAMM show signals the beginning of a comeback with buyers returning to their hometowns with renewed energy, passion and hope for a strong 2010, and exhibitors enjoying strong floor traffic and sales as they introduced hundreds of new and innovative products to the market.”
Overall, the show's vibe was gratitude that 2009 is over, and with the arrival of 2010, everyone seemed ready to move forward with new ideas, new technologies and new optimism. Even the weather cooperated, with blue skies and warm weather with rain beginning just as the show closed. This time around, there was no single "must-see" dazzler at NAMM, yet there were plenty of interesting new products.
An interesting theme at this NAMM show was strategic partnerships, with many companies seeing the value of working together. For instance, Peavey and Muse Research have partnered to put out a new product, the MuseBox, a virtual-instrument-and-effects hardware host along the lines of Muse's own Receptor.
Waves and console maker DiGiCo announced it is working together to integrate Waves' new SoundGrid technology into DiGiCo's single FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) Stealth Digital Processing products for the live sound industry. SoundGrid allows running large numbers of Waves' audio plug-ins using standard PCs via Ethernet, with super-low latency.
Avid and Hal Leonard struck a deal that will bring Pro Tools, M-Audio products and more into Hal Leonard's distribution chain. Interestingly, all the Digi and M-Audio products at the show were being shown at Hal Leonard's booth.
Another partnership was between Ableton and Serato, who announced The Bridge, software that acts as a go-between for Ableton Live and Serato Scratch Live/ITCH.
Universal Audio, a company with a long history of collaboration, announced several new partnerships to develop plug-ins for its UAD-2 DSP platform. Working with Manley Labs, UA expects to release an emulation of the Massive Passive stereo equalizer sometime in March. Collaborating with stompbox maker Dunlop, UA is also developing models of classic effects from Dunlop and MXR. A more far-reaching arrangement was made with the Harman Group, which encompasses numerous pro audio manufacturers. UA announced forthcoming plug-ins that model Lexicon reverbs, AKG spring reverb, dbx compression and other processing, and even Studer tape machines. Speaking of tape, pioneering manufacturer Ampex is returning to the pro recording market after a long absence to partner with UA in emulating not only tape machines, but the tape itself.
New companies are a welcome sign of a rebounding market and NAMM didn't disappoint. Even in economically challenging times, NAMM reported nearly 250 new exhibitors—a new record number in the event''s 108-year history, showing a surge in market enthusiasm.
The first networked personal mixer/multitrack recorder is myMix, from Movek, a new company formed by former Telex Group president Mathias von Heydekampf. myMix allows creating up to eight independent stereo mixes and storing up to 18 tracks as a multitrack recording to an SD card. Musicians make their own personal cue mix using a simple interface with color LCD screen where all input channels appear as separate named channels with control over volume, tone, pan and effects. Dual line-level outs and a stereo 3.5mm jack can output to headphones, in-ear monitors, a main P.A. or stage wedges. Systems with more than two units connect via standard Ethernet switches.
Newcomer Brace Audio showed its new DWG 1000, a brilliant little—including the cost, only $149 MAP—digital wireless system from guitar/bass. It operates in the open 2.4GHz range and has a fast, zero-setup function that searches for an open frequency and then locks the receiver and transmitter onto that range. The company plans to expand its line with similar units for in-ear and handheld use.
Another new entry is Prodigy Engineering. Distributed by FDW, the company specializes in high-performance analog products with digital control, including its Anima 8-channel remote-control preamp, which integrates with DAWs such as Logic and Pro Tools and control surfaces like ICON. Taking control to the next step, its Bella is a single-channel mic pre in the popular API 500 Series module format, but with a front panel USB port for remote DAW control and internal jumpers for cascading control data when using multiple units. Watch the product demo video.
New to NAMM, but well-known in broadcasting circles, NewTek demoed its new TriCaster TCXD300 high-definition, network-quality portable live video production solution. This single stand-alone box—no computer required—provides multicamera HD switching, HD network-style virtual sets, HD titling, HD digital disk recording, audio mixing, HD editing, full HD streaming direct to the Web and more. Priced from $3,995 to $14,995, TriCaster family units offer simple, straightforward solutions, providing network-quality production for the educational, studio and house of worship markets at a fraction of the price of the competition.
No surprise: NAMM had plenty of interesting new instruments—real and virtual.
Peavey and Muse Research's MuseBox musical instrument and effects box uses virtual instruments and effects technology so that players of all types can easily take cutting-edge software-based synths, sounds and effects to rehearsals, gigs, to the practice room or to the studio. The MuseBox's compact 2U half-rack design is portable, versatile and built for the road, made specifically to run software plug-ins with pro-quality 24-bit/48kHz audio. A CF-Card slot provides instant access to new software synths and effects. MuseBox comes standard with 1 GB of RAM (expandable to 2 GB), and is equipped with a fast-loading 4GB solid-state system disc module (expandable to 8 GB). An optional 250GB laptop hard drive offers additional storage. The MuseBox will be available in spring 2010 with an MSRP of $1,199.
In the spirit of the classic CP70 and CP80 stage pianos of the 1970s—but minus the weight and bulk—Yamaha''s new CP Series CP1, CP5 and CP50 features expressive Spectral Component Modeling of Yamaha acoustic and vintage electronic pianos. The flagship CP1 also features new NW-STAGE weighted wooden keys and and Virtual Circuit Modeling to replicate the effect units, amplifiers, compressors, EQ and other equipment that were essential in many of those legendary sounds. All have 88 keys, 128-note polyphony and USB-to-host and USB-to-device connectivity. The CP1 (MSRP: $5,999) ships this month. The $3,299 CP5 and $2,199 CP50 are slated for April shipments.
We were impressed by the new midrange Eigenharp, the Tau. For those unfamiliar with the Eigenharp, it's a totally original MIDI controller from the UK that combines buttons, keys and a wind controller. The previous two models, the Pico and the Alpha, cost about $500 and $6,000, respectively. Obviously, there was room for middle ground, and at $2,800, the new Eigenharp Tau fills that gap. The Tau is practically identical to the Alpha, but with fewer keys and a less deluxe finish.
Everybody''s favorite new synth at NAMM had to be the iPK25 ($99) from Akai Professional a 25-note (mini) keyboard you plug in and your iPhone snaps into. If you've loaded the SynthStation iPhone app ($9.99), you can play synth parts using your iPhone as the audio engine. It also doubles as a conventional MIDI/USB keyboard controller. Akai also showed the APC-20 ($199), an Ableton Live controller that offers many of the functions of the company's APC-40, for $100 less. Watch the product demo of the iPK25 now
Korg Kaossilator Pro
Korg's new Kaossilator Pro touchpad-based synthesizer with built-in electronic sounds, acoustic samples and 25 preset drum patterns features an X-Y touchpad that can cover either a single octave or the entire range of pitch. It also features a gate arpeggiator, an internal vocoder and loop-recorder banks that let users create 4-bar phrases and store them to SD cards. The Kaossilator Pro has stereo I/O on RCA jacks, MIDI I/O jacks and MIDI over USB. It's expected in March for $460 retail. Watch the product demo video now.
Players, producers and DJs everywhere have been anxiously awaiting the return of Moog Music''s Taurus 3 Bass Pedals, which faithfully re-create the sound of the legendary Taurus I, but with modern amenities like MIDI and USB. It''s a limited run, as less than 1,000 will be built.
The Nord Electro 3 combines the legacy of the original Electro and the know-how that shaped some of the other Nord models. The Electro 3 features new high-speed 24-bit DAC, yielding a discernably better-sounding organ section, piano section, new effects and adds the ability to use any samples from the Nord Wave library. Two models are available: 61- and 73-key version with semi-weighted waterfall keys.
Arturia Origin Keyboard
Arturia''s Origin Keyboard is a 61-key version of its Origin synth. Keyboardist Michael T. Ross demoed it at the Arturia booth, and it sounded great. The original Origin, which came out last year, was an EM Editors Choice winner. The keyboard version has the same synthesis engine and a large display, and will retail for $3,499.
Ivory II, the latest version of Synthogy's flagship software, is easily the most realistic sampled piano we ever heard. Ever since Kurzweil released the K250, authentic-sounding sympathetic resonance has been the holy grail of digital piano designers, and the folks at Synthogy have finally hit the mark, doubling the realism of an already fine virtual instrument in the process.
Spectrasonics' big NAMM announcement was the Version 1.2 update for its Steam Engine–based plug-ins, Omnisphere and Trilian. Enhancements will include cross-platform 64-bit operation (yes, for Mac users, too), new "juicy" filter algorithms and an improved browser system. A public beta for current owners is available now, with the official release on February 22.
MOTU showed V. 2 of Ethno Instrument ($395 MSRP), which offers 21 GB of ethnic-instrument samples and loops, which is a huge increase from the 8 GB that was offered in V. 1. Also new are new time-stretching algorithms, licensed from IRCAM. Other features include access to a huge range of non-Western tunings that can be applied to any instrument. So you could take a Persian tuning, say, and apply it to a Japanese instrument. Lots of interesting possibilities here! Watch the product demo video now.
Waves announced new Signature Series plug-ins from Chris Lord-Alge and Jack Joseph Puig. Each features dedicated plug-ins for vocals, guitars, drums and more. These are due in March and will cost $800 each. Puig and Lord-Alge were both present at the press conference and talked about and demoed their plug-ins. Waves also announced two plug-ins modeled from classic processors used by Eddie Kramer: a Helios mic pre and a PIE Compressor. Kramer demoed the plugs, and said, "When I plug this in, I feel like I'm home again." Indeed, the plug-ins sounded very impressive. Kramer played a stereo room drum track, first without processing (which sounded pretty good), and then with the two new plugs dialed in. The track sounded awesome; deep, punchy and nicely compressed. The Kramer plug-ins are due out in February and will come in native and TDM versions. Watch the product demo video now.
AmpliTube 3 ($349) from IK Multimedia has more than 160 pieces of gear, with 51 individual stompboxes and effects; 31 amplifier, preamp and power sections; 46 speaker cabinet models; 15 high-end stage and studio mics; and 17 post-amp rack effects. The new AmpliTube 3 open architecture, lets users expand the system with more packages, such as the AmpliTube Fender and Ampeg SVX. AmpliTube 3 ships in February 2010 as VST, RTAS and Audio Unit plug-in formats, and as stand-alone software for Mac OSX and Windows. Watch the product demo video now.
McDSP''s 6030 Compressor plug-in models a variety of vintage compressors and lets you select the module you want in a graphic rendition of a "Lunchbox"-style processor. We didn't get a chance to hear it (the noisy NAMM floor is not a great place for audio demos), but based on everything else McDSP does, it should sound great. The 6030 will be available in May 2010 (pricing TBD), and will also be added to the Emerald Pack bundle, available to those users as an upgrade.
On the subject of compressors, the new R22 hardware compressor from JDK Audio (part of API Audio) is a stereo bus compressor based on the one in the Paragon touring console, which was popular in touring sound rigs back in the pre-digital days. One highlight is the Thrust switch, which preserves the high end on your transients when you are really squashing the sound. It''s $1,195 and available now. Watch the product demo video now.
As a complement to its The Hammer dual-mono, 3-band tube EQ, A Designs unveiled a prototype of the Nail, a 2-channel, stereo linkable compressor designed for tracking or stereo bus inserts. Watch a product demo video now.
Focusrite announced the Octopre MKII Dynamic ($699), an audio interface with a Focusrite pre and eight VCA-based, Red 3–derived compressors and built-in 24-bit/96kHz digital inputs and outputs. Watch the product demo video now.
SSL''s X-Patch software-controlled routing system offers the flexibility of plug-in-style routing to boutique analog processing. X-Patch lets analog processing be built into favorite processing chains and then easily placed into signal paths, for example, favorite mic pre, EQ and dynamics processors recalled as the perfect vocal chain at a single stroke. Up to six X-Patch units can be controlled in parallel from a single instance of the X-Patch Logictivity Browser software. Watch the product demo video now.
Portable recorders were everywhere. The Sony PCM-M10 is a palm-sized compact recorder has electret condenser stereo mics, 96kHz/24-bit capability and is bundled with Sound Forge Audio Studio Recorder Edition software. Watch the product demo video now.
Tascam showed an entire line of new interfaces and DC-powered recorders; its DR2D stereo recorder ($299) has a dual-recording feature. This automatically records a duplicate file at a user-selectable lower input level to provide options if you have digital overs. Tascam''s DR-680 offers multichannel portable recording for pro location and surround recordings. Up to six simultaneous tracks can be recorded to solid-state SD card media at 96kHz/24-bit Broadcast WAV quality. It also captures stereo audio at 192kHz/24-bit and two DR-680s can be cascaded for up to 16 track recording. Watch the product demo video now.
Radial Engineering got everyone''s “Why didn''t I think of this first?” awards for its new Primacoustic range of inexpensive acoustic tools for live performance and studio recording. VoxGuard is an ambient sound attenuator for recording vocals; TrashGuard is a boom-mounted gobo for controlling spill between instruments; the CrashGuard shield fits around a drum mic to stop cymbal or hi-hat bleed; TriPads ($20) are shock-absorbing pads for tripod mic stands; Kickstand ($99) reduces drum riser resonance; KickPad is a boundary mic isolator for miking kick drums; and Telepad is a mic stand mount for an iPod or iPhone. Watch the product demo video now.
PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2
Live Sound Comes Alive at NAMM
One of the most talked about debuts at NAMM was the PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2 digital console, a 24-input live mixer with onboard 32-bit effects, four buses, 10 aux outputs and 32 outputs (and 26 returns) via FireWire for direct-to-computer recording. Besides additional inputs, the 24.4.2 expands on the earlier 16.4.2 version with a host of new features, and multiple StudioLive consoles (16- or 24-channel) can be cascaded for additional inputs. Street price is $2,999, including Capture recording and Studio One Artist digital audio workstation software for Mac and Windows. Watch the product demo video now.
Amplifiers rarely make headlines, but we were wowed by a few new entries. The new E-Lite 1800 and E-Lite 1800 DSP from Crest feature 900 watts per channel, weigh less than 10 pounds and can run in parallel, stereo and bridged modes. The onboard DSP version offers delays (up to 120 ms per channel), adjustable crossover, limiting, parametric EQ, HF driver EQ, four user-presets and lockable security settings.
Crown's next-generation line of XLS Series amps employ a flexible PureBand crossover system where users can select crossover points (with or without PeakX limiting) from 50 to 3k Hz for matching most bi-amplified speakers. And integrated DriveCore technology provides the highest level of performance as though a power conditioner was built directly into the amplifier. Weight? Just 11 pounds.
Now under the direction of industry veteran Frank Loyko, RCF USA showed a variety of portable systems and its flagship TTL55-A, a high-power, three-way active line array system that's scalable from a few modules to full touring rigs. Each has 3,500W of networked, DSP-controlled amplification driving six neodymium transducers—dual 12-inch woofers in a clamshell configuration, flanked by a 10-inch midrange and three 1.5-inch HF drivers—for 143dB max SPLs. Matching stage wedges, rigging hardware and the TTS56A double 21-inch, 6,800W subwoofer completes the package.
QSC K Series
QSC (www.qsc.com) showcased its K Series of lightweight, high-performance powered loudspeakers featuring molded ABS enclosures, 1,000W of onboard amplification and 1.75-inch HF devices. The line comprises the K8, K10 and K12 two-way cabinets (all having the same woofer motor but varying in dispersion from 105 to 75 degrees) and the KSub dual-12 subwoofer that extends LF performance to 44 Hz. QSC's proprietary DSP Digital Extension and Excursion Processing (DEEP) actively manages transients for extended LF response. Installation options include pole, yoke and stand-mounts and M10 points for rigging hardware.
The Apex NEO Series of ultra-compact, passive two-way floor monitors from Radian Audio incorporate the company's top-of-the-line coaxial 12- or 15-inch neodymium speakers with 2-inch exit compression drivers. The low-profile enclosures are almost half the size of many conventional stage monitors and feature 13-ply Baltic birch construction and a hidden cable-management system to prevent accidental damage to its twin NL-4 connectors.
Earthworks' PM40T Touring PianoMic system puts two 40kHz high-definition mics in close for ultrahigh-gain before feedback. An easy-setup telescoping support tube allows flexible adjustment of the mic elements, placed close to (or away from) the dampers and pointed toward (or away from) the keyboard for achieving the exact sound required for any application.
Furman expanded its new Prestige Series with the P-3600 AR G, a three-rackspace power conditioner/true-RMS voltage regulator that ensures stable 120V power delivery from any input voltage source between 100V to 127V or 208V to 240V. The unit features an ultralow-noise torroidal isolation transformer/autoformer, high-current switching triacs, microprocessor control and Furman's exclusive LiFT/SMP/EVS technologies for pro-level protection and linear AC noise filtration-anywhere in the world. Watch the product demo video now.