The attendance at this year's Winter NAMM show, held from January17-20 at the Anaheim Convention Center, appeared to be moderate, withthe largest crowds making the scene on Friday and Saturday. Much to ourrelief, the over-the-top hubbub that usually accompanies the show was,for the most part, gone. Replacing the scantily clad booth bunnies andgo-go cages of previous years were polite, if businesslike,bomb-sniffing dogs and their handlers. There was also a notablereduction in the amount of swag—the promotional goodies usuallygiven away to show visitors—which may indicate how recenteconomic realities have affected the MI industry.
Celebrity sightings, however, remained consistent with earliershows. On the show floor, we spotted synth pioneers Bob Moog and DaveSmith; Roger Linn, father of the sample-based drum machine;keyboardists Eddie Jobson and Roger Manning; bassists Tom Hamilton,Freebo, Nathan East, and Will Lee; guitarists Jeff "Skunk" Baxter,Steve Lukather, Steve Vai, and Slash; and singer/guitarist Keb 'Mo.There was no shortage of star-studded performances, both during theshow and after hours.
Finally, there was the show's raison d'être: new gear, theabundance of which kept us busy from dawn until well after dark.Although no new product appeared to be as mind-altering as the AlesisADAT, Mackie mixer, or Digidesign Pro Tools, we found plenty ofexciting new toys.
Here is a small sampling of the new wares we discovered at NAMM.We'll provide more information on these and other new products inupcoming EM "What's New" columns.
Developed jointly with Focusrite, Digidesign’s Mbox ($495) isa two-channel USB audio interface for Pro Tools LE, that delivers24-bit, 48 kHz recording capabilities. Sessions created with Mbox canbe migrated to other Digidesign platforms, including Pro Tools HD andDigi 001 systems.
The Mbox draws power from its USB port and includes a pair ofFocusrite mic preamps with 48V phantom power. Each channel has aninput-gain control and a Source button that lets you select mic, line,or instrument level. A second button centers and sums the inputs buthas no effect on the playback monitoring. The front panel also includesa playback/input balance control, a headphone-level control, and a1/8-inch stereo headphone jack.
The rear panel has two Neutrik combo connectors for the inputs; apair of 1/4-inch TRS insert jacks; two unbalanced 1/4-inch outputjacks; a 1/4-inch stereo output for headphone monitoring; a USB jack;and coaxial S/PDIF jacks for digital I/O.
Mbox runs on any Power Mac with a built-in USB port that is capableof running Pro Tools LE 5.2. You’ll need Mac OS 9.1 and at least128 MB RAM. Digidesign; tel. (800) 333-2137 or (650) 731-6300; email@example.com;Web www.digidesign.com.
Arguably the most prominent feature of Lexicon’s MPX 110($329) is its 24-bit stereo reverb. However, this low-priced processoralso offers high-quality effects such as tremolo, chorus, flange,pitch-shift, detune, delay, and echo. The MPX 110 will also let you runeffects independently on the left and right channels.
The MPX 110 offers 240 presets with 16 user locations. A front-panelknob lets you adjust parameters, and the Effects/Balance knob adjustseffects levels or the balance between dual effects. On the front-panel,dual two-stage headroom indicators let you monitor signal input.
The MPX 110 features a Learn Mode, which governs MIDI control ofeffects level, parameter adjustments, and more. Delay effects can belocked to audio signal, MIDI clock, or tap tempo from a front-panelbutton or dual footswitch. You can also modulate tempo with your choiceof MIDI messages.
The rear panel has two unbalanced 1/4-inch inputs; two unbalanced1/4-inch outputs; a 1/4-inch stereo headphone jack; and a coaxialS/PDIF output. MIDI jacks are In and Out, with a software switch thatconverts Out to Thru. Lexicon, Inc.; tel. (781) 280-0300; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; Web www.lexicon.com.
Following in the footsteps of Roland’s V-guitar processors,the V-Bass ($1,345) offers access to a wide variety of bass soundsusing any bass with a divided pickup and 13-pin output. (Guitarists canalso access bass sounds, albeit with a bit of tweaking.) As with theV-guitar series, there is no MIDI involved in tracking your bass.However, the V-Bass is equipped with MIDI In and Out jacks, so you canstore and retrieve System Exclusive data. The unit also supportsProgram Change, Control Change messages, and MIDI clock for tempo-basedeffects.
Instruments modeled by the V-Bass include classic electric andacoustic basses as well as synth bass and fretless types. You canprogram your own bass sounds by combining modeled body types andpickups. Roland’s proprietary COSM amp-modeling algorithms offeradditional customization capabilities. An onboard expression pedalgives you real-time control over parameters. The V-Bass has 160 presetsand 100 user slots for customized programs.
A 13-pin input jack connects your bass or guitar to the V-Bass.Roland offers the GK-2B divided pickup ($275), which is compatible with4-, 5-, and 6-string basses. The divided output provides separateprocessing for each string, including polyphonic pitch shifting (foralternate tunings), pan, and more.
The V-Bass offers a pair of unbalanced 1/4-inch outputs and a pairof balanced XLR outputs. An additional unbalanced 1/4-inch output andan XLR jack give you access to the unprocessed signal. An unbalanced1/4-inch input lets you plug your bass directly into the unit, so youcan use the unit's COSM effects. An input for an additional expressionpedal is also included. Roland Corporation U.S.; tel. (323) 890-3700;Web www.rolandus.com.
Tascam Pocketstudio 5
Tascam’s Pocketstudio 5 ($599) packs four tracks of digitalaudio, a built-in MIDI synthesizer, an MP3 encoder and player, a USBjack for computer connectivity, a built-in condenser mic, and CompactFlash card storage, into a six-by-eight-inch package. The diminutiverecorder provides auto-punch in and out, track bounce, andcopy-and-paste capabilities for both audio and MIDI tracks.
The Pocketstudio 5 can read type 0 and type 1 Standard MIDI Files.Onboard MIDI files are arranged by song sections—intro, verse,and chorus—so you can quickly assemble song structures.
Final stereo mixes are saved as 16-bit, 44.1 kHz MP3 files. You canuse the USB port to offload files to your computer for additionalprocessing or posting to the Web. MP3 compatibility lets thePocketstudio 5 serve as an MP3 player.
The Pocketstudio 5 has an unbalanced 1/4-inch line-level input; anunbalanced 1/4-inch mic-level input; and two 1/8-inch jacks for mic andline-level inputs, respectively. You also get an 1/8-inch stereomini-jack line output and an 1/8-inch stereo headphone jack. The unithas a slot that accepts Compact Flash cards up to 128 MB. The packageincludes a 32 MB Compact Flash card, a headset microphone, and an ACadapter. The unit also runs for two hours on six AA batteries. Tascam;tel. (323) 726-0303; Web www.tascam.com.
Sennheiser HD280 Pro
The HD280 Pro from Sennheiser ($199) is a closed, dynamic transducerheadphone set. The headphones are collapsible and offer rotating earcups. The over-the-ear design promises as much as 32 dB of ambientnoise reduction.
Sennheiser rates the frequency response of HD 280 Pro at 8 Hz to 25kHz and the sound-pressure level at 113 dB. Total harmonic distortion(THD) is rated at <0.1 percent.
Many of the HD280 Pro parts are replaceable, including the earcushions, the headband cushion, the cable, and driver elements.Additionally, the cable features a 3.5 mm stereo minijack with a1/4-inch adapter. Sennheiser Electronic Corp.; tel. (860) 434-9190;e-mail email@example.com;Web www.sennheiserusa.com.
Spectrasonics Virtual Instruments Instead of supportingspecific sampler formats, Spectrasonics’ Virtual Instruments shipas native plug-ins for VST, MAS, and RTAS. The program is compatiblewith Mac and Windows platforms. Each synthesizer plug-in is fullyprogrammable, and each offers a different interface and instrumenttype.
The Stylus ($299) is a groove-oriented instrument. At 3 GB, itoffers over 30,000 sample elements—including 700 loops—in awide variety of styles including R&B, 2-step, trip-hop, acid jazz,trance, funk, and rap. You also get thousands of sampled percussionelements that you can use to create your own grooves. The grooves arecompletely malleable due to the Groove Control feature, which lets youchange the tempo, pitch, feel, and individual instruments in realtime.
Atmosphere ($399) offers a 3 GB core library of pad sounds.Programmer Eric Persing created the pads from a wide assortment ofvintage and modern synths. The sounds include analog beds, pads,wavetable sweeps, vocoded choirs, thick string pads, processed vocalwashes, and more. You can easily re-combine any of the layers to createyour own pads.
Trilogy ($399) focuses on acoustic, electric, and synthesized bass.Spectrasonics’ True Staccato sampling feature provides multiplestaccato samples, that the manufacturer says yields natural-soundingrepeated notes with a significantly greater level of realism than othersampled basses. Sampled articulations include glissandi, hammer-ons,pull-offs, harmonics, trills, pops, noises, and slides at variousspeeds. The samples cover a comprehensive variety of instruments andplaying styles, and the instruments are mapped with multipledynamics.
Each of the Virtual Instruments offer multimode resonant filters,four LFOs, and one envelope generator each for pitch, filter, andamplitude, as well as a modulation matrix. There is also an masterfilter for quick tweaks. Virtual Instruments require a MAS, RTAS, orVST 2.0 host; a G3/300 with 256 MB RAM; and MAC OS 8. Windows userswill need a Pentium II/400 running Windows 98, and 256 MB RAM. IlioEntertainments (distributor); tel. (800) 747-4546 or (818) 707-7222;e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; Webwww.ilio.com.
Beyond the touch screen and the full capabilities of the earlierTriton synths, Korg's Triton Studio ($3,400, 61 keys; $3,800, 76 keys;$4,200, 88 keys) includes the new Open Sampling System, which lets yousample or resample from Program, Combination, or Sequencer modes. Thesampling is done at 16-bits, 48 kHz in either mono or stereo. The unitcomes with 16 MB of memory, but you can expand it to 96 MB using 72-pinSIMMS.
In Sequencer mode, you can sample external sources to a track whilethe sequence is playing; the sample is automatically assigned a triggerevent that starts the sample’s playback at the proper time. Korgoffers the optional CDRW-1x8 ($400), an internal CD-RW drive forburning audio files of your sequences or storing patches, sequences,and samples The easily installable drive also lets you sample fromaudio CDs or load AIFF, WAV, or AKAI samples. You can also use theunit’s built in 5 GB hard drive. The rear panel of the keyboardhas a SCSI port, so you can use an external CD drive or otherdevice.
The Triton Studio features a faster processor, which significantlyspeeds up touch-screen performance. Korg’s new Real WeightedHammer Action2 keyboard is available on the 88-key Triton Studio. Theworkstation’s sound set includes a new 16-MB acoustic grandpiano, bringing sample ROM up to 48 MB. You get 1,536 user programlocations and an equal number of user combinations. Twenty of theeditable 144 drum kits are pre-loaded. You can expand sample ROM to upto 160 MB with Korg’s 16-MB EXB-PCM expansion boards ($240 each).The synth will also accommodate the EXB-MOSS expansion board ($600) foran extra six notes of DSP-based synthesis.
As with other Triton instruments, you get a 16-track sequencer thatcan hold 200,000 MIDI events and 200 songs. The built-in effectsprocessor offers all of the algorithms of the original Triton.
The Triton Studio has two unbalanced 1/4-inch inputs, six unbalanced1/4-inch outputs, and optical S/PDIF I/O jacks. You can add the EXB-DIoutput connector for ADAT ($200), or the EXB-mLAN ($750) for MIDI andaudio I/O via mLAN. Additionally, two control inputs accommodate adamper pedal and an assignable footswitch or pedal. MIDI connectors areIn, Out, and Thru. Korg USA, Inc.; tel. (516) 333-9100; Web www.korg.com.
Emagic Logic Control
Developed as a joint effort between Emagic and Mackie Designs, LogicControl ($1,299) is an expandable hardware control surface for LogicPlatinum 5($949; upgrade from version 4, $149). The unit providescontrol for hundreds of MIDI and audio features, including LogicPlatinum’s new automation system as well as software instrumentsand plug-ins.
Logic Control features motorized 1,024-step, touch-sensitive Pennyand Giles optical faders for each channel, a Master fader, anassignable rotary knob with an integrated push-button for parameteradjustments, and record, solo, and mute buttons. The controllerprovides access to eight audio channels at once; additional audiochannels are accessible with the unit’s bank-switching functions.Dedicated controls include transport, cursor keys, automation, andfunction mode switches. Logic Control has a back-lit, multi-functiondisplay that gives you detailed parameter and metering information.
If you have sufficient MIDI I/O, you can expand the system forsimultaneous control of virtually unlimited audio channels with theLogic Control XT expander unit ($1,099). Each expander provides thesame record, solo, and mute buttons, motorized faders, knobs andswitches as the core unit.
The hardware is recognized automatically by Logic Platinum 5, so youhave instant access to important controls right out of the box. Thecontroller sports MIDI In and MIDI Out jacks, and you can update thefirmware with MIDI System Exclusive dumps.
Logic Control presides over Logic Platinum 5’s new 32-bitfader automation system. Automation data can be moved or copiedindependently. Track automation write modes operate independent ofsequencer recording.
Logic Platinum now offers more than 50 plug-ins, including AdaptiveLimiter, SubBass, Phase Distortion, and DeEsser. New mastering toolsinclude StereoSpread, Denoiser, Limiter, and Multiband Compressor. Anew mixer side-chain lets you use external audio as a controlsignal.
Logic Platinum 5 adds support for Propellerheads’ REX 2.0files, and integrates support for the Logic Control hardware system. Touse Logic Control, you will need Logic Platinum 5 which requires a PPC604/250 with 128 MB RAM running Mac OS 9.1 or higher. Windows usersneed a Pentium II/300 MHz Athlon or Duron processor, 128 MB RAM, andWindows 98SE, Me, 2000, or XP. A USB port is also required. Emagic USA;tel. (530) 477-1051; e-mail email@example.com; Web www.emagic.de.
Freehand MusicPad Pro
Freehand’s MusicPad Pro ($1,200) is more than a digital sheetmusic display; the unit lets you download sheet music from yourcomputer and edit scores. The standalone device has a 12.1-inchflat-panel SVGA screen and mounts on a mic stand or rests on a musicstand.
You can turn pages—forward and backward—by touching thescreen or with the optional foot pedal ($99). The MusicPad Pro comeswith a stylus, that lets you annotate the sheet music on-screen.Annotations can be made in several different colors.
You can bookmark score parts in order to jump back or ahead to anysection. MusicPad Pro comes with Flash Memory for up to 300 pages, butyou can purchase Freehand’s proprietary memory module ($99) forstoring 10,000 additional sheets.
MusicPad Pro has a USB connector and 10/100 Base T Ethernet jack fordownloading sheet music from your computer. The device supports bothMacintosh and Windows computers, and it can import music from anymusic-notation program. You can also import music from scanners.FreeHand Systems Inc.; tel. (650) 941-0742; Web www.freehandsystems.com.
Tired of sequencing drum and percussion tracks from your MIDIkeyboard? Akai’s PD16 ($349) provides 16 drum machine-style,velocity- and pressure-sensitive pads and an assignable slider in thetradition of the company’s MPC series of instruments. Thecontroller can be powered from an AC adapter or from a computer’sUSB port. You can send MIDI data through the USB connection or from theunit’s MIDI Out jack.
The PD16 gives you two Velocity modes: Full Level sends a fixedVelocity of 127, and 16 Levels divides Note-On Velocity into 16 values.The Active button engages the slider, which sends your choice ofControl Change messages.
You can program MIDI Channels, Pad Note Numbers, and Control Changemessage assignments from your computer. Akai provides setup utilitysoftware for the PD16 and USB MIDI drivers for both Mac and Windowsplatforms. Akai Musical Instrument Corporation; tel. (800) 433-5627 or(817) 831-9203; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; Web www.akaipro.com.
Voyager Sound GraphiMix 01
GraphiMix 01 ($129) is an object-oriented, graphic mixingenvironment for Windows computers. Its icon-driven user interfaceprovides a programmable visual display of mix elements. You canrepresent tracks in a virtual sound field with text or icons; theposition of icons in the display reflect mixer settings such as gain,pan, and effects. Moving the icons within the field controls your MIDIcompatible mixers, sequencers, sound cards, effects processors, andmore. You can control objects with the mouse, QWERTY keyboard, orexternal MIDI devices.
You can define your own controls, so just about any MIDI-capablemixer can be controlled. GraphiMix 01 can control 16 mixers at once,and the program supports multiple stereo and surround mixessimultaneously.
GraphiMix 01 requires at least a Pentium II/200 MHz computer with 64MB RAM. The program supports Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, and XP. VoyagerSound Inc.; tel. (781) 893-2574; e-mail email@example.com; Web www.voyagersound.com.
Little Labs’ IBP ($450) is an analog phase-alignment tool thateliminates the characteristic hollow, out-of-phase sound that can occurwhen combining audio signals. The small unit also serves as anactive-transformer direct box.
A front panel includes a knob that adjusts the signal from 0 to 180degrees, a button that toggles between 90 degrees and 180 degrees, anda button that selects the phase center frequency. Additional buttonsinclude a selector for line- or instrument-level input, a Bypassswitch, a Phase-Invert button, and a Ground Lift switch.
Inputs and outputs are balanced line-level XLR jacks. An unbalanced1/4-inch instrument-level input and a buffered 1/4-inch output jack fordriving long guitar cables is also included. Little Labs; tel. (323)851-6860; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org;Web www.littlelabs.com.
M-Audio has just released the self-powered, bi-amped SP5-B ($399 apair) close-field monitor. The manufacturer says that the SP5-B has astable, balanced low-to-midrange response and well-defined middle andhigh frequencies.
The speakers are suitable for desktop production because the driversare magnetically shielded. Swivel-mounted, 3/4-inch silk-dome tweeterslet you adjust the direction of the high frequencies and control theimaging. The tweeter’s dome employs ferro-fluid damping, whichminimizes speaker self-resonation.
You get a 5 1/4-inch woofer with a mineral filled, high-temperaturevoice coil. The sub-frequency port channels frequencies below 30 Hz.The bi-amp structure delivers 40W to the bass/midrange driver, and 30Wto the tweeter. M-audio promises a smooth transition in the crossoverfrequencies. Midiman/M-Audio ; tel. (626) 445-2842 or (800) 969-6434;e-mail email@example.com; Web www.midiman.net.