2005 Winter NAMM Report

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Hardware, Software, and In Between
A report on the 2005 Winter NAMM show.

By Mike Levine

The 103rd NAMM show, which took place January 20-23 at the Anaheim Convention Center, was upbeat and energetic. According to NAMM officials, the show featured a record-breaking number of exhibitors and attendees. Those results back up what was pretty obvious from the show floor: the musical instrument and gear industry is experiencing a much-needed upswing.

As always at NAMM shows, there was a gaggle of celebrity musicians—the evening events featuring an eclectic mix of artists ranging from the Black Eyed Peas to Lawrence Juber to Yngvie Malmsteen. On the show floor itself was the usual mixture of suited businesspeople, tattooed metalheads, ex-full-time musicians working for gear companies, computer experts, guitar freaks, star-crazed fans, and more—all participating in the spectacle that's uniquely the NAMM show.

When taking stock of the gear introduced at this show—and there were hundreds of new products on display—several interesting patterns emerged. Whether these were indications of future trends isn't clear yet, but they were certainly worth noting. In this report I'll examine those trends, as I look at some of the highlights of NAMM 2005.

One of the most intriguing developments observed at this show was the emergence of a number of new hardware products (other than interfaces) designed to integrate smoothly into the computer-recording environment. Although these products won't stem the inexorable trend toward software and away from hardware that has been going on for a number of years now, they did show that there's still a place for outboard gear in a DAW-dominated world.

Perhaps the most striking example came from Lexicon. The company introduced the MX200 ($249), a dual-processor, rackmount reverb and multi-effects processor. It sports a USB port and comes with editor/librarian software (Mac/Win) that allows it to function as a VST plug-in front end for a computer. Users can access the hardware reverb (as well as other effects) from their DAW software just like it was another plug-in (with all a plug-in's advantages in the areas of automation and patch management) but MX200 provides the DSP power instead of the computer. Equally impressive is its astonishingly low price. The MX200 is scheduled to ship in April.

Taking a similar approach to hardware/software integration is the German synth maker Access, which was showing off its new TI (Total Integration) line of Virus synths. The line is comprised of three models: the 64-key Virus TI Keyboard ($2795), a 64-key synth; the Virus TI Polar ($2795), which features 37 keys and the Virus TI Desktop ($1995), a module version. All three come with the VirusControl plug-in (VST/AU; Mac/Win), allowing users to tap into the Virus's tones from inside a DAW. And like with the MX200, the processor load is handled by the hardware. Very neat.

Another respected hardware manufacturer, Focusrite —which is flying solo again after the end of its association with Digidesign—brought out a product that adds another twist to the hardware/software relationship. The Saffire ($495) is a 4-in, 10-out FireWire audio interface that sports two Focusrite preamps, two XLR inputs, two 1/4-inch TRS line inputs, a S/PDIF input, MIDI I/O, two 1/4-inch TRS headphone jacks, and eight balanced 1/4-inch TRS outputs. Those are all handy features, but what makes this product unique is its suite of onboard DSP effects including compression, EQ, and amp modeling that can be inserted on the analog inputs, along with reverb that can be used for monitoring. These same plug-ins are also available to be installed on your computer and used within your DAW (where they'll run off your computer's CPU power).

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Hartmann Neuron VS's Nuke controller

Yet another clever hardware/software integration—again involving USB—came from synthmaker Hartmann, which was showing the Neuron VS ($999), the plug-in version (released in December) of its highly regarded Neuron synth. Neuron VS, which supports the VST and AU formats on the Mac, and VST on the PC, delivers all of the functionality of the Neuron except that it doesn't support 5.1 and doesn't have the Neuron's reverb processor. The plug-in comes with a unique-looking USB hardware controller called the Nuke that features four assignable control knobs, a joystick, and functions as a hardware dongle.

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JazzMutant Lemur

When you walk by the Cycling '74 booth, it's normal to hear unusual sounds coming from the company's collection of software and plug-ins that emphasize sound design and synthesis. But at this year's show, there was an unusual hardware product to look at, too. Lemur ($2495), which is made by the French company Jazzmutant—and distributed in the U.S. by Cycling '74—is, a pressure-sensitive control surface upon which you slide your fingers around to control a host of user-configurable virtual buttons and sliders. Lemur is connected to the host computer by an Ethernet cable, and uses the Open Sound Control (OSC) protocol to communicate. Current apps that support OSC include Native Instruments Reaktor, Cycling '74's own Max/MSP. More applications are sure to follow.

Computers and hardware were integrated in yet another way as two mic companies, Blue Microphones and Samson both showed digital microphones that connect directly to a computer through USB. From a design standpoint, Blue's Snowball ($139) takes after the company's Ball and Kickball mics by featuring a spherical design and phantom-powered dynamic operation. However, it also offers two capsules, one designed for vocals, and one for instruments, and a three-position switch to select either capsule or a combination of both.

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Samson C01U

Samson's C01U ($174) is a large-diaphragm, cardioid condenser mic that's based on the company's C01 condenser. Both the Blue and Samson mics are touted as being, "plug-and-play" devices, just attach them to your computer's USB port and start recording. Cool.

Another trend at the show was a greater-than-usual emphasis on orchestral sounds. Whether in sample libraries, notation software, or soft synths, orchestral-music products were highly visible in Anaheim. Probably the most impressive item in this category (and perhaps of the entire show) was a soft synth called the Synful Orchestra ($479) from a new company called Synful. It uses proprietary technology to produce incredibly realistic orchestral-instrument sounds. When you hit a note, Synful analyzes it and chooses from a library of prerecorded instrument phrases, combines that with additive synthesis as well as other processes and then outputs an appropriate tone. Right now, Synful is only available for the Windows platform (a free demo is available from the Synful Web site, so check it out for yourself), but a Mac version is in the works for later this year.

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VirtuosoWorks Notion

VirtuosoWorks will soon release Notion ($599), a notation program for Windows (a Mac version is in development) that works as a front end for a library of 8,500 sampled orchestral-instrument notes played by members of the London Symphony Orchestra. The idea is that these excellent samples give users realistic playback of their compositions or arrangements. The playback engine recognizes dynamic marks in the score, and the samples include realistic articulations from the various instruments. One of the coolest features is called NTEMPO, a triggering system that lets users control the tempo during playback.

Speaking of notation, Make Music announced that it was reviving Finale Allegro ($199), which hasn't seen a new version since 2003. The revamped application will contain many of the tools found in Make Music's flagship program, Finale. Some of the highlights include the MicNotator feature for notating single-line melodies, the Exercise Wizard for creating warm-up exercises, and two and three-voice auto-harmonization that utilizes technology from Band-in-a-Box,

Meanwhile, at Garritan Orchestral Libraries booth, one of several new products being shown was the Stradivari Violin Sample Library ($199). It utilizes Garritan's Sonic Morphing technology, which allows for more natural transitions between sampled notes. Garritan also announced a second edition of its popular Personal Orchestra product, which will also be offered in "lite" and "advanced" versions.

More orchestral sounds could be heard emanating from the MOTU booth, where the company was showing off its soon-to-be released Symphonic Instruments plug-in (Mac/Win, $295,), which will run in any host in the following formats: VST, Audio Units, DXi, MAS and RTAS. Many varieties of orchestral instruments are included, in both solo and section configurations. The 8 GB sample library includes strings, brass, woodwinds, choirs, percussion, and more. Up to 16 instruments per instance can be used.

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IK Multimedia Amplitube 2

Also weighing in with an orchestral instrument collection was IK Multimedia, which introduced the Miroslav Philharmonik ($499), an orchestral plug-in developed by Weather Report co-founder Miroslav Vitous. The plug-in, which is due out by summer, will be 16-part multitimbral and include its own built-in effects. The instrument samples were recorded at the Dvorak Symphony Hall in Prague, Czech Republic, and include solo and ensemble strings and brass, percussion, choirs, harp, concert piano, pipe organ, and classical guitar.

Meanwhile, Sonic Implants announced that it will be releasing the Symphonic Woodwind Collection ($995) and the Symphonic Percussion Collection ($695) sample libraries for the Giga format to complement its existing brass and string offerings. Both should be available in March or April. Shortly thereafter, the company plans to start shipping Symphonic Collections ($2,995), which will comprise all of its previously released symphonic offerings.

Also impressive was the Quantum Leap Symphonic Choirs ($995), which is distributed by EastWest. This massive 37 GB, 24-bit sample library will feature five different choirs: Alto (Female), Soprano (Female), Basses (Male), Tenors (Male), Boys, and Solo Singers. You can mix and match samples from several different mic positions. All samples feature multiple dynamics and vibrato choices. A word-building software utility (Mac/Win) is included that allows users to type in words to be sung by the choir. Play back your parts on a special version of the Native Instruments Kompakt sampler.

At the Ilio booth, Classical Boom Box (Mac, $99) from Ultimate Sound Bank was on display. The product offers classical loops and instruments for Apple's [www .apple.com] GarageBand, and gives those on a lower budget a chance to jump into the orchestral-sound arena.

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Celemony Melodyne Uno

Besides the orchestral products, there was plenty of other news in the software realm, both in terms of plug-ins and standalone apps. One of the more impressive new releases actually falls into both categories. Melodyne Uno (Mac/Win, $199,) from Celemony is a "lite" version of the Melodyne pitch-and-time editing software. While it does limit you to editing one track at a time, it's been made easier to use and offers macros that let you press one key to correct both melody and pitch in an audio file.

Cakewalk introduced Project5 Version 2 ($429, Win), a major revision of its workstation software. New features include a streamlined user interface, integrated multitrack engine, dynamic arpeggiator, and a multimode sampling synthesizer, among many others.

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Mackie Tracktion 2

Tracktion 2 (Mac/Win, $199) from Mackie is an updated version of the all-in-one-window sequencer, which adds 100 new features. You get an enhanced MIDI editor; additional synchronization support; QuickTime video support; a 64-bit, 192 kHz-capable mix engine; loop recording; and much more. Tracktion 2 comes with 70 free plug-ins and will be available in March. Upgrade pricing for version 1 users will be announced soon.

MOTU announced new versions of its Mach Five sampler and MX4 synth plug-ins. Mach Five Version 2 (Mac/Win, $395) offers a bevy of new features including the ability to run as a standalone application. Other improvements include unlimited parts, the ability to receive on an unlimited number of MIDI channels in standalone mode, 128 MIDI channels in plug-in mode, a new synthesis engine, pitch processing, time stretching, and more. MX4 Version 2 ($295) includes an arpeggiator, pattern sequencer/quantizer, envelope follower and more.

Another entry on the soft-sampler front came from Native Instruments, which introduced Kontakt 2 ($449). Scheduled for a March release, Kontakt 2 offers a new sampling engine that gives you 64-part multitimbral capability; new surround sound integration support for 5.1, 7.1 and other formats; a programmable processing engine called the Kontakt Script Processor; a convolution-effects processor, and more.

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Spectrasonics Stylus RMX 1.2

In the area of drum-and-percussion plugs, Spectrasonics released version 1.2 of its critically acclaimed Stylus RMX (Mac/Win, $299) real-time groove module. New features include patch management for effects, a ProVerb effect, a Spring Reverb effect, and a "Next Bar" feature for triggering. The update is free for current Stylus RMX owners. Owners of Stylus can upgrade for $99.

One of many new offerings from Steinberg was Groove Agent 2 (Mac/Win, $249), an updated version of its virtual-drummer plug-in. It includes 27 new styles such as Bristol Trip Hop, Old Skool Hip Hop, Punk, Retro Rock, and Grunge. Also included are 9 new drum kits. Upgrades for existing Groove Agent owners will be available for $79, and Groove Agent 2 is expected to ship in February.

A different type of drum-machine plug-in was on display at the FXpansion booth. The sample-based Guru (Mac/Win, $249) comes with its own library of content, and offers beat-slicing, the ability to switch seamlessly between patterns, and much more. It's due to be released in March or April.

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Universal Audio Precision EQ

On the effects plug-in front, Universal Audio announced that it's now shipping Precision EQ (Mac/Win, $199), a 4-band mastering equalizer (Mac/Win) for the UAD-1 platform. It offers stereo or dual-mono operation, a shelving or peak/notch filter on each band, stepped gain and frequency controls, among other features.

TC Electronic announced that it has ported its VSS3 Stereo Source Reverb ($625) from System 6000 to PowerCore. This highly programmable ambience plug-in gives you a wealth of parameters, maximum spaciousness with full mono compatibility, a wide dynamic range, and more than 500 (count 'em) presets.

In a move sure to ratchet up the competition in the burgeoning guitar-effects plug-in field, IK Multimedia released Amplitube 2 (Mac/Win $399), a significant upgrade from the original version. The totally redesigned processor gives users 20,000 possible amp combinations, dozens of virtual-miking options, new rack and stompbox effects, and plenty more. Amplitube 2 is scheduled to be shipping by April.

Those looking for a wide-ranging, nuts-and-bolts processing suite will be interested in a new plug-in bundle from Nomad Factory, which is distributed by Tascam. Essential Studio Suite (Mac/Win,$299) contains nine plug-ins: Essential (Channel, Essential Graphic EQ, Essential Compressor, Essential Gate Expander, Multiband Loudness Maximizer, Loudness Maximizer, Multiband Compressor, Tube/Tape Warmer, and Retro-Vox. It runs on VST, RTAS, HDTM, and AU host applications.

If you're interested in taking your music to new and different places, you'll want to check out Hipno (Mac, $199) from Cycling '74. It's a suite of 40 plug-ins that use granular, filter/delay, and spectral processes to create and alter audio. Several of the plug-ins can be maniputlated through live video input. Cycling '74 reports that a Windows XP version of Hipno will be available later this year.

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Waves Q-Clone

Waves debuted a new plug-in called Q-Clone (Mac/Win, $1,000), which is designed to capture the sound of your outboard hardware EQ units, and then let you to apply it to your audio through the plug-ins. If you have, say, a single quality outboard EQ, Q-Clone makes it possible to use it on multiple tracks at once. It's available in HDTM and native versions, and is currently shipping.

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Sony Sound Forge 8.0

On the 2-track editing front, Sony released Sound Forge 8 ($399.95, Win), a new version of its venerable editing software. New additions include CD Architect 5.2 CD mastering software, audio scrubbing, low-latency ASIO-driver support, and VST plug-in support. Sound Forge 8 is scheduled to ship in February.

In addition to the classical libraries mentioned previously, there were plenty of other interesting new sound collections on display.

Two contenders for the most unusually named products of the show come from Discrete Drums. Ruff Drumz Bitch!! ($229), is a 24-bit loop library that contains hip-hop grooves played by a live drummer along with a drum machine. The drums are split onto separate tracks, and you get a separate track for the drum machine. The other collection (also 24-bit) is called Heavy Mental Drums ($249), and features rock and metal grooves recorded in a large and live studio. Each song contains grooves, fills, and variations. You get close-mic tracks, a couple of different stereo room-mic tracks, and a "Gak" track that was recorded with a cheap stereo mic, allowing you to dial in a hint of heavily compressed, distorted drums if you want.

Another interesting multitrack drum loop collection comes from Sony, which released Steve Ferrone & Greg Ladanyi: Drums from the Big Room ($249.95). This 5-CD set features the drumming of Ferrone, veteran of numerous bands including Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Average White Band, Eric Clapton, Chaka Kahn, and more. According to Sony, the collection, produced by Ladanyi, includes organic-sounding drum loops in a variety of styles. They're delivered as 24-bit Acidized WAV files that can be used in a variety of applications on the Mac and PC. Sony released another multitrack collection, Chicago Fire, A Dance Music Anthology ($249.95), which was produced by Vince Lawrence, and features construction kits for a variety of club-music styles.

Submersible Music offered up two new DrummerPacks ($79 each) for its drum-part creating application DrumCore. One pack features reggae legend Sly Dunbar, and the other Zoro, who's worked with a variety of artists including Lenny Kravitz and Bobby Brown. Each pack contains a collection of loops, fills, and single hits.

Q-Up Arts was previewing a new sample collection called Piano Attack ($TBA), which features sounds from a wide range of prepared and "abused" pianos. Rather than wrecking your own piano in an attempt to get those unusual sound variations, wait until this collection is released in March.

Back at the EastWest booth, you could check out a new sound collection aptly called Colossus ($995), which comes with specially designed Native Instruments [www .nativeinstruments.de] Kontakt player. Colossus's 32-GB library is designed to provide users with a workstation-like sound set, featuring instruments of all types. You get drums, percussion, guitars, pianos, organs, basses (both electric, upright, and synth), synths, brass, choirs, ethnic, and more.

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Big Fish Audio Foundation.jpg

At the Big Fish Audio booth, they were showing off Foundation ($299), a new 8-track Rex2 player that will be available in early February. Not only do you get the player itself, but an 11 GB library of sounds aimed at old-school hip-hop and R&B producers. The files come compressed to 3 GB on a single DVD, and include drum loops, construction kits, guitars, keyboards, kicks, snares, you name it. The player also offers a mod matrix, filtering, tuning, and more editing possibilities.

Ilio released four S.A.G.E.-Xpander collections for Stylus RMX. They include Stark Raving Beats S.A.G.E. Xpander ($99), a collection of "aggressive" live drum loops; Ethno Techno S.A.G.E. Xpander ($99), which consists of organic flavored percussion loops; Skippy's Noizbox S.A.G.E. Xpander ($99), which gives you techno club grooves; and Skippy's Big Bad Beats S.A.G.E. Xpander ($99), a collection of hip-hop, trip-hop, and other dance grooves.

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Korg Oasys

In addition to the virtual instruments, there were plenty of hardware synths and keyboards introduced, including several workstations and a number of rackmount updates of existing synths. If there were a bells-and-whistles competition among synths introduced, the KorgOasys ($TBA) would be the winner. The name is an acronym for Open Architecture Synthesis Studio, and the unit (which comes in both 76-key synth action and 88-key weighted-hammer-action flavors) offers a veritable cornucopia of features. It gives you audio recording, MIDI sequencing, 616 GB waveform ROM, 172-note polyphony, control-surface functionality, second-generation KARMA technology, and more. It's essentially three keyboards in one: a High Definition PCM Synthesizer, a virtual analog synth, and a CX-3 Tonewheel organ. Open Architecture Synthesis, by its definition, means that it's software expandable, so you add more synthesis types as you go.

Another new synth with multiple synthesis types could be found at the Alesis booth. The Fusion 6HD ($2,399) and the Fusion 8HD ($2,999) workstation keyboards both offer four types of synthesis: FM, sample playback, virtual analog, and physical modeling. Other features include a 24-bit sampler with waveform editing, a 40 GB internal hard drive, an onboard arpeggiator, and a 240 x 128 backlit LCD. Alesis expects them to ship in April.

Yamaha unveiled the Motif ES Rack ($1,350), a 1U module that gives offers all the features of the Motif ES (minus the keyboard). You get 175 MB of Wave ROM, 128-note polyphony, the Phrase Factory arpeggiator, multi-effects, a 160 x 40 LCD display, and much more. Look for it to ship in February.

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Roland V-Synth XT

Roland also debuted a rackmount synth, the V-Synth XT ($2,499), a module version of its V-Synth keyboard. The new model features an array of synthesis types, including the V-Synth's Elastic Audio Synthesis engine, vocal modeling, analog-synth modeling, and an emulation of Roland's classic D-50. Also included is a touch-sensitive color display,

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Dave Smith PolyEvolver Keyboard

Front and center at the Dave Smith Instruments booth, was the new PolyEvolver Keyboard ($2,699). It has the same synth engine as the Poly Evolver, but adds a 5-octave keyboard with pitch bend and modulation wheels. Look for it to be released in April.

Controller keyboards were another hot item at this year's show. Here are some just some of those that were on display:

CME was showing a new range of solidly built USB/MIDI keyboards including the 49-key UF-5 ($279), the 61-key UF-6 ($379), the 76-key UF-7 ($499), and the 88-key UF-8 ($699). All the models respond to Aftertouch and can be powered by the USB bus. They each offer 8 assignable control knobs, 9 assignable control faders, MIDI out, Win 2000/XP and Mac OS X support, and can be configured with an optional FireWire expansion board. The UF8 features a weighted, hammer-action keyboard.

Korg impressed with its new Kontrol 49 ($500), which is even more fully-featured than its MicroKontrol keyboard. You get 49 keys, 8 assignable sliders, 8 assignable rotary encoders, 16 Velocity-sensitive trigger pads, a Vector Joystick that can control two parameters at once, backlit LCDs, free editor/librarian software (Mac/Win) and much more. Look for it to be available in March.

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E-mu Xboards

Also impressive were two new offerings from E-mu: the Xboard 49 ($TBA) and the Xboard 25 ($TBA). Both USB/MIDI controllers that have 16 programmable controllers and full-size Velocity-sensitive keyboards that respond to Aftertouch. Included with the Xboards are Xboard Control editing software, and the Proteus X LE Desktop soft synth.

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Edirol PCR-M30

Over at the Edirol booth—on the left side of the giant Roland booth—three new USB/MIDI controllers were on display. Based on Edirol's PCR series, the 61-key PCR-M80 ($375), 49-key PCR-M50 ($285), and 32-key PCR-M30 ($225). The keyboards feature improved action, rubber-coated knobs, greater flexibility in assigning the 27 control knobs and sliders, compatibility with the PCR Software Editor (Win/Mac), and more.

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M-Audio Black Box

Although the new Black Box ($299) from M-Audio was designed primarily for guitar, it can also be used to process other instruments and even vocals. Developed in tandem with Roger Linn, the Black Box utilizes Adrenalinn technology to give you tempo-synced filter effects, and amp modeling (models from Fender, Marshall, Vox, HiWatt, Soldano, Mesa/Boogie, and Bogner are included). It also features a built-in drum machine, a microphone preamp and XLR input, balanced 1/4-inch TRS outputs, a S/PDIF digital output and more. Look for it at the end of February.

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Digitech Jimi Hendrix Experience pedal

Guitarists will want to check out two new pedals from DigiTech that take a different approach to modeling by offering emulations of specific tones from songs by Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. The Jimi Hendrix Experience ($249.95) is a wah-style pedal that was developed along with Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer. It offers tones from 7 Hendrix classics including "Purple Haze," "Little Wing," "All Along the Watchtower," and "Voodoo Child." It will be shipping sometime in February. The Eric Clapton Crossroads ($199.95) is a stompbox-sized pedal that gives you tones from such songs as "Crossroads," "Sunshine of Your Love," "Lay Down Sally," "Reptile," "Badge," and both the acoustic and electric versions of "Layla." The Clapton pedal is available now, and the Hendrix pedal should be shipping by mid-February.

A couple of new tube mic preamps were on display. One is the SVTMP ($529) from Ampeg. It features a 12AU7 tube, a 1/4-inch/XLR combo input jack, 48V phantom power, and mic- and line-input pads. It's scheduled for to ship sometime this spring. Meanwhile, Electro-Harmonix was showing the 12AY7 Mic Pre ($TBA), which offers 1/4-inch and XLR mic inputs, input- and output-level controls, and holds its tube in an external, cylindrical compartment.

Among the many new items at the Roland booth were two new portable digital studios from Boss: the BR-1200-CD ($1,299) and the BR-900-CD ($799). Both give you built-in CD-RW drives, COSM effects and modeling, mastering tools, rhythm programming, USB ports, and more. The BR-1200-CD provides 12 tracks of recording and playback to an internal hard drive. The BR-900-CD offers 8 tracks of recording and playback and records to CompactFlash cards. It's the more portable of the two, due to a smaller footprint and the ability to run off of batteries as well as AC power.

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Open Labs NeKo LE with LCD option

Dedicated music computers have started popping up more and more of late, and Open Labs, one of the leading manufacturers of such units, added to its line of offerings with its most affordable unit yet, the Neko LE ($2,595). The new model comes with a Pentium 4 processor that's fully integrated with a keyboard and synthesizer, and its features include 250-voice polyphony; the capacity to host 50 simultaneous plug-ins; 24-bit, 192 kHz audio quality; compatibility with any Windows XP plug-in or application; and PCI slots for running additional audio cards. For an additional $600, you can order the Neko LE with a built-in 15-inch LCD monitor.

In the mixer realm, Tascam was showing off the DM-3200 ($3,799) a new 32-channel, 48-input digital console. Features include mixing at up to 24-bit, 96 kHz resolutions; 4-band parametric EQ and dynamics on each channel; 17 motorized, touch-sensitive, 100mm faders; surround-sound mixing (up to 6.1); Tascam Mixer Companion software (Mac/Win), AES/EBU, S/PDIF, ADAT, and TDIF digital I/O; DAW control capability; and a lot more. Look for it to ship in April.

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Tannoy Reveal5A

In the area of studio monitors, Tannoy announced that it has revamped its entire Reveal line of monitors, both passive and active. On the active side, the new Reveal 5A ($800/pair) specs out with a frequency response of 65 Hz-30 KHz, with less than 0.7 percent distortion, and puts out 40W in the low frequencies and 20W in the highs. Two of the other active models in the line, the Reveal 6D and the Reveal 8D will come equipped with S/PDIF inputs.

At Edirol, the company was showing a price-busting new digital "micro" monitor, the MA-15D ($220/pair), which has 1/4-inch and RCA analog inputs as well as S/PDIF coaxial and optical digital inputs. The speakers can handle digital signals up to 24-bit, 192 kHz. Features include a 4-inch woofer and 2-inch tweeter (both magnetically shielded); controls for bass, treble, and volume; a bass-enhancer switch; and a digital-input select switch.

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Telefunken RFT M16

Telefunken North America displayed the surprisingly affordable RFT M 16 ($1,399), a tube mic with 9-selectable patterns. It's hand built, and comes with a power supply, a remote variable switch, a shock mount, a 25-foot cable, a wooden box, and a 1-year warranty. According to Telefunken, it's only the first in a new line of affordable mics.

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Audix FireBall

Over at the Audix booth, a couple of new models were on display: the Fireball ($199) is a small, red-colored dynamic mic designed for harmonica. Made of aircraft-grade aluminum, and small enough to fit in your hand, the Fireball is designed to handle SPLs of over 140 dB without distortion. The company was also showing the CX112, a large-diaphragm cardioid condenser that features a 28 mm (1.07") gold-sputtered diaphragm, a frequency response of 20 Hz - 20 kHz, a bass rolloff switch, and a -10 dB pad.

Beyerdynamic introduced its Opus series of mics, which features several models designed with studio-instrument miking in mind: the Opus 51 ($359), is a boundary mic recommend for use in piano and kick-drum miking applications; the Opus 53 ($139), is a condenser suggested for snare, hi-hat, brass, woodwind, and guitar duties; the Opus 83 ($279) is a condenser instrument mic; and the Opus 99 ($379) is designed specifically for kick drum and bass.