A report on the 2006 Winter NAMM show.
A grand total of 81,315 registrants jammed the Anaheim Convention Center over the four-day length of this year's Winter NAMM show, shattering the all-time attendance record. The number of companies exhibiting—1,462—was a record, as well. The show was bustling and busy, with new gear in abundance.
To say that the convention center floor was "buzzing" with activity, would be an understatement. As is always the case at NAMM, the buzz was more like a din. Imagine hundreds of booths inside several large halls, each filled with instruments and gear, much of which is being simultaneously demoed. The resultant cacophony takes a little getting used to, but after walking the show floor for hours on end, you tend to tune it out.
Throughout the duration of the show, but especially on Saturday when the bulk of the autograph sessions occurred, there were celebrities scattered all around the cavernous convention center. From Bono to Herbie Hancock to numerous black-clad, tattooed metal guitarists, musicians were everywhere. click here for NAMM photo gallery.
NAMM did a particularly good job this year providing musical entertainment in the large lobby area that fronts the exhibit halls; it seemed like every time you walked in, somebody was performing, or another marching band was sallying forth through the throngs of people.
Despite all the peripheral activity, the focus at NAMM is the gear itself. The following are some of the product highlights from the show, arranged in categories and presented in alphabetical order by manufacturer name.
SOFTWARE AND SOUNDS
Hall A at the Anaheim Convention Center is where most of the software developers' booths were, and for this EM editor it was like walking through a treasure trove. Here are some of the notable software developments from the show.
Adobe unveiled Audition 2.0 ($349; Win), the latest version of its audio recording software program, and announced that the program has started shipping. Audition 2.0 features a low-latency mixing engine, a redesigned user interface that includes windows that can be docked and grouped, a new Mastering Rack for previewing multiple effects, Spectral editing, and much more.
Arturia Prophet V
Arturia disclosed its new soft synth, the Prophet V ($199; Mac/Win). Its designed to be a combination of two classic synths, the analog Prophet 5 and the digital Prophet VS. It features over 400 presets and runs either standalone or as a plug-in. The Prophet V supports VST, AU, and RTAS on the Mac and VST, DXi, and RTAS on Windows.
Art Vista was showing off its very impressive and surprisingly inexpensive soft instrument: Virtual Grand Piano ($120; Mac/Win). The plug-in, which uses a Kontakt engine, features seven basic presets: Classical Piano, Pop Piano, Jazz Piano, Gospel Piano, Rock Piano, Light Piano, and Compressed piano. According to Art Vista, each preset has keyboard response characteristics commensurate with its particular style. You also get effects such as reverb, flanger, phaser, and more. The company was also showing a beta version of a realistic-sounding acoustic bass instrument that it plans to release in the future.
Cakewalk debuted Rapture ($249; Mac/Win), another cross-platform virtual synth that comes on the heels of the company's recently released Dimension Pro. Rapture, which feature a Wavetable synth engine, provides over 500 presets, a flexible-and-easy editing architecture, multiwaveform oscillators with two 16-mode filters on each, 40 envelope generators, a MIDI Modulation Matrix, and much more. Rapture runs under AU, RTAS, and VSTi on the Mac, and DXi, RTAS, and VSTi on Windows. It's scheduled for a February release.
Celemony Melodyne 3
Celemony was showing Melodyne 3 (Cre8 version $369, Studio version $699; Mac/Win), the latest version of its audio pitch-and-tempo manipulation software. The big news with version 3 is that it can now do its magic on polyphonic audio. The new version incorporates a lot of the interface improvements introduced in Melodyne Uno last year. The company also announced that Melodyne Uno and Melodyne Essential would each be upgraded to version 1.5 at the end of January. The new versions will be free downloads for registers users.
We've come to expect cool products with unusual names from Discrete Drums and the latest, Ruff Drumz Bitch! ($TBA) is no exception. This multitrack drum loop collection features hip-hop infused drumming and electro-percussion loops recorded at Philadelphia's Studio Four. It's scheduled for a February release.
Digidesign announced that it will soon release the Music Production Toolkit ($495; Mac/Win) for Pro Tools LE and Pro Tools M-Powered systems. The software suite will include plug-ins, and enhanced editing and recording capabilities. Users will get Hybrid, a soft synth from Digidesign's newly formed Advanced Instrument Research Group; TL Space Native edition, a convolution reverb from Trillium Lane Labs, a company whose assets Digidesign just purchased; Smack LE, a compressor/limiter; and more. Toolkit owners will be able to increase track counts to 48 stereo or 48 mono. The company also announced that it will release a free soft synth called Xpand, an RTAS-format synth that was also developed by the new research group. It offers multiple synthesis types including wavetable, analog modeling, FM, and sample playback. You also get over 1,000 factory presets, and onboard effects. Xpand will soon be included on new Pro Tools LE and HD, and M-Powered systems, and also distributed through Digidesign dealers and the DigiStore.
Eventide showed off its Anthology II ($1,195, $299 upgrade; Mac/Win) TDM plug-in bundle, an upgraded version of its Anthology collection. The new bundle features 15 plug-ins (the original Anthology had 9). New plugs include the E-Channel and Ultra-Channel channel strips, the EQ65 Filter Set, the EQ45 Parametric Equalizer, the Quadravox harmonizer, and Precision Time Align, mic-phase alignment tool. Upgrades are free for those who purchased Anthology between December 15, 2005 and January 31, 2006.
E-mu announced Emulator X2 ($399.99; Win) and Proteus X2 ($299.99; Win), new versions of its sample-based soft instruments. The Emulator X2 sampler will include new features such as TwistaLoop, a non-destructive audio manipulator; SynthSwipe, which automatically samples hardware or software-based MIDI instruments and creates presets, and much more. The Proteus X2's features include TwistaLoop, a Morph Filter Designer, and over 3 GB of included sounds.
FXpansion unveiled Jazz and Funk ($249), a 55 GB expander sound set for its BFD virtual drum instrument. Produced by John Emrich, the new collection includes samples of vintage Gretsch drums, played by sticks, brushes, mallets, and more. Jazz and Funk is due out in March. The company also announced v. 2 of its VST to RTAS Adapter ($99), which will work with Pro Tools 7.
The small developer Handheld Sound was previewing a very impressive hand-percussion library called FlyingHand Percussion ($TBA). Two years in the making, it features meticulously edited 24-bit samples of ethnic hand-percussion instruments such as djembe, clay drum, congas, timbales, and ashiko, among others. The instrument programs feature intricate velocity and key mapping, designed to make the experience of playing them from a keyboard as realistic as possible.
IK Multimedia was showing Ampeg SVX ($TBA) its new bass-amp modeling software, which uses the same DSM modeling technology as the company's flagship guitar software Amplitube. Ampeg SVX provides models of a range of Ampeg bass amps, cabinets, and effects pedals including the SVT Classic, SVT4 Pro, B15W Portaflex, BA500, and more. It's expected to be released in March.
Ilio announced that it will soon be releasing four of its collections in S.A.G.E Xpander format for Spectrasonics Stylus RMX. The four are: Stark Raving Beats, Skippy's Noizbox, Skippy's Big Bad Beats, and Ethno Techno. Each comes on a DVD, is compatible with Mac and Windows, and is priced at $99.
JBL announced that it's now shipping the Mac version of its LS4300 Control Center software, which allows user configuration of the company's LS4300 active studio monitors. Previously, only a Windows version had been available.
Mackie was showing off its new C4 Commander software for the C4 control surface. The new software includes a library of profiles for over 180 instruments and processors, and allows for custom user profiles. The new software will be included with all new C4s and is available as a free download for existing C4 owners.
At the AES show in October 2005, McDSP released its Project Studio bundle, which put together RTAS format "LE" versions its plug-ins. At NAMM, the company released another bundle, this one aimed at the higher-end TDM market. The Emerald Pack ($2,795) features full versions of all McDSP's plug-ins in TDM/RTAS/AudioSuite format. You get Analog Channel, it's analog tape machine emulation; Revolver, its convolution reverb; the Channel G channel strip; CompressorBank; FilterBank; the MC2000 multiband compressor; the Chrome Tone amp modeler; and Synthesizer One. All run on both Mac and Windows XP except for Revolver, which is Mac only. Emerald Pack is slated to ship in mid February.
MOTU was previewing Digital Performer 5, a major upgrade of the company's flagship sequencer. The new version will feature Track Folders, in which you can nest groups of tracks (or more folders); six new software instruments including a variety of synths and a sampler; independent input monitoring; several new edit tools; a MIDI keys feature that lets you play notes from the computer keyboard; Soundbite Automation for altering parameters within a Soundbite; and more. MOTU was also showing Ethno Instrument ($295), an impressive-sounding, 64-part, cross-platform virtual instrument that can run either standalone or as a VST, RTAS, AU, or MAS plug-in on the Mac; or as a DXi or VST plug on Windows. The instrument plays a variety of ethnic instruments in both MIDI instrument and loop form. (Loops sync to host tempo.). Instruments are grouped by geographic location, and include original tunings and "corrected tunings." Both DP5 and Ethno Instrument are due for late March release.
Native Instruments KORE
Native Instruments had the show abuzz with KORE ($TBA), its new universal plug-in platform. The KoreSound universal format will let users open up multiple instrument and effects plug-ins within it. KORE is able to host all VST and AU plug-ins, and can run as a plug-in within a host, or as a standalone program. It features a database that allows users to catalog sounds by musical attributes and more. KORE's hardware controller will allow for switching and controlling of presets. According to NI, KORE should be available some time this spring.
Peterson announced it was now shipping a retail boxed set of its StroboSoft ($149) software-based, chromatic strobe-tuning software. The set will also contain a DVD that offers tips for doing your own setup, maintenance, and intonation. A mini-jack adaptor, for converting a 1/4-inch guitar cable to an 1/8-inch soundcard input, is also included.
Redmatica introduced Keymap Advanced Sampled Instruments Editor ($245). Keymap gives you great flexibility for editing samples in Logic's ESX24. It lets you easily setup layers, splits, loops, key mapping, and other sample setup tasks. Among many other features, it gives you the ability to split loops into pieces and remix them into new ones. It will be available starting in April, either as a standalone or as part of the Redmatica Sampling Suite.
Serato introduced Pitch 'n Time LE ($399), a reduced-but-still-powerful version of it's audio-editing software. According to Serato, the software lets you adjust pitches by ±12 semitones, and tempos between 50 percent and 200 percent. Pitch 'n Time LE will be available as an AudioSuite plug-in for Pro Tools, and as an under-the-hood engine for Apple Logic Pro's Time and Pitch Machine section. It's due to be released in late February.
At the Sonic Implants booth, our attention was caught by Scarbee Imperial Drums XL ($299; Mac/Win), a massive 48 GB drum-sound collection with a Halion 2 or Kontakt front end. A total of 51 different drums were sampled and numerous velocity switches were programmed in. This collection is available now. Also of note was a new instrument called Muse ($499: Mac/Win) an all-purpose Workstation plug-in with 30 GB of sounds over a wide range of instrument categories. Finally, if you're into big-band arranging, you'll appreciate Fable Sounds Broadway Big Band ($TBA; Mac/Win), a very detailed collection of big band sounds that's scheduled for release later in the year.
Sony Oxford EQ
Over at Sony, Acid 6 ($399.95; Win) was on display. The new version will be out in March, and will offer users multitrack audio and MIDI recording in addition to its loop-based production tools. Some of the highlights of the new version include unlimited audio and MIDI tracks, 20 real-time DXi effects, ASIO driver support, nestable folder tracks, a video scoring track, disk-at-once CD burning, and Media Manager search technology. Sony also displayed the Oxford 6-Pack Bundle ($2,695 HD, $1,075 LE; Mac/Win) for Pro Tools. The bundle includes all the Oxford plug-ins: EQ, Dynamics, Transient Modulator, Inflator, Reverb, and Limiter.
Steinberg released Virtual Guitarist 2.6 ($299.99, Mac/Win), which is designed to automatically generate authentic-sounding guitar parts from its 6.8 GB library of electric- and acoustic-guitar audio. Its Part Editor feature allows for user manipulation of both rhythm and pitch. It's scheduled to ship this month. Also noteworthy was the announcement of Wavelab 6 ($699.95, Win), which is slated to ship sometime in February. The new version of the audio editing application will include a Spectrum Editor featuring "Surgical" mode, enhanced time-stretching and pitch-shifting functions, and much more.
Submersible Music was showing DrumCore 2.0 ($249), the new version of its drum-loop-arranging/MIDI-drum-module software. New features include separate outputs for the MIDI drum module and syncing to host tempos with ReWire, and the exporting of loops as REX files. You also get more loops, fills, single hits, and drum kits. The new version adds country loops from Lonnie Wilson, odd-time-signature loops from Alan White and prog rock loops from Terry Bozzio. A full collection of Bozzio loops, Terry Pack ($79.99), has also been announced.
TC Helicon introduced a new effects plug-in called Harmony4 ($745 PowerCore; $995 TDM; Mac/Win). Designed to run on Pro Tools TDM and TC Electronic's PowerCore platform, Harmony4 leverages TC Helicon's expertise in vocal processing. The plug-in allows users to create up to 4 part harmony parts, controlling gender, vibrato, and other parameters. Harmonies can be generated through scale-based parameters or by applying MIDI notes. Harmony4 is scheduled to be available in February.
There was big news over at the Tascam booth. Among other new products, the company announced the upcoming release of two new virtual instruments based on its Giga technology. GVI ($369) is essentially a plug-in version of GigaStudio but with less editing capabilities. GVI can read GigaSampler libraries and features GigaPulse technology, 24-bit, 96 KHZ audio, and a Dynamic Expression filter, among other features. It's due for release this spring. GigaViolin ($269) is a virtual violin instrument (offering a selection of modeled violin bodies, room sizes, bowing techniques, and more) that can also work as a violin library for GigaStudio owners. It's due to ship in April. Both GVI and GigaViolin are slated to initially run as VSTi and RTAS plug-ins for Windows only. But the big news is that Tascam plans to develop Mac versions, which will probably be out later this year. Clearly, a Mac version of GigaStudio is not too far off, either.
Universal Audio announced that it has entered into a licensing agreement with AMS Neve Limited, the upshot of which is that UA will be developing software emulations of Neve processors for its UAD-1 platform. The first will be the classic Neve 1073 Equalizer. Pricing and ship dates have yet to be announced.
Uberschall was showing a number of new virtual instruments including The Voice Volume 1 and 2 ($199 each), which are from the company's Liquid Instrument series. Compatible with VST, AU, and RTAS, and based on Celemony's Melodyne engine, the plug-ins offer highly editable male and female vocal samples. Volume 1 is made up of 300 vocal phrases (2 to 8 measures in duration) designed for use in pop, dance, and R&B productions. Volume 2 features oohs, aahs, and uhs. The voices can be used individually or in harmonized groups.
VirtusoWorks was demoing the soon-to-be released Notion 1.5 [$599; Mac/Win], which brings Mac compatibility to the notation program. Notion features samples from the London Symphony Orchestra and allows users to "conduct" the tempo (if desired) by tapping keys on the computer keyboard. Version 1.5 is scheduled to ship in February.
Waves SSL E-Channel
Waves announced a new suite of plug-ins that emulate the sound of vintage SSL consoles. The SSL 4000 Collection ($800 native, $1,600 TDM; Mac/Win) includes three plug-ins that, were developed under license from Solid State Logic, and were carefully modeled from the original consoles. You get the SSL G-Master Buss Compressor, the SSL E-Channel (channel strip) and the SSL G-Equalizer, a 4-band EQ. Waves also showed off a new version of its GTR amp emulation software, GTR 2.0 ($600 native, $1200 TDM; Mac/Win). It includes three new amps and seven new cabinets. It will be a free upgrade for GTR owners. Also announced was Z-Noise ($800-native only; Mac/Win), a new noise reduction plug-in that's based on an entirely different algorithm than the company's existing X-Noise plugs. Both GTR 2.0 and Z-Noise are currently shipping, and the SSL 4000 Collection should be out by mid-February.
HOT NEW HARDWARE
Despite the trend towards more and more software-based music production, there were plenty of new hardware products on display.
Akai was showing the MPC2500 ($2,999), the latest incarnation of its classic sampling instrument. The new model succeeds the MPC2000XL. The unit, which is shipping now, sports 16 velocity- and pressure-sensitive pads, 128 MB of RAM, 10 analog outputs, a S/PDIF digital out, a pair of digital effects processors and more. The "Chop Shop" feature lets users create pad-triggered drum kits from drum-loop audio. Akai also showed the EWI4000S ($999) a new wind controller that features an onboard analog modeling synthesizer, MIDI In and Out ports, and controls for breath, vibrato, glide time, and bend width. The unit is due to ship sometime this quarter.
One of the new products released by Alesis was the aggressively priced DM5 Electronic Drum Kit ($699). The kit includes Alesis' DM5 drum module, as well as a full MIDI drum kit comprised of five drum pads (snare, kick, two toms, hi-hat controller pedal), two cymbal pads, and kick and hi-hat pedals. The kit is due for release sometime in the first quarter. The company also was showing off the IO26 ($599) a new FireWire audio/MIDI interface that offers up to 192 kHz sampling rates, 2 FireWire ports, 8 analog mic/line combo jacks, up to 16 channels of ADAT Lightpipe output, and more. Alesis says the unit will ship in the second quarter of this year.
Apogee made a big impression with Ensemble ($1,999), a new 24-bit, 192 kHz interface that was built in collaboration with Apple and designed especially for the Mac, You get 8 channels of Apogee A/D/A conversion; 4 mic preamps; and 8 channels of ADAT I/O; and S/PDIF, coaxial, and optical I/O. The unit incorporates Apogee's SoftLimit, UV22HR, and Intelliclock technologies. You also get the Maestro software application, which offers numerous features including a routing matrix, mic pre and headphone-level controls, and much more. Ensemble is scheduled to ship in February.
A.R.T., which is now distributed by Yorkville, announced that it has upgraded its Tube MP Project Series ($169) preamp by adding a USB output. In addition, you get such features as XLR and 1/4-inch I/O, a 12AX7A tube, an FET limiter, and selectable input impedance. The unit is due to ship in April.
Boss released a number of new products, but none more cool than the BR-600 ($449), an amazingly small (approximately 10" x 7" x 1") and very lightweight 8-track recorder. The unit records to CompactFlash memory (a 128-MB card is included); and features 64 virtual tracks, an effects processor with COSM amp models, pitch correction, and more. It records compressed audio, but can import and export WAV and AIFF files. Boss was also showing the RC-50 Loop Station ($689). It features three independent Phrase Tracks, which can each be separately manipulated and overdubbed onto. The RC-50 is scheduled to ship in March and the BR-600 in April.
You've heard of a software version of a hardware instrument, but what about a hardware version of a software instrument? Creamware announced the B4000 ASB ($TBA), which takes the company's B2003 organ plug-in (a physically modeled Hammond B3) and turns it into a MIDI organ module, with a built-in Leslie simulation, a USB port, 2-channels of audio I/O and more.
Edirol had a number of impressive new products on display. Of particular note was the R-09 ($450), a new portable stereo recorder. The unit, which runs on two AA batteries, is capable of recording 24-bit uncompressed WAV files (44.1 or 48 kHz) as well as to MP3, and uses SD memory cards as its media (a 64 MB card is included). A stereo condenser mic is built in, and there's an input for an external mic. You also get a headphone output, and a USB port for easily downloading recordings to a computer. The R-09 is due to ship in April. Edirol also showed the UA-4FX USB Audio/MIDI Interface ($229), which includes built-in effects, and an array of I/O including analog (XLR with phantom power, 1/4-inch), and S/PDIF connections. The R-09 is available now.
Electro-Harmonix debuted a number of new effects pedals including the Hog (Harmonic Octave Generator and Guitar Synthesizer) pedal ($718). The Hog offers multiple pitch shifts, envelope and filter controls, and plenty of other controllable parameters for making some very unusual guitar sounds. The Little Big Muff ($99) is a small, but still potent version of the company's classic Big Muff Pi fuzz pedal. Both pedals are expected to ship in March. Also new was the 2880 Super Multitrack Looper ($698), a 4-track loop pedal that can be controlled by an optional remote footswitch.
In addition to showing it's recently released ALP-5 ($349/pair) monitors, Event Electronics was debuting the ALP-5 Wireless Speakers ($599/pair), which are expected to be used, among other applications, as rear channel surrounds. The company was also showing the ESP7100 ($TBA) and the ESP5100 ($TBA), two surround preamps for active monitors. They're expected to be available later in the year. Also on display was the very affordable S100 ($249) subwoofer, which is slated to ship in May.
In addition to a couple of major software upgrades (see "Software and Sounds") E-mu also introduced the PS-12 ($699.99), a subwoofer that's designed to work with the company's PM5 monitors, which were announced at AES. E-mu says that all the new products will be shipping later this spring.
DigiTech displayed a number of new guitar effects products including the EX-7 Expression Factory pedal ($299). Shipping now, the pedal looks like a wah but has four dual knobs for precise control of its seven different modeled expression effects including Cry Baby Wah, Clyde McCoy Wah, XP300 Space Station, Whammy, Uni-Vibe, Leslie 147, and A/DA Flanger. It lets you choose from one of these sounds and blend them, if you wish, with one of seven distortions sounds from the company's recent DF-7 Distortion Factory pedal.
Fostex MR8 Mk II
Fostex showed off its latest multitracker, the MR-8 Mk II ($349). Due out in February, this 8-track machine records to CompactFlash media and comes with a 128 MB card. Features include an Analog Guitar Distortion effect, a USB port for transferring WAV files between the recorder and a PC or Mac (free WavManager software is provided), bouncing of all 8 tracks onto tracks 7 and 8, mastering effects, AC and battery operation, and more.
Focusrite Saffire Pro 26 i/o
Focusrite announced the Saffire Pro 26 i/o ($999), a new 1U rackmount FireWire interface that includes 8 Focusrite mic preamps on XLR jacks, 8 balanced 1/4-inch line inputs, 16 channels of ADAT I/O, and S/PDIF I/O. You also get MIDI In and Out, a free suite of Saffire VST/AU plug-ins, word clock in and out and much more. The unit records at sampling rates up to 192 kHz, and is expected to be shipping around the middle of April.
IK Multimedia Stealth Plug
In addition to its software offerings (see "Software and Sounds"), IK Multimedia was previewing the Stealth Plug ($99), a USB audio card in the form of a USB-to-1/4-inch cable. Its designed to let guitarists easily plug into a DAW system. It also features an 1/8-inch headphone out and volume buttons. The company expects it to be on the market by midyear.
In addition to releasing a number of keyboards (see "Cool Keyboards"), Korg debuted a promising pad controller that's aptly named PadKontrol ($249). It's a USB/MIDI pad controller featuring 16 velocity-sensitive trigger pads, an X-Y touch pad for manipulating two different MIDI controllers, editor software, and more. It's due to ship in April.
At the Lexicon booth, the big news was the introduction of the MX400 ($TBA), a multieffects processor with a plug-in front end that's similar to the company's MX200, but with quite a bit more power. It has double the processing power of the MX200, and includes an internal power supply rather than an external one. It's completely controllable through its plug-in interface (Mac/Win). The unit features SPDIF and 1/4-inch I/O, and a USB port for connecting to the computer. Lexicon is also offering the MX400XL ($TBA), which features XLR I/O. Both products are due to ship in the late spring.
One of the highlights of the new products at the Mackie booth was the new Satellite ($TBA) FireWire recording system. It's comprised of two detachable hardware units: the Satellite Pod and the Satellite Base Station. The former is a 2in/2out 24-bit, 96kHz FireWire interface that can be bus powered, and includes two Onyx preamps. The Base Station provides the Satellite Pod with AC power, more I/O, talkback, and monitor switching. Together, the units become a 2-input, 6-output interface. The Satellite is due to ship in the second quarter of this year.
There were always crowds at the M-Audio booth, due in part to the slew of new products the company released (see also "Cool Keyboards" and "Mics" sections) There was lots of buzz about the company's new studio monitor, the EX66 ($699/each). The speakers sport two 6-inch woofers and a tweeter, and have both analog and digital inputs. Listening tests revealed that the EX66s put out a very full bottom end and crisp highs. They're due out in February.
Open Labs Miko
One of the clear hits of the show was the Miko from Open Labs. The Miko is a self-contained, Windows XP-based DAW workstation with a built-in 37-key keyboard, a QWERTY keyboard, a 15-inch high-resolution touch screen, a 4in/6out (24-bit, 96 kHz) audio interface, the ability to run 200 plug-ins at once, 4 PCI slots, a DVD burner, an 80 GB hard drive, and much more. The basic model, equipped with an AMD Athlon 64-bit single processor retails for $1,999. A model with a 64-bit dual processor is also available for $2500.
Presonus launched three major new products. The Firestudio ($1,199) is an 18x18 FireWire interface that offers a 56-input digital mixer, 8 mic pres; talkback facilities; Track, Mix, and Surround modes; a remote control; and more. The DigiMax FS ($799) is an 8-channel mic pre with an ADAT digital I/O. The FaderPort USB ($229) is a wired MIDI remote control box with one fader, transport controls, pan and mute controls, HUI emulation, and more. All three products are scheduled to ship in March.
Radial introduced a redesigned version of its 8-channel mic splitter, the 8ox ($800). Its well-suited for live performance applications in which you want to take individual multitrack feeds from the P.A. snake. Features include 8 XLR mic inputs, outputs for the main P.A., and phantom power returns.
The news at the Radikal booth was that the Spectralis ($2500), it's analog synth/beatmatrix/filterbank module had begun shipping. The unit sports 4 oscillators, 2 analog filters, a fixed fillterbank, a step sequencer, a pattern sequencer, a sampling section, and more.
Roland will be releasing a new, less-expensive version of its Handsonic percussion controller, the Handsonic 10 ($699). The unit contains 10 percussion pads, and a new soundest with over 350 percussion instrument sounds. If you'd rather trigger your drum sounds from your own acoustic kit, Roland has released three new drum triggers: the RT10-S ($89) snare trigger, the RT10-T ($79) tom trigger, and the RT10-K ($89) kick trigger.
SM Pro Audio PR8E
SM Pro Audio announced that it's now shipping the PR8E ($199) a value-priced, 8-channel mic preamp. The unit offers eight discrete mic preamps featuring balanced XLR-1/4-inch combo jacks, individual 48V phantom-power and phase reversal switches, and more. Outputs are on balanced TRS connectors.
Tech-21 SansAmp PSA 1.1
Tech 21 has revamped its 1U rackmount Sans Amp PSA 1 processor. The unit had been off the market for a year, but now returns as the SansAmp PSA 1.1 ($795). The new model, which is available now, has the same analog signal path as its predecessor, but adds a front-panel on-off switch, a MIDI input, a master volume control. It also has more program memory locations-it now has 128-including 49 factory presets of popular tube-amp emulations for guitar and bass.
It seemed like everywhere you looked, there was another keyboard (or keyboard line) being debuted. Many were USB-MIDI controllers, but there were also plenty of new synths.
Among the numerous products released by Behringer was a new line of affordable USB keyboards with both MIDI and audio functions. Three models are being released, the 25-key UMX25 ($129.99), the 49-key UMX49 ($159.99), and the 61-key UMX61 ($189.99). The keyboards feature ten programmable MIDI controllers, Velocity-sensitive keys, pitch and mod wheels, and an array of software that includes Ableton Live Lite 4 Behringer Edition, and a group of freeware soft-instruments.
Faders were moving all over the place at the CME display in the Yamaha booth. CME was showing prototypes for its VX series keyboard controllers that offer MIDI and audio features. There will be four models in the VX line, and all will feature moving faders, USB audio and MIDI, 9 programmable potentiometer knobs, 9 programmable encoder knobs, 9 programmable faders, built-in support for non-Western scales, an expansion slot, and much more. According to CME, it's U-CTRL function will allow the keyboard to automatically configure its controllers for whatever software you're using. CME also showed the GPP3 ($109.99), a triple MIDI "grand-piano-style" pedal that offers programmability; USB, MIDI, and standard pedal ports; polarity-switchable pedals' and USB-bus power. The pedal should hit the stores by March.
Dave Smith Evolver
At the Dave Smith Instruments booth, a new keyboard called simply the Evolver ($1,199) was on display. It's a mono version of the company's Poly Evolver synth. The new keyboard has same sound engine as the other Evolver keyboards, and offers a ton of knobs and switches for easy programming. It's expected to ship in April.
Much of the action at the perpetually busy Korg booth was in the keyboard realm. One highlight was the Radias ($1,999), a keyboard that offers multiple types of synthesis including modeled analog waveforms, PCM playback, and Korg's DWGS waveforms. Features include onboard effects, a futuristic industrial design, 256 onboard programs, an arpeggiator and step sequencer, and 24-voice multitimbral operation. Also available will be the Radias•R ($1,899), which has the same features minus the keyboard. Korg also showed the MicroX ($TBA) a lightweight, 25-key synthesizer with a USB port. Its 1,100 sounds cover the gamut from electronica to world music to what Korg terms "bread-and-butter" sounds.
M-Audio unveiled the Axiom line of USB-MIDI keyboards including the Axiom 25 ($239.95), Axiom 49 ($329.95), and Axiom 61 ($379.95). The keyboards have semi-weighted action and a variety of programmable controllers including 8 endless rotary encoders, 8 rubberized trigger pads, and Pitch Bend and mod wheels. The Axiom 49 and Axiom 61 also have 9 sliders each. The units are due to be released in March.
Novation was showing its ReMote SL line of USB-MIDI controllers, which consists of three models: the 25-key ReMote 25 SL ($599) the 37-key ReMote 37 SL ($749), and the 61-key ReMote 61 SL ($899). Of the three, only the 25 SL is shipping now, with the other two due to hit the stores in March. Each keyboard has a wealth of programmable controllers including 8 faders, 8 encoders, 8 potentiometer knobs, 8 trigger pads, 32 buttons, and Novation's 4-parameter Xpression Pad. The SL series keyboards also have large LCD displays that show the parameter names under each controller. You also get Novation's Automap feature, which automatically conforms the keyboard's various controllers to match the (supported) software application.
The Juno-G ($1,199) is a new keyboard and workstation from Roland. It contains the same sound engine as the company's Fantom-X series, and has a 16-track onboard sequencer that also records four audio tracks. To add to its user-friendliness, the transport and mix controls are located on the front panel. Controllers include five sliders, a D-Beam, and a Pitch Bend/modulation lever. A USB port lets you send and receive audio and MIDI files from a computer. The keyboard is bundled with Sonar LE (PC) software. It's due to be released in April
StudioLogic debuted three new USB/MIDI controller keyboards that each feature Fatar Grand Touch Graded Hammer Action. The VMKplus Series consists of three models: the 61-key VMK 161plus (which, according to StudioLogic is the first ever 61-key hammer action keyboard), the 76-key VMK176plus, and the 88-key VMK188plus. Each keyboard has 9 programmable sliders, 8 programmable knobs, and 8 programmable buttons. You also get presets for controlling popular software, sequencer transport controls, and a sustain footpedal.
Yamaha introduced a new line of affordable synthesizers based on its MOTIF ES models: the MO. Two models are now shipping, the 61-key MO6 ($1,499), and the 88-key MO8 ($1,999). Both are equipped with a range of instrument, drum, and synth sounds, and have master controller features. Built-in USB ports allow the MO keyboards communicate with DAW systems (including the ability to edit soft synth sounds on the MO's LCD screen).
OF MICS AND NAMM
There was no shortage of new mics on display this year. Although no major trends were in evidence, there were quite a few new models with interchangeable capsules.
Audix announced the Fireball V ($199), an improved version of its Fireball harmonica mic. The Fireball V features a volume control ring that sits just under the mic's ball, making it possible for the player to easily adjust it while playing. The company also showed the T-50-k High Performance Transformer, a heavy-duty cable that lets you adapt low impedance XLR mic signals for high impedance 1/4-inch sources.
CAD introduced the e70 ($249), a dual-capsule, pencil-condenser mic. It includes interchangeable omni and cardioid capsules, a dual rolloff switch, and a two-position pad. The mic should be available in April.
Groove Tubes GT 50
Groove Tubes announced four new mics: the GT 30 ($399) and GT 50 ($399) feature FET circuitry, and the GT 40 ($699) and GT 60 ($699) are tube mics. The GT 30 and GT 40 are mid-sized mics that allow the user to change capsules using the optional C2 (hyper-cardioid) and C3 (omni) capsules. The GT 50 and GT 60 are large-diaphragm condensers with fixed cardioid patterns.
M-Audio unveiled (or perhaps I should say "launched") a large-diaphragm tube condenser called Sputnik ($699), which wins my "best product name of the show" award. The lollipop-shaped mic offers cardioid, omni, and figure-8 patterns, and is designed to capture a variety of sources including vocals. The Sputnik will come in a custom briefcase with a power supply, a dedicated cable, and a shockmount. M-Audio expects it to ship in March.
At the Mojave Audio booth, the word was that the MA-200 ($995), tube condenser mic designed by David Royer, will go into mass production soon, and the production units will start shipping in April. The fixed cardioid large-diaphragm mic features a 3-micron capsule, a Jensen transformer, internally switchable power-supply voltage, and a military grade JAN 5840 tube. It's recommended for such applications as vocals, acoustic instruments, piano, drum overhead or drum room, orchestral recording, and more.
Røde was showing a number of new products, all of which will be released later in the year. The NT45 series capsules will provide polar-pattern and sonic options for owners of the company's NT4 and NT5 mics. Four new capsules will be introduced, including two cardioid models, one with a rising presence response, and one with a "flatter" response. Omni and hypercardioid capsules will also be offered. Also on display were the Podcaster and Procaster mics, both USB electret condensers. Also on display was the stereo NT4000, another electret condenser.
SE Electronics RFC
Among the new mics shown by SE Electronics was the MS1 ($TBA) mic, a stereo tube-condenser mic with adjustable patterns. It has dual capsules, and the top one rotates 180 degrees. On the power supply there are two 9-position polar pattern selector knobs. According to SE, the MS1 will be available sometime in the second quarter of this year. The company also showed off its new RFC Reflection Filter Control ($299) a stand-mounted screen that goes behind a vocal mic and is designed to greatly minimize room reflections. The RFC is due to ship in late March.
When Shure debuts a new mic, it's always noteworthy. The company's latest mic offering is the KSM9 ($TBA), a handheld condenser mic. The company has already released a wireless version, but doesn't expect the wired version to be out until this spring.
Sontronics is a mic manufacturer that's had products available in Europe in the past, but not in the U.S. Now that's changing, as the company's mic line (which includes everything from pencil condensers to large-diaphragm vocal mics to tube mics) will be distributed in the U.S. by Omnisonic. One model in particular that caught the eye of some of the EM editors was a new ribbon mic called the Sigma.