Buzz Box

As I walked the halls of NAMM . . . well, actually I don’t walk the halls, I kind of lurch from booth to booth while trying not to knock people over. While I’m at it, I always ask “Hey, what’s hot at the show”?

The answers? Well, while I usually I restrict it to only 10 products, these 11 kept popping up. So?

Apple GarageBand 2. Apple was pushing not just Logic 7, but putting the make on attendees with GarageBand 2. It records up to 8 tracks simultaneously, displays music notation in real time, fixes pitches, tightens timing, and can apply “elastic audio” to fit audio to tempo. That’s a pretty sophisticated garage, if you ask me.

Blue Microphones Snowball USB Mic. It wasn’t the only USB mic; Samson ( showed the C01U USB cardioid Studio Condenser Mic. But Blue’s Snowball dynamic mic ($139) has a unique dual-capsule design — one tailored for vocals, the other for instruments. A three-position switch selects one, the other, or both. Works with PC or Mac, too. So, how long before Monster sells a boutique USB mic cable?

Cakewalk Project5 Version 2. The original Project5 didn’t exactly take over the world, but folks were wowed by V2. It’s a different type of program, aimed at executing ideas as smoothly as possible. V2 adds integrated multitrack audio, pattern triggering, dynamic arpeggiation, track inspector, in-track automation, and loop reconstruction. There’s also a new multimode sampling synthesizer that looks pretty darn cool.

EastWest Symphonic Choirs. It ain’t cheap ($995), but you get five choirs (boys, alto female, soprano female, basses male, tenors male, and solo singers) with three simultaneous microphone setups (close, stage, and hall) across 37GB of samples — mix any combination of mics together to alter tone and concert hall ambience. But the tech mindboggler is a word-building utility for Mac/PC, with text editor. And yes, you can type in the words you want the choirs to sing.

Focusrite Saffire. The Focusrite Saffire FireWire interface offers 4 ins (2 S/PDIF digital), 8 balanced outs, S/PDIF out, and MIDI I/O. So what? Here’s what: Built-in DSP with compression, EQ, amp modeling, and reverb software. And, all four are available as a plug-in suite from within the host-recording platform. Furthermore, you can create up to five separate user-defined stereo mixes of all incoming signals and recorded tracks from the recording platform.

Korg Kontrol49. Korg’s OASYS got the big buzz, but recording-savvy EQ types pointed me toward the Kontrol49 MIDI Studio Controller ($500). This box combines 49 full-size keys with 40 assignable performance controls, including a vector joystick and eight pairs of assignable sliders and rotary encoders. The encoders feature individual color-coded backlit LCDs that display each controller’s user-defined function name and parameter value. There’s also a Mac/PC editor/librarian, and a ton of bundled software.

M-Audio Black Box. Designed with Roger Linn, the Black Box do-all recording dookie for guitarists combines 12 virtual guitar amp models, 43 beat-synced effects based on AdrenaLinn technology, 99 built-in drum patterns with tap tempo, mic preamp, 24/44.1 USB audio interface, S/PDIF digital out, headphone jack, tuner, and a mic stand adapter for easy mounting. It bundles a special edition of Ableton Live, too.

Mindprint Trio. This sub-$500 box is the home recordist’s buddy. It includes a channel strip with mic/instrument class A preamp and phantom power, analog EQ, analog insert, and analog compressor. You can also mix the mic/instrument, stereo line in (with EQ), stereo aux, and DAW returns simultaneously. There’s a latency-free monitoring mixer with dedicated controls, dual headphone amp, monitoring section with talkback, mono/dim/mute functions, outputs for three speaker pairs, 24/96 S/PDIF, and master volume; besides, it’s cute and red.

Native Instruments Kontakt 2. Hey, it doesn’t look that different from Kontakt 1. Well, except for lotsa different surround options. And really flexible effects placement. Oh yes, and scripting that lets you manipulate incoming data — create arpeggiations, harp emulations, “virtual guitarist” type programs, and more. And the ability to import just about any format known to humans, the improved browser, the 64 MIDI channels, all the extra content, and . . . well, maybe it is really different from Kontakt 1.

Synful. Synful ($479) does orchestration, but it’s not a sample library — it’s a resynthesis-based instrument for Windows VST/DXi that stores articulations, transitions, and other elements that “humanize” a part. Synful looks at a MIDI file, then resynthesizes an orchestral score that includes these additional elements. The demos were impressive, though some who’ve used the program say it’s harder to get results out of it than they’d hoped. Regardless, as Synful gets more refined it may do to orchestral sample libraries what those libraries did to real orchestras.

Waves Q-Clone. You have one classic hardware EQ, and wish you could apply it to a bunch of tracks. Calling Q-Clone! It consists of two components: Q-Capture and Q-Clone itself. Q-Capture sends a signal to the outboard EQ; you adjust the settings on the outboard EQ for the desired sound, and Q-Capture analyzes the processed signal’s shape and phase response. Next, you open Q-Clone on a track, and it applies that response. The process happens in real time, reacting to the adjustments made on the outboard EQ unit itself; think of the EQ unit as a control surface that can be switched from one channel to another using Q-Clone. You can always go back to a particular track, adjust the EQ settings, and capture the new sound. Q-Clone comes with a library of equalization presets captured from world-class hardware equalizers. Wild, eh?