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NAMM Notables

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NAMM notables from 101st NAMM Show

ANAHEIM, Calif. — With the lines between hobbyist and pro music-making ever-increasingly blurred, the scope of the NAMM Show, the music products industry’s annual trade event, has broadened in recent years. As such, January’s NAMM Show drew record crowds—over 67,000 according to the International Music Products Association, the event’s organizers.
Traditionally the enclave of tubthumpers and axe-shredders, this year’s show offered a greater range of products of potential interest to the audio professional. As always there were plenty of long-haired, drainpipe sporting guitar rocker wannabes (and has-beens) in attendance, but with the computer having become today’s axe of choice for the modern musician, this year it was a case of the mods outnumbering the rockers.
Certainly the warm glow of computer screens and a tasteful booth vibe prevailed, and audiophiles making the trek out to Anaheim were rewarded with lots to whet their appetites among this year’s record-breaking 1300+ exhibitors.
The general consensus was that this year’s NAMM show was notable for its proliferation of great products at remarkable prices—a not unwelcome development in these economically challenging times. Here are a few things that caught our ears…
…quite literally, in the case of AKG’s circumaural K271 and supraural K171 headphones. Upgrades of the company’s successful K141 Studio and K240 Studio models, the new models share 1.2-inch drivers with patented Varimotion technology that creates diaphragms of varying thickness for improved tracking and response at different frequencies, and are closed-back for maximum sound isolation.
Among new offerings from TC Electronics was the company’s new Reverb 4000, a single rack module containing all the stereo reverbs from its high-end System 6000 and many faves from the M5000 and EMT 250 emulation. It’s 24-bit and 44.1 to 96kHz sample rates and processing, and includes a USB port and included software to run it virtually on a Mac or PC.
Plug-ins have been an area of growth for a while now, and this year was no exception. Sony previewed its Oxford plug-in, The Inflator, for warming up audio material and adding presence without increasing peak signal level or reducing sound quality. Eventide announced Pro Tools plug-ins of its five classic processors, the Omnipressor compressor, the Instant Phaser, the H910 harmonizer, Instant Flanger and the H949 digital pitch-changer, all with full automation and MIDI control. The company also showed its new Reverb 2016, a modern reproduction of its ’80s classic SP2016 processor.
In addition to premiering its Version 5 software which adds a revamped graphical interface, HUI emulation and surround monitoring control to its popular D8B console, Mackie showed two new Universal Audio plug-ins for the UAD-1 DSP card—the Cambridge EQ and Dreamverb—and a new mono tube-distortion/cabinet-modeling plug-in for Soundscape 32, the worryingly named Saturated Fat. Both a VST plug-in and a standalone Mac and PC program, Bias SoundSoap is a nifty new audio cleanup and restoration tool, supported by various video editing software including Final Cut Pro. MOTU unveiled its new cross-platform 24-bit sampler plug-in MachFive which can import and play multichannel samples in surround; Akai announced the VZ8, a software version of its Z8 rackmount sampler.
Significant happenings in DAW-land included demos of Digidesign’s Pro Tools 6.0 for Mac OSX and Emagic’s significant upgrade to its Logic series, also Version 6 and for Mac OSX (and OS9.x).
An abundance of new mics from the functional (a new LSD2 stereo condenser from Studio Projects; Electro-Voice’s N/D967 supercardioid vocal mic) to the quirky (Blue Microphones Ball, an impressively spec’d phantom-powered dynamic mic that looks spookily like a blue baseball; Audio-Technica’s AT3060, a +48V phantom tube condenser); the expensive (ADK’s A-48 Vintage Valve, a 9 polar-pattern remotely variable tube) to the affordable (Sennheiser’s E609 Silver side-address supercardioid); and the large (MXL Microphones’ V69 Mogami Edition 25mm diaphragm cardioid-condenser mic with 12AT7 tube electronics and all-Mogami internal wiring) to the small (Audix Micros, ranging from the 0.6-ounce M1245 to the 1-ounce, 3.5-inch M1290, probably the world’s smallest condenser mics).
SE Electronics debuted the Ghost line of long-reach studio booms, featuring non-slip, ratcheted height adjustment, a removable dolly with locking wheels and a center hook to hang weights for extra stability.
A new line of studio monitors from the highly regarded British loudspeaker manufacturer Wharfedale make a sleek entrance in the US market, but its competition is fierce. Event Electronics unveiled its new Studio Precision Series, built on all-new technology, and the new beefed up Tuned Reference 8XL; KRK announced the two-way, 260-watt E8T; Bag End its compact two-way M6 nearfields; and Fostex introduced the PM0.5 2-way powered speakers, modeled on its larger existing PM-1s. Alesis meanwhile surprised with its ProActive 5.1 system, a powered surround monitoring system with onboard DVD surround decoding, 450 watts of power, THX certification and wireless remote. It has obvious uses as a surround reference system for larger studios.

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