(Exhibit day 2, actually show day 3)
Apparently analog consoles are still alive and breeding, though these new entries aren’t inexpensive. Malcom Tolf, who brought the Trident name and Trident designs to PMI in the US several years back now has his own company, Ocean Audio in the UK, and was at this show with his new console, The Ark. The basic model has 16 main input channels, 8 subgroup buses, and a handful of auxiliary buses. The 16 input channels are set up for in-line monitoring and there’s an additional “sidecar” mixing section for an additional 8 tracks. That sidecar/subgroup section has eight additional inputs for recorder returns which can be controlled by swapping the function with the subgroup faders.
Here’s its schtick: Basically, it’s a line level input console, but there are two 500-series module slots above each of the 16 input channels plus another eight in the subgroup/master section. Everything, including the 500 modules’ I/O is accessed through DB-25 connectors on the rear panel. The idea is that you can create your own channel strips using 500s, then set up a patch bay with normals set up for a standard configuration, typically a mic preamp normalled to an equalizer installed below it, and the EQ normalled to the bus selector, pan, auxiliary sends, and fader below the EQ. The patch bay allows access to any module for any channel – think of it as inboard outboards, and of course you can use any other outboard processors in addition to what you stuff in the console slots.
Yamaha was showing their new Nuage control surface for Steinberg DAWs (Cubase and Nuendo). This is on a similar order to the Avid S6 but unlike the S6, Nuage is an integrated design, not an assembly of modules. The basic channel controls start with 16 channel fader+knob sections, with additional 16 channel sections available as expanders. A unique feature is a “touch slider” at the top of the faders to slide the group of 16 sets of controls to what amounts to another bank of DAW tracks. The master section includes a touch screen display for direct control of plug-ins as well as other utility functions such as insert routing, automation contol, and auto-locator,
There were plenty of new mics on hand, many of them ribbons. Samar showed a new model in the final tweaking stage that will be available probably around Spring 2014 at about $900. It’s a slim design similar to the Royer ribbon mics, with some changes from their MF65 that reduce manufacturing cost and yield a more conventional ribbon mic sound but with an extended top end. AEA showed their Nuvo N22 springs from the RCA ribbon design that’s been standard fare in the AEA line. This model is tuned to the needs of the singer/songwriter, having equally good performance on voice and acoustic string instruments. There’s a built-in phantom powered pre-preamp to assure a good match for the input sensitivity typical of modern modestly priced computer audio interfaces. Street price is targeted at $900.
Cloud introduced the 44-A, an active ribbon mic with electronics lifted from their Cloudlifter pre-preamp, The ribbon element is a modern re-creation of the RCA 44, with the electronics bringing its output level up to that of a typical high output condenser mic. A switchable low cut filter reduces proximity effect for close work. And speaking of the Cloudlifter, there’s a new model, the CL-4 which is a four channel rack mount version of their popular in-line pocket sized ribbon pre-preamp.
Resident Audio is a new company offering a line of modestly priced Thunderbolt-connected audio interfaces. There are currently three sizes, a 2, 4, and 10 input model. All include XLR combo connectors with instrument/line switching for the ¼” jack, phantom power on all mic inputs, 2, 4 or 10 outputs with a volume control for monitoring. The 10-channel model has 8 combo inputs plus coax S/PDIF in and out. All also have MIDI I/O. Though it didn’t seem clear to the guy who showed me these interfaces, according to the poop sheet, the two smaller ones have “smart monitoring” which I suspect blends the inputs with the stereo DAW return. The 10 input unit has a “Full digital mixer” which is likely controlled via a software application. Nice price, particularly for the big one, $400, $600, and $900.
Also in Thunderbolt news, Lynx introduced the LT-TB Thunderbolt expansion card for the L-Slot interface for the Hilo and Aurora converters.
I think that mic stands might be my highlight of the show. Triad-Orbit is another maker of seriously engineered mic stands. They’re very heavy duty, and only just fairly heavy. There’s a tripod base with a new kick. The legs can lock in multiple positions, not just fully opened. This allows the stand to be used on non-level surfaces, or to reduce the footprint as long as there’s enough base area to keep it from toppling over. The boom has a ball swivel and very smooth working and very positive clutches and latches. A boom stand will go for about $275-300.
A couple of business items which may be of interest. Early this year, Gibson bought a big chunk of TASCAM, and following that up just a couple of weeks ago, Gibson acquired Cakewalk which they’re handing over to TASCAM to form a new audio software division. The only hint of this was that Cakewalk was on display at the TASCAM booth, but my usual contact had no news as to where it’s going. Gibson is looking forward to the opportunity. They haven’t done too well by software companies in the past, but now that industry veteran Craig Anderton is working for Gibson (he helped put together the Cakewalk deal) hopefully they’ll have a better handle on the pro audio side of the business.
Of interest primarily to the large touring and installed sound folks, Harman has acquired Duran Audio, makers of the AXYS line of steerable array speaker systems. They expect there to be a lot of Duran’s technology moving into the JBL speaker line as well as, at least for a while, retaining the existing Duran line. My question to them was whether this merger is likely to result in bringing the technology into products that are within the price range that small venues and traveling musicians can afford. The answer (as expected) was “it could happen.” If it does, and certainly it’s still a couple of years out, this could go a long way to improving sound at those gigs in acoustically challenging rooms.
I saw a couple of interesting software programs, but I’ll leave that for the full report.
I was a member of a lively panel entitled “Lies, Damn Lies, and Specifications” on Satuurday that was well attended. Our fearless leader, Ethan Winer, will be posting a video of it when he gets time to edit things. I’ll announce it here when it happens.