This isn’t as detailed as my usual show reports but there were some interesting things to see that aren’t (at least not yet) featured at the AES and NAMM shows that are my usual stomping ground. This year I replaced my NAB show trip with InfoComm due partly to a time conflict with a rare paying gig and the fact that hotel rates in Las Vegas during NAB, and CES, too, have become absurdly expensive. Orlando was a cheap date. You’ll find my report listed under Other Shows on the Trade Show Reports page, or you can go directly to it by clicking here.
In this day and age, who would want to buy a cassette recorder? Well, maybe you if you have a closet full of cassettes that you used to love and haven’t listened to for 30 years, over which time all the cassette decks you owned were given away or sold, working or not. Now you’d love to digitize those tapes, enjoy them again, share them with your friends, release a new album of music from your high school band – you get the idea. Or maybe you want to make a limited release of your latest project on cassette – this is a fad, so I hear. Well, this one might do the job. It has two decks so you can duplicate a cassette, and a USB audio output for no-brainer connection to a computer to make digital copies, and it only costs 150 bucks.
Like most of my reviews, this one is pretty long, and in addition to describing the recorder in detail, I also get into some tools and techniques for studying the characteristics of a tape recorder and learning about why it doesn’t sound perfect. Visit the Product Reviews page to read the review/article or, preferably download a copy and read at at your leisure, or at your work bench.
My 2019 NAMM show is now up and ready for your reading enjoyment. No videos, just words, pictures, and links. It was a good show – attendance was up, security was a little less intrusive than usual, and there was lots of cool stuff.
After the Preview day and two days on the show floor, I figured it was time to at least let you know that I’m here and still alive. This is just a short teaser of some things I found interesting and useful, and I wanted to get them down on virtual paper before I forget what I saw. The problem of “no literature, just go to our web site” is more bothersome than ever – I get a card with someone’s name on it, often the name of the rep I spoke to, without even a company name – no help at all for my feeble memory. More details and more stuff will follow.
Small, medium, and large audio interfaces are coming out of the walls. Gigatone has one designed for guitar recording that’s built into a ¼” phone plug. Plug one end into an electric guitar, connect it to a computer with USB, and hit Record. It even has a mini phone jack for headphones, though no direct monitor path, so you’ll be hearing yourself with DAW/interface latency, which they claim is extremely low. Another guitar-centric interface is Sono from Audient. It features a 12AX7 front end for the instrument pickup, a three-band tone control and amplifier/speaker/cabinet emulator from Two Tones Software. There are two XLR combo jacks for inputs, both of which have mic preamps, with Input 1 being selectable between mic/line or the built-in guitar system processing.
I got lost in the violins section, and good thing, too, discovering vsound from Signal Wizard Systems. This is a pedal-format processor for electric violins (which either sound like crap or like electric violins) that offers impulse response models of famous violins to make the instrument sound pretty much like a real violin. This is similar in concept to the Kemper processor for guitars.
Tree Audio, maker of boutique tube gear, showed a new console, the Roots 500 with a transformer/tube front end and two rows of 500-series module slots for each of its input channels, similar in concept to the API Box (I heard that API has a Box 2 but haven’t seen it yet). Also, Sphere, one of the classic console makers, is now offering new builds.
Tiera Audio from Spain is a new company with a new twist. They were showing a mic preamp and a compressor which, in addition to looking like they have very well though out analog design, incorporate the rather scary Internet of Things concept. They’re getting some help from Microsoft with this, and their idea is that their products incorporate built-in test equipment (BITE) that runs when the unit is powered up. It tests power supply voltages, frequency response, distortion, and whatever else is needed to assure that the device is working perfectly. If it finds a problem, it sends information back to the company so they can ship you a replacement part. Those who are paranoid about these things can start worrying right now about your mic preamp being hacked today and your vocal overdubs will appear on YouTube tomorrow.
Kikusi, who I know as a test equipment manufacturer, was offering up their programmable power supplies as an alternate power supply for instrument amplifiers. Their idea is that, using one of their AC-to-AC supplies, regardless of the quality of the power going it, you get perfectly clean and regulated AC out to power your gear. Kind of like a pure sine wave UPS without the batteries. Probably good insurance for touring in third world countries.
There was a bunch of analog synthesizers, plenty of digital and hybrid (digitally controlled analog) ones, but I took particular notice of the Synclavier. The original software has been ported to iOS, so for a $20 app, you can have a Synclavier on your iPad or iPhone. It’s the real thing, the control panel looks like the hardware, it works with any MIDI keyboard that you can plug into your mobile device (USB), and you’re good to go. They do offer a hardware knob as an accessory, probably something you’d want for playing live, but geez, twenty bucks to play a $200,000 synthesizer? Sounds like fun to me.
BeatBox Instruments is a MIDI pad controller in a cardboard box. It comes as a kit, wired with a set of pre-made plug-together cables so no soldering is required. It comes with an app that’s connected to the box via a USB (MIDI) cable, and the audio out of the app comes back into the box, through an amplifier, and comes out of a pair of small speakers. It can get pretty loud. I think this would make a good educational toy if they spent some time with the assembly instructions.
I like tools and accessories. Sound Tools was showing an XLR cable tester that can be used like any other two-ended tester by plugging one piece into one end of the cable and the other piece into the other end of the cable. Its schtick, however, is that the indicator end can be phantom powered. You can have your mic snake plugged into the console, turn on phantom power, and check all the snake lines and mic cables at the stage end without having to run back and forth to put the “termination” on each cable separately. Jack Caps are a cleverly molded cap designed to slip over a common size ¼” phone plug for protection. I’m not sure how big of a problem it solves, but it does appear to be a pretty good seal in case you’re in the habit of stirring your bloody mary with your guitar cable.
Aston showed a new microphone, the Stealth. It’s their first moving coil (not a condenser) mic, with a built-in phantom powered pre-preamp. It has a four-way voicing switch that they say isn’t just EQ, but uses different circuitry for each of the voices. If there’s no phantom power, the active electronics are bypassed so it still works.
Finally, there’s Soundmarker, a solution to a man-made problem of having too many tracks and too many people who want to contribute to a mix. All of the wannabe producers can listen to all or selected tracks, mark them up, recommend changes (“the ‘love’ in this phrase needs more breathiness”) and send their contributions back to the mix engineer. Cloud-based, of course.
The 2019 NAMM show in Anaheim, California runs from January 24 through January 29. While it’s still a show for the music trade industry, partnering with the Audio Engineering Society (AES) has opened up attendance for engineers and producers in recording and live sound. Most of the sound and music production exhibits are concentrated in a new two-story section of the Anaheim Convention Center, and the AES@NAMM program offers a number of technical training opportunities. Here’s a rundown on things that might interest you enough to brave Anahiem and attend the show.
First, there’s the AES@NAMM program. This is actually a separate event from the NAMM trade show itself, has its own registration, and price of admission. It’s a series of classes over the four day show period that have sort of two prongs, one being training on specific hardware, software, and technologies presented by the equipment manufacturers. For instance, Allen & Heath will be offering training on the d-Live console, Lectrosonics will be presenting sessions on wireless IEM systems, and VUE will be teaching about line array speaker systems. Technology tracks include things like networking and mic techniques. In addition, the Main Stage area (actually a ballroom in the Hilton), put together by author and technologist-about-town Bobby Owsinski, will feature talks on topics in studio and live sound by well known engineers such as Andrew Scheps, Sylvia Massy, and Bob Scovill. To plan your AES@NAMM training (or to decide if there’s anything worth while for you), here’s a link to the AES@NAMM Class Schedule. Should you choose to attend one or more of the classes, here’s a link to the AES@NAMM fee schedule page. You’ll find a link to the registration application there. There’s a price break for AES members (they’ll be happy to sign you up at the show) but I’ll warn you that other than the digital console and line array tracks, you’ll be in for at least $99 for a day.
If you’d like to attend the NAMM show proper, you can take advantage of the AES partnership and attend as a non-member. Here’s a link to the NAMM Badge Application page. That link also has links to show information, exhibitors, events, and educational opportunities. Click the Register for an Attendee Badge button, fill out the application form (this is where you tell them about your involvement in a studio, live venue, production, house of worship, etc.) and when you get to the part where you pay your money, using the promo code AES@NAMM will get you a badge for $25. This is for the NAMM show itself, not the AES@NAMM program.
The NAMM show offers a number of educational sessions in addition to the trade show itself. You might find some of the TEC Tracks presentations interesting.
If you have an interest in Audio over IP Dante, Audinate is offering a free one day class on January 24 and 25. You don’t even have to be registered for NAMM or AES@NAMM to attend, but you do need to register with Audinate. You’ll first need to set up an Audinate user account if you don’t already have one, and from there, register for a class.
You know the NAMM show from its reputation, and maybe from my show reports here. With the new layout for the audio exhibitors, it’s pretty much like an AES show, and with your NAMM badge, you’re free to go to the other end of the convention center to bang on drums, try out effect pedals, or check out the latest in flutes and saxophones. Something new this year is an exhibition of the photos of rock ‘n’ roll photographer and author Neal Preston.
That’s about all I know, and hope this will encourage you to attend – either or both the AES program and NAMM show. I’ll warn you that traffic around there is a nightmare, parking is expensive, and hotel rates are absurd, so plan accordingly.
Just in case you were wondering why I haven’t been posting daily tidbits . . . well, I’m here for the show. The space seems smaller than in previous years, however the show floor was rally bustling, with first and second day crowds seeming as big as the usual Saturday mob. I think the concurrent NAB show brought a lot of folks over – I saw a lot of NAB badges at the AES booths.
Anyway, I just dropped this note to let you know that it’s happening, that they days seem longer every year, I’m not getting any younger, and I just don’t have the energy when I get back from dinner around 9:30 to sit down and write a daily summary like I used to. Just be patient, a report will come along next week.
And if you’re here and you see my name on a badge, stop and say hi.