NAMM 2015 Notes – Day 2 January 23
Today was another day of running around like a crazy person trying to see this one at that time and another one right now and forgetting about another scheduled demo. Oh, well. No big exciting developments, but a lot of neat little things that can help you do your job better.
I reported on the Softube Console 1 last year, but to refresh your memory, it’s a hardware controller for every knob you’d find on a console input strip that goes along with Softube’s own plug-ins. The console that they modeled the system around is the Solid State Logic SL 4000E, not a bad choice. This year they introduced an SSL XL 9000K console strip set for the Console 1. A lot of engineers and producers loved the 4000 when it was introduced because of how much it could do and how well the automation worked, but few cared for the sound (though they used it anyway). The 9000, introduced later, had much lower distortion and was cleaner all around. By that time the recording industry was well into the “clarity of digital” so this became a favorite. Today, however, people with their DAWs miss the rock’n’roll sound of the 4000, so that’s why Softube chose that as their first Console 1 emulation. Now you have a choice of two probably equally well accepted SSL sounds, a pristine one and a little dirty and gritty one. I’ll have to try to find someone who knows how the business end works, if you get both models when you buy a Console 1, if you’ll get a choice, or if the 4000 is still the standard and the 9000 is an extra cost option. That’s what it looks like on the web site, where the 9000 has an on-line ordering tag of $329.
RAM Mounts is a product of a musician who has a factory that makes products for agricultural machinery. They showed a diverse line of device holders that attach to a mic stand. There are a couple of sizes of four-finger spring loaded “claws” for tablets and phones, a cradle for a compact mixer up to about 8 channels, clamps for stomp box sized effect processors, a camera mount, and even a drumstick quiver and cup holder. They’re made of a tough reinforced plastic with ball joints for flexible positioning. The ball (there are two sizes for light or heavy things) as well as the clamp that goes on the stand tubing, is coated with a rubber surface for a no-slip grip. They’re a little pricey, but they offer a lifetime guarantee (send them a photo of your broken clamp and they’ll send you a new one).
LoKnob is a replacement for the knobs on your stomp box or amplifier that you’ve tweaked to perfection and you don’t want to change accidentally. The idea of a shaft lock isn’t new – I have a few pieces of old military surplus gear and computer gear that have a collet to clamp down on the shaft, but the LoKnob is sized for modern music electronics an you can install it yourself with no tools but the allen wrench which is included with the knob. (OK, you might need a screwdriver to get the original knob off) It’s not an infallible lock, but more like a fairly fine detent that you release by pulling upward on the knob. Release the knob, the teeth on the knob and the ring that you install on the chassis grab, and the knob is safe from being turned from careless handling. They only come in one style, round knurled aluminum, so they won’t replace the chicken heads on your vintage amplifier, but they’ll help save your settings. The inventor whittled his initial model from wood!
Dialtone Pickups adds a new twist to the conventional magnetic guitar pickup. In addition to his own tweaks to the winding and magnetics, there are two flush mounted rotary knobs at the corners of the pickup case. Those control the center frequency and Q of an active filter (it’s powered by a 9v battery) to get a degree of tone control right out of the pickup. It’s an interesting concept.
I normally don’t bother to write about stomp boxes because I don’t use them myself, so I’m writing here about a switch that I’ve never seen before that’s used on the pedals made by MC Systems. It looks like the typical push-button toggle (push-on-push-off) switch that meets your foot, but with a twist. If you give it a really good stomp, in addition to doing what the switch usually does, it toggles an additional function. In the case of the pedal I looked at, it switched to an alternate drive level setting. They told me that there’s a “pressure plate” (their words) behind an ordinary switch. It takes quite a bit of pressure – I couldn’t activate the third function with my thumb – so I hope these are mighty sturdy pedals.
Shure introduced a new series of USB mics. They cover a lot of bases with this line. The top of the line, the MV51, is in a case that resembles the old Shure 51 (not quite “The Elvis Mic”) and contains a 1” condenser cardioid capsule. There’s DSP that provides EQ and compression presets for speech, singing, acoustic guitar, and “loud” (an amplifier or drum kit) in addition to flat. There’s a mute button and headphone jack for monitoring, with a mixer to combine the mic signal with playback through the USB connection.
The Shure MV88 (note the connection of model numbers here) is a sort of version of Shure’s VP-88 single point stereo mic. It’s an M-S configuration with one cardioid and one bi-directional mic that’s sized and shaped to plug directly into the Lightning connector of a newfangled Apple mobile device. It comes with an app that provides a stereo width control (with a graphic representation), five presets (I assume essentially the same as with the MV51), gain control, monitor output through the iGadget’s headphone jack, and it’s a stereo recorder. The mic has some agility so you can swing it around to keep it vertical if you’re shooting a video in landscape mode.
Rounding out the series is the MV5 is a ball on a stand, essentially a podcaster’s mic. The MVi isn’t a mic, but rather, a single channel USB audio interface with a combo XLR jack that provides 48v phantom power for a mic, and a high impedance DI input for an instrument on the XLR and ¼” holes in the combo jack. Like the others, it has the presets for sources, and an input gain control.
Lastly, for the lover of vintage cheap guitars, Kay Vintage Reissue has re-issued several classic Kay electric guitars, the ones that not yet famous but got famous musicians played when they were coming up. One is the model that Paul McCarthy played before he got the Hofner that he made famous. The Twin was Jimmy Reed’s guitar. Eric Clapton played a Jazz II. And so on. I asked if they were going to re-issue the aluminum doghouse bass that all the bluegrass bands used to use because they could tie it to the roof rack of the one car that they all traveled in. Nope, they said, that’s a whole different thing. Oh, well.
Off to find some more interesting stuff, I hope.