NAMM 2013 – Day 2

Yesterday I was griping about the lack of hard copy available at the booths. Today was a little better, perhaps I got around to more “pro” booth, but I’ll still have some web research to do when I organize the final report. Chances are you’ll already have been there if something I mention here catches your eye.

First thing Friday morning, I visited the IK multimedia booth. I wanted to try their iRig Mic with my Android tablet, hoping to be able to cobble up a more functional recording device in case I had to take home some “audio literature.”  I found one hooked up to an Android pad, plugged it in to my tablet, and by golly! It worked. So I conned them out of the use of one for the show, and had a really nice chat with their software development manager, giving me some further insight into the problems developers have with audio input products for Android, and also some hope that things were looking up. The iRig Mic? It works great for interviews, far better at keeping the show floor din down to a manageable level.

While on the subject of mics for everyday people (which today often as not means USB-connected), Blue introduced the Nessie. In the spirit of their other wacky looking but uniquely functional mics, Nessie looks like the stylized head of a Loch Ness monster with some real time adaptive processing along the same lines as the Tiki USB mic from a couple of years back that plugs directly into a laptop computer and optimizes speech while suppressing background noise. The Nessie claims to  intelligently optimize the processing for speech, singing, or instruments. Surely it’s not going to put engineers and talented artists out of business, but it’s the sort of thing that can help a novice not be discouraged by his first recording attempts.

New handheld recorders continue to dribble out. Nothing new from Sony or TASCAM this year, but Olympus’ newest, the LS-100 seems to have taken the lead for multitrack recording in the palm of your hand – 8 tracks. There’s a feature they call Lissajous (after the oscilloscope phase display) that claims to compensate for phase difference when recording with two external mics.

TASCAM has revamped their small USB interface line. The US-322 offers two inputs (XLR and ¼” TRS jacks) with phantom power for the mics and with the left ¼” jack switchable between line and instrument gain/impedance. The US-366 adds stereo digital I/O, both coax and optical, and extends the sample rate capability to 192 kHz (the 322 goes to 96 kHz). Both have built-in effects for monitoring. They’ve also added two new digital Portastudios, the tiny 6-track DP-006 and the slightly larger 8-track DP-008EX. Both are very musician-friendly, with the larger model offering 2 XLR mic inputs.

Aphex introduced the IN2, a 2-channel USB audio interface for the tabletop studio that incorporates their high quality mic preamps, an optical compressor on each channels, MIDI I/O, and a high quality headphone amplifier.

For the big boys, Focusrite introduced the Scarlett 18i20 offering 8 mic/line inputs the two front panel inputs switchable to instrument inputs, 10 analog outputs, 8 channels of ADAT optical I/O, and stereo S/PDIF I/O. Like others in the Scarlett series, computer connection is via USB 2.0

There seems to be a new family of emerging products for multitrack capture of live performance. The JoeCo Black Box Recorder was probably the first of this line, and this year I saw a couple of new entries. Actually, one showed up at AES as the Archwave R-16, but now that a distribution channel has been established, look for it as the Cymatic Audio Live Recorder LR-16. You can check my 2012 AES report for details, but briefly, it’s a tablet-sized box with 16 line level inputs, a stereo headphone output, and a USB socket for the recording media which can be a thumb drive or a disk drive. A single button press starts recording on all 16 channels (whether they have inputs or not). It also serves as a 16 channel class compliant USB recording input device, so it will plug-and-play on an iPad or a Mac. Allen & Heath introduced the ICE-16, a single space rack mounted 16-channel recorder and player that’s similar in function – connect it to a console’s direct outputs, plug in a thumb drive or external hard drive, press a button, and go. It also serves as a multi-channel computer interface with both Firewire and USB connectivity.

Personal monitoring mixers are still popping up. Aviom, perhaps the company that put this product on the map, has a new 16-channel mixer, the A360. It connects to the existing Aviom interfaces including their AN-16I analog interface and plug-in cards for various mixers. The new model offers more mixing tweaks, built-in EQ and reverb, and recallable mix presets. Allen & Heath’s latest entry is the ME-1 personal mixer designed to integrate with their GLD series of digital consoles but can also be expanded to connect via Dante, MADI, EtherSound, or Aviom protocols. A built-in mic provides ambient stage sound to keep the player on in-ear phones from feeling isolated.

Mixers are alive and well. Mackie introduced the DL-806, a scaled down (8 input, 6 output) version of their DL-1608. To remind you, this is a platform for an iPad (bring your own) that trades the tactile feel of faders for a tablet that you can lock down to the chassis or take anywhere within WiFi range. I got a good run through on the new PreSonus 32.4.2 but I’ll leave details for the full report. Besides, they already have lots of videos posted, so if you care, you’ll go there if you haven’t already been. I keep cheering quietly for the Phonic 16 channel digital mixer, which seems to have been re-announced as a slightly new version every year for the past few, but still isn’t released. This year’s version is the iS16 which continues with its touch screen design but adds a mouse port for better control when a finger just won’t cut it. There’s also WiFi connectivity for remote operation.

There’s plenty of activity in 500 series modules. Focusrite has the Red 1 original (and still current) Red series mic preamp with transformer input and output. The Sunset Sound S1P dual 990 discrete op amp based mic preamp from Tonelux is based on the preamps from a custom designed console at the legendary Sunset Sound studio in Hollywood. SM Pro udio has a few new 500 series modules. The TubeBox is a tube preamp with optical compressor, the MBC-502 is a 2 space two band optical compressor, and the PEQ-505 is a five band parametric EQ. Also new from SM Pro is a 500 series rack that has a slightly taller panel space than the API standard. Apparently a couple of companies are making non-standard sized modules to fit their own non-standard sized racks. The JuiceRack series will accommodate them. The connector pinouts are the same, but I suspect that you may want to use this combination only after some research (and letting someone else not blow one up first).

Finally, Korg has revived their MS-20 monophonic analog synthesizer. It’s miniaturized now but with accurate replication of the original circuitry, knobs and patching jacks, and digitally stable oscillators.

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About mikeriversaudio

Helping people getting their studios together has been a passion of mine for more than 30 years. Get yours together.
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