2013 Winter NAMM Show Day 3 – Travels and Tribulations

Who shrunk the Behringer X32 mixers? Behringer introduced several new members of the X32 family of digital consoles. They all provide pretty much the same capability as the full sized (original) model, but in smaller physical formats. The X32 Compact has 16 mic preamps (versus 32 on the standard model) with two AES50 ports for additional inputs via Behringer’s digital snake system. It has the the same eight output bus faders plus master stereo fader, but where the full sized X32 has 32 input faders, the Compact has eight, switchable through four banks to control the main inputs. The X32 Producer loses the active scribble strip and has a slightly smaller color screen. It’s slimmed down enough to be rack mountable. The X32 Rack is a 3-space rack mount version with 16 mic preamps plus the two AES50 I/O ports, a 5” GUI display screen, a few knobs, and no faders. It’s intended to be controlled by an iPad or outboard computer. Smaller yet is the X32 Core, a single rack space mixer with no faders, fewer knobs than the Rack, and all I/O with the exception of analog monitor outputs handled through the AES50 ports.

If anyone wants to restart the “Behringer copies Mackie” round of stories, now’s the time. Behringer’s new iX16 digital mixer borrows a lot from the Mackie DL1608. It has 16 mic preamps and a dock for an iPad, built in effects, and remote control capability.

A couple of years ago I reported on D-Fend, a speaker protection technology from Eminaence. At that time it was still a concept, and finally there’s a product for sale. It’s a hand-sized module with a big heat sink outside and circuit board inside that can be attached directly to the back of a speaker or installed in an amp rack. A computer application (fill out a form) sets parameters for maximum power, frequency frequencies for multi-speaker systems, compression threshold, and a couple of other things. It goes in line between the power amplifier and speaker, and is reported to be audibly transparent until a protection threshold is crossed, at which point it limits the power delivered to the speaker, protecting it from damage. At a target price is $200 for a device that can prevent the cost of repairing or replacing a driver.

Lamplifier is another of those Hall E exhibitors who seems to have survived the first critical period. Their entry product was a vocal microphone with built in EQ and compression which could be optimized for a singer’s voice and technique. This year they introduced the Infinite Direct Box, one of the most complex DIs that I’ve seen yet. 7 knobs on the front panel control and equalizer that’s tailored to guitars – low and high shelving, a presence range around 2 kHz, a broad sweepable peak in the 400-1600 Hz range, and a narrow bandwidth sweep in the low mids to tame body resonance that tends to encourage feedback with amplified acoustic guitars. There’s a compressor and a speaker simulator, and a mysterious Lamplify knob. A combo XLR-1/4” jack for acoustic setups accommodates an internal condenser mic with phantom power if needed, or a high impedance input for a piezo pickup (but not both together since they’re on the same connector). There’s also an input that can accommodate a magnetic pickup, an amplifier output (to the speaker) or line level source. There’s an XLR DI output (a hot mic level) which can accept phantom power to power the box, as well as a ¼” jack that provides a buffered “thru” output, There’s also a USB digital output for direct recording or as an alternate power source. And for backup to the backup, there’s a 9V battery and an outboard AC adapter.

Warm Audio is a fairly new company that makes classic style mic preamps. Their core product, a half-rack sized transformer in/out, API style discrete op amp based mic preamp, the WA12, is now available in a 500 series module package. Brand new for this show is the Tone Beast, a mic preamp that offers a choice of internal signal path, selectable with front panel switches. You can select between either an API 2520 or another model op amp  that I can’t remember (no literature, no web page yet), or you can plug in your own favorite 990 style and footprint op amp. There’s a switch selectable choice of a steel or a nickel core output transformer (both CeneMag), or the output transformer can be bypassed. If that’s not enough, a switch gives you a choice of a tantalum or aluminum electrolytic capacitor at critical points in the signal path. I’ve seen a few mic preamps that offer plug-in selection of op amps or transformers, but this is the first time I’ve run into one that’s this convenient to play around with while you’re recording.

Miktek introduced two new large diaphragm mics at the show. The C1 is a cardioid 1” capsule mic with on board low cut filter and 10 dB pad. An interesting twist is that it’s designed to operate with a capsule polarizing voltage of either 48 or 60 volts. I’ll have to check this out further since few of us have 60v phantom power supplies in our console (I suspect an internal DC-DC converter). The way it’s described, at 60v, the diaphragm is at higher tension and the mic is “extremely accurate and articulate,” whatever that means. At 48v, it’s “able to react to extremely subtle changes in sound pressure, enabling the microphone to capture the slightest nuances in performance.” I thought that’s what a microphone is supposed to do. Miktek has a very good reputation, particularly among engineers in Nashville, their home base, so I suspect that this isn’t as much BS as it sounds when reading the brochure. Also from Miktek is the CV3, a large diaphragm multi-pattern tube mic. This is quite similar to another of their models only it uses a currently available subminiature pentode rather than a new old stock vintage tube, which saves big bucks. The C1 is $600, the C3 is a grand.

I’m packing up the hotel room and getting ready for the final day, hopefully to fill some holes in my fuzzy memory. Come back in a week or so for the full, integrated and somewhat more coherent show report.



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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