2014 NAMM Show – Day 2

Seems like today was interface day. Prism Sound showed the Atlas, big brother of the Titan which was introduced at the Fall AES show. They’re both based on the same basic guts, with the Atlas offering eight mic inputs to the Titan’s four. It connects to the computer via USB 2.0. In addition to the analog mic/line/instrument inputs and eight analog line outputs, it also has MIDI, TOSLink and RCA digital I/O with the TOSLink ports switchable between stereo S/PDIF and multi-channel ADAT optical. The RCA ports can be S/PDIF coax or  AES3 with an RCA-XLR adapter. Sample rates from 44.1 to 192 kHz are supported at 24-bit resolution. Price is about $7,000,

Centrance introduced the MicPort, a plug-in USB interface for a single microphone several years back, then spent a good bit of time making consumer products. At this show they introduced MixerFace, a USB recording interface with two mic inputs (the ones on the MicPort sound excellent) that’s sized so that a smart phone can be fitted on top of the case and connected directly to the A/D and D/A converters. A standard USB port is included for connection to a computer. The MixerFace is powered by an internal rechargeable battery. Interestingly, this was funded as an Indiegogo project and may still be able to be pre-ordered at a discount from the projected list price of $600 with a contribution.

Zoom introduced the TAC-2, a stereo tabletop “big knob” audio interface with  Thunderbolt (only) computer connectivity. A Mac application offers additional control via computer and includes an effects package as well as control over an internal mixer for mixing the input source with previously recorded tracks for overdubbing. Still in the mock-up stage from Zoom are 4 and 8 mic/line interfaces connecting via USB 3.0 (they didn’t know at this time about backward compatibility with 2.0). At the AES show, we were introduced to the new Zoom, who had taken over US distribution of the H6n recorder from Samson. They’ve now completed the transition and are now distributing the full Zoom line.

Crimson from SPL is a larger format tabletop USB interface that also serves as a monitor controller with a talkback channel. It has four line level analog inputs, two mic preamps, two instrument inputs and four analog outputs. Four inputs can be recorded simultaneously, as can four DAW outputs be routed to the two pairs of monitor outputs and two independently controllable headphone outputs. In addition to DAW playback, two alternate analog sources and one S/PDIF source can be switched to the monitor outputs to listen to a reference recording.

The iTrack Dock from Focusrite is a 2×2 recording interface with a docking surface for a new generation iPad Air or iPad Mini connected via Lightning. A clever sliding Lightning connector allows it to mate with and power/charge either size pad. There are two XLR Scarlett grade mic inputs, two ¼” line inputs, one instrument input, and a pair of ¼” jacks for monitor speakers. There’s also a USB port for connecting a keyboard controller when recording virtual instruments.  It comes with a simple recording app, but will also work with any recording program that will run on an iPad such as Garage Band or Auria. Resolution is 24-bit, up to 96 kHz sample rate.

Zoom had a new handheld recorder under glass, The H5n, when released, will replace the H4n, offering a pair of upgraded mics in X-Y configuration that are interchangeable with the plug-in mics offered as accessories to the H6n. Like the H4n, it can record up to four simultaneous tracks and includes a mixer which can be used for overdubs as well as mixing up to four recorded tracks to a new stereo file. Also new at this show is the Zoom Q4, a video camera targeted to musicians’ use. While it has similar applications to the Sony I saw yesterday, the Zoom has a swing-out screen that also flips over so you can see yourself when recording. For point-and-shoot recording and increased battery life, the screen assembly can be removed. It records video with up to 1080p and 24-bit audio up to 96 kHz sample rate. An X-Y stereo mic array with a bushy tail fur wind screen is supplied, and there’s a mic/line input jack to feed audio from an external source. There’s a one-step zoom, and a USB port allows transfer of files from the camera’s SDXC memory card to a computer, or to use the camera as a USB mic and/or webcam.

Lavry introduced two new products, the Quintessence Gold Reference Series D/A converter and a less fully featured (and lower cost) version of the Latency Killer LK-Solo, a monitor controller and input/DAW mixer. The Quintessence breaks one of designer Dan Lavry’s personal barriers and operates at sample rates up to 192 kHz. He’s previously written that a 192 kHz converter couldn’t be built with present components to be any better than a 96 kHz converter, but I suppose he found a way to make one that at least didn’t sound any worse, for those who insist on using the highest current standard sample rate. The LK-Solo provides truly zero latency input monitoring as an analog signal from the mic preamp output is mixed with a stereo return from the DAW for overdubbing. It includes a high grade headphone amplifier with output level adjustable in 0.5 dB steps

Audio Technica has upgraded their M-series headphones with new ear pads, some tweaks, and the addition of an “x” to the model number. The M50x is unchanged other than what minor change the new pads may introduce, retaining the sonic signature that made them immensely popular. The frequency response of the M40x has been flattened out further from the original model so it’s actually the most accurate set of the series.

QSC announced the TouchMix, a small format digital mixer in 8 and 16 input versions. As the name implies, primary control is with a touch screen, though there’s a big knob which can be used to adjust the selected parameter. This one still has some work to be done as the brochure describes more features than are presently accessible. It looks pretty good though, and well thought out. Each stage of signal processing has a simple and advanced mode that displays a minimal or full set of controls. A collection of “wizards” engage pre-set effects and (I suspect) EQ and dynamics processors for common sources. Input channels have a four band parametric equalizer, compressor, gate, high and low pass filters. All outputs have a 1/3 octave graphic equalizer, limiter, delay, and sharp notch filter. The 16 channel version offers six mono and two stereo monitor outputs with enough power to directly drive in-ear monitors without the use of an external headphone amplifier. The 8-channel version has four mono monitor outputs. There’s a USB port for connecting a disk drive for recording each input channel on a separate track, and there’s also a WiFi adapter that will connect directly to an iPad for full remote control of the mixer.

Digital Audio Labs was born in the early computer recording days and brought us the Card-D, the first really professional quality sound card, many of which are still in use today. They’ve been out of that business for quite a while, but have a new product this year, the Livemix personal monitor system. It handles up to 24 inputs and each stage box actually has two mixers and two outputs, allowing two players to share one box and reduce stage clutter. It works pretty much how you’d expect for this sort of device, with its own set of special features such as built-in stage ambience mics which can also be used to talk to other players on the system, effects, EQ, and presets for every channel, and an optional foot pedal for hands-free volume control. A remote function allows any station to control any other mix on the network. This allows a house or monitor engineer to adjust mixes (maybe wedges), and a dedicated “Me” knob to quickly adjust the volume of a previously selected input. Interconnection is via Cat5 Ethernet. Inputs to the system are analog with an optional Dante card for digital input.

Lastly, from the Gadgets department are the O-Knob and V-Knob, a replacement for the knob on an effect pedal or electric guitar that, rather than being round, has a pair of “wings” (think of an old fashioned can opener) or a single wing, that serve as a handle for quick or precise adjustment, as well as indicate the knob’s position. Simple, and could be very useful.

That’s all for Day 2.

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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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