2014 NAMM Show – Day 3

Today was really crowded and really loud. If you’re one of those people standing in a long line to get an autograph or photo op with a famous artist, sorry for the wait. I asked someone near the front of a line how long he’d been waiting and he said “about a hour.” I hope they do something about those lines. They really clog up the aisles. And speaking of aisles . . .

Blue has a new microphone in the works. The Hampton is based on their B1 small diaphragm capsule from the Bottle series, but rather than a lollypop enclosure, it’s mounted in a short tube that’s separate from the main body and pivoted so that the body can point in one direction and the capsule in another direction. This can make for a cleaner mic setup where space is tight, like around drums, or facilitate mounting as an X-Y pair. Price and release date are unknown, but the Hampton will be available as a single mic or a matched pair.

Applied Microphone Technology (AMT) is probably best known for their saxophone mic that’s suspended inside a ring intended to be attached to the bell of the instrument. This year they introduced a new miniature cardioid mic with the characteristic AMT suspension with an assortment of attachments including one that clamps on to the body of an acoustic guitar, and a double mic assembly for placing one mic on the bell and one over the keys (where the real music comes out). A two piece holder allows the same double mic setup to be easily swapped between clarinet and sax for the musician who doubles on the instruments (but doesn’t get double scale to cover the cost of two complete mic systems).

Slate Digital introduced the Virtual Microphone System which includes one each large and small diaphragm custom built cardioid condenser mics, a dual channel preamp with digital output, and a DAW plug-in that models the sound of several combinations of famous mics and famous preamps, In addition to the “realistic” models, there are also instrument-specific presets that include some frequency response shaping and saturation distortion. I’ve always been skeptical about microphone modeling in software. It’s not too hard to get close to a target sound when the source is on axis, with little reflected energy coming in off axis. However, the model doesn’t know from what direction the sound is coming so it doesn’t know how to adjust the frequency response to model that of the response at a given off-axis angle. Slate’s approach to making the model work is to start with mics that are as flat as possible and have a smooth off-axis response. If you’re depending on using the off-axis response asw a tool, you can place the mic as you want it, then tell the model the angle that the primary sound arrives at the mic. By using a known microphone rather than the cheap one you have that you wish was an expensive one, the model can give a pretty good approximation of the frequency response at any angle to the primary sound source. There was one set up next to a Neumann U-47. Could I hear a difference? With all that racket at the show I probably couldn’t tell if the model was for an SM-57 (which it indeed models, using the small mic), but it’s an interesting approach to a technique that’s never really been quite what we dreamed it would be.

Back last year I reviewed the Cymatic LR-16 live recorder, a tabletop box that connects to a mixer though the mixer’s insert jacks and records up to 16 tracks to a USB disk drive, USB “thumb drive” or to a computer via USB. Arriving just in time for the show was the uTrack 24, kind of a grown up version of the LR-16. It offers 24 analog inputs and outputs  on DB-25 connectors, word clock in and out, and MIDI in and out. An internal mixer provides a stereo mix for monitoring while recording, and an Ethernet port connects to a computer or WiFi router for remote comtrol. Recording is, like the LR-16, to either an external USB hard drive or thumb drive, I talked about 96 kHz sample rate with the guy showing it and he said that it was possible with a reduced track count when recording to a USB drive, but would support the full track count when used as an interface to the computer. The poop sheet says only up to 48 kHz. There’s a large, clear LCD and a nifty metering system. There are 24 tri-color LEDs to indicate signal, good level, and clipping on each of the channels. When a channel selected, these LEDs become a single meter dedicated to the selected channel, offering very good resolution in the range close to full scale. Ambiguous record level metering is something that I comment on in just about every interface review I’ve written, and the uTrack 24 seems to solve that problem. When a track is selected, level and pan position I the stereo mix can be adjusted with a rotary encoder. It’ll probably be out in time for the Summer festival season, at a target price of $999.

ESI out of Germany offers a wide range of audio interfaces including some on PCI cards that they say are still selling well. It’s not a name you hear very often though. Somehow, at least in the US, nobody has pushed them very much, though they do have a USB audio driver that’s used by a lot of other interface manufacturers. New at this show is an 8 channel analog I/O interface that connects to the computer via an Ethernet cable using the Dante protocol. The hardware is bundled with a licensed copy of Audinate’s Dante Virtual Soundcard software which is, in essence, a driver so the device can be recognized by the computer’s operating system. The package also includes the Dante Controller, a routing matrix and setup. It’s still in the works, expected out in the second quarter of 2014 (you know that NAMM is an acronym for Not Available, maybe May) and will sell for $1000.

Finally, the cool little product for the day is the Power Supply Mini from J & H Technology of Shenzhen, China. This is an 8-output DC power supply for stomp boxes that is in itself about the size of a small stomp box, about 4.5 x 2.5 inches. Two outputs are adjustable over the range of 6 to 12 v, five outputs are fixed at 9v, and the final output is 9v but the polarity (whether the center pin is positive or negative) can be set with an internal jumper. It has a display which shows the voltage and the current drawn from the selected output. It’s powered by a 15v wall wart. You can’t buy one yet unless you’re in China. They’re looking for a US distributor.

That’s it for the day. Tomorrow is catch-up, maybe listen to one of the training sessions, and head for the hills.

 

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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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