2014 NAMM Show – Day 4

Last day, playing catch-up. I really enjoy Sunday at NAMM. All the crowds are gone, though, unfortunately, some of the best people to talk to about products are on their way home, but I did fill in a few gaps.

Behringer is now shipping all the cut-down versions of the X32 console, though their tablet-controlled mixers are still getting the kinks worked out. As usual for Behringer, they introduced a lot of new products, more than I could keep track of. Of interest are a couple of USB audio interfaces and DAW controllers. The UMC-404 and UMC-1820 are, respectively 4 in/4 out and 18 in/20 out interfaces with four and eight mic/line inputs. The 1820 also has ADAT and S/PDIF I/O. They’re pretty straightforward as these things go. The X-Touch series of control surfaces come in three sizes – X-Touch (the whole works), X-Touch Compact which loses the jog wheel and a bunch of buttons that control DAW automation, and X-Touch Mini which also loses the motorized faders but has knobs that can be assigned to serve as level controls. They all use the Mackie Universal Control or HUI protocol which makes them compatible with nearly all recent DAW programs.

The close connection between Behringer and Midas consoles is no better illustrated than with the new Midas M32 compact live sound console. At heart, it’s a Behringer X32. It runs the same software and uses same converters and digital processing components. The user interface is physically laid out a bit differently, it has real Midas mic preamps (as opposed to “Midas designed” in the X-32, and has higher quality moving faders.

Dangerous Music has a new dual channel compressor that’s designed to compress, not to add crunch, warmth, or distortion. It has a fast limiter ahead of the compressor to tame transient peaks and prevent them from dropping the level of the channel. The two channels can be operated independently or linked for stereo, In the stereo mode, gain and threshold controls are linked so that one knob controls both channels together. Even when linked, the detectors are independent, as are the compression ratio, attack and release controls. There are separate side chain sends and returns on balanced XLR connectors as well as a side-chain listen mode so that when using the side chain inserts  or one of the oreset side chain filters, you can hear what the detector is hearing. This is a Chris Muth design and his other products are noted for their transparency, so I’d expect that from this compressor.

Cathedral Pipes is the unlikely name for a microphone company, but the name withstanding (their mics are named for famous cathedrals in Europe), they hand build a range of mics in their shop in Southern California. All of their current condenser models share the same Neumann M7 style capsule that they build in their shop, There are two tube models and an FET model. The difference between the tube models is with the output transformer and some capacitors. There’s one capacitor in the top of the line mic that costs $100!. They also have a ribbon mic and, yes, they make their own ribbons too. These guys seem to have a thorough understanding of how these mics work, build them to very high standards, and sell them at fair prices ranging from $2500 down to $1000. While they started out with a U47 design, their intent wasn’t to make a clone, but rather, to make what they believe to be sensible improvements while leaving the basic sound character alone.

Great River Electronics has had a compressor using a 400 kHz pulse width modulator (PWM) as the gain control element. This isn’t a new idea, but it hasn’t been very popular due to such reasons as complexity, cost, and that, since vintage PWM compressors didn’t work all that well, there wasn’t a good model to copy as a starting point. Modern components and design make it possible to build a compressor that introduces a lower level of distortion when changing gain than the more common VCA (voltage controlled attenuator) or LDR (light dependent resistor of “optical” compressor). The Great River PWM-501 PWM compressor has finally emerged from the workbench as a 500-series module. In addition to that format being very popular nowadays, eliminating the power supply and enclosed chassis brought the price into a more comfortable zone. Designer Dan Kennedy says that it takes some time and listening skills to learn how to use it correctly, but that if a transparent compressor is what you want, this one is a cost effective choice.

I picked up an interesting-at-first-glance book from the “we don’t want to carry these home” table at the Berklee Press booth entitled Project Management  for Musicians. By Jonathan Feist. It appears to cover just about every aspect of how to do business in the music business. If it’s good, When I get time to start reading it, I’ll write a review.

Well, that’s it for the show. When I get my brain unscrambled I’ll organize things, fill in some details, and put the whole show report together. Stay tuned.

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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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