NAMM 2016 Tidbits – Day 3

Just as a reminder, I’ll be putting together a consolidated report with further details, pictures, and links. It’ll likely be up in a week or so after I get home and get the two feet of snow cleared out of my driveway, so check back again.

Radial Engineering can be counted on to come up with a new problem solver or three a few times a year, and this show was no exception. The Headlight and Headlight Pro route a single instrument input jack to one of four outputs. If you play several instruments on stage, all of which need to go through a DI and you want them on individual mixer channels so each channel can have the proper settings for that instrument, the simple solution is to have a separate DI for each instrument, but that makes for a lot of cable clutter on stage. The Headlight Pro allows you to unplug one instrument, plug in another, and, with a switch, assign the input to its proper console channel. Is this a good solution? I dunno. It puts a lot of responsibility on the player, who has to remember to mute the input so as not to send a blast of noise through the PA system, then has to remember to press the appropriate button for the instrument he’s plugged in lest he drive the house engineer nuts, then un-mute before he starts playing. The just plain Headlight might be a more useful solution, but for a different problem. This is for the electric guitarist who plays one guitar, but wants to switch it among four different amplifiers for different tone setups. It offers a single guitar input and four switchable outputs. It includes Radial’s Drag control to adjust the loading on the pickup.

The Radial JDX Direct Drive combines the JDX (Jensen transformer) DI input with an amplifier simulator (these appear to be frequency response shapers, not saturation simulation) for a Marshall half stack, a clean Fender Twin, and the standard JDX tone, along with a Bright switch.

TASCAM beefed up their line of digital recorders intended as companions to a DSLR camera with the new DR-701D. It’s functionally fairly close to last year’s DR-70D 4 channel recorder, but it adds HDMI sync, time code, a remote start/stop, and a solid magnesium case. Also new from TASCAM is a MADI I/O card for their 64 track capture recorder.

PreSonus introduced the CS18AI, which looks, from a few feet away, quite a bit like their StudioLive consoles, but it’s a control surface designed to be used with their RM32AI and RM16AI “mixer in a stage box” units. The actual mixing and signal processing is done at the RM end of an Ethernet cable via ABV protocol. The CS18AI + RM can stand alone and you’ll find everything you need in order to mix up to 64 channels, but it can be extended with PreSonus’ UC Surface control software for an iPad or Windows 10 touch screen for more visual information and touch control, as well as their Q-mix iOS personal monitor mix controller. The CS18AI offers 100 mm motorized, actual touch sensitive faders, two features that StudioLive users have been requesting for years. When combined with Studio One DAW software, it becomes a powerful and full featured hands-on multitrack recording and mixing workstation. There are a number of these control surfaces on the market today with many features in common, and each one having a few features that make it unique, one important one being close integration with other products from the manufacturer. We don’t really have a universal system yet, so mixing, say, a PreSonus controller with a Mackie mixer-in-a-stagebox is not likely to be a happy marriage yet, you need to pick your features carefully to come up with what’s the best choice for you. The good news is that while there’s arguably significant differences in how processing features sound, the basic sound quality issues like mic preamps, A/D/A converters, and performance specifications are pretty much no longer a significant reason to choose one system over another. This is a good thing, I believe, since it lets you look at functionality first an not worry that one brand might not sound as good as another.

While we’re on a control surface roll here, Avid showed their new Dock controller for Pro Tools. It was actually introduced at last Fall’s AES show but I didn’t get around to seeing it there. This is its first NAMM showing. It’s an iPad dock that features a single fader, a big jog/shuttle wheel, 8 soft knobs surrounding the docked tablet, 16 assignable soft keys, two programmable touch strips (one horizontal, one vertical), a set of buttons for automation control, and a EuCon monitor volume control.

Waves, famous for plug-ins, introduced their take on what I probably should start calling the “modular mixer.” The eMotion LV1 is a software mixer that interfaces with Waves’ own SoundGrid server and I/O modules. They were showing it with a pair of touch screens, one displaying faders, the other displaying channel functions and routing, but this is all customizable. The display can be as simple as a laptop computer running the software, or more complex as required.

Zynaptiq showed a new plug-in called UNMIX::DRUMS. The user interface is really simple, but it really works for doing what they claim. Basically, the big knob in the center is a volume control for the overall level of drums in a stereo mix. You can get pretty close to turning drums off, or boosting them unrealistically, but hopefully you have better taste than that. The other two knobs give you some control over the balance of instruments within the drum kit. It’s not simply another equalizer, but rather, one that looks at the instantaneous spectral content of the mix to identify the drums, and then operates on that in, what I suspect is in a similar manner that you’d do with a spectral editor such as Sony’s Spectral layers or the similar tool in iZotope RX. This seems like a really good tool for a mastering engineer to punch up certain types of mixes, or to tone down an overly enthusiastic drummer that the producer couldn’t tame.

Maybe more tomorrow.

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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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