From the introduction of the cassette-based Portastudio, TASCAM has maintained a strong product line of integrated recording and mixing systems. This show they introduced Track Factory, which could be the next generation after the digital Portastudios. a complete system-engineered and turnkey computer-based music production system. The package includes a TASCAM US-2×2 interface, along with an Intel NUC (Next Unit Computing) tiny computer , plus a TASCAM TM-80 mic and TH-02 headphones. The computer, with a 2.7 GHz i5 CPU with 4 GM of RAM and a 256 GB solid state disk drive. Cakewalk’s Sonar Professional is pre-installed and the operating system is optimized for audio by PC Audio Labs, a well respected supplier of turnkey music computers. It includes a keyboard and mouse, but you’ll need monitor speakers and a video monitor in order to complete the system. Target price is $1300, which, when adding up street prices of all the pieces, means that you’re paying about $250 for the integration and packaging, but for that you don’t just get a ready-to-play recording system, but one that’s expandable as your needs grow.
TASCAM also introduced a couple of new rack mounted 2-track solid state recoreders, the SS-CDR250N and SS-R250N. The CDR250N includes a CDR transport for transferring audio files to audio CD or vice versa. Both have balanced line level analog I/O and both offer an optional Dante card. There’s also an optional remote.
MikMe showed a different approach to portable recording. Its form factor is block about 2-1/2” square and a bit under 1” thick that records to 16 GB of internal memory. Their bragging point is that it contains a 1” condenser mic capsule, but there’s only one, so it’s a mono recorder.
Aapen Pittman, the father of Groove Tubes, long ago developed a single box stereo speaker that uses the M-S principle. It didn’t get a lot of traction but Fender made an amplifier using the technology and Pittman himself brought out the Spacestation, a compact version. At this show, he introduced the Spacestation XL and Super XL, a larger version which includes a minimal mixer.
Big Bear Audio takes a creative approach with their new 500-series mic preamp. It’s a clean and flat preamp with hardware plug-in modules to add “color.” There’s a DIY electronics group of forum folks who have evolved a common circuit board form factor and connector for swapping out various processing modules and that’s where the “color” board for the Big Bear MP1 are (at least for now) coming from. There’s an 1176-style compressor, a couple of equalizers, a tape saturation emulator, a pentode tube stage, and a transformer.
Schertler’s Arthur Format 48 system is a mixer frame and a series of channel and summing modules that allow you to custom-assemble your own console. There are two mic input modules, one “ultra low noise,” a DI input module, a stereo line input module, a talkback module, and a stereo output module. It’s a “flat” mixer with all the connections on the top of the panel, and the modules look and feel very good. I’m going to try to spend a little more time with this one and see what kind of configurations are possible.
PreSonus has a new version of their StudioLive console. Series III follows the same theme of their original and 2nd generation mixers, but this one replacing a row of mult-purpose knobs with a large color touch screen with a set of master hardware controls. Another new feature is the inclusion of several component-modeled signal processing plug-ins to supplement the perfectly functional EQ and dynamics that they’ve had since the initial version. Also new from PreSonus is the Faserport 8, a control surface with eight motorized faders, a transport controller, channel mute, solo, and track arming.
Following the introduction of the Red 8 preamp at AES, Focusrite showed two 8-channel 2nd generation Scarlett series mic preamps with analog and ADAT optical outputs for expanding the input capability of smaller Scarlett (or other) audio interfaces with ADAT digital inputs. One is a straight preamp, the other adds a compressor on each of the eight input channels and eight direct analog line outputs.
Zvex makes a bunch of effect pedals, but this year they showed the Vibrophase, a Rube Goldberg contraption that’s candle powered and provides phase-based effect. The candle heats air in a chamber which drives a Sterling cycle piston engine that rotates a disk with an optical mask that interrupts a light sounce (also powered by candle light on a photocell) that modulates the audio signal. It’s a beautiful piece of mechanics, something that might have been built by a metalworking hobbyist, but the darn thing actually works. Don’t wait for the final version of my report. You gotta see the video:
There’s a new source for audio transformers from an old US-based transformer manufacturer, Hammond. Not necessarily better or worse that the standards like Jensen and Lindhal, Hammond offers mic input, mic splitter, line input, line output, and a direct box transformer with Mu metal shielding and common form factors.
Off to Day 3. At least it’s not raining today.