NAMM 2017 Tidbits – Day 3

Little Labs has a new little problem solver, the Monotor. This is Jonathan Little’s take on what’s become a popular product, the headphone amplifier, that again shows that his products do what you expect and do it well, but add some useful features you never thought you needed, and that make them unique in the field. The Monnotor offers switching for mono (left + right), left/right reverse, left or right channel only to both ears, and left minus right for a quick listen for out-of-phase material or hearing one of the detrimental effects of MP3 data compression. There are switches for bypassing the volume pot (both or one channel only) if you have a D/A converter with a very good volume control. There two headphone outputs, each with both a ¼” and mini phone jacks. Each pair of jacks, though sharing a single volume control, is driven from a separate amplifier so that plugging in the second set of phones doesn’t affect the level of the first set, though each of the output pairs can adequately drive two sets of headphones of any of today’s wide range of impedances. Finally, there’s an pair of ¼” TRS jacks in parallel with the two combo XLR input connectors for a pass-through to your monitor speakers.

Following in this theme, Mackie has re-introduced their Big Knob monitor controller, this time in three versions. The Passive is a true passive pot in a box offering a selection of two stereo input sources and two stereo outputs, mute and dim switches, and a big volume control knob. The Studio and Studio Plus offer 3 inputs and two outputs and 4 inputs and 3 outputs respectively with independent trims on all of the inputs and outputs. The Studio models include a USB recording interface with to Onyx mic preamps, an input/output mix control for true no-latency monitoring when recording, and two headphone outputs with independent volume controls.

Antelope Audio’s new Orion32 HD 32 channel in/out interface features both USB3 and Avid HDX ports for compatibility with both HD and native versions of Pro Tools as well as just about any other DAW (through USB). More details will follow in the final show report.

Lynx introduced a new version of their Aurora 8- and 16-channel converters that incorporate a lot of the technology from their Hilo stereo converter. There are several models in the pipeline but they continue with the Lynx L-Stream slot to offer several different flavors of connectivity. The first models include mic preamps, an analog sum for monitoring, and direct recording and playback from a micro-SD card.

Roland introduced the Rubix series of three new low cost USB audio and MIDI interfaces, the 22, 24, and 44. They’re all iOS class compatible and differ in the number of inputs and outputs that follow the model numbers. The 24 and 44 include a compressor, and one of the pair(s) combo XLR input jacks can be switched to a high impedance DI instrument input. Also from Roland is the Go-Mixer, a hand-sized mixer designed for smart phone recording.

IK Multimedia showed their new Acoustic Stage microphone system which consists of the iRig Acoustic clip-on mic that they introduced last year coupled with a preamp with ‘DSP processing. There are three presets for each for steel and nylon string guitars plus a “cancel feedback” button that inserts some preset notch filters. There’s also an auxiliary input for connecting a guitar’s built-in pickup and blending it with the iRig mic. The product description states “iOS connectivity which is a bit misleading by itself. What it has is a jack that serves the same function as a channel insert jack on a mixer or mic preamp, wired to connect directly to a mobile device’s TRRS headphone jack (which complicates its connection to the latest iOS devices). The idea is that you can use your phone, running an application such as IK’s iRig effects and apply it to your acoustic guitar. Where “iOS” comes in, and why they describe this connectivity as such, is that Android devices, other than the latest high end ones from Samsung, have too much latency for real time playing – which is why there’s very limited support for audio signal processing on Androids. However, with a bit of cable construction and level matching, you could use the “iOS” jack to put a hardware equalizer or compressor into your guitar signal path.

I usually keep as far away from the main drum area of the show, but I had to stop and look at the Polyend Perc Pro. It’s a system of motorized drum beaters. You set up your drum kit, mount the beaters where you’d hit the drums, feed them MIDI, and your drummer is always in time, on time, and sober. What’s next? Use them to hit pad controllers that can trigger MIDI to play drum samples? That’s the Rube Goldberg way. They also have a companion step sequencer.

Jocavi is one of the many suppliers of prefab acoustical treatments. New to me is their Abstract, a membrane absorber with the low frequency diaphragm absorber part being tuneable between 50 and 250 Hz. There’s an inflatable bladder behind the panel that adjusts its stiffness, and therefore its low frequency absorption peak. They didn’t have any curves there at the show (I’ll check the web site) so it’s not clear what kind of range it has, but it’s an interesting idea.

Tempo Technologies makes inventory tracking systems using RFID stickers. This is kind of a business thing, but it could have applications for musicians or touring groups. When packing the truck, you could scan each box to be sure it’s loaded, and who it belongs to. One thing that I didn’t know (and I’m still unsure of how widely implemented this is) is that Android phones (but not Apple, yet) have a sensor for scanning RFID tags, so you don’t necessarily need a dedicated scanner. The company maintains a “Find Me” data base that could be really useful to musicians. If you have an RFID sticker on your instrument and it’s registered on the data base, if your instrument is stolen and you report it, there’s some chance that it could be found, for instance, if it’s pawned and the pawn shop scans for RFIDs.

The Tone Dexter from Audio Sprockets (see my 2016 NAMM report for a full description) got a bit of a makeover based on input from early testers and users. Briefly, it’s a device that compares the sound of your acoustic guitar played into a good quality mic with what comes out of its pickup. Processing in the box does its stuff and matches the pickup sound with the mic sound pretty closely. The new version replaces some of the menu-selected items with dedicated switches, and they tweaked the algorithm a bit.

That’s it for Day 3. I’m about to head out in the rain to pick up some of the dregs and then I’ll be off on a two day vacation.


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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