These are the dribs and drabs, and reminders of what I forgot to include and what I want to dig into a little more before writing about them.
The press release from T-Rex said they were introducing a real analog tape based effect device that was similar to the Binson Echorec, and indeed they did. When I first saw it, I saw a sticker on the back of the tape cartridge assembly that said that the reels might not rotate during operation, and that this was normal. My first thought was that the tape mechanism was a dummy and that it really did everything with electronics inside, but, no, it really works. The “reels” are part of the tape guiding system and not actually part of the tape loop, which is under pretty low tension and depends on pressure pads against the heads for good contact and wrap. It has two playback heads which can be switched to provide two delays, or once can be switched to feed the record path for feedback to achieve repeating echoes. Delay is adjusted by varying the tape speed, which suggests that long delays might not sound as good as short ones, but it adds a potentially useful function – tap tempo delay setting. The motor speed controller detects the tap rate and adjusts the tape speed accordingly. Although it uses cassette width tape, it appears to be nicely built and, with reasonable maintenance, should work well.
Samson’s Go Mic Mobile is a wireless microphone system that’s sized to clamp on to the back of a mobile phone. It connects to the phone via USB (a Lightning adapter cable is provided for new iPhones) and allows the camera operator the freedom to move around while having the subject close-miked.
Chameleon Labs introduced a couple of updates to their rack mount analog processors, all of which feature their transformers and are designed around iconic sounding gear. The 7603 Xmod mic preamp offers 300/1200 ohm mic input impedance with 48v phantom power, a high impedance instrument DI input, and inductor-based EQ. The 7720 stereo compressor includes peak or RMS detection, hard/soft knee, and an input/output blend control for what’s become known as “parallel compression.” Also new this year is the 560 inductor-based 3-band EQ and low cut filter in a 500-series module.
Softube showed their Console 1 Mark II. To refresh your memory, Console 1 is a hardware controller for DAW signal processing. It comes with a growing set of plug-ins, it supports many third-party plug-ins, and the new model support Universal Audio’s DSP-based plug-ins as long as you have the hardware that goes along with then. Initially it was designed around Pro Tools (of course) but now is fully integrated and tested with Cakewalk Sonar and PreSonus Studio One.
Ehrlund from Sweden is a condenser mic manufacturer that’s new to me. The thing that makes their products unique is that the diaphragm is triangular. They have a few fairly conventional looking mics for the conventional purposes, as well as a stubby one designed for close-in drum miking, and a contact mic for acoustic instruments. They also have a dual-capsule model with individual outputs from each capsule. This is a feature that’s starting to show up and we may be seeing more of it if it catches on. The idea is that you can mix the outputs of the two mics to shape the directivity pattern to your liking. While it’s a good idea to figure out what you need before you press the Record button (a wide cardioid, an omni, or maybe a figure-8) you can make tweaks afterward.
Your next guitar may be made from paper, or maybe your newest guitar already is. At NAMM, there are always plenty of exhibitors that supply wood to instrument builders, and Richlite joined that aisle this year. They make a composite building material from highly compressed and processed paper that works very much like real wood and can be made in any color. Martin, along with other guitar builders, has been using it for fingerboards and bridges. It seems to work fine, looks good, holds frets, and probably wears better than real ebony.
As there has been at the past few shows, there was a large section of analog synthesizers – not the big “desert island” setting they had last year, but at least as many displays and enough patch cords to run a small town’s telephone exchange in the 1880s. Moog offered a tribute to the many pioneers of analog synthesis that we lost in 2016. Their listening station consisted of a bunch of handheld cassette players loaded with their music – a fitting tribute, I think.
Come back next week for a more organized report with more details, pictures, and links.