Less Wow, more Whoa!
Samson is about as close as it gets to studio gear at CES. Their products fall in low price range and performance is usually better than you’d expect for the cost. Most are oriented toward podcasting or live performance, and their new introduction this year is the G-Track Pro USB microphone which includes a playback interface with a volume control and a switch for direct input monitoring. It’s quite a hefty piece, on a sturdy desk stand, with an optional shock mount available for stand mounting. Unusual for its application is that it’s a three-pattern condenser mic, suggesting that it would be good for across-the-mic interviews when switched to the Figure-8 pattern. It also has a line/instrument input on a 1/4″ jack which becomes active when the mic is switched from mono to stereo (you get the mic on one channel and external input on the other).
Audio Control had a large exhibit in the car audio section of the show. They’re one of the original crop of Seattle area audio companies (Greg Mackie worked for them before starting his own company), and here they were showing their large line of in-car amplifiers and equalizers, as well as the latest generation of one of their origianl products, an audio spectrum analyzer for the test bench. They introduced (but it wasn’t working yet) a new spectrum analyzer that’s just the guts, using a computer or smart phone as the display and control panel. It’s a hand-sized box that connects through USB or Lightning, has mic and line inputs, and doubles as an oscilloscope. It’ll be priced at under $200, available later this year.
Most intelligent reports of this year’s CES will lead you to the conclusion that the cart is well ahead of the horse and we’re seeing solutions to problems we don’t have (and they’re, of course trying to convince us that we DO have those problems). One example is the Iron Guardian Mini, an absolutely gorgeous in-car charger for your phone. Everybody needs one of those, but this one is “smart” and can help you find your parked car, call for roadside assistance in case of a breakdown, share the location of your car with friends and family, alert you when your parking meter is about to run out of time, and light up in fascinating, moving colors. Last but certainly not least, it has a heavy steel base (the part that plugs into the power socket in the car) with a hardened point that can be used to break a window if you need to get out of the car. Except for that last feature, however, it depends on being connected with a smart phone and the Internet. Now, can’t you do all of those things with your phone if you wanted to? I can.
While it has nothing to do with studio gear except buying it, I thought that the Dynamics Inc smart payment card was a really cool idea. It’s the size and shape of a credit card and includes a smart chip. Once they get enough banks and credit card companies on board, you’ll be able to load it with all of your acounts and use the same card for all of them. It has a little LCD on it and a couple of touch-buttons to select the card you want to use. Of all the useless things I saw so far, this seems like it might be the most useful.
I had a short ride (around a parking lot) in a driverless car and learned a good bit about all of the things that go into the Hitachi system. It wasn’t a very exciting ride, but the car was able to maneuver itself into a fairly tight simulated garage, back out, pick us up at the end of the simulated driveway, and take us to a simulated parking structure where it found itself a parking space after we got out. I’ll take one.