As has been my custom for a good many years, I started my show tour in Hall E. Traditionally, this has been where they put new exhibitors (both new to the show and new to the business). It’s where you see some really cool stuff as well as really wacky ideas. Some return next year, and after a few years in purgatory (well, it IS in the lower floor) move upstairs. Some find their home in Hall E and stay there years after year rather than move where their regular visitors would have to find them. Others are never seen again. It was a little different this year. With the new exhibit halls, a number of audio companies moved over there, making room for some of the Hall E regulars upstairs, and there was more unoccupied booth space there than in the past. Probably a third of the exhibitors were large Asian companies showing small mixers, power amplifiers, speakers, music accessories (stands, picks, cables, jewelry) and of course microphones. There was nothing particularly interesting to me there, but it’s a clear indication that their products have matured and they’re waiting for someone else to innovate. The brands are the ones you see (new) in pawn shops and mom-and-pop local music stores.
The most innovative and interesting product I saw on my first day at the show came from France, the HyVibe guitar. The showed a dreadnaught size flat top acoustic guitar with effects! There’s a piezoelectric pickup under the bridge, a circuit board mounted inside the body, a control panel on the side, and a group of transducers attached to the underside of the sound board. Reverb, delay, and chorus effects are applied to the signal from the piezo pickup, then fed to the transducers which, by golly, make it sound like a guitar played through an effect processor. But wait! There’s more! It contains a Bluetooth receiver so you can send it a backing track from a mobile device and it plays out of the guitar. You’d think it would sound horrid -I did until I heard it. The trick is that they calibrate the system (which includes the guitar top) and create a DSP equalizer and phase correction so that it’s actually pretty decent. At present, you have to get it with your guitar, but they expect to eventually release a version that can be installed on your favorite guitar.
Another clever electric guitar gadget is the VSquared Tremolo. It’s a replacement piece for a vibrato tailpiece that they showed on their custom version of a Telecaster. It incorporates a magnetic rotation sensor attached to the inboard end of the whammy bar shaft. There’s also a replacement for the guitar’s volume control that incorporates a push-pull switch. Pull out the volume knob and pivoting the whammy bar controls the volume. It’s an alternative to the often practiced “finger swell” technique.
Cable Porter is a new and clever clip for coiling and storing cables. If you use the over-and-under technique for coiling your cables to avoid twisting, you’ve probably unwound the cable the wrong way more than once, ending with a string of knots. The Cable Porter helps to avoid this by guiding each wind of the coil into a slot so that when you uncoil it from the Porter, the cable pays out in an organized manner. It sounds more complicated than it is, but you might find that it makes your setups go smoother if you don’t have to un-do knotty cables.
I left Hall E for a press conference in the new section and, given the distance and hassles involved, spent the afternoon over there.
We have two (so far) new old microphones coming. Sennheiser is re-introducing the Neumann U67, built from original parts and to the original design and manufacturing specifications. I point out that most of us working in recording today have never heard a new U67, and the sound that we associate with it is the sound of one with 40 or more years of use. Will a brand new one deliver the U67 sound to which those lucky enough to have or have access to one have been accustomed? That remains to be seen.
The Sony C37 is one of Joe Chiccarelli’s favorite mics. He went looking for someone to build them again (Sony won’t, for sure) and ended up working with Brent Casey of PMI Audio, the chief cook and bottle washer behind the Studio Projects mics. It will be coming out under the Tonelux brand.
Cranborne Audio showed an expanded 500-series 8-space rack that incorporates an 8-channel mixer below the modules with the sensible layout of knobs directly below their associated module. There are a couple of configurations of the mixer connectivity that I’ll follow up with in my full report.
Software developer Sonnox has a reputation for unique processing plug-ins that are fairly complex and pricey. They’re introducing a new line they call Toolbox, which is a lower cost collection of simple tools. Their first one is the Doubler designed primarily for vocals. It has two modules, Thicken and Width, with simple controls that don’t require a lot of fiddling around to get a usable sound.
Signal Flow is an Android and iOS app for managing stage hookups. It allows you to create a stage diagram and make cable lists (lead vocal plugs into channel 1, etc) including sub-snakes. It involves cloud storage which might turn you off, but if you’re not paranoid about it, I think it could be useful. The advantage of “the cloud” is that it’s easy to share. If you’re the engineer in a club, you can have the band send you a stage plot with their requirements and you can use that to plan ahead for the gig. I’m looking forward to seeing if I can get some use out of it when folk festival season comes around this summer. The basic version is free – you get 16 channels and two “shares,” and you can add more routing and more users for a pretty reasonable monthly fee.
Well, it’s time for Day 2