This is going to be really sketchy. Seems like the days get longer every year and I’m staying in a hotel with an odd desk that doesn’t let me really spread things out very well, so mostly what I’m doing here is sharing notes to myself about things I see that I want to spend more time describing than I have now. Be sure to check out the full report in a week or so.
As usual, I spent a fair amount of my first day in Hall E. This is where they put all of the new exhibitors with new products that may or may not be back another year. Many of the new products are Kickstarter (or another one like it) projects that are still in the prototype/idea phase. Some are pretty neat, some are pretty wacky.
Ponz Guitars showed a line of sort-of modular guitars. The neck, body, bridge, pickups and controls are all in one unit. There are two headstock styles, Gibson and Fender,. This drops into a slot in your choice of bodies in an assortment of styles and colors, or you can customize one yourself. You can play a different color guitar for every song in your set and never have to change your sound.
Half One is a loudspeaker cut in half through the cone and frame, but with the voice coil left intact. At first I thought it was a loudspeaker manufacturer showing the insides, but no, it’s supposed to play like that. It comes out of an Onkyo engineering study with the goal in mind to make a loudspeaker that has a radiation pattern like that of a musical instrument (but they don’t say what instrument, Their 3D polar plot shows several lobes an nulls. They sounded horrid, and are priced at $3,000 each, $5,000 for a pair. You gotta see this, and you will, in the final report.
Sonicsmith showed two analog synthesizers that take their input from an audio source rather than a keyboard or sequencer. Play a guitar into it and get all sorts of weird sounds out. It’s not an effect pedal. It doesn’t modify the sound of the instrument, it extracts the pitch, makes a new waveform of that frequency, then applies filters and modulation to it, just like an analog synth.
Moon Amplification showed a rotary speaker system (think “Leslie”) with no moving parts except for the voice coils of the four loudspeakers inside the box that face outward from each edge. The action of the rotating speaker inside a real Leslie is simulated by shifting the phase relationships among the speakers. It’s a pretty cool idea, and as far as I could tell in the noisy hall, it works.
Mod Duo is a software-based build-it-yourself pedal board in a compact box with two foot pedal type buttons, two knobs with integrated pushbuttons, and two small LCDs. You connect it to a computer via USB, pick the processing modules you want to use, hook them up in any order, series or parallel or both, and control the devices in the chain from the box.
Mobile Catch is a guitar capo with a holder for a smart phone or tablet attached. Clever, but, I think, clumsy.
Sensel Morph is a set of interchangeable pads that lay on a base about the size of a mouse pad. The pads are laid out for different functions – there was a drum pad, a sample player, a piano keyboard, a mixer, a blank drawing tablet, and a QWERTY keyboard. A strip on the back of each pad identifies its function and sets up the USB output appropriately.
The Zylia microphone is a ball a bit larger than a softball that contains 19 microphone elements. Their thing is that you can have your band members sit in a circle around the mic, their software will sort out each player by position, and record each as an individual track. I listened to their demo on line a while back and I wasn’t terribly impressed. It did a pretty good job of separating the parts, which is good trick in itself, but most of them didn’t sound very good. Then maybe they didn’t sound very good originally. It’s an idea that needs a better reason for being, I think.
In the department of Woe and Intrigue, Roland introduced a new stage piano that can be a plain old MIDI controller, but when connected to a computer, provides more resolution of performance parameters including multiple polyphonic expression. In order to make use of this feature, you need sounds that understand it, so they took to The Cloud. You can play something with conventional sounds, then send your high resolution track out and get it back rendered as an audio file in all its glory. The Intrigue part is that a few years ago, a few of the MIDI manufacturers, including Roland, wanted to explore this possibility. The MIDI Manufacturers Association encouraged them to develop a standard to adopt and publish, but Roland didn’t want to do it – then they went out and did it on their own. Maybe they’ll get it as a standard, maybe not. MMA was expecting to have something published later this year.
Day 2 is starting out with a 2/3 mile walk to the convention center in the rain. Time to crank up my umbrella and pick up a garbage bang as an emergency poncho in case it gets serious.