AES Reminder

The Audio Engineering Society convention in New York is getting close, and so is the deadline for on-line free registration for the core package which includes the exhibits, all of the educational programs that are  presented in the exhibits area, and a couple of other things. The link for registration and the promo code is in the next post down from here.

Also, remember that the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Fall show is concurrent with AES this year, so your AES registration also gives you access to the NAB exhibits.

And while I’m at it, there’s a little more information about AES at NAMM, a program that I’ve  been somewhat skeptical about. What AES is doing is coordinating a program of, if I recall correctly, 22 classes that will be half or full day, fee-paid classes. Neither the agenda nor the fee schedule have  been released yet, and while I’m sure there will be some good material and good instructors on the bill, the cost might be an issue. One bonus – and this may be an important opportunity for some of you – is that registration in any of the classes gets you a NAMM badge, something that’s (at least intended to be) out of reach for working musicians and engineers who aren’t involved in the selling end of things.

I don’t expect more than a small handful of people who regularly attend the NAMM show will get very deep into this program, but I think that what AES is hoping is that it will attract audio professionals who wouldn’t normally attend the NAMM show. It’s also an opportunity for people out west to get some of the training that goes on at AES conventions without coming to New York – an important consideration since, as a result of the AES and NAB NY partnership, next year’s AES convention won’t be on the west coast either.


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Billy Bragg Skiffle Music Lecture Video

I don’t usually write about musical stuff, but last week, punk rocker Billy Bragg gave a really fascinating talk at the Library of Congress on the history of skiffle music in Great Britain in the 1950s, from its origin with early New Orleans jazz records up through the Quarrymen (whose later band name you may have heard – The Beatles), and how it influenced both rock and country music. If you’re a bit of a music history buff, you might enjoy it – or buy his book on the subject, Roots, Radicals, and Rockers.” The talk is about an hour long, with about half an hour of Q&A. Don’t let the walk-in music scare you away. That’s what British pop music on the radio was like before skiffle hit the scene.

Here’s the YouTube link.

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IK Multimedia MODO Bass RevArticle Posted

What started out to be a review of how this interesting virtual electric bass VST plug-in that’s based on physical modeling of a vibrating string could be viewed as a learning tool turned into a lengthy article. It’s about what makes different basses sound different, and how IK Multimedia presents the tools that let you customize an instrument in physical ways rather frequencies, filters, and MIDI velocities. I rarely use virtual instruments myself, and I’m not a bass player, so there was a lot for me to learn here (which is why this project has been festering for about five months). Hopefully you’ll find something useful here, too.

Visit the Product Reviews page or jump right in here.

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USITT Expo – St. Louis March 8-11

And speaking of St. Louis, the USITT (United States Institute of Theater Technology) will be holding its annual conference at the St. Louis, Missouri America’s Center Convention Complex from March 8 through 11, 2017. I’ve never attended this one and don’t plan to attend, but there are three days of workshops and conferences, along with the Expo trade show. The full conference costs some bucks, but if you’re in the area and are interested in kicking tires on some live sound and theater production gear, you might want to take advantage of VUE Audiotechnik’s offer for free Expo registration. And as an adjunct to the show, VUE, who makes live sound speaker systems, is offering a four-hour demo and training session where you can learn, among other things, about how a line array speaker system works and how to set one up.

Click VUE Free USITT Expo Pass for free USITT Expo registration (use the non-member registration. VUE’s promo code is pre-inserted)

Click here for info and registration for the VUE Demo/Training session (registration is separate from the USITT Expo)

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Winter 2017 NAMM Show Report Posted

Oh, man, these things are taking longer to write every year. I need an intern! This is the full report, 26 pages, I think. There are some things in here that weren’t in the tidbits, and some things in the tidbits that I decided not to preserve for posterity and didn’t include here. PDF, pictures, links, you know the drill.

You can find it on the Trade Show Reports page or just jump right to it here


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NAMM 2017 Tidbits – Day 4

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.

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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.

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