Knobcon V – September 9-11 2016, Chicago IL

Sorry for the late notice, but I just got the word. A long list of manufacturers of synthesizers and other electronic music production tools are presenting Knobcon, a weekend geek-out for synthesizer afficianodos. Hands-on demos of modern and vintage instruments, boutique trade show with designers demonstrating and selling their gear, performances, and  build-it-yourself workshops where you can learn workbench skills including soldering, and actually build something useful.

Admission for the full weekend is $35, with separate kit fees for the build-it-yourself workshops.

If you’re into electronic-based or experimental music and the tools used to create it, particularly if you’re in the Chicago area, this is the place for you this weekend.

Location:The  Hyatt Regency Schaumburg

Schedule: Party with performances Friday, exhibits and workshops 10-6 on Saturday and 10-5 on Sunday

Full details at the Knobcon web site

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Roland Presents a 24-Hour On-Line Streaming Music Festival – September 9, 2016

On September 9, 2016 (#909day, a hash tag for those who lust after Roland’s classic TR-909 Rhythm Composer), Roland will be hosting a 24-hour streaming online musical instruments festival which they’re calling “The Future. Redefined.” More than 30 new products will debut during streaming video broadcasts from VIP events in eight major cities around the world. Artists performing during the festival will be autographing and contributing a variety of Roland gear to MusiCares®, the non-profit organization established by The Recording Academy® to help music people in times of hardship.

For information on what it’s about and what new products will be shown  (honestly, most of it is behind a curtain as of Sept 1 other than hints by product category) click here.

To go directly to the schedule of presentations, click here. Remember to convert the Pacific Daylight Times into your local time zone.

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A Mixing Contest – or maybe – Some Tracks For Mixing Practice

Boz Digital Labs along with Toontrack and Groove3 are having a contest in which you download tracks (there are a lot of them), mix them to your taste, and submit your mix. The first three prizes are for what’s judged to be the best mixes (by their admittedly biased judges). Fourth prize is a random drawing among the losers, so you could win prizes even if your mix sucks. And if you decide not to enter, you can have fun mixing some well tracks including MIDI tracks for the drums should you want to edit the drum parts or substitute your own sounds for theirs. It’s a metal-punkish song, not my bag at all, so don’t worry about competing with me for the big prizes.

Prizes include Toontrack’s Superior Drummer (1st prize) or EZ Drummer (other prizes), Groove3 on-line classes (a year for 1st prize, a month for other prizes), and a Boz Digital plug-in of your choice. Contest closes at midnight Pacific time September 4.

Details, downloads, and entry information here.

Have fun!

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NAB 2016 Show Report Posted

My 2016 NAB Show report is now available. Visit the Trade Show page or just click here to download it. As usual, it’s a PDF. The photos are at fairly high resolution, so you can zoom into the PDF to get a closer look,


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2016 Winter NAMM Show Report Posted

I finally cleared the snow away (well, it was warm and it rained all day yesterday so I had some help) and I put together my full NAMM show report for 2016. Visit the Trade Show Reports page to download it, or just jump right to it here. As usual, it’s a PDF that you can read at your leisure. By the way, some of the pictures are at fairly high resolution, so you can blow up the PDF page and see some details. All the links to the product web sites should be good, at least for a while.

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NAMM 2016 Tidbits – Last Day

Sunday is the best and worst day to visit the show. Best because it’s not as crowded as the other days, worst because, since there’s not much traffic at the booths, the booth staff takes the opportunity to wander around the show floor, leaving a skeleton crew who doesn’t know enough to answer technical questions. I wanted to have a look at the Tactus mixer control surface from Crest (not really new, but I wanted to add it to my control surface ramblings) but nobody there knew anything about it when I got to their room Sunday morning. Oh, well.

While many of the usual plug-in and software manufacturers had booth space in the main halls, this year NAMM devoted one of the upstairs rooms to software, with more than 20 exhibitors in a fairly quiet room. I don’t know enough about the products to learn much there, but I did chat with a couple of the exhibitors about how they liked having that dedicated space. They really liked it, but because it wasn’t all that well publicized, and was at the far end of hallway that spanned the full width of the convention center, a lot of attendees just didn’t make it up there. I only stumbled across it when looking for the Crest Tactus in the Peavey room next door.

Stevie Wonder is a regular visitor at NAMM shows, and this year, not once, but twice, I was overshadowed by The Wonder Experience. Once I had to wait to cross an aisle while his entorage was given the right of way with escorts from security. Not a big deal. But Sunday I wanted to stop back at the Waves booth to get a little quieter demo of the Waves NX, which, as far as I could tell, is a plug-in to simulate listening room environments. Focusrite had something like that a few years ago (there’s a review of it here) and I was curious as to what direction Waves was taking with it. Their blurb was about how you could have a high class mastering room in your headphones. Well, wouldn’t you know it – Just as I snagged someone to give me a demo, he looked around and said “Stevie Wonder is heading over here and I have to give him a tour.” Of course I couldn’t tag along.

I’ll get all this stuff organized into a real report next week. I live in the Washington DC area and I’m not coming home until Saturday. There’ll be plenty of snow to keep me indoors and working. My neighbor got someone to shovel out my walkway, but he didn’t realize that my car was in the garage about 150 feet back from the street. Oops!


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NAMM 2016 Tidbits – Day 3

Just as a reminder, I’ll be putting together a consolidated report with further details, pictures, and links. It’ll likely be up in a week or so after I get home and get the two feet of snow cleared out of my driveway, so check back again.

Radial Engineering can be counted on to come up with a new problem solver or three a few times a year, and this show was no exception. The Headlight and Headlight Pro route a single instrument input jack to one of four outputs. If you play several instruments on stage, all of which need to go through a DI and you want them on individual mixer channels so each channel can have the proper settings for that instrument, the simple solution is to have a separate DI for each instrument, but that makes for a lot of cable clutter on stage. The Headlight Pro allows you to unplug one instrument, plug in another, and, with a switch, assign the input to its proper console channel. Is this a good solution? I dunno. It puts a lot of responsibility on the player, who has to remember to mute the input so as not to send a blast of noise through the PA system, then has to remember to press the appropriate button for the instrument he’s plugged in lest he drive the house engineer nuts, then un-mute before he starts playing. The just plain Headlight might be a more useful solution, but for a different problem. This is for the electric guitarist who plays one guitar, but wants to switch it among four different amplifiers for different tone setups. It offers a single guitar input and four switchable outputs. It includes Radial’s Drag control to adjust the loading on the pickup.

The Radial JDX Direct Drive combines the JDX (Jensen transformer) DI input with an amplifier simulator (these appear to be frequency response shapers, not saturation simulation) for a Marshall half stack, a clean Fender Twin, and the standard JDX tone, along with a Bright switch.

TASCAM beefed up their line of digital recorders intended as companions to a DSLR camera with the new DR-701D. It’s functionally fairly close to last year’s DR-70D 4 channel recorder, but it adds HDMI sync, time code, a remote start/stop, and a solid magnesium case. Also new from TASCAM is a MADI I/O card for their 64 track capture recorder.

PreSonus introduced the CS18AI, which looks, from a few feet away, quite a bit like their StudioLive consoles, but it’s a control surface designed to be used with their RM32AI and RM16AI “mixer in a stage box” units. The actual mixing and signal processing is done at the RM end of an Ethernet cable via ABV protocol. The CS18AI + RM can stand alone and you’ll find everything you need in order to mix up to 64 channels, but it can be extended with PreSonus’ UC Surface control software for an iPad or Windows 10 touch screen for more visual information and touch control, as well as their Q-mix iOS personal monitor mix controller. The CS18AI offers 100 mm motorized, actual touch sensitive faders, two features that StudioLive users have been requesting for years. When combined with Studio One DAW software, it becomes a powerful and full featured hands-on multitrack recording and mixing workstation. There are a number of these control surfaces on the market today with many features in common, and each one having a few features that make it unique, one important one being close integration with other products from the manufacturer. We don’t really have a universal system yet, so mixing, say, a PreSonus controller with a Mackie mixer-in-a-stagebox is not likely to be a happy marriage yet, you need to pick your features carefully to come up with what’s the best choice for you. The good news is that while there’s arguably significant differences in how processing features sound, the basic sound quality issues like mic preamps, A/D/A converters, and performance specifications are pretty much no longer a significant reason to choose one system over another. This is a good thing, I believe, since it lets you look at functionality first an not worry that one brand might not sound as good as another.

While we’re on a control surface roll here, Avid showed their new Dock controller for Pro Tools. It was actually introduced at last Fall’s AES show but I didn’t get around to seeing it there. This is its first NAMM showing. It’s an iPad dock that features a single fader, a big jog/shuttle wheel, 8 soft knobs surrounding the docked tablet, 16 assignable soft keys, two programmable touch strips (one horizontal, one vertical), a set of buttons for automation control, and a EuCon monitor volume control.

Waves, famous for plug-ins, introduced their take on what I probably should start calling the “modular mixer.” The eMotion LV1 is a software mixer that interfaces with Waves’ own SoundGrid server and I/O modules. They were showing it with a pair of touch screens, one displaying faders, the other displaying channel functions and routing, but this is all customizable. The display can be as simple as a laptop computer running the software, or more complex as required.

Zynaptiq showed a new plug-in called UNMIX::DRUMS. The user interface is really simple, but it really works for doing what they claim. Basically, the big knob in the center is a volume control for the overall level of drums in a stereo mix. You can get pretty close to turning drums off, or boosting them unrealistically, but hopefully you have better taste than that. The other two knobs give you some control over the balance of instruments within the drum kit. It’s not simply another equalizer, but rather, one that looks at the instantaneous spectral content of the mix to identify the drums, and then operates on that in, what I suspect is in a similar manner that you’d do with a spectral editor such as Sony’s Spectral layers or the similar tool in iZotope RX. This seems like a really good tool for a mastering engineer to punch up certain types of mixes, or to tone down an overly enthusiastic drummer that the producer couldn’t tame.

Maybe more tomorrow.

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