Hot Hits from Winter NAMM

Mar 1, 1999 12:00 PM, Sarah Jones, Chris Michie and George Petersen

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From January 28 through 31, 1999, more than 61,000 music industry pros packed the cavernous Los Angeles Convention Center for the winter expo of the National Association of Music Merchants (www.namm.com), where 1,200 exhibitors showed the latest in audio and music gear. Outside of Roland's entry into the digital console market (see sidebar), the big "gotta-see-it" hits were few; however, this show had no shortage of cool technologies. Here are some slick debuts that caught our attention.

Peavey (www.peavey.com) and Cakewalk (www.cakewalk.com) unveiled StudioMix(tm), a moving fader hardware control surface that integrates with Cakewalk 8-track digital audio recording/MIDI editing software. The console includes MMC transport keys, jog/shuttle wheel, four user-definable softkeys and tactile control of volume, pan, sends, returns, track arming, mute, solo, chorus/reverb, etc. This "studio in a box" package retails at $899. Keep an eye on Peavey for similar advanced products (and alliances) in the future, in both pro and MI markets.

Coming soon to near-fields and hanging clusters everywhere: Having conquered the consumer subwoofer market, Velodyne Silicon Systems (www.velodyne.com) has its sights on the pro OEM market with a lightweight digital Class D amp available in mono 100/250/600/1,250-watt modules having an astonishing 97% efficiency! Could your next speakers sport a "Velodyne Inside" sticker?

24/96 AND ALL THAT... If there was a buzzword du NAMM, it had to be "24/96." TC Electronic (www.tcelectronic.com) is shipping the $2,995 Finalizer 96k, the newest generation in its Finalizer mastering processor line, offering 24-bit/96kHz resolution and a hardware upgrade path (Bravo, TC!) for owners of earlier units. TC also showed a 24/96 upgrade I/O card for its flagship M5000.

Arguably the most powerful standalone pro audio signal processor ever made, Eventide's (www.eventide.com) Orville supports up to four analog and four digital inputs and outputs simultaneously, with "anything-to-anything" routing and 24-bit/96kHz capability. Besides UltraShifter(tm) formant-correct vocal processing, Orville offers reverbs (mono/stereo/4-channel), dynamics, EQ, multi-effects, 87 seconds of delay and up to 174 seconds of sampling with time compression. Price? $5,595.

Quantum, from dbx (www.dbxpro.com) is a digital mastering processor with multiband compressor, limiter, expander, gate, parametric EQ, de-esser, normalizer and 24/96 capability-all from a one $1,999 box. Quantum also features the Type IV 24/96 converters used in dbx's acclaimed Blue Series, with a choice of dither options and TSE(tm) Tape Saturation Emulation.

Tom Oberheim's new company SeaSound (www.seasound.com) showed what was clearly the DAW bargain of the show: "Solo," is a complete 2-channel DAW (sans PC or Mac) that includes PCI card, software (or use your own), cables and a two-rackspace box with line, hi-z instrument and mic inputs with phantom power, line/mic input mixing with pans, channel inserts, LED metering, MIDI interface, monitor mixing, headphone amp, control room volume pot, S/PDIF I/O and 24/96 converters. Price: an awesomely low $599.

Antares (www.antarestech.com) Auto-Tune-see last month's Mix-has eliminated the need for vocalists to sing on key. Now the company shows the AMM-1 Microphone Modeler, which uses spectral modeling to simulate different mic sounds. Plug any reasonably full-range mic into its preamp input and select your choice of classic and vintage mics at the touch of a button. This could do to mics what the SansAmp did to guitar amps! Ships this summer.

Speaking of mics, AKG's (www.akg-acoustics.com) new C4000B is a 3-pattern, large-diaphragm condenser mic priced at $848, with windscreen and shockmount.

ANALOG LIVES! Analog signal processing is alive and well. Focusrite's (www.focusrite.com) Compounder brings the company's well-known Class A circuit designs into a stereo compressor/limiter/gate priced at a tempting $899.

HHB (www.hhb.co.uk) showed two new lines of tube signal processing. Designed for the project studio, the Radius Series includes the Radius 10 4-channel preamp, Radius 20 stereo 4-band parametric, Radius 30 stereo compressor, Radius 40 voice processor (pre/compressor/expander/EQ) and Radius 50 preamp/compressor. Intended for more demanding applications, HHB's Classic Series has the Classic 60 stereo compressor, Classic 70 stereo parametric and Classic 80 2-channel preamp.

Tube-Tech's (www.tcelectronic.com) new CL 2A is an all-tube, dual-channel (stereo linkable) opto-compressor that puts two classic CL 1B compressors in a two-rackspace chassis. Retail: $3,195.

SOFTWARE SOLUTIONS One of the cool new software apps shown at NAMM was Emagic's (www. emagic.de) Waveburner, a new Mac application for mastering Red Book Audio CDs. Price: $199. Emagic also released Logic Audio Platinum and Gold 3.7, featuring extended support for Yamaha's DSP Factory.

Arboretum's (www.arboretum.com) Harmony formant-based harmony software features up to eight-voice harmony generation, graphical editing, automatic pitch correction (with vibrato preserved) and adjustable formants. List: $349.

Steinberg (www.us.steinberg.net) showed a version of Cubase VST that works with the Rocket Network API (www.rocketnetwork.com) now available to application developers-allowing multiple users to use the Internet as a live connection to join in on projects. Cubase VST with the RocketPower module should be available next quarter.

Be Inc., maker of the multimedia-optimized BeOS operating system (www. be.com), demoed its fast new Version 4 system. So far, 26 music and audio developers, including Opcode, Sonorus, Lucid, Steinberg, Emagic, Arboretum, Aardvark and E-mu, have announced plans to bring to market audio applications for the BeOS. The applications will begin shipping within the next three months.

A growing number of third-party developers have been announcing support for CreamWare's recently announced Pulsar platform, including Metric Halo, Sonic Timeworks, Spectral Design, Wildcat Canyon and NemeSys. And Windows users are celebrating Digidesign's (www.digidesign.com) announcement that it is now shipping the PC version of the Pro Tools MIX system.

Waves (www.waves.com) announced the Pro-FX suite of DSP plug-ins for Digidesign TDM systems, including UltraPitch, a six-voice formant-corrected pitch shifter; SuperTap, a six-voice multitap delay; MetaFlanger for vintage tape flanging and phase emulation; and MondoMod, which combines AM (level), FM (frequency) and stereo rotation (panning) into a single modulator. Price: around $700.

TC Works (www.tcelectronic.com) introduced TC Native Bundle, a package of three plug-ins for DirectX applications, including TC's popular Native Reverb and Native EQ Works plug-ins, plus the new Native DeX compression/de-esser plug-in. Native DeX includes a Key plug-in for ducking and performs analog emulation using TC's proprietary SoftSat algorithm. The bundle is $599 or $299 each.

Minnetonka (www.minnetonka-audio.com) announced it has licensed Dolby AC-3 encoder technology for its new SurCode software for encoding 5.1 surround recordings, accepting the master as six .WAV files. Retail: $995.

Newcomer Sonic Timeworks (www. sonictimeworks.com) showed 64-bit DirectX editing and effects plug-ins. The 4080L reverb, Model 88 (phaser), 6022 delay and Timeworks Mastering EQ are currently available; prices for these effects start at an incredibly low $79.

SPEAKERS: NEW IDEAS, NEW PLAYERS Roland's (www.rolandus.com) powered, bi-amped DS-90 digital reference monitors include both analog and S/PDIF inputs. Connected to one of Roland's VS-1680/VS-880EX workstations (or VM-3100Pro and VM-7000 Series digital mixers), the DS-90s emulate a wide range of studio reference monitors for checking mixes on simulations of various pro and consumer speakers, including a "white-coned" near-field. Retail: $595/each.

Event Electronics' (www.event1.com) new affordable reference monitors feature bi-amplified designs (75/25-watts). The P5 has a 5.25-inch woofer and 20mm silk dome tweeter. The P6 has a 6.5-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter.

Designed to complement its M1 Active(tm) Biamplified Reference monitors, the S1 Active(tm) Subwoofer from Alesis (www. alesis.com) features an internal 250-watt amp driving a long-throw, 8-inch woofer going down to 40 Hz. The system may also be driven passively. Price: $499.

Jumping into the loudspeaker business by purchasing RCF and Fussion, Mackie Designs (www.mackie.com) is now a contender in live sound. Among the five new Mackie-branded systems is the SRM450 for stage monitor or pole-mount use, with a molded cabinet, hanging points and 300/150-watt amps driving a 12-inch woofer and 1-inch HF driver. The MAS 1530 is a three-way, active system (15-inch woofer, 6-inch horn-loaded midrange and 1-inch HF) with matching SRS 1500a 15-inch powered sub. Mackie also showed passive two-way systems.

Mackie's Fussion Audio showed the 3000 three-way active system with trapezoidal cabinet and three integrated amps. The 1800SA/1800S is an active sub with two 18-inch woofers and a 3,000-watt amp. The low-profile (10.5-inch high) 800wa is designed for stage-monitoring where sight lines are critical, with two 8-inch woofers, 1-inch HF driver and onboard 250-watt amp.

Digital Designs (www.ddaudio.com) had an $800, 80-pound(!), 18-inch woofer with a massive air-cooled magnet and a flat-panel, carbon fiber "cone."

Selenium Loudspeakers (www.selenium.com) showed woofers with quartz composite fiber (QCF) cones. Developed for humid conditions in Brazil, the QCF drivers are moisture-resistant and virtually puncture-proof: DJs and club owners take note!

ALL MIXERS LARGE AND SMALL Midas (www.eviaudio.com/midas) has already taken orders for a score of its new 48-input, 24-bus Heritage 3000 dual purpose FOH/monitor consoles, profiled in last month's Mix.

No word on pricing, but Manley (www.manleylabs.com) previewed the Manley 16x2 Mixer, a tube-based rackmount unit with 16 line or mic inputs (with pan/solo/mute), direct outs on each channel and large VU meters. Everybody needs one of these!

A digital mixer for less than 300 bucks? Fostex's (www.fostex.com) new VM04 is a 4-input mixer with 20-bit A/D/As, built-in EQ and 24-bit DSP effects, 20 mix-scene memory, backlit LCD screen and S/PDIF out. Retail: $299!

Small, powered P.A. mixers were everywhere! Mackie's PPM Series range from six to eight inputs, featuring two amps, and a clever "break switch" that disables all mics when the band takes five, while leaving the CD/tape input active. The AMX6 ($695) and AMX10 ($895) from Akai (www.akai.com) were notable for their extremely low weight-only 17 lbs. Yamaha's (www.yamaha.com) 10-input EMX860ST Powered Mixer ($899.95) has three power amplifiers for stereo P.A. and a monitor system. Nady (www.nadywireless.com) showed a new range of products including rackmount mixers (10/12/14/16-channels), compact mixers (4/16-channel models), and stereo and mono powered mixers. And Wave Distribution (www.wavedistribution. com) is shipping the ETEK NoteMix, a 14-channel stereo mixer built into a laptop-sized chassis. The 200 watts/channel MA400 model is $999.

Winter NAMM swings back to Los Angeles next year, with a triumphant return to the Anaheim Convention Center slated for 2001; but in the meantime, this year's Summer NAMM comes to Nash-ville July 23 to 25. See you there!

Keep forgetting the fingering for that tricky F#13aug9 (or maybe just a D) chord? Get Akai's new compact guitar chord finder. This keychain-size, battery-operated unit has a tiny LCD screen displaying any of 905 chord patterns on a six-string/four-fret grid. Retail: $19.95.

Sabine (www.sabineinc.com) made a splash at NAMM with the True Mobility Wireless System, the first wireless microphone system with Sabine's FBX Feedback Exterminator and Targeted Input Processing built in, as well as a neat front-panel battery recharger for the mic transmitter! Wireless mics with integrated signal processing: Is this the debut of a new product category?

Triggerable via MIDI, drum pads or audio signals, the slick new DM Pro from Alesis (www.alesis.com) is a 20-bit, 16-channel multitimbral drum module offering 64-voice polyphony, with 16 MB of sounds-1,664 sounds!-and the ability to import new sounds through ROM expansion cards. Retail is $899.

Korg (www.korg.com) wowed us with its ElecTribe DSP analog "dance tools," with the ElecTribeoA Analog Modeling Synthesizer and ElecTribeoR Rhythm Synthesizer. Designed with recording or live performance in mind-or just creating cool sounds on-the-fly-these are thick, hip, funky and phatt. Slammin'!

A cool new P.A. solution: Audio Composite Engineering's (www.audiocomposite.com) 1200 Series Downfill Kit is designed to suspend one of the company's Model 1250 loudspeakers as a downfill below JBL's HLA Series 4895 or 4897 speakers, using JBL-style connecting bars fitted with Aeroquip L-Track hardware.

Save your back! Ultimate Support Systems' (www.ultimatesupport.com) new TS-90 and TS-99 speaker stands feature Telelock, an adjusting collar that makes it easy for one person to lower, raise and lock in place heavy speakers and lighting equipment by clicking the collar ring to raise or lower settings.

Just when you thought the small digital mixer market was settling down, Roland unveils a remarkable new system that may change the way you think about "small" digital consoles. Taking a lesson from the Euphonix school of mixer design, Roland's V-Mixing System combines a control surface tied to rackmount DSP and I/O processing, located up to 200 meters away. And in addition to offering "traditional" 12-channel (VM-3100) and 20-channel (VM-3100pro) 8-bus configurations, a 25-fader VM-C7200 or 13-fader VM-C7100 console surface can control one or two VM-7200 or VM-7100 processors for up to 94 mixing channels.

Features include 24-bit ADCs/ DACs, 5.1 surround mixing, moving fader automation, 999 scenes/locators, nine mute groups, 24 fader groupings, dual-channel delays, 4-band parametric EQ, real-time spectrum analyzer, MMC recorder transport controls and 32 to 48kHz sample rate conversion. Eight assignable output jacks or 24 optional Multi-Outputs offer a possible 48 channels of multitrack recording plus 46 additional channels of simultaneous mixing.

Options include I/O expansion boards providing 24-bit I/O for a total of 24-in/24-out audio on a single board; ADAT/Tascam interfaces; and a cascade kit. The V-Mixing processors have two stereo multieffects, expandable with three additional effects boards for up to eight stereo or 16 mono channels of automated effects processing. Deliveries are expected late summer.






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