PRODUCT HITS OF Summer NAMM

Sep 1, 2001 12:00 PM, By George Petersen

Polls


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You've heard it all a thousand times about Summer NAMM: "That little show?" or "Not much high-tech—it's mostly acoustic guitars." Well, compared to the monstrous Winter show, Summer NAMM 2001 may have been small in space—but this "little" show was definitely big on technology and had plenty of cool new products. Here are a few that caught our attention...

The talk of the show was Tascam's (www.tascam.com) acquisition of NemeSys Music Technology, known for its acclaimed GigaSampler and GigaStudio, which will now be distributed under the Tascam name, marking Tascam's entry into the field of software-based music production tools. The new Tascam line features NemeSys’ current products, including GigaStudio 160, GigaStudio 96, GigaSampler 64, GigaSamplerLE and NemeSys sound libraries. The technology enables streaming samples directly from a computer’s hard disk, enabling huge sample file sizes—up to 4.3 GB! NemeSys' software engineers/previous owners have signed long-term employment agreements to continue developing "Giga" platform products. NemeSys—a small operation with great ideas—gets a major financial boost and Tascam's marketing/distribution clout, a classic example of a win-win situation.

Workstations:
Power Goes Up, Prices go Down
Workstations keep getting better and more affordable. Yamaha's (www.yamaha.com) AW2816 takes the approach of the company's popular and powerful AW4416 and puts it into a more affordable ($2,399 list) package that provides 16 tracks of 24-bit digital audio recording with 28-input automated digital mixing, moving faders, built-in 32-bit DSP effects, CD-RW drive, 20GB hard disk and MIDI remote—all in a single compact unit.

The Zoom (www.samsontech.com) MRS 1044 is a grab-and-go system that offers 10 recording tracks—plus three more channels for its onboard bass and stereo drum machines—along with integrated mixing, 24-bit DSP effects, and a 15GB hard disk for storing up to 15 hours of uncompressed 16-bit/44.1kHz recording. Retail is $1,199 ($799 street).



Tone Works

(distributed by Korg, www.korg.com) blew us away with its $500 PXR4: the ultimate sketchpad recorder. This 4x4-inch system crams four tracks—plus eight virtual tracks per channel—of 32kHz, MPEG-format recording with up to 270 track-minutes onto removeable SmartMedia cards. Due out in November, the PXR4 also includes 77 studio-quality modeling effects, 55 onboard PCM rhythm patterns (including house, reggae, rock, funk, hip hop and more), full editing capability, three selectable audio inputs (guitar, line or built-in condenser mic), stereo analog outs, and a USB port for transferring mixes to a PC or workstation.

Now owned by Numark, Alesis (www.alesis.com) showed a full line of products, including its HD24 rackmount, 24-track hard disk recorder, which, according to a company representative, is set to ship sometime this month. Retail is $2,495; street price is expected to be around $1,995. And to ensure that recording is accessible to musicians at any level, Fostex (www.fostex.com) has slashed the price of its best-selling X-12 Multitracker analog cassette 4-track recorder/mixer to a street price of only $99. It's a great gift idea for that future Les Paul or George Martin on your block.

NAMM just isn't Summer NAMM without musical instruments. Fresh from the show floor, here are some innovative, new products that are ideal for the studio or on the road...

The "Synth du Show"
Yamaha's Motif (www.yamaha.com) was the synth du show. Available in 61-key ($2,250), 76-key ($2,750) and weighted-action 88-key ($3,250) versions with 62-note polyphony, Motif combines state-of-the-art AWM2 tone generation and an impressive 85 MB of Wave ROM (when converted to 16-bit linear format), with the hands-on immediacy of a groove box and a 200,000-note Integrated Sampling Sequencer (ISS) function with 16 tracks of MIDI or stereo audio phrase playback. Besides having 16-channel onboard digital mixing capability, its four sliders and soft knobs become 16 virtual pots and faders for quick fingertip control of any track or parameter, or as a control surface with templates for Cubase VST, Logic Audio, Cakewalk and Pro Tools. Motif also includes USB (for Mac or PC connects), SCSI port, SmartMedia card slot and mLAN network interfacing.

Things that go up to 12...
NAMM just wouldn't be NAMM without some cool guitar products, and this year it was innovative new amps. Vox (www.voxamps.co.uk) teamed up with Korg to create Valvetronix™, a modeling amp worthy of the Vox name. Available next month, Valvetronix combines Korg's acclaimed REMS™ modeling algorithms in the preamp, a wide palette of delay, reverb and modulation effects, and Vox's new Valve Reactor™ tube power amp section, which actually modifies its circuit topology to match the amp being modeled. Two models are available—the 60-watt, single-12 AD60VT is ($899); and the dual-12, 120W AD120VT is $1,199. Options include matching extension speakers, a full-function footswitch remote and chrome stands (of course!). It sounded great, but besides the usual Marshall, Fender and HiWatt emulations, could it do an AC-30? Yeah, yeah, yeah!

No stranger to modeling amp technology, Line6 (www.line6.com) countered with Vetta, a no-compromise amp system combining a state-of-the-art modeling amp with enough built-in stompbox and studio effects to fill two stadiums and The Power Station. Vetta is available as a 50-watt/side, dual-12 combo amp (perfect for the studio player) or as a 100-watt/side head (either is $2,399), and a foot controller and various matching speaker cabinets are optional.

In terms of sheer amp coolness, you couldn't beat Wiggy™, a collaboration of Peavey (www.peavey.com) and Dweezil Zappa. Styled like the dashboard of a '50s racecar, Wiggy features "high and low octane" input jacks, MPH (master volume) and RPM (gain) controls, and a 3-band EQ labeled BATT, OIL and TEMP (low, mid and high). Best of all—it sounded as good as it looked!

NAMM isn't all about musical instruments: There was no shortage of solid, high-performance audio tools for the studio or sound reinforcement professional. Here are a few highlights...

Microphones!
Ten years ago, Audio-Technica (www.audio-technica.com) changed the studio mic market with its AT4033, a low-cost/high-performance cardioid condenser that became a popular choice among top producers and engineers. At NAMM, A-T marked the anniversary by issuing the AT4033/SE, offering the same sound as the original, but in a special edition model with improved shock-mount, a custom mic dust cover and wooden case. Retail is $529. A-T also expanded its 30 Series line of cost-effective, high-performance mics with the AT3031 cardioid and AT3032 omni, two low-profile condenser mics with wide 30-20,000Hz response, low 12dBA noise specs and retail of $259.

Peavey (www.peavey.com) entered the low-cost/large-diaphragm studio mic market with its StudioPro® mic line. The $369 M2 is a dual-diaphragm, multipattern (omni, cardioid and figure-8) model; the $249 M1 is a cardioid-only model.

Signal Processing
Coming between its MPX100 and MPX500 models, the new MPX200 from Lexicon (www.lexicon.com) is a true stereo, 24-bit, dual-channel processor offering a newly designed digital compressor in addition to 240 presets of classic Lexicon reverb and effects—with up to eight adjustable parameters per program. Analog I/O is via 24-bit ADCs and DACs; S/PDIF digital I/O is also standard.

Peavey (www.peavey.com) shook things up with Kosmos™, a single-rackspace processor designed to enhance LF energy, HF articulation and stereo image enhancement on recorded or live tracks. Essentially, Kosmos generates bass sub-harmonics combined with an Xpanse control that simultaneously adjusts HF boost and stereo width. A separate crossover feeds a subwoofer output, or the unit can be switched to operate in standard 2-speaker mode. All I/Os are balanced XLR or TRS, but with controls marked as "seismic activity," "quake" and "subterranean," I gotta check this one out myself! Retail is $300.

The Studio Modeler series of rack processors from Line 6 (www.line6.com) include the Echo Pro (delay effects), Mod Pro (modulation effects) and Filter Pro (filter effects) that offer the sound of classic analog effects with the programming ease of digital presets and MIDI or real-time, hands-on control. All ship this fall/winter, and are $699/each.

Slick Picks You May Have Missed
At any show, there are always some cool products that you may have overlooked. Here are a few to check out:

Everybody knows the old live sound trick of putting a strip of colored tape around a handheld mic, so you can tell which mic is which, especially in festivals or gigs where multiple singers pass mics around. One of those "why didn't I think of this first?" ideas, Peavey (www.peavey.com) showed a prototype of its new patent-pending mic cables that include a lighted yellow, red, green or blue band on the female XLR to easily ID mics in dark performance spaces. It's phantom powered (no battteries) and works with any dynamic or condenser mic.

Sensaphonics (www.sensaphonics.com) showed ProPhonic 2X-S, the first custom-molded, dual-driver in-ear monitor that is made of soft silicone. Not only does it appear nearly invisible onstage and seal well (even during excessive jaw movement), but it's far more comfortable than the usual plastic models.

A huge line of low-cost/high-performance USB, MIDI and digital recording peripherals for the studio, priced from $49 to $1,195 are available from Edirol. There are way too many to detail here, so visit www.edirol.com and check them out.

The MicroMeek MQ1 from JOEMEEK (www.joemeek.com) packs a pro mic preamp, direct box, compressor and 3-band EQ into a compact chassis that slides into an empty drive bay on your PC or Mac. Powered from your computer, the MQ1 includes a connector board that plugs into an empty expansion slot with 1/4-inch line inputs/outputs, phantom power switch and breakout cable with XLR mic input. Price: only $249!

There was plenty of other hip stuff at NAMM, and we'll present some of these in our regular new products columns in the months to come. Meanwhile, we're packing our bags for the AES show in New York. See you there!






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