Summer NAMM '99

Sep 1, 1999 12:00 PM, Sarah Jones

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When the massive heat wave swept over the U.S. this summer, we at the Mix offices in foggy San Francisco didn't know what all the commotion was about-until we arrived in Nashville for July's Summer NAMM Show. Braving triple-digit temperatures and humidity you could cut with a knife, we rushed to the climate-controlled Nashville Convention Center, where we were treated to an Opry-full of cool new products. Here are a few favorites...

Fostex (www.fostex.com) brings digital technology to new levels of affordability with its new VM 200/VR 800 digital recording and mixing system, which can be used together or separately. Priced at $1,499, the VM 200 is a 20-input/8-bus digital mixer built around 32-bit RISC processing, with moving-fader automation and a host of DSP functions. The board emulates traditional consoles by offering instant access (rather than searching through recall operations) to commonly used functions. The companion VR 800 ($749) is an 8-track disk-based recorder, storing to a variety of internal and external media. The VR 800 offers nondestructive editing features, graphic envelope display, plus autoscrubbing, varipitch, MIDI and word sync, and more.

Based on Staccato Systems' extraordinarily powerful SynthBuilder technology, but in an affordable-about $2,200-package, Korg's (www.korg.com) Oasys is a PCI card that integrates synthesis, 100 effects algorithms and 12 inputs and outputs (analog stereo, S/PDIF and ADAT Lightpipe). With its 24-bit processing and open architecture, Oasys offers stunning realism in its approach to modeling of analog and FM synths, and re-creations of instruments ranging from tonewheel organs to brass, woodwinds and percussion. Shipping in November, Oasys' first release is for Macintosh; a Windows version is in the works.

Audio-Technica (www.audio-technica.com) introduced the AT 4047/SV large-diaphragm condenser mic, designed to re-create classic vintage condenser sound and featuring a transformer-coupled output, dual gold-plated and aged large diaphragms, a low self-noise of 9 dB SPL and a dynamic range of 140 dB. The mic has a switchable 80Hz highpass filter and 10dB pad. Retail is $695. We got to hear the mics firsthand at Ocean Way, where Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell put them through the paces.

In other mic news, Alesis (www.alesis.com) added three new condenser models to its expanding GT Electronics line: The AM 40 is a front-address tube condenser with gold-evaporated diaphragm and removable cardioid capsule, which is interchangeable with optional hypercardioid and omni capsules. At $749, the AM40 is said to be the least expensive tube mic on the market. Also introduced was the AM30 ($499), a mid-sized condenser designed for instruments and vocals. The AM30 is also cardioid, and is interchangeable with optional capsules. Finally, the AM11 ($399) is a large-diaphragm condenser with a 1-inch diaphragm on a brass capsule, with pad and 75Hz roll-off switch. NAMM also marked the first trade show appearance of Alesis' new MasterLink 9600 24-bit/96kHz recorder, profiled in the July Mix.

Opcode (www.opcode.com) announced Version 4.5 of Vision DSP and Studio Vision Pro. The upgrade adds ReWire compatibility, VST plug-in automation and mix console automation. In addition, both Vision DSP and Studio Vision Pro 4.5 include a free copy of Bias Peak SE software, and the Galaxy Patch Librarian. And in case you hadn't heard, Opcode is offering a Web download of Vision DSP (with a PDF manual and no tech support) for $59.

Living up to its name, the Guitammer ButtKicker (www.guitammer.com) is a floor-mounted, LF transducer that uses piston technology to provide true subsonic reproduction in the 5Hz to 200Hz range. By moving mass (flooring or subflooring) rather than air, the $599 ButtKicker provides the perception of extremely loud SPL bass without being heard outside discos, studios or other thrill-ride environments.

Metric Halo's (www.channelstrip.com) ChannelStrip Pro Tools plug-in emulates the audio processing section of a digital console in a TDM interface. Features include input gain/trim, polarity invert, expander/gate, compressor, 6-band fully parametric 48-bit EQ, six selectable filter types per band, plus high resolution metering; parameters are all automatable. The plug-in can support six channels per MIX DSP chip (either six mono or three stereo, in any combination), so each additional MIX farm card provides enough DSP for 36 channels of processing.

HHB (www.hhb.co.uk) now distributes the U.K.'s Ashdown Engineering line of bass and acoustic guitar amps. Ashdown products are known for their classic retro styling in addition to innovative approaches to amplification-and best of all, these are serious tools that sound as good as they look.

Kustom (www.kustom.com) is back! Not only did the company show a full line of way-cool retro blue, red and gray sparkle, padded tuck-and-roll upholstered amps-basic black is also available-but Kustom is now distributing PowerWerks AC conditioners and the Dawn line of portable P.A. systems combining a subwoofer with dual stand-mounted MF/HF satellite speakers.

Speaking of reissues, NAMM marked the return (after a 12-year absence) of De Armond's Ashbory Bass (www.dearmondguitars.com). Priced at $499 including gig bag, it weighs only two pounds and has a compact 18-inch fretless scale with silkscreened "frets"-but what makes this bass even more unique is its signature silicone rubber strings, reminiscent of surgical tubing. George Petersen, who checked it out at the show, was overheard saying: "It's fast, fun, an absolute joy to play and really sounds like an upright bass!"

Pro Audio Products, manufacturers of the Isopatch patch panel, showed SmartPatch, a programmable patchbay that provides instantaneous push-button signal routing, using electronic switches rather than patch leads. In addition, SmartPatch can save/recall up to 128 patches of various connection configurations and can be remotely controlled via MIDI. Distributed by Advanced Sonic Concepts (www.advancedsonicconcepts.com), SmartPatch retails at $850.

Heavy metal? Armoured Cable (distributed by Samson, www.samsontech.com) is a line of super-rugged instrument and mic cables, with a stainless steel outer covering like that found on payphone cords. The cables feature Neutrik connectors and are available in a variety of lengths. Somebody should have thought of this a long time ago!

Winter NAMM make its final appearance in Los Angeles, Feb. 3-6, 2000, before moving back to Anaheim in 2001. See you there!

SONIC FOUNDRY VEGAS PRO One of NAMM's biggest hits was Sonic Foundry's Vegas Pro ($699) non-linear multitrack recording/editing system for Windows-based PCs.

Vegas Pro marks Sonic Foundry's expansion into development of Internet authoring tools and media editing, says Sonic Foundry' CEO Rimas Buinevicius: "Vegas Pro effectively builds upon the proven technology of our existing products to provide a significantly more efficient production environment for audio/media professionals, and it is also fully capable of meeting the production needs of Internet content creators and broadcast media professionals worldwide."

Based around a multi-threaded architecture for achieving real-time performance (including editing and effects), Vegas Pro is 24-bit/96kHz-capable, accommodates unlimited tracks and includes DirectX plug-in support for expandability. Additionally, Vegas Pro offers the ability to mix file properties, bit depths and sampling rates. Also standard is support of MP3 files and the creation of streaming media content, including the ability to incorporate timeline metadata for both Windows Media Technologies 4.0 and RealNetworks RealSystem G2 file formats. And, it has an intuitive interface, similar to those found in other Sonic Foundry applications.

Although Vegas Pro made its official premiere at Summer NAMM, Sonic Foundry released a sneak-preview beta version on its Web site in June, and thousands of copies were downloaded by the time the official version was announced. For more information, check out www.sonicfoundry.com.






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