Summer NAMM 2004

Sep 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By George Petersen and Kevin Becka

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From July 23-25, 2004, some 20,000 music and sound pros dropped by Music City for the final appearance of the Nashville Summer NAMM. After a successful 12-year run in the Country Music Capital of the World, this once-small convention moves on in search of larger (exhibit) spaces, visiting Indianapolis next summer, followed by Austin in 2006. Despite a smaller exhibitor turnout at this show, we found plenty of cool new products. Here are a few highlights that grabbed our attention.

BRING ON THE HITS!

Summer NAMM has always been about gee-tars, and American Music & Sound smoked us with its reissue line of Hagstrom (www.hagstromguitars.com) guitars. Comprising imported and U.S.-made models, the series is true to the original, with the trademark fast and thin Hagstrom necks favored by players from Zappa to Hendrix. And, yes, the classic 8-string bass reissue is also in the works.

The big news at NAMM was Ableton's (www.ableton.com) Live 4, which brings full MIDI and DAW functionality to this acclaimed live performance recording/sequencing software. Live 4 adds a host of virtual instruments with its powerful onboard effects and adds full VSTi and AudioUnits support, while still catering to the improvisational and live user. Live 4's implementation of drag-and-drop sampling and swing/groove functions for audio and MIDI clips is nothing short of stunning.

Not quite audio — it's part of Korg's (www.korg.com) VJ lineup — is Krossfour, a 4-channel video mixer/switcher for real-time video performances. Retailing at $900, the compact unit has four composite video inputs with built-in time-base correction, so no sync/gen-lock gear is required, with easy pushbutton switching and a crossfader for dissolves, along with image freeze, luma-key and chroma-key (blue screen) compositing effects. Other than simply making weird live video candy for clubs, you could simply plug in a couple of cheap camcorders and knock out band videos in minutes or do on-the-fly four-camera shoots of the kids' theater or sports events. Amazing!

SOFTWARE EXTRAVAGANZA

The new 0404 digital I/O card was turning heads at the E-mu (www.emu.com) booth, along with its PowerFX software. The application allows all E-mu digital audio systems and Emulator X owners to run E-mu's hardware-accelerated E-DSP effects as full-blown VST plug-ins.

Tascam (www.tascam.com) is now shipping GigaStudio 3.0. In addition, the company showed the newest addition to its Nomad plug-in line: the Rockamp Legends for HTDM, RTAS and VST (Mac and PC). The plug features amp and tube simulations, in addition to a bundle of effects.

IK Multimedia's (www.ikmultimedia.com) AmpliTube amp-simulator plug-in (VST, AudioUnits, DX and RTAS) is now available for the Windows platform. The company also released the new Expansion Tank Series of SampleTank2 LE sound modules, SampleTank Free and T-Racks mastering software for Mac OS X.

SIGNAL PROCESSORS

Peavey (www.peavey.com) raised the curtain on its Dual FX Delta Unit, which can operate in series/parallel/mono/summed-mono modes. The single-rackspace unit features easy editing and 16 programmable effects: multiple reverbs and delays, compressor, pitch shifter, chorus, flanger, phaser, tremolo, rotary speaker, distortion, exciter and vocal eliminator.

BBE (www.bbesound.com) is now shipping MaxCom, a dual-channel compressor/limiter/gate featuring an onboard Sonic Maximizer using the same BBE pro chipset that powers its 482i and 882i Sonic Maximizers, combined with smooth VCA dynamics from THAT Corporation. Each channel has linkable threshold, ratio, attack and release controls for dual-mono or phase-coherent stereo tracking.

Crest (www.crestaudio.com) revealed its MLM-2 and stereo MLS-2 studio microphone and line input intelligibility processors. The units offer an EQ and dynamics section and the SmarTube processor that adds tunable upper-frequency harmonics to the program material.

AFFORDABLE PRODUCTION

Recording gear keeps getting smaller — and cheaper: The FV160EX and VF80EX recorders from Fostex (www.fostex.com) are two new feature-packed portable multitrack recorders with built-in compression and effects, CD mastering and balanced mic preamp inputs with phantom power. Zoom's (www.zoomfx.com) MRS-8 is a laptop-sized 8-track recorder/mixer with onboard drums/bass, 100 multi-effects, XLR mic preamp, DI input and 16-bit/44.1kHz recording to SD memory cards, MTC sync output, headphone out and DC (four AA batteries) or AC powering. Estimated street price is $349.

Yamaha (www.yamaha.com/proaudio) unveiled two new MG Series mixers: the MG8/2FX and the MG12/4FX. The new units include phantom-powered mic preamps, 3-band EQ, onboard effects and a variety of I/O options. Also showing was the new MY16-mLAN card, which offers 16 channels of audio and MIDI on a single IEEE-1394 cable. The card brings mLAN to the DM1000, DM2000, 02R96 and 01V96 digital consoles.

Alesis (www.alesis.com) has updated its Multimix Series mixers. The latest units have balanced mic inputs with phantom power, onboard effects, 3-band EQ and integrated USB audio I/O for porting audio directly to a computer. There are a zillion mini-sized USB audio/MIDI keyboard controller/interfaces on the market, but Alesis wowed us with its Photon X25, offering 25 velocity keys, full-size pitch/mod wheels, 10 rotary soft knobs, 24-bit/48kHz stereo Mac/PC I/O and the revolutionary Alesis Axyz dome infrared controller from its popular AirFX.

AND THE REST

This show had fewer new mics than past years, but one notable exception is CAD's (www.cadmics.com) Equitek e60, a medium-diaphragm condenser that's voiced specifically for brass instruments, with a -20dB pad and a four-position bass roll-off filter. In other mic news, the line of studio condensers from SE Electronics is now handled by Sonic Distribution (www.sonic-distribution.com), with U.S. operations headed by industry veteran Bob Reardon.

The coolest new company debut at the show had to be A-Line Acoustics (www.a-lineacoustics.com), which showed a full range of P.A. cabinets ranging from small coaxial wedges to the AL10 compact line array. The latter features dual 10-inch woofers and a 1.4-inch HF driver/horn for 129dB SPL performance, with a slick EZAL (Easy Alignment) bracket system for simple, fast and precise aiming of stack or flown cabinets. All systems are made in the U.S. and feature birch ply construction, DuraTex finishes and Euroblock gas-tight wiring.

Summer NAMM pulls up its stakes in Nashville, bound for Indianapolis next July, but meanwhile, Winter NAMM returns to Anaheim, Calif., from January 20-23, 2005. See you there!

Hits You Might Have Missed

With lots to see, there is also lots that one can overlook.

Auralex (www.auralex.com) featured TruTraps, its latest studio acoustic problem solver. The panels install quickly, and to increase their low-frequency effectiveness, use the company's TruSpacers to offset the panels from the surface.

Discrete Drums (www.discretedrums.com) demoed its new Earthbeat Series Three, an 8-CD set featuring multitrack drum performances with companion percussion loops in Latin, African, Eastern and other world textures. Cool!

Hosa's (www.hosatech.com) new products might not change the world, but they can clean up that rat's nest of AC cabling in your racks. The PWD-400 puts a 3-prong convenience outlet on the back of an IEC power plug and, combined with its YIE-406 3-prong Edison to dual-IEC “Y” cable, lets you daisy-chain the AC on all of your low-wattage rack effects for a clean install.

M-Audio (www.m-audio.com) took the wraps off its new DX4 mini monitors. The pair offers 4-inch polypropylene LF drivers, 1-inch mylar tweeters and 27-watts/channel of onboard powering.

Wedgie (www.wedgie.com) offers a line of fun stocking stuffers for all your guitar pals, including a clip-on Mic Stand Pick Holder that replaces the sticky duct tape pick trick for keeping spares at hand. And the Wedgie Pick Holder is a small rubber wedge that holds extra picks on any guitar's headstock. Finally, a wedgie that you might actually want!






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