Musikmesse/Pro Light+Sound 2004 - Product Hits From Frankfurt

Apr 13, 2004 12:00 PM, by George Petersen and Robert Hanson


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It's difficult to describe Musikmesse/Pro Light+Sound (March 31-April 3, 2004) to anyone who's never attended the show. It's like a NAMM/AES/NSCA/LDI/DJ Expo all rolled into one huge convention that fills 14 exposition halls on the Messe fairgrounds in Frankfurt, Germany. It's huge, to say the least. This year's show featured nearly 1,500 exhibitors and 92,000 attendees from more than 100 countries, all looking for the latest music and pro audio toys. Coming on the heels of NSCA and NAMM shows, you might think there was nothing new, but there were plenty of debuts to see and hear. Here are our picks for best of show.


Yamaha ( launched its flagship PM5D digital console (see NSCA report for more,, but also showed new preamp cards for its PM-1D, as well as new remote preamp racks and other accessories. A far more interesting development was the Studio Connections alliance from Yamaha/Steinberg (, which develops new protocols for using Yamaha's Studio Manager 2 software to integrate Yamaha hardware with Cubase SX and Nuendo, as well as VST plug-ins. Keep an eye on this one.

Digidesign ( didn't exhibit, but held a spirited press event to announce its Command|8 automated mix controller for Pro Tools. This Digi/Focusrite co-design puts eight bankable faders with rotary controls, soft buttons, transport control, alphanumeric channel displays and analog monitor control into a compact housing with MIDI and USB interfacing to your TDM or LE system.

Allen & Heath ( unveiled its third-generation MixWizard line of multipurpose 12 to 16-input stereo analog mixers, with enhanced preamps and jumpers for customizing aux sends and direct outs; a 14x4x2 version with 6x2 matrix is also offered. The company also debuted Ledlamp, a 4-pin XLR console lamp on an 18-inch gooseneck with built-in thumbwheel dimmer, offering cool white light and less current draw.

Alto Pro Audio's ( Typhoon offers a 16-channel/8-group mixer that fits in a 19-inch rack and a 48-channel model in a 48-inch-wide/50-pound package. Features include 4-band sweep EQ, eight mute groups, eight auxes (pre/post-assignable), built-in intercom and direct out and insert on all inputs.


Musikmesse wouldn't be Musikmesse without instruments. Roland's ( new V-Accordions feature digital modeling of accordion and other instruments with bellows articulation, MIDI output and unpowered (line-out) or built-in speaker versions. In the new genre of vocal synthesis/simulation, Virsyn ( demoed Cantor, an 8-part vocal synthesis engine where you type in lyrics and they "sing" back to your MIDI melody. This Mac/PC app can run stand-alone or as a VST2/AudioUnit/ReWire/RTAS plug-in, and offers plenty of editing parameters to make the voice sound as natural or as strange as you want. Sonic Reality ( and IK Multimedia ( announced StudioPhonik, which combines an entire band's instruments—with reverb, delays, effects, stomp boxes, comp/limiters, EQ, etc.—to create a virtual band for any sequencer platform from a single Mac/PC plug-in.

With a ton of new products, Native Instruments ( pulled out all the stops—literally. The BD4 ($449, or $559 with software) is a hardware controller for its B4 virtual organ software, with nine drawbars, 22 dedicated buttons and two rotary encoders. NI's new Guitar Rig system ($499) combines a hardware pedal controller with software that emulates classic and neo amps, cabinets, microphones and effects/stomp boxes. Elektrik Piano ($229) re-creates Rhodes, Clavinet and Wurlitzer sounds with 256 simultaneous voices. The company supports all major sequencer and plug-in formats.


The most talked about pro product at the show was AKG's ( next generation of its industry-standard C 414 studio condenser. Available in C-414 B-XLS (ultralinear) and C414 B-XL II (transformerless) versions, the new mics have the same pricing as their predecessors but incorporate many new improvements, such as five polar patterns (wide-cardioid was added), 6dBA self-noise spec, internal elastic iso capsule-mount, three bass roll-off choices, three-position pad (-6/12/18 dB), +6 dB more sensitivity and a provision for future optional remote control of all functions. Also new: AKG's WMS 400 wireless puts many of the features of its flagship WMS 4000 systems into a more affordable package.

Audix ( unveiled the RAD-360, its first wireless system, which pairs its OM Series capsules with a 193-frequency system in the 638 to 806MHz UHF band, with menu-driven, true-diversity receivers. Bodypack and guitar versions are also offered.

Studio Essentials

KS Digital ( demoed ADMControl, a stereo/5.1 controller for its acclaimed ADM monitors, offering bass management, FIR equalization, mute/solo and level functions. These are sweet with startling imaging. Oooooh! Roland's DS Series studio near-fields feature analog and digital (AES/EBU or S/PDIF) inputs at up to 192kHz sampling. All are active bi-amped, two-way systems with 5, 6.5, or 8-inch woofers and 1-inch dome tweeter. Wharfedale Pro ( finally debuted pro versions of its popular consumer Diamond 8 speakers. The new Diamond Studio Pro Active 8.1 and 8.2 have 5- or 8-inch shielded woofers, with dome HF and onboard bi-amping. ADAM ( launched the ANF-10, an unpowered, compact two-way with 7-inch woofer and ART folded-ribbon tweeter at an affordable $700/pair. Quested ( showed the first of its new Silver range, with two compact, bi-amped near-fields: the SR6 (6.5-inch woofer) and SR5 (5-inch LF), both with 11 D8-inch dome tweeters.

Interfaces and DAW front ends were everywhere. Mindprint ( updated its popular En-Voice tube preamp/EQ/compressor channel strip. The new En-Voice Mk II has optional USB interfacing, 24-bit/96kHz conversion and an internal switching power supply to work anywhere in the world. Terratec ( added FireWire to its successful Phase 88 interface rack, which features eight analog balanced I/Os (and two mic preamps), S/PDIF digital I/O and two FireWire ports. The company also debuted Producer Phase 24 FireWire, a 2-channel interface with 24/192 capability, MIDI I/O and 114dB noise spec. RME (dist. by Synthax, showed several new interfaces and converters, but the coolest of all was the FireFace 800, a single-rackspace 24-bit/192 box that crams a total of 56 I/Os (analog, ADAT, S/PDIF) that can be used simultaneously to record up to 35 sources onto 28 tracks. Whew!

Some Hits You Missed

Behringer ( kicked off its 15th anniversary with 16 new products, including new bass cabs and modeling guitar amps, but its Vintager AC108—a 20-watt amp with an 8-inch speaker and a tube preamp stage—smoked us, especially with its $79 list/$59 street pricing.

DSound ( showed a software solution that allows real-time audio/MIDI streaming between two PCs over a single FireWire cable. Launch a VST host on one CPU, a VST host on the other and enjoy the power of a multiprocessor system. Slick!

Neutrik's ( Combo XLR/1 D4-inch connector is an industry standard. Now, the company has expanded the line with Speakon Combo, which puts a 1 D4-inch jack down the center of a 2-pole Speakon panel jack. Yeah!

Randall's ( MTS Series tube amps are based on a 2U chassis that holds four interchangeable preamp sections, each based on the actual tube front ends of classic amps. The buyer chooses four modules from a list of 15 or so and can add more as needs grow. A matching dual 50-watt power amp lets players switch between 6L6 or EL34 power tubes for more tonal variation. A studio dream!

There were plenty more products to see, and we'll run these in our upcoming new product columns. Meanwhile, mark April 6-9, 2005, for next year's Musikmesse. See you there!

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