Product Hits of Musikmesse 2003

Mar 20, 2003 12:00 PM, George Petersen


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Anyone who's never attended the annual Musikmesse/ProLight+Sound show (Frankfurt, Germany) would have difficulty imagining the scope of what certainly is one of the world's largest trade shows. For five days, some 16 exhibit halls are filled with technology, as manufacturers from around the globe hawk their wares to dealers, distributors and--on the weekend--the public at large. It's sort of like AES/NAMM/NAB/LDI/NSCA, but all in one huge expo.

This year, from March 5-9, as the normally arctic Frankfurt weather cooperated with "mild" days in the low-50°s, yet with an unthawed economy and spectre of an Iraqi war looming in the background, Messe attendance seemed down by 20% or so from last year.

However, inside those 16 halls, there was plenty to see--and hear. Many hot music products, such as the Roland V-Synth, the Open Labs eKo and Creamware’s Noah, made their European debuts here, but we covered them in our NAMM report last month. So here are a few new items that caught our attention.

High-End Touring Systems

Last year, new software and virtual instruments were the talk of Frankfurt. This time, mics, interfaces, mixers and pro touring speakers took center stage.

After extensive road testing with top acts such as Tori Amos, the Nexo Geo T was officially launched. Designed for vertical or horizontal arrays, the Geo T is based on the T4805 and T2820 high-output loudspeakers and a new dual-18 CD18 Controlled Directivity Sub-Bass in a scalable system that handles audiences from 1,000 to 100,000-plus. The full-range boxes both use 2-inch HF and 8-inch cone mid/lows, with a Hyperboloid Reflective Wavesource (HRW™) acoustical reflector for coherent coupling between multiple speakers, even those with different dispersion angles. Flying hardware and GEOSoft Array Design Software complete the package.

Described by company founder Ken Berger as "...smaller than anything this loud, or louder than anything this small," the KF730 Small Line Array Module (SLAM) from EAW packs a six-driver, horn-loaded KF Series design into a mini enclosure that can be scaled to handle venues from 50 to several thousand. It uses unique side-firing 10-inch woofers, so the enclosure is only 29x18x13 inches (WxDxH), including the wide 110° horn pushed by twin 7-inch cone mids and two 1-inch HF drivers. Flying/array hardware and a matching dual-12 sub are also offered.

Last year, several Stage Accompany employees formed Alcons Audio. Alcon's debuts include a number of high-end creations based on 8- and 12-inch woofers in trapezoidal boxes with a proprietary RBN601 ribbon driver mounted to 90°x40°, 60°x30° or 90°x10° waveguides. The massive RBN601 has neodymium magnets, weighs 5.5 pounds, extends to 25 kHz and has a 70W RMS rating with 1,000W peaks.

Meyer Sound expands its M Series self-powered line arrays with the MILO High-Power Curvilinear Array Loudspeaker. The enclosure offers 140dB SPL peaks for rock shows in arenas and sheds, yet is small enough to fly in mid-size theaters or corporate presentations. MILO as mains can be combined with Meyer M2Ds and integrated with M3D-Sub Directional subwoofers. The four-way system has dual 12-inch neodymium woofers, a 4-inch compression mid with CD horn and Meyer REM™ (Ribbon Emulation Manifold) for smooth mids; for highs, three 2-inch compression drivers (also coupled via REM) on a 90° horn. Over 3,900 watts of onboard amplification with active signal processing are standard, as is Meyer's RMS™ remote monitoring system.

For those occasions when budgets are tight, Turbosound showed its passive TXD loudspeakers, designed as portable systems for the live music, club and DJ markets. With built-in rigging points, the TXDs also work in fixed installs. The series includes the compact two-way TXD-121 and TXD-151 (with 12- or 15-inch woofers and a new 1-inch HF compression driver), and subwoofers with single or dual-15s or single 18-inch woofers and a TXD-12M compact wedge. Powered versions will be added around mid-year.

Peavey offered a new twist with its Trans Lite Series, offering molded two-way boxes in transparent colored and clear enclosures--ideal for installs in trendy restaurants, bars, clubs, fitness centers, etc. Outre!

With all of these cool speakers, you gotta protect your investment. Drawmer's SP2120 Speaker Protector is a single-rackspace box that takes the company's 25 years of dynamics expertise and creates a brickwall analog limiter that keeps the sound system's volume under an absolute max preset level specified by the installer or client. A front-panel keyswitch gives new meaning to the phrase "control lockout!"


Fresh from its debut at last year's AES, DiGiCo poured on the new features for its high-end D5 Live touring board. The new D5 Live 56 FM package includes a 56-input/64-channel FOH console; 64-channel monitor desk with 32 output channels; and a local FOH DigiRack, a stage DigiRack and a local monitor DigiRack--oh, with three drums of fiber-optic cable. A D5 Live 96 FM package is identical but with 96-channel FOH and monitor consoles.

New software now offered with DiGiCo's standard D5 Live and "E" (extended version) consoles--free to existing D5 Live owners--includes Aux Send to Faders, Matrix Pre/post Channel Inject and Gain Tracking features. In a complete D5 Live FM (FOH/monitor) package, Gain Tracking allows either console operator to change any input gain without affecting the sound balance on either console. The 38x8 matrix on the D5 Live can now have any channels, inputs and any bus, routed to it--especially useful for creating monitor sub-mixes and Aux Send To Faders expands the functionality of auxes assigned to surface faders. Additionally, a free upgrade for the extended versions includes a 12 graphic equalizers (12 mono, six stereo or a mixture of both), with touchscreen display and control.

The hot news at DiGiCo was DiGiTRACS™--the world's first soundcheck/show recorder--with 56-track, disk-based recording based on the Merging Technologies Pyramix platform and Mykerinos DSP card. Housed in a rugged four-rackspace chassis, DiGiTRACS connects to the FOH D5 Live via two BNC MADI cables; the front panel has USBII and FireWire ports. A 600GB multiple hard disk RAID array (and 80GB removable drive for archiving/backup/data exchange) supports PMF, .WAV, BDW, .AIFF, SDII, OMF and DSD formats.

Decidedly less expensive is Yamaha's 01x, a small-footprint mixer for computer music production, but sporting 28-channel capacity, DAW control with moving faders, Mac and Windows drivers, dual 32-bit effects processors, 24-bit/96kHz multichannel mLAN (and MIDI) I/O interfacing and more. Price? About $1,700 when it ships this fall.

A major buzz at Messe? TC Electronic's PowerCore FireWire puts nearly twice the power of its PCI card PowerCore version into a single-rackspace chassis that's ideal for laptop or desktop users. The rack and PCI versions can be used simultaneously, for even more DSP horsepower; as a bonus, PowerCore FireWire ships with nine high-quality plug-ins.

Interfaces? They wuz everywhere! Tascam's US-122 ($269 MSRP) is a Mac- and Windows-compatible USB audio and 16-channel MIDI interface with two XLR mic inputs (with phantom) and inserts for placing EQs, compressors, etc., into the signal chain. Edirol's UA-1000 is said to be the world's first USB 2 audio/MIDI interface, and ESI offered an entire new line of rackmount and compact 192kHz FireWire interfaces.

All TerraTec Electronic's pro audio and musician audio cards and I/O products will now be marketed under the name TerraTec Producer, and U.S. distribution remains with Fostex. The line now offers audio/MIDI products with PCI bus, USB and FireWire interfacing.


Neumann kicked off its 75th anniversary celebration with the 2003 Sound Engineering Contest--an interactive CD-ROM with 75 questions in categories ranging from mic technique to identifying guitars/amps/drum machines, or spotting classic songs by examining their waveforms.Fun? Sure, but the best part would be taking the first prize: a one-of-a-kind chrome pair of M149s or Solution-D digital mics and a trip to the Berlin Neumann factory for the company’s huge anniversary bash this fall. For contest details and an entry CD-ROM, visit


expanded its acclaimed Colette modular system with the CMC6 xt, a microphone amplifier for any MK Series axial capsule, providing bandwidth beyond 40 kHz.


unveiled the MKL5000, its first multipattern tube mic, with a large-diaphragm capsule mounted above the mini-bottle-style housing. Intended for 5.1 surround recording,

Microtech Gefell

's new INA 5 support is a multimic mount for five cardioid mics. MG recommends its low-noise M930s, but it works fine with any quality studio cardioids. Mics can be placed anywhere along the INA 5's arms for adjusting the field.

New versions of AKG's popular handheld mics (the D3700, D880 and TEC Award-winning C900) will be available later this year in versions with "M" suffixes, equipped with a removable, wired XLR module that's interchangeable with wireless TM40 transmitters, instantly converting the mics to wireless operation. By allowing wired mics to become wireless, the system permits rental houses, tours or musicians to maintain smaller inventories: If a big wireless job comes in, existing mics are easily converted; likewise, musicians don't have to buy two mics when they go wireless. Brilliant!

There were more cool products from Musikmesse/ProLight+Sound, and we'll present these in our new-product sections in the months to come. Meanwhile, auf wiedersehen!


With 16 halls filled with the latest wunderteknik, and only five days to see it all, you’re bound to miss something. Here are six hot picks that the casual Musikmesse/ProLight+Sound visitor could have overlooked:

Harmonix owner Richard Smith has developed wireless harmonicas using AKG WMS 40 transmitters built into the instrument. No hot spots; no having to hold the mic and harp at the same time. Freedom!

Samplitude is now at Version 7.1, and this solid authoring/editing/mastering software for the PC just keeps getting better, with ASIO and VST support, on-the-fly CD burning and a ton of hip effects. Super!

Sound Performance Labs' $699 Surround Monitor Controller (SMC) is exactly that, providing multiple surround/stereo source selection, one-knob volume control, muting, mono checking, dim switch and more--in a desktop case!

Vox packed all of the groovy sounds of its Valvetronix modeling amps (along with modulation, fuzz, delay and reverb effects) into one compact box with a real tube and real knobs to get that sound fast! Can it do an AC-30? Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

Whirlwind's DLSI Digital Laser System can transmit Ethernet or Cobranet data/audio (up to hundreds of channels) in real time over a laser beam. Perfect for those impossible installs or portable setups. Amazing!

Yamaha held a very early technology showing of Vocaloid, a singing synthesis-software technology that allows users to create lifelike--or otherworldly--lead and BG vocal tracks by typing in the lyrics and merging them with a MIDI file for melody. It's not instantaneous--results require editing and tweaking of phonemes, modes, pacing and timing--but the results are eerie, strange and beautiful--sometimes all at once. The product is at least a year away, so don't call yet!

Click here to hear Yamaha's new Vocaloid voice synthesis technology

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