2003 Winter NAMM Show Report


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The overall mood of the Winter 2003 NAMM Show saw everyone I talked with reporting solid and brisk business during all four days. What's new? Loads of great products but the biggest news could be summed up in one word: CHEAP! Nearly ever manufacturer unveiled new, lower prices for their upgraded on newly introduced product lines… and that was not just for the lower-end gear made or partially assembled overseas. I've never seen so much great gear for such low digits. Here are 10 worthwhile standouts.

Dangerous Music
If you reckon (like I do) that analog mixing consoles are going the way of the Dodo bird, you'll like Dangerous Music's new line of 2U hardware summing and monitor boxes for digital audio workstations.

The Dangerous 2-Bus is a 16-channel in and 2-channel out summing unit that connects directly to your DAW I/O box with standard +4dBu XLR cables. Instead of cramming your stereo mix down your virtual mixer's stereo pipe, you can now send up to eight analog stereo stems into the 2-Bus where they are combined. This method allows you to run hotter digital fader levels within your PC avoiding digital sound degradation and, at the same time, gain headroom, spatial detail and clarity…attributes offered by any good analog mixer.

Dangerous has a companion fader pack coming for this unit so for now you only have a large master stereo buss fader and mute and mono summing buttons for each of the stereo stems. If this rig and concept intrigues you, then you would also have to get the 2U Dangerous Monitor unit to cover that well used but now missing analog console control center section you just kicked out the door with your old board. This is a switcher for monitoring both analog and digital stereo audio sources in your studio. It handles three pairs of analog source inputs and four digital stereo inputs.

A significant feature is that the same Troisi designed D/A converter is used to monitor all digital sources. No more converter sound differences when A/Bing your mix, CDs, DATs etc! There are also L&R phase reverse, L&R mute, mono check, dim, alternate speaker and –6dB VU offset buttons. I didn't see a talkback button and mic but there are both digital and analog meter feeds and a big stepped attenuator volume control. The 2-Bus sells for $3,000, the Monitor is $4,500 and the lesser-featured single rack space 2-Bus LT is $1,499 MSRP. Check: www.dangerousmusic.com/.

TC Electronic Reverb 4000
You have to love TC Electronic for putting all the stereo reverb patches from the high-end TC System 6000 into a single rack space and lower priced unit! As if that isn't enough, you can use a virtual version of the familiar TC Icon interface on your PC or MAC with the unit's USB port and included software.

A smart purchase for a facility that already has a 6000; the 4000 gets down to work in your 'Studio B' by adding the sounds of the 6000 to pre-mixed stems etc. The Reverb 4000 also has all the favorite presets from the M5000 as well as EMT 250 emulation and uses 24-bit and 44.1 to 96kHz sample rates and processing. Like most TC gear, this unit is I/O-rich with AES/EBU, ADAT, TOS-Link, S/PDIF, USB, Word Clock and MIDI connections. No price yet but shipping in February so go to: www.tcelectronic.com/.

AKG K 271 and K 171 Closed-Back Headphones
AKG headphones are so accurate and comfortable that I am starting to NOT care that much anymore about what my client's near-field monitors are… I just take my AKG phones along and I'm happy to mix on them! Both the K 271 Studio (circumaural) and K 171 (supraural) models have a 55-ohm impedance and are closed-back for maximum sound isolation. The technology behind the new XXL speakers with Varimotion diaphragms is too deep to get into here but know that the diaphragms are of a variable thickness: thin around the perimeter to track low frequency excursion accurately and thicker in the middle to avoid distortion while truthfully portraying the mid and high frequencies. The K 171 is $159 while the K 271 is $199 MSRP.Get the whole scoop about these great looking and sounding headphones at: www.akg-acoustics.com/english/headphones/proheadph.htm#K271STUDIO

Blue Microphones Ball
About the size of an official Amateur Softball Association/USA softball, Blue Microphone's Ball is a phantom-powered dynamic microphone. Phantom powering is used to run an internal impedance converter/output circuit so that the Ball presents a constant (and purely resistive), 50-ohm impedance and actively balanced output to the microphone preamp. With this very low output impedance, any of a typical dynamic mic's sonic differences (i.e. output level changes, distortion, phase coherence and noise) caused by the vicissitudes of different mic pre-amp input impedances and cable runs are factored out. Said to produce "an exceptionally smooth and open sound previously unheard of in a dynamic microphone," I look forward to a hands-on review of this one soon. The Ball sells for $279 MSRP and for more contact: www.bluemic.com/.

Audio-Technica AT3060 Tube Condenser
If a phantom-powered dynamic mic surprised you, how about a tube condenser that runs on +48volt phantom only. Besides not requiring the bulky tube microphone power supply, the silver satin finished AT3060 has an all-new, large-diameter diaphragm cardioid condenser element with a precision-machined and nickel-plated brass acoustic element baffle for optimized sensitivity. Each tube is hand-selected, aged and shock-mounted. The large coupling transformer provides superior linearity at low frequencies and all the warmth of classic tube microphones. With the AT8458 shock mount, the AT3060 will be available in Spring 2003 with an MSRP of $599. Visit: www.audio-technica.com/.

Princeton Digital Eventide Reverb2016 Digital Reverb
Whom else to reproduce the sound of the venerable Eventide 2016 reverb but Tony Agnello, the unit's original designer and Princeton Digital's founder and Eventide Chief Technology Officer. Built on a modern platform, the Reverb2016 is a recreation of the original reverb algorithms Stereo Room, Room Reverb, and High Density Plate. Besides the addition of one new algorithm this unit, as compared to the original, has a menu-free interface with dedicated parameter controls for real-time tweaking. Other modern updates include 24-bit SPDIF digital I/O and both XLR and 1/4-inch balanced connections. The Reverb2016 also includes MIDI in and out, software programmable footswitch, as well as a direct input for guitars and other high-impedance sources. The Reverb2016 will be available in February 2003 at $1,995 MSRP. Check: www.eventide.com.

Sony's Oxford Inflator Plug-In
The same quality and no compromise design that went into the Oxford Equalizer plug-in has also gone into the Inflator. Simply put, the Inflator increase apparent loudness of your mix without much loss of audio quality like some other loudness enhancer plug-ins. Inflator is also great for single instruments to enhance presence, softness and depth, or on percussion and drum tracks to produce dynamic presence, tightness and volume. Besides increasing loudness, there is the Curve control that artistically adds warmth, character and dynamic excitement that's similar to a near-overload condition in analog systems. I could have this effect going while allowing percussive peaks to pass through fairly unscathed. You can run Inflator in either of two modes: direct and band split. Inflator sells for $450 MSRP, available this Spring in versions for Pro Tools® HD/TDM/Mix/RTAS and TC Works PowerCore software. Check www.sony.com.

Fostex PM0.5 2-Way Powered Speakers
The new 0.5s are modeled on the company's larger PM-1. The 5-inch LF driver's cone uses a mixture of cut and milled aromatic polyamide fibers that are impregnated with resins to increase rigidity and therefore optimize damping. The 3/4-inch soft dome tweeter uses Fostex's UFLC technology (Poly Urethane Film Laminated Cloth) making it both lightweight and highly stable. Both drivers are powered by matching amplifiers: 40-watts RMS for the woofer and 30-watts RMS for the tweeter. The PM0.5 measures 7 1/8 H x 11 H x 10 1/4 D inches (w/heat sink) and weighs 14.3 lbs. Specs include 105dB SPL at 1 meter across the critical midrange while free-field response is 50Hz-20kHz +/- 2dB.

Performance is further tailored with cut-off filters: 40 Hz for the woofer and 22kHz for the tweeter. This "bandwidth limiting" safeguards the drivers from attempting to reproduce frequencies outside of their good performance range. The PM0.5 sell for $349 MSRP per pair. Check www.fostex.com/.

Bias SoundSoap
SoundSoap is audio cleanup and restoration software with the simplest interface and operation I've seen. Besides many tools specifically designed to remove buzz, hiss, crackles and hum, SoundSoap has a one-button 'Learn Noise' function that samples a short section of noise and then removes it without much affect to the audio you want to keep. You can also "tune" the noise reduction process to meet more exacting requirements. SoundSoap runs on MAC or PC as a standalone or as a plug-in in VST or DirectX hosts. Video editing software such as Premiere, Movie Maker, iMovie and Final Cut Pro also support SoundSoap. SoundSoap sells for an introductory price of $99 MSRP. Go to: www.bias-inc.com/.

Yamaha 01V96
For many people, the 01V96 will make hardware-based 96kHz audio production a reality at a realistic price. Available in April 2003 at an MSRP of $2,499, the 01V96 is the same exact size as the original 01V. There are 40, 24-bit/96 kHz simultaneous mixing channels and all stereo effects use 32-bit internal processing. Yamaha retained the original's I/O signal routing, control surface design, and "feel" of the original including the large display and analog-style operation. You get a gate/compressor; four-band parametric EQ, delay and two pre/post EQ insert points on all 32 inputs and up to four simultaneous built-in effect processors (two at 96kHz). In addition to the 99 "scene" memories of all console settings, the automation keeps track of 17 precision 100-millimeter motorized channel faders and all available inputs, outputs, effects, and channel inserts assignments in the digital patchbay.

Complete with rack mounting bracketry, the 01V96 comes ready to act as a front end for ProTools, Nuendo and other popular computer-based recording software. Another very significant upgrade is the built-in ADAT I/O that eliminates a dedicated expansion card. The included Yamaha Studio Manager software is compatible with both MAC and PC platforms. The 01V96 is so new it is not yet at: www.yamaha.com/proaudio/new/.

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