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Welcome to NAMM: Day 2

January 14, 2011

This blog entry is going up a little late. Blame the good folks at sE Electronics, who held a banquet in honor of the recently passed Mitchell Carey last night. I raised a glass to Mitch's memory in the company of many of his friends instead of sitting and writing my blog. Sue me.

Traffic seems to be up from last year; everyone is thrilled with the activity here, and there are a lot of cool products making their way to shelves in 2011. Just a sampling of highlights:

PreSonus gave users of its StudioLive digital mixer a lot of access and power with the creation of the Virtual StudioLive program to remotely control and view the mixer; now they're taking it further with SL Remote, a free iPad app that will go live soon. SL Remote lets you network mixers and control a wide variety of functions from your iPad, with a clean and usable interface very reminiscent of the existing VSL program.

Speaking of iPads, Alesis and Akai will be releasing new hardware for doing music with them later this year. I got a look at the StudioDock, a tabletop box that powers an iPad and provides two mic/line inputs (with phantom power), separately level-adjustable main and headphone outs, MIDI I/O, and even a video mirror out jack. The SynthStation 49 is an iPad dock on a 49-key velocity-sensitive keyboard with drum pads, lightweight but full-sized.

American Music & Sound hosts a lot of firms at their booth. Among the new releases, besides the Focusrite stuff I mentioned yesterday, there are new piano and organ synth/controllers from StudioLogic, updated keyboards from Kurzweil, and a now-shipping GSR high-end recording mixer/FireWire interface from Allen & Heath.

Lynx Studio Technology is getting ready to release their USB option card for the Aurora converters; look for it in March. I am personally very excited for this development, as it places Lynx audio quality into the plug-and-play world in a way not previously available to many users. Look for a hands-on test from us later this year.

TASCAM has a variety of new audio interfaces, including two smaller siblings to the US-1800 released at AES. There's also a nifty iPad app that simulates a good old-fashioned PortaStudio 4-track cassette recorder!

Auralex is now displaying the Mudguard, a mic-stand-mounted acoustic baffle with adjustable mic positioning, and a new line of cloth-coated foam panel products called SonoLite that are as fashionable as they are practical.

Universal Audio's big news is the UAD-2 Satellite, a small and portable UAD-2 DSP engine (dual or quad core) that attaches to any computer via FireWire. The different supported plug-in counts for FireWire, a hair less than what PCIe or ExpressCard will support, are offset by this plug-in family becoming available to a whole new class of mobile computer users. Wahoo!

KRK is riding the wave of public acclaim for its new KNS headphone line, and is coming out with a variety of accessories and replacement parts to keep the phones working reliably in the field for many years. There are hints of big announcements coming from KRK later this year, but I couldn't get more than a big smile from my contacts there...

Samson showed the R8, a smaller sibling to the R16 and R24 recorder/sampler/interfaces, and the Meteor Mic, a very cool USB mic/headphone monitor interface with a sexy retro look and clever built-in adjustable table stand.

Behringer had a prototype of the new X32 digital console under glass. It's a very sexy-looking 32-channel mixer with a fair bit of internal DSP and a flexible aux/bussing system. Behringer also showed a new FireWire-capable 16-input console with some nice wiring touches, an Ethernet-based personal monitoring system at a price point previously unseen in that type of product, a cute and tiny 3-channel mixer/USB interface, and single-driver cube monitors they call (brace yourself) "Behritones". Groan.

Sony has added new headphones to its pro audio line for the first time in recent memory, with two circumaural models and an in-ear design. They'll ship in the Spring and we hope to review them then.

SPL has garnered attention for a new rackmount signal channel box whose preamp, de-esser, dynamics control, and eq are all separately usable as individual modules patchable from the rear panel, and the Transpressor, which combines a compressor with the famous Transient Designer. Very cool stuff.

Down in Hall E, there's an entire world of iOS hardware and software on display. I hope to get back there today for more of a look, but a few products leaped out at me in my brief visit. AirTurn has a wireless page-turning device for the iPad that is triggered by footswitches; The GigEasy has a very well-designed American-built iPad clamp for mic stands; and a very ambitious little firm called Miso Music handed me a cable called the Miso Micro, which provides guitar input and headphone output from an iGizmo's TRRS headphone/mic jack, at a projected sale price of "five or ten bucks", a challenge to the much more expensive (and at first glance no better-built) I/O cable snakes currently on the market.

I'll be starting my third day at NAMM with a look at the startling new products from Zildjian's Gen16 line and at the Line 6 MIDI Mobilizer iPad MIDI interface. Look for a report hopefully a bit sooner than this one took!

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