Pro audio manufacturers show off new gear at NAMM

The National Association of Music Merchants staged its annual winter convention in Anaheim, CA, last week. The association announced 1505 exhibitors and 85,799 registrants for the event, down only slightly from 2008 totals. The NAMM Show is focused on music instruments, but also includes an array of pro audio products for recording and touring, many of which have broadcast applications.

All in all, NAMM proved an interesting show, with a wide variety of new pro audio gear sprinkled amid all the guitars, drums and band instruments. As always, a wide variety of “star power” events were available, including in-booth appearances and evening concerts from artists including Alicia Keys, Brian Wilson, Alice Cooper and assorted all-star jams. But despite the glitz, the products are the stars, with many pro audio companies unveiling products destined to be shown again at NAB this spring.

Perhaps the most impressive new non-instrument product revealed was the DMS 700 digital wireless system by AKG, which features a full range of onboard DSP functions, 155MHz tunable frequency range and encrypted, full-frequency audio (see full report below). Lectrosonics again demonstrated its four-channel digital wireless for point-to-point use, although no ship date was announced. All RF companies, of course, offered products, advice and rebate programs aimed at helping users navigate the post-white spaces, post-DTV frequency landscape.

In the console world, the offerings were geared more toward recording studio and touring applications, as one might suspect. Solid State Logic featured its Matrix studio integration console and announced the availability of two new plug-in packages, the Duende Expanded and Duende Studio Pack collections. Yamaha showed three new budget-priced analog consoles, while Euphonix announced new EuCon control system partnerships with MOTU and Metric Halo for the desktop Artist Series controllers. Soundcraft announced 96- and 72-channel console extensions for the Vi4 and Vi6 mixers via its new v3.0 software release.

The software manufacturers were in full demo mode. Steinberg presented Cubase 5 and Cubase Studio 5, while Ableton announced its Live 8 and Suite 8 products. Digidesign showed off its new Pro Tools 8 recording system, including new LE versions, and introduced Mix Rack, a piece of expansion hardware for its Venue mixing console that combines all I/O and DSP into an 11RU box. Lynx Studio Technology continued its emphasis on high-end systems, adding the Aurora 16-VT (variable trim) to its 192kHz AD/DA converter line and announcing the LT-HD interface update for the Aurora 18 and Aurora 8. Owners of those models can update their firmware at no cost.

Several new headphones and in-ear products also were announced. Sensaphonics demonstrated its 3D Active Ambient IEM system, which uses microphones embedded on custom earphones to allow users to mix monitor feeds and local ambient sound. Audio-Technica’s new IEM line added the EP1 and EP3 universal-fit earphones with optional external ambient mic, the AM3. In addition, A-T introduced the ATH-M35 closed-back headphone for studio monitor applications. Sennheiser showed a top-of-range closed dynamic headphone, the HD 800, along with three new in-ear models headed by the IE 8, which features a bass response dial on each earpiece.

As for microphones, everything from studio condensers to new USB mics were offered along with the expected emphasis on live performance mics like Royer Labs’ R122 Live ribbon and Telefunken’s new M-80 dynamic vocal mic. Shure showed a new zero-latency USB microphone adapter, the X2u, for adapting any microphone to desktop recording. Electro-Voice revived its PL Series with a full slate of new models, all featuring Memraflex grilles, non-reflective, satin-texture finish, low handling noise and exceptional audio quality across a full range of stage applications. Audio-Technica showed its AT8022 and BP4025 X/Y stereo microphones, optimized for studio and field recording, respectively.

With attendance down just 3 percent despite dire predictions, and a strong showing of new products and technologies, the optimism in Anaheim countered complaints heard the previous week about poor attendance at CES in Las Vegas.

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