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Monday, January 28, 2013

NAMM 2013 Overview Part 2 - Audio Products.

When I go to a NAMM show or an other similar exhibition, I no longer go to see a specific item. I usually walk the floor waiting for something to jump out at me. Sometimes the product is obvious, and other times it's buried in the back of a booth, but if I see the need or use for it, you'll see it mentioned here. Sometimes it's a "why hadn't anyone thought of that before" product, while other times it's a new twist on an old problem solver. Here are some of the audio items that caught my eye at NAMM 2013 (in no particular order).

First comes the audio-technica AT5040, a new microphone that distinguishes itself by its unique quad capsule (seen in the upper left center in the back). This configuration provides more than twice the area of a normal one inch round diaphragm used in other large diaphragm mics. The result is extended highs and lows and lower noise. Looking forward to hearing this one.

The next item is the ME-1 Personal Monitor mixer by Allen & Heath. This is a CAT-5 based system that allows you to mix up to 40 input sources. It also has a couple of cool things like a built-in ambience mic and a simple two knob "me and everyone else" system to break it down to what's most important in the quickest amount of time. A&H have always built great sounding gear (their consoles have been consistently great for the money through the years), but for some reason sometimes get overlooked. The ME-1 could bring a lot of people into the fold that weren't A&H lovers previously.

Much has been written about Slate Pro Audio's Raven MTX mixer control surface that was shown at last year's AES show. That unit was back in a more refined state at NAMM, but a new entry was a baby version dubbed the MTi. It has the same unique display that toggles between the Slate mix and traditional Pro Tools mix and edit windows, along with some built-in hardware for monitoring and cue mixes. I was told that it will be about $3,500 and ship in April, about a month after the larger MTX.

As I wrote yesterday, Chinese mics have hit the floor in terms of price, so the only way to go is up. MXL has a new mic called the Genesis II that supposedly sounds like the venerable AKG C-12, only for $595. Who knows if it's even close, as you can't tell from a demo on the show floor, but it sure is a trend that's the wave of the future. The fact that it does have a hand-selected NOS Mullard 12AT7 tube weighs in its favor though.

I've been raving about the Monoprice 8323 headphones for about a year as the best phones you can get in the $25 range. Now Monoprice has decided to jump into the audio game with both feet with a full line of audio gear that ranges from mics to speakers to cables to mixers to guitars and more. All the gear is surprisingly good for the price, and the prices are astoundingly reasonable. Hopefully I can try out some of this gear soon and give you a report.

SM Pro Audio is another company with great products for great prices. At the show they introduced their 500 series modules and racks. The racks come from 1 to 8 spaces and have a unique feature in that they have internal audio routing built in as well. Also available for the 500 series was a unique dual band optical compressor, a 5 band parametric EQ that has 5 full spectrum overlapping bands, and a tube preamp. Big bang for the buck here.

Finally I stumbled upon an interesting company called acouStaCorp that had a number of unique temporary acoustic controllers including this big air-filled pillow called a AqFlex. This system is said to work on frequencies below 250Hz. It takes up a lot of room, which probably isn't that big of a deal in a theater, but is a unique approach to acoustic control that you don't see much.

That's it for the audio portion. Tomorrow we'll look at musical instruments.

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