Thursday, January 31, 2013

Buddy Rich vs. Neil Pert

Here's a great video for drummers, engineers, lover of drums, and musicians everywhere. It's basically a video that illustrates two ages of drumming, first with the legendary Buddy Rich, then with Rush's Neil Peart. While Neil is great, I can't help but feel that Buddy is at least a step beyond both in dexterity and energy.

A couple of things to notice:

1. Check out the angle of Buddy's snare drum. When was the last time you saw an angle like that?

2. Buddy's drums sound like one instrument while Neil's drums sound disconnected from one other by comparison.

3. Buddy's stick work at 4:40 is amazing! What control the man had.



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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

NAMM 2013 Overview Part 4 - The Oddities

One of the best parts about NAMM is some of the things you see on the floor that don't seem to fit into any category. Most of these are usually found in what's affectionately known as "Inventors Row" down in the basement in Hall E. It's also sometimes known as "The Chapter 11 Hall," meaning that most of the exhibitors will probably be out of business by the time NAMM comes around again next year. I don't know about that so much, but here are a number of unusual offerings that caught my eye.




Here's a number of guitars that had their bodies made by a 3D printer. The company that made these is called 3D Systems, and they won "Best of Show" from Yahoo Finance. If you don't know already, 3D printing is the future. Just like everyone had to have a real printer in 1990 and a cell phone a decade later, the same will happen in the 3D world. You've been warned.












Next we have an interesting rotary key instrument that shrieked like a banshee as it was actually electric and plugged into a distorted amp. Didn't get the name of the company since I was so befuddled.









Teac (the mother company of Tascam) presented an interesting version of a boombox (or maybe it's a clock radio?) with retro styling. I didn't know that people still bought these things.















Now for something completely practical. Here's a USB flash drive duplicator from EZ Dupe. Want to get your music out there? No one can refuse a free flash drive.












Here's one of the weirder ones. It's a gallery of artist in-ear monitors by Ultimate Ears (I think). I'm not so sure that I want to know what the ear canal of my favorite music celeb or athlete is like.











Finally, here's a display for "man-made ivory" picks that are harmonically tuned to suite your music by TUSQ. Don't know how much of that I buy, but they felt pretty good, and at least they have some out-of-the-box marketing.


That's it for this year's NAMM show. Now that January's near over, we can all get back to business.



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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

NAMM 2013 Overview Part 3 - Music Products

NAMM is a big show. It takes up all 4 halls of the Anaheim Convention Center as well as the basement hall and second and third floor halls and rooms. Then there's the Arena and the adjacent Marriott Convention Center, not to mention the activities at the Hilton and Sheraton Hotels. That's a lot to cover and I can't get to it all even under the best of circumstances. This year it was a little harder as I was locked down in meetings for most of the days that I was there.

I say this as a bit of a defense in that what you'll see below is what caught my eye from the parts of the show that I saw. There were undoubtedly many other things that I never got to. With that out of the way, let's look at some of the music products from the show.




The famous Buchla synthesizer is back, this time in a more modern package. It's complete with a preset card (on the upper left) that you can solder your own resistors if you choose. This version runs about $4k, which is a lot better than the $40k that the vintage ones are bringing on eBay.







Another blast from the past is Magnatone. The amps didn't gain major traction when they were introduced in the 50's, but gained favor over the years for their "vintage sound" by players like David Gilmour and Neil Young. They also have a unique stereo vibrato feature only found in these amps. Billy Gibbons has been touring with one, so they must be good.











Staying on amps for a moment, I came across this one from Four Force that was amazing in how light it was. And I mean really light as in less than 5 pounds! This EM-1 is a 5 watt Class A amp that sounds way bigger than it feels. There's also a 50 watt bass amp available in a similar package. Perfect for the aging rocker with a bad back!















While this picture is of a striking edition of the Moog Voyager Performer, the real talk of the show in terms of keys was the Moog Sub Phatty. The Sub Phatty is probably the grittiest, dirtiest sounding synth you've ever heard (I mean that in a good way), and it's destined to do big things in the EM world.











This is the U-Bass, which is a short 21" scale bass that sounded about as good as a regular scale bass (at least at the show). Big sounds from such a small instrument. Very impressive.












The last item is more of a vocal toy that I couldn't get close enough to take a picture of, so here's the promo pic. It's by TC Electronic and called the VocalLive Touch 2, and it mounts on a mic stand and allows a vocalist to dial in effects and harmonies in real time as you sing. It even has a looper built in. Very cool, and the wave of the future for vocalists, at least on a club level.

That's it for now. Tomorrow we'll look at some of the oddities from the show.

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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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Sunday, January 27, 2013

NAMM 2013 Overview - Part 1

Winter NAMM in Anaheim is certainly a winter-wonderland of gear, music, friends and celebs that should be experienced at least once in a lifetime. If you've been to it more times that I'd like to admit, it's not quite the experience that it once was. That said, it's still the best way to spot trends (which is what I try to do), gauge the health of the industry, network, and catch up with old friends.

First a few NAMM bitches. The TSA-like security was at an all-time high, with rules that even many of the door attendants didn't seem to understand. Then, the cell phone communication was as troublesome as ever. And still no free wi-fi? Come on, Anaheim, it's 2013 already.

Then there was the new promenade that was created in front of the convention center between the hotels. It was great for the concerts at night (Tower of Power on Thursday night, Legends of Rock on Friday) as it seems to accomodate about 5,000 people, but it made the foot and car traffic much more difficult. And parking was harder than ever, although that was no doubt due to the 100,000+ crowds.

Okay, let's get on with some of the trends that I saw.

Livid Base image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog
The Livid Base
One of the things that was bigger than ever was controller category, with new offerings by Akai, Ableton, Livid and many more. Here's the Livid Base, which caught my eye as very cool, although the picture doesn't do it justice.












Akai MPC Professional  image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog
Akai MPC Studio


Speaking of Akai, they had some cool new products with the new streamlined MPC Studio.












Akai MPC Fly  image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog
Akai MPC Fly




Akai also got the "best idea in packaging" award for coming up with MPC Fly which is built like a laptop with the top half being an iPad dock.













Blue Nessie  image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog
Blue Nessie

It seemed like ever mic company at the show had a new USB offering. Here's the new Blue Nessie, which has a built-in EQ, limiter, desesser and even zero-latency monitoring. Very cool.
















Behringer iS202  image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog
Behringer iS202 iPad Dock

One of the things that I expected to be hot that wasn't was iPad software and accessories. Last year that was the big trend for the show, this year not so much, although Behringer had a number of products like this iS202 Docking Station. Behringer had so many new products that they've truly become a major force in the industry. Like Yamaha from about 30 years ago, they've developed into a powerhouse by making their products better and better, yet they've managed to keep the prices extremely low.

By the way, Yamaha was truly disappointing at the show, with only a minimal showing of very dated products. I don't know what that means exactly, but it's not looking good on that front.






Tascam iPhone Accessories  image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog
Tascam iPhone Accessories
While the iPod had some decreased traction, the iPhone had some renewed energy, with a ton of new products and accessories like mics and mic preamps similar to these offerings from Tascam.


So those are the big picture trends that I saw from the show. I was only there for 2 days and didn't see all of it, but I did get around enough and speak to enough people to get the general feel. Tomorrow we'll take a look at audio products, then we'll visit with music products, and some oddities.

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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

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