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Winter Namm '98

by Dave Schmid, Sweetwater WebMaster

   With a rash of unforseen slowdowns, we were starting to wonder if our group of dedicated Sweetwater NAMM show exhibitors were ever going to make it to Los Angeles. Fort Wayne had been under a thick cloud of fog for several days and the morning of our scheduled departure proved to be the heaviest yet! Our group of NAMM Show crusaders had to find a way to get to Southern California since this year, for the first time ever, Sweetwater was a NAMM exhibitor, and for a while it looked like we might not be there to man the booth! With two cellular phones in constant service, we were finally able to leave the airport the only way possible: Via a chartered jet! Shades of our 1996 Winter NAMM visit!

   Finally, after many hours en route, we were in Los Angles, and following a quick limo drive to our hotel, we

The L.A. Convention Center, site of the 1998 Winter NAMM Show
The L.A. Convention Center, site of the 1998 Winter NAMM Show

were at last into our Sweetwater NAMM mode with product demos, shows, meetings to attend and a booth of our own to run. The next four days proved to be quite the experience in new technology, new products, soon-to-be-arriving gear, and more than a few industry giants! In this report I'm going to take you on a whirlwind trip through as much of the new gear as possible. My apologies up front if I don't get to certain manufacturers' products - space restrictions (and a cruel editor) make it impossible to include every great new item. By now I'm sure you know that prices (where available), model names, release dates, colors, sizes, power ratings, specs, weights, packaging, and just about everything else are subject to change. So let's get going.

   Akai. Good news for those of you looking for 12-tracks of uncompressed hard disk recording: the DPS12HD ($1849 list) should be starting to arrive in our warehouse by the time you read this. Several versions were on display including built-in hard drive systems and Jaz drive configurations. Need more than eight tracks? This might be just the thing.

   Alesis made a strong showing with a fancy booth and "Scotty" from the original Star Trek helping them out with a video explaining their new 20-bit ADAT Type II recorders, the ADAT-XT20 ($2999 list) and the ADAT-LX20 ($2249 list). 20-bit A/D and D/A converters, fast tape transport, onboard digital editing, extensive front-panel auto-location capabilities, and numerous other exciting features will make the new Type II ADATs a sure winner in the race for better, higher quality digital tape-based recorders. As a computer addition to the ADAT scene, the PCR PCI Interface card ($499 list) allows any PCI Windows 95/NT machine or Mac to send or receive eight tracks of audio (up to 24-bit) with an ADAT recorder. The bundled software also allows your computer to function as a "Virtual ADAT," receiving or sending commands from an ADAT or other types of controllers. The Q20 Professional 20-bit Effects Processor ($999 list) is now the company's top-of-the-line effects processor. With features like ADAT and S/PDIF digital connections, XLR and 1/4" analog connections, 24-bit DSP chip, 20-bit digital convertors, and up to eight programmable effects at once, the Q20 is perfect for any no-compromise studio. For the MIDI

Roland's booth was huge and offered up such treats as the new VS-1680 Multitrack Show
Roland's booth was huge and offered up such treats as the new VS-1680 Multitrack

users out there (and I'm guessing there's more than a few of you), Alesis unveiled their NanoTracker 16 Channel MIDI Recorder. If you happen to be interested in terrific drums sounds, you can feast your ears on the DM Pro Expandable 20-bit Drum Module ($899 list) with its 64 voices of polyphony, over 1,000 sounds, open expandability, 16 fast trigger inputs and six audio outputs. And finally, Alesis introduced the DG8 64-Voice Digital Grand Piano ($1999 list). The built-in speakers and amp provides 100 watts per channel and it sounded great!

   Audio-Technica was displaying several new microphones for the first time. The 30 series contains three new condenser mics that are remarkable for their versatility and low prices. The AT3525 ($399 list), AT3527 ($299 list), and AT3528 ($299 list) are all perfect for vocal and instrumental applications. New microphones in the 40 series were also on hand with the AT4054 (w/bass roll-off, $499 list) and AT4055 (no bass roll-off, $499 list) hand held cardioid capacitor microphones.

   Berkley Integrated Audio Software (BIAS) showed version 2.0 of Peak, their acclaimed digital audio editing software for the Mac ($499 retail/$129 upgrade from v.1.5). 2.0 adds high-end features and enhancements to an already impressive package, including the ability to record, edit and process up to 32-bit audio files and support for playback and recording through DAE. Additionally, plug-ins can now be used in real-time, SMPTE sync has been added, plus the ability to burn audio directly to CD from within the Peak Playlist.

   Cakewalk was sporting their new logo as well as a pretty nice booth with demos of the soon-to-be-released Cakewalk Series Version 7 which builds upon the features in version 6, including 32-bit floating-point real-time effects, improved user interface and transport controls, a virtual mixing console (mixing windows now grow, change and disappear depending on your sequence), and enhanced notation. Also showing was their selection of Real-time 32-bit DirectX audio plug-ins including Compressor/Gate, Limiter and Expander/Gate. In Concert, a cross-platform MIDI playback program was pretty impressive, as well. Just start playing any General MIDI file, mute the track you want to play yourself, and In Concert follows your playing, speeding up, slowing down, changing dynamics, even skipping to different parts of the sequence based on your performance! Start anywhere in the sequence and the "band" recognizes where you are in the sequence!

   Emagic. A new, cleaner packaging and restructuring of the Logic Audio line debuted this year. Now in three different software configurations for the Mac OS/Windows: Platinum ($799 list) for the professional studio, Gold ($499 list) for the project studio, and Silver ($299 list) for the home studio. Micrologic AV is perfect for start-up studios with lots of great features at an affordable price. Emagic also intro-duced new Windows 95 and Mac drivers for the Audiowerk8. SoundDiver, Emagic's terrific editor/librarian software now supports more modules, keyboards and even digital mixers.

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