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The S5000 ($1995) and S6000 ($2995) samplers appeared to be working perfectly. They aren't shipping yet, but Akai expects them to be ready by October or November. For those not already familiar, these beasts are the latest incarnation of the S series. They can hold up to 256 MB or RAM and have 64 voices across 32 MIDI channels. They also sport a very nice removable front panel that doubles as a remote control (al la Fostex recorders). These look to be the de facto standard in sampling machines for the next few years.

AKG showed a new version of their popular C1000S microphone. The C1000S, now in a satin silver color, comes with a second capsule converter that provides more presence. This now ships in addition to the hypercardiod modifier that always came with the old C1000. They have also changed the color of the C3000 to satin silver as well. These new colors will probably not show up in the field for a few months.

Also of note was their new IVM-1 in-ear monitoring system, which is the most advanced application of their IVM (Individual Virtual Acoustics) technology to date. The system uses binaural processing technology to achieve an extremely natural sound for the listener.

THE M20 IS SHIPPING! THE M20 IS SHIPPING! That was the big news at Alesis. Actually we've already sold a bunch of them so it is no news to us. They were also showing various M20 support products, such as the CADI
Alesis M20
The Alesis M20 (81 kb)
controller ($1299) and the RMD 32 channel remote metering option ($799). They were also thrilled to report that the wait for the Q20 effects processor ($999) is almost over as well. They expect to roll them out in August. The new QS6.1 ($999) will be taking over the low priced keyboard duties from the soon to be discontinued QS6. The new one ads control sliders, a new piano sound (the same one the QS8 has), a larger display, faster serial port, an extra card slot and more. Supposedly it will be shipping in August also. The old QS6 will still be around a while, but expect to see it drop significantly in price almost immediately.

David Bryce gave us a great demo of the new DM Pro drum module ($899). This baby sports 4-times the ROM memory of its predecessor (16 MB), the DM5, holding a formidable 1600 instruments spread across 64 mapped drum kits, which include 256 different snares. It has 6 outputs (thank you Alesis) and 16 trigger inputs. These aren't just any trigger inputs, mind you. They are controlled by a separate microprocessor running some very sophisticated software. David claims flawless performance with even the most "suck-ass triggers you can find." Availability is early October. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, it sounded fantastic: punchy lows and crystal clear highs. Cymbals all rang to their full decay without being cut off. Very nice.

In other Alesis news, the Q20 effects processor ($999) is expected to begin shipping in about a month. The studio 32 mixer is going down in price to $999, and the QS7 keyboard is dropping to $1299.

They're now in full production on the new TubePac and TubeEQ (both $249). They have a dual tube EQ ($449) coming out in September and in October they'll be officially announcing a single rack space channel strip for around $499. We were shown several products at the drawing stages that look very impressive. Stay tuned for these guys, they're going to have some real hot pro audio products out next year.

Audio Technica
AT was showing their soon to be released 4060 ($1695) large diaphragm tube microphone. It sounds incredible and I found out that a prototype has just been used on the current Celine Dion album.

Audix added two new large diaphragm microphones to their lineup: the CX101 ($499) and CX111 ($599). They are both cardioid true condensers with the CX111 adding a low cut filter and 10 dB selectable pad.

Anyone serious about playing MIDI instruments with guitar needs to check out their stuff. The AX100, their latest in a series of neural net guitar to MIDI converters has the most consistently fast tracking I've seen in a system that works with any standard guitar. The SB version comes with the SB-676 soundboard enhancement, which adds hundreds of sounds and effects. But unlike other guitar synth brains, it is just as fast triggering external MIDI modules as it is its own internal sounds. The bonus it that it also works great for bass too.

Big Briar
Winning my award for coolest product name is Bob Moog's "Moogoerfooger" products. Anyone familiar with the history behind the name Moog can truly appreciate his use of that name. That familiarity is also likely to produce a unique understanding of what he's done with this product. The Moogerfooger Ring Modulator ($289) and Lowpass Filter ($299) are analog effects processors with genuine, by Bob Moog himself, designs. The knobs (oh yeah, there are knobs) are the same type as used in the original Mini Moog keyboard.

Big Briar also had the Ethervox MIDI Theremin working ($3500). These are beautiful hand made instruments with powerful features and comprehensive MIDI implementation.

Blue Chip Music Technology
These guys lifted some eyebrows with a new drawbar organ simulator called QX7 ($1595). It has a full complement of features: variable harmonics, polyphonic percussion, leslie simulation with accurate sounding ramp times, vibrato, phase vibrato, reverb and overdrive. There are some pretty esoteric features as well, including the ability to program different envelopes to different drawbars, which produces some eerie variations to the organ sounds.

Boss's newest tuner, the TU-2 ($139), is housed in a floor pedal style case with LED's that can be seen in full sunlight (yes, they tested it). It does not use battery power until activated by stepping on the pedal. The output can be muted or passed through while tuning.

The AD-3 acoustic guitar processor ($249) has all the basics one would expect in such a device plus a very unique feature coined at the show as "Reverse Amp Simulation." This allows an acoustic guitar to be run into a standard guitar amp. The AD-3 has special tone controls and the proper output impedance dedicated to making a standard guitar amp sound like a full range speaker. Release date is scheduled for October.

Can't afford a MC-505? Boss has the answer with the Dr. Groove. At only $495 the Doctor is not a toy. The DR-202's massive waveform memory incorporates 24-voice polyphony, with its 207 drum and 49 bass samples arranged into 128 Preset drum kits. Alongside these fresh rhythm sounds reside more than 400 Preset patterns ready for instant triggering or for turning into new User patterns. From Hip-Hop to Acid Jazz and Latin, practically every genre of Groove music is represented in these Preset patterns--all with street-level authenticity thanks to their legitimate DJ and dance music programmers. There's a 3-track sequencer with a 13-part drum track, a dedicated bass track, and an external source track for triggering external MIDI gear like samplers and other instruments. There are a variety of real time controls including tap tempo to help make things happen on the fly.

In collaboration with Roland and Fender, Cakewalk plans to participate in products enabling guitarists to be more creative and productive in recording and live performance. The first solution from the alliance is the combination of three distinct products optimized to work together: Cakewalk Guitar Studio digital audio and MIDI recording software, the Roland GR-30 Guitar Synthesizer and the Fender Roland-Ready Stratocaster.

Cakewalk Guitar Studio combines the latest MIDI sequencing technology with sophisticated, multi-track digital audio recording and editing, including real-time effects processing. Guitarists can record and play 8-tracks of CD-quality digital audio in tight synchronization with MIDI. Tracks can be edited and mixed in a familiar environment because the user interface is designed specifically for guitarists. It features a Virtual Fretboard for the display and input of melodies and chords. Players are able to capture ideas quickly by using the rhythm patterns provided. There are also specialized utilities including a guitar tuner, MIDI Guitar setup, and guitar effects including chorus, reverb, EQ, flange and delay. With this software, guitarists can now do all composing and recording in one place, combining vocals, acoustic guitars, drum tracks, and MIDI sequences.

Ddrum was showing a new expanded drum kit called Ddrum System One ($4595), which is based on the Ddrum 4 technology. Basically, it adds three Ddrum cymbals and a hi-hat to the System Two kit ($3795) that has been out. Since you use your own stand for the hi-hat it feels like real hi-hats with sounds for open, foot, and closed pedal positions.

Expanding on their success with the S-100, Digitech showed the new S-200 processor ($339). It has 20-bit I/O in a two in and two out configuration (the channels can be separated), plus a more comprehensive and easier to use display than the S-100. The vocalist access ($469) packs the harmonic punch of the Vocalist Workstation into a 1-space rack mount package. The user interface is made more friendly by a push in and out edit knob; push it in to edit, then push it in more to release the edit mode and it pops back out. Simple.

The new BP-8 bass processor ($449) comes in the same package as the already popular RP-7 guitar processor. It incorporates a 12AX7 tube with a studio grade compressor/limiter stage on the input. The pedal can control any of the parameters including the built in Whammy effects.

The TALKER ($299) may be their most innovative product at the show. Housed in a simple (but cool looking) floor stomp box, it gives a guitarist access to all kinds of talking guitar effects made popular in the 1970's. Peter Frampton was around over the weekend, but apparently never made it to the Digitech booth to put it through its paces.

Their big news is that they are finally shipping all of there software packages announced at the January NAMM show (see our Winter NAMM 98 report). They have also announced VST support. The big news, however, is that they are going to be supporting Roland VS series products. They had a Mac up and running in the Roland booth doing graphic editing on the new VS-880EX. We're not quite sure what form this support will take yet, but they expect to solidify plans in the next couple of months.

I think Event is just relieved to finally do a show in which all of their computer recording platforms (Gina, Darla, Layla) are shipping. They were showing Layla running on a Mac, but they say it will still be fall before it is available that way. DSPFX ($299) is supposed to be shipping in August. They had a new microphone, the Rhode Broadcaster. It is a large diaphragm condenser mic that is mounted to a clip so it can be boomed in to a broadcast person with ease (it sort of looks like the famed Shure SM-7). The really interesting thing about it is the LED "on-air" indicator on top that lights up when the mic is hot.

Don't laugh. These guys showed one of the more impressive pieces I saw at the show. The 7XII ($1995) is a multi functional music generative device capable of all sorts of auto accompaniment features as well as sophisticated real time harmonization capabilities. It reads karaoke files and has a wide assortment of fantastic sounds, which are further enhanced by the four on board signal processors. The bottom line is it's a hardware band-in-a-box with ability to process live signals as well.

They've added to their StudioLogic line of controllers with the SL-990 ($1095). This unit has basic programming features, but sports the new Fatar CSF (Contoured Strike Force) keybed assembly that has three zones of different feeling keys. The subtly different feels produce a much more realistic playing sensation across he keyboard. If they didn't tell you what they were doing you would never notice it, but the keyboard just feels "right."

Fostex unveiled their new X-24 multitracker ($369). Though it is designed as a budget conscious machine it still has some pro features like XLR inputs and the ability to record on all four tracks at once. The amazing thing is that it runs at 7.5 ips, which is the fastest 4-track cassette mechanism I've ever seen. At that speed I would expect it to be able to make very high quality recordings. There was a noticeable buzz on their new FD4, 4-track digital multitracker ($599). Besides being packed with great features and being easy to use, they claim one can plug virtually any SCSI device into it and record. This demystification of SCSI voodoo sounds like panacea to yours truly. They were also still moving full steam ahead with their incredible D90 ($1995 base) and D160 ($3495 base) hard disk multitrack systems.

They had several new models at the show all featuring Leo Fender's "Z-Coil" design, based upon his earlier split coil humbucking pickups. Unlike stacked humbuckers, "Z-Coil" pickups offer a true single coil sound, but are as hum free as a traditional humbucker. New models include the Comanche, which employs the G&L Dual Fulcrum tremolo system, the ASAT Z3, which has their patented Saddle Lock fixed bridge, and the ASAT Z3 Semi-Hollow, which has twin voice chambers contributing to a scooped midrange.

They amazed fans with an early look at the new Equinox Music Processor keyboard. While there are still a few kinks to be ironed out on this one, it is easy to tell there are some fantastic sounds and extremely intuitive editing and sequencing capabilities. The on-board "Groove Machine" and "Random Groove Generator" provides more than 1,200 editable pre-programmed rhythms for creating loops and dance beats. Also in action was their new Eagle digital mixer.

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