By Mitch Gallagher
Every January, when the temperatures drop below zero degrees, it can mean only one thing for Sweetwater's intrepid trade show team: Winter NAMM in Los Angeles! Like clockwork, we trudge across the tundra, board airplanes, and emerge in sunny California, ready to be inundated and overwhelmed with an amazing assortment of new "must have" products - it's a music technology (and warm weather) fan's dream come true!
Nothing can compare to personally experiencing the onslaught of a full-on NAMM show, but we'll do our best to bring you up to date! Take a deep breath, grab your comfortable walking shoes and ear plugs, and join us for a quick run through of some of the hottest products from this year's show:
First of all, everyone has been asking, so I'll get it out of the way now: Yes, Mackie was showing their new digital mixer. The only word that comes to mind is "WOW"! Check out the Mackie section below for more details...
The "Hot Products" this year fell into several categories: Computer audio cards, guitar amps (many digital) and anything that could possibly be construed to use the word "modeling" were all present in abundance. "Digital" continues to be the "Technology Buzz-Word of the Decade" in the music industry...
Finally, for those keeping track, the trendy NAMM catch-word was "phat"...impress your friends by using it daily (whether situationally appropriate or not...)!
Disclaimer: This is in no way a complete list of anything, just a sampling of what was on display at NAMM. All product names, specs, prices, colors, sizes, weights, phat-ness, delivery dates, arrival dates, expiration dates, mileage, volume levels, compression ratios, seasons of the year, days of the week, and anything else I can think of are subject to change without notice, remorse or regret...
- Akai's latest generation of the MPC series is the MPC-2000 ($1495), which takes a modular approach to integrated sequencing/sampling/drum machines. A variety of options and upgrades can turn the MPC-2000 into a true production center. Akai says it's "half the calories, all the phat"...
- Alesis seems intent on shrinking studios away to nothing! New models in the diminutive Nano series include the Nano Piano ($399), Nano Synth ($499), and Nano Bass ($299). Each offers a TON of power in a tiny box. Also on display were the Studio 12r ($449) and Studio 32 ($1299) mixers, the Wedge ($499) desktop master reverb (very cool!), and the QSR synth module ($899).
- ART had their full line of studio, guitar and bass processors on display, including the very cool new Phat-boy bass preamp/processor ($299). Also drawing attention was ART's expanding line of professional grade studio processors, including the Pro MPA ($599) and Dual MP ($329) tube pres, Pro VLA ($599) and Dual Levelar ($329) leveling amps, Pro Gate ($1099), along with a bunch of eqs, compressors, you name it - ART has entered the pro audio world in a big way!
- ART also unveiled the Model 820 ($899) and 825 ($1299) classic guitar amps. The 820 is an amp head design, while the 825 is a dual 12" closed-back combo. These Dan Pearce designed amps are based around ART's popular DST Eighty/Eighty processor, offer built-in effects, MIDI control, and top-notch construction.
- One of the most amazing new items at the show was also one of the most unassuming: The Crown K2 Balanced Current Amplifier ($1795). What's so special about this amp? How about 2500 watts into 2 ohms, while only drawing 4 amps of current? Because of this tiny power draw, the amp needs no fan, and has unmatched thermal efficiency (which provides TONS of hidden benefits). Completely pro specs and sound quality, with tons of neat features. This is a major advance in amplifier design, check it out soon - the other amp manufacturers sure were!
- The Digitech booth was rocking with a bunch of new products (as usual). Studio Quad v2 ($549.95) effects processor, the new XP series of Wah/Whammy ($199.95) and Modulator ($199.95) guitar pedals, and the Vocalist Performer ($419.95) harmonizer were all drawing their fair share of looks, but most of the attention went to the awesome new GSP-2112 ($1099.95) and Digitech's entry into full-blown guitar amps, the Johnson Millennium. The aforementioned 2112 guitar preamp/processor offers a significant step up from the popular GSP-2101, while the Millennium is a stereo 150 watt 2x12 combo amp featuring 12ax7 tubes, S-DISC II processing, and full programmability.
The folks at Emagic win the award for sturdiest literature; their lit was bound in spiral-notebook style with stainless steel front and back covers. (No, I won't be making painful jokes about using their software to record "metal" styles of music...).
- In addition to their top-notch line of software products, Emagic has entered the hardware world: First up was the Unitor 8 MIDI interface (priced at $799). 8 in and out, SMPTE, and VITC for true video lock. Up to 8 can be stacked for 1024 independent MIDI channels. (Let's see now, that means I can only have a total of sixty-four 16-part multitimbral keyboards playing at once. Gee, I hope that's enough...)
- Emagic also launched Audiowerk 8 ($799), a PCI recording card with 2 analog ins, 8 outs, S/PDIF, and full compatibility with Mac and Windows 95. Audiowerk will ship with VMR (Virtual Multitrack Recorder) software. Naturally, it's also compatible with Logic Audio. Emagic promised compatibility with other software manufacturers soon, as well as an optional digital out extension, and an ADAT/S/PDIF optical link.
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