Winter NAMM 2016:
Recording, Pro Audio, & Live Sound
Originally known for outstanding clocking devices, Antelope makes high-end audio interfaces as well. We checked out the impressive Orion Studio, featuring twelve analog inputs, two TRS inserts, ADAT, S/PDIF connector, two stereo monitor outs, and two DB-25 connectors. It also sports both USB and Thunderbolt ports, and contains DSP and effects processing onboard. Amazingly, they fit this all into a 1U rack space! You can record up to 32 tracks simultaneously with thunderbolt, 24 with USB.
Introduced at AES last year, the Orion 32 is now upgraded to the Orion 32+. Featuring thirty-two channels, also in a 1U rack space, it offers a greater variety of connectivity such as Thunderbolt, MADI and USB. The digital connectivity options are complemented also by ADAT and S/PDIF.
Orion32 + provides seamless connectivity to any DAW, allowing for low-latency simultaneous I/O streaming of thirty-two channels of 24-bit, 192 kHz audio. The analog I/O is handled via eight D-Sub DB-25 connectors and a pair of TRS connectors for the monitoring. DSP is onboard as well. — JB
Avid’s updates and future vision are indeed exciting news, especially for Pro Tools users. In particular, cloud collaboration will allow for remote sessions between musicians and producer/engineers, and a video chat box is coming soon, too. This is a huge development for professionals in the audio industry, mainly because it removes location as a barrier. Moreover, Avid has brilliantly addressed the issue of “isolationism” for musicians by making sure the online cloud features are collaborative by nature. Now that musicians love to do as much work as possible in their home studios, Avid is really helping the process flow more smoothly between collaborators.
From a technical standpoint, the track freeze and track commit features are much needed and welcomed enhancements. And, the subscription plan now offers virtually unlimited support. At first glance, some may have said “so what,” but in the same way musicians shouldn’t expect to be experts in audio recording, mix engineers shouldn’t be expected to be computer and tech gurus. Avid's support team will get on a remote session, install your software, optimize your system, and address your issues as needed. — JL
Thomas Barefoot has become a bit of a living legend in the last decade for introducing revolutionary speaker design and (for the first time) main monitoring without the need for wall mounting. That means mix mastering can be done with the same level of detail but from a near-field speaker. The MicroMain 27 changed the industry, and now Barefoot has just released the Micro Main 26, which is based upon the 27 but with added clarity in the midrange.
Barefoot has also introduced some clever speaker modeling technology that accompanies this speaker design so an engineer can hear what an NS10 and mix box would sound like with a simple turn of a knob! If you need extreme detail in your mids, these should be at the top of your lust… err.. we mean, list!!! — JL
Usually when talking about Blue we immediately think of their fantastic microphones. However, the show stealer for Blue this year wasn’t microphones—it was headphones! The Lola headphone is, basically, the previously released Mo-Fi without a built-in amplifer. For a mix engineer that already has a good headphone amp and primarily mixes in the studio, the Lola delivers everything the Mo-Fi did without the added cost (or weight) of the amplifier. Case closed, we’re sold!! — JL
Although Dangerous Music released the Dangerous 2-BUS+ back in the summer, it was still one of the shining jewels of audio goodness at NAMM 2016 . This unit induces immediate glossy eyed awe for anyone that loves great sound with clarity and now, it also adds some great options for harmonic saturation.
Based on the previous Dangerous 2 bus unit, the 2 BUS+ takes the summing box to new heights and also shows that Dangerous Music is very wise to couple analog summing with analog vibe. Even if you mix in the box and aren’t worried about summing in digital, the 2 BUS will get your attention because… it just sounds incredible. —JL
Eventide released Anthology X a few months before NAMM 2016. What can we say, but, wow!! In a nutshell, you get fifteen plug-ins that chronicle the thirty-five-year history of Eventide. Only now, you won't need a huge rack space or six-figure income to get that legendary Eventide sound.
Eventide is offering something here that was unfathomable only a decade ago, and we’ll have a full review shortly. — JL
Keith’s K-Mix is an interesting little product. A combination USB interface, digital mixer, and control surface, you get eight inputs, ten outputs, MIDI connectivity, eight faders, four knobs, and several dozen buttons. The interesting part is that there are no actual raised surfaces—everything is touch-controlled! We were skeptical at first, but once we put our hands on it, we were pleasantly surprised by just how responsive and functional the controls were. The idea was to make this portable, light, and essentially unbreakable when you get on the road and throw it into a bag. It seems like the McMillen team has accomplished all of that. It can also function without a computer as a standalone mixer, and interestingly, can function as a control surface for a DAW, too. — JB
One of the highlights for us was the release of Melodyne 4. Although it has been long awaited (particularly for Melodyne Studio owners) the wait seems to have been worth it. The timing detection, pitch correction and navigational tools have all been given an overhaul. Also, all versions have been rolled into one—no more separate versions. You just unlocking various features based on the license purchased. Melodyne also appears to have received a nice interface update.
However, the most intriguing features are the new sound design tools. In Melodyne 4, audio can be divided by frequency, harmonics, and manipulated to create sounds never possible before this release. Additionally, once captured, the modified sounds can also be synthesized and one can (in theory) create a new synthesizer from an audio recording. Imagine using a classical guitar recording to create a synthesizer—that’s what this thing can do now. And you thought it was just a pitch correction tool, Ha! A full review is coming soon, so stay tuned. — JL
A very interesting group of plug-ins were being showcased by Nugen Audio. Nugen specializes in metering and mastering tools. Two of the most exciting plug-ins were Master Check and ISL. Master Check analyzes audio in real time and allows for a reality check with overall loudness levels. In particular, it reveals how a final master will sound once uploaded and normalized in different mediums such as Spotify and YouTube. This tool can act as a useful guide to what an over-compressed master will sound like once normalized by digital streaming media outlets. Mastering engineers doing loudness war battles with their record label clients will find this to be a fantastic tool for restoring a bit more finesse to their final output.
ISL is a metering and limiting tool that allows the user to instantly A/B a mix and use a template for specific applications such as Mastered for iTunes. This can be indispensable for sonic purposes, and a true time saver once implemented into your workflow. No more guessing how things will sound once uploaded to digital media. Great stuff. — JL
Presonus was showing their new Studio 192 Recording interface, which further cements their place in serious project studios and professional installations. Featuring USB 3 connectivity, you get up to twenty-six inputs and thirty-two outputs, with eight digitally-controlled XMAX mic preamps and Fat Channel technology borrowed from the StudioLive range of consoles. You can add more inputs easily via ADAT, and if you connect a DigiMax DP88 to one of the ADAT connectors, you’ll have a total of sixteen independent Fat Channel instances (which include a high pass filter, noise gate, compressor, 4-band EQ, and limiter). In many ways, this is like a StudioLive mixer without the faders, strictly controlled via software. Better still, you can control everything via remote control (i.e., an iPad). We will be reviewing this one soon! — JB
The microphone has evolved! Shure really impressed us with the KSM8, a new cardioid dynamic vocal microphone with… two diaphragms! This innovative design is supposed to virtually eliminate proximity effect and provide great off-axis rejection. The mic is a marvel of manufacturing as much as it is a marvel of new technology, with a fascinating internal design and gorgeous physical design. It comes in a bling-worthy brushed nickel or black finish, and with 40Hz—16kHz specs, it has a range you won’t find in the Beta- or standard 57/58 mics. We can’t wait to try these new mics out. — SK
Slate is well known in the mixing community for software replicas of coveted hardware, and now they are coupling software with hardware in an attempt to deliver what, for most people, seems like a fantasy: the Virtual Microphone System. Slate has developed a flat frequency response microphone and interface that is paired with software emulations of some of the most legendary microphones in history.
There have been attempts in the past by other companies to do this, but most were underwhelming, presumably because they allowed for any source microphone to be used, which is pretty-much pointless. Hopefully Slate will be the one to actually deliver on what seems a very promising product. We are cautiously optimistic, but very excited to test this system out. If this VMS system is anything like the other replicas Slate has developed thus far, we all do the happy dance together. Stay tuned for review coverage. — JL
We were pleasantly surprised to see that stand manufacturer Ultimate Support introduced a studio desk line. Called the Nucleus, it is priced much lower than the multi-thousand dollars furniture we usually see, and offers better quality than the all-too-often-used particle board junk. It is designed to decouple sound with textured/treated surfaces all over, and it offers attached rack space, too. We were quite impressed with the sharp looks and modular design. — JB
To see additional videos from the Winter NAMM Show 2016, please visit our YouTube channel directly at this link.