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Home > Features > General: Winter NAMM 2015

Winter NAMM 2015 Special Report:
Recording & Live Sound


After many pre-NAMM teases, Arturia has finally released their audio interface, the AudioFuse. We knew this was coming, but with all the hype about a pro audio device, we were a bit surprised by the end result. Not rackmountable, it looks kind of like a Mac Mini: yet another square box that sits on your desk (beautifully engineered, and rock solid). Featuring four analog preamps, a pair of phono preamps, S/PDIF in/out, ADAT in/out, Word clock in/out, inserts, MIDI In/Out, a three-port USB hub, 1/8 inch and ¼ inch headphone jacks, and two sets of speaker outputs, we can’t fault Arturia for squeezing a lot into a small space—it’s pretty awesome from the features perspective, and it’s a very solid piece of kit in its rugged metal enclosure. There’s even a built-in talkback microphone, an A/B button to switch between speaker outputs, and sampling rates up to 192kHz are offered. But while there are a lot of pluses, we are still wondering if the form factor makes sense, since this would be a worthy item in any equipment rack, but the form dictates desktop studio use (and potentially a LOT of wires running across your desktop).

We previously reviewed Audio-Technica’s System 10 microphone system, which we liked overall. However, our big issue was that the form factor was a desktop box, not a rack-mountable professional device. It was great to see that Audio-Technica has now upped the ante with their System 10 PRO wireless system. Audio-Technica’s System 10 PRO rack-mount digital wireless system provides the same operation in the 2.4 GHz range as the original System 10 but with expanded features. The innovative, half-rack chassis is equipped to house two receiver units that can be operated locally or released from the chassis and mounted remotely (up to 328 feet away) via Ethernet cable. This a very innovative design that we liked a lot. Up to five chassis (10 receiver units total) can be linked using the RJ12 cable included with each system, creating a multichannel system with the simultaneous use of up to 10 channels.
The System 10 PRO features 24-bit operation and three levels of diversity assurance: frequency, time, and space. Each System 10 PRO Rack-Mount system includes an ATW-RC13 receiver chassis with rack-mount adapters, one or two ATW-RU13 receiver units with corresponding AT8690 receiver unit mounting brackets, a joining plate (for dual-channel systems only), one RJ12 cable, one AC adapter, and one or two ATW-T1001 UniPak body-pack or ATW-T1002 handheld transmitters (or one of each).

Auralex was showing off their Deep6 line of sound absorbers. The Deep6 Low-Frequency Absorber is a 2’ x 4’ x 6” powder-coated, black steel frame-enclosed absorption device. The Deep6 Low-Frequency Absorber is specifically designed to be installed on a wall or across a vertical corner to improve low-frequency absorption throughout the room and accuracy at the mix position, but without the sonic artifacts of competing products. This acoustical treatment is for rooms where corner-fitted bass traps are not possible due to doors or windows, and provides usable broadband control down to 80 Hz. The Deep6 provides effective low frequency absorption down to 40Hz when corner mounted.

Lots of new stuff going on in the Pro Tools camp, but fortunately there’s no need to race out and upgrade if you’re already running Pro Tools 11, since Pro Tools 12 offers the same core functionality, merely expanded to address new online collaboration features detailed below.

But first things first… Pro Tools First! Avid has wisely introduced a free version of Pro Tools that saves a limited number of sessions directly into a user’s new Avid cloud account. It’s limited in some of its capabilities, but will serve well to introduce Pro Tools to young musicians who only know from the free copy of GarageBand that ships with their Macs.

Collaboration is the huge focus for new Pro Tools development, though, and Avid has built out a substantial cloud platform to make it easier than ever before for professional musicians to collaborate remotely on sessions. With Pro Tools software using the cloud as a platform in which to keep files in sync, picture this workflow:

In your studio, create a new Pro Tools session and start recording. Then, connect the session to your Avid cloud account. Pro Tools copies the files from your session into your cloud account. Next, invite collaborators to work on your session. A copy downloads onto your colleague’s computer (either the whole session or just stems or specific files that you designate). As they update the session file, new audio files as well as fader moves and all changes to the session file transfer via the cloud back into your session file. There have been third party tools attempting to streamline the collaboration process before, but this is the first time that collaboration is integrated directly into Pro Tools, and it’s also the first time we’re excited to finally move beyond the familiar DropBox/YouSendIt/FTP workflow (if you can even call that a workflow).

And finally, freeze tracks! It will finally be both fast and easy to print virtual instruments and plug-ins, essential if you are collaborating with other musicians/studios and you don’t want to worry about everyone having the same plug-ins available.

As if that’s not exciting enough, Avid is also building out a community platform/marketplace in which musicians will be able to easily find producers, engineers, and musicians running Pro Tools who are ready, willing, and able to participate in your next recording project.

Focusrite introduced the Clarett range of Thunderbolt-equipped audio interfaces, and they were a big hit among our editorial team. The new interface delivers less than 1ms of latency, so tracking straight to your host-based DAW should be extremely hiccup free, easily enabling you to take advantage of some real-time processing on the way into your session files.

The onboard preamps are new, but based on the classic ISA transformer-based mic pres. The range of interfaces from desktop to multi-channel, rack-mounted feature as much as 118dB dynamic range, and up to 24-bit, 192kHz sampling rates.

Equally exciting was the Red 2 and Red 3 plug-in suite. Based on the classic Red 2 EQ and REd 3 compressor, we’re already using these 64-bit AAX compatible plug-ins in our studio and they have become instant go-to plug-ins (especially the compressor). With or without the new Clarett preamps, these plug-ins kick ass.

What’s Gibson doing in our recording section? They were showing off the new Les Paul monitor speakers, of course! Modelled to look like the classic guitar with a flamed maple facia, they are certainly beautiful looking speakers. Coming in four, six, and eight inch sizes, and three color schemes per size, we got our first listen, and they sounded nice. They should be shipping in just a few months. Check back soon for our full evaluation and review—we want to find out in the studio if these things truly sound as good as they look.

Line 6
It’s been a while since we had something new to say about Line 6’s outstanding wireless products like the G50 and G90 (reviewed here), so it was exciting to see the introduction of the new G70 and G75 wireless instrument systems. 24-bit audio and less than 1.5ms latency, the ability to use any ¼” instrument cable, and the ability to easily add multiple transmitters to your rig so that you can leave multiple guitars or basses hooked up and ready to go are just a few of the details (which are otherwise kind of sparse for now).

We were thrilled to see the new ProD2 Direct Box: a stereo version of one of Radial’s classic direct boxes, ideal for your keyboard rig. Besides quarter inch inputs and XLR outputs, the DI also has quarter-inch passthrough jacks to run your signal to a personal amplification system if you’re still relying on one. This belongs in the back of your rack, or in your gig bag.

The new PSM300 Personal Monitoring System definitely got us excited. Priced for any musician to take advantage of in-ear monitoring, the new P3T transmitter offers mono or stereo operation with a clever broadcasting scheme: 24-bit digital audio gets sent to your choice of bodypack receiver via an analog transmission. We would opt for the more feature-rich, rugged, metal, P3RA bodypack receiver over the base P3R if budget allows. Among the enhancements, the P3RA can use Shure’s SB900 rechargeable battery power. Say goodbye to AA batteries!

Also exciting to see was the new QLX-D digital wireless system. Taking advantage of a similar approach: broadcast analog, but actually transmit 24-bit digital audio, this system is capable of a 20Hz-20kHz frequency range and 120dB of dynamic range. A variety of wireless mics and an instrument bodypack are available, and it also utilizes Shure’s rechargeable battery system.

If you're new to personal monitoring systems and in-ear monitors, be sure to check out our fantastic tutorial here.

Slate Digital
Our prayers were answered this year with the release of the Virtual Console Collection 2.0. This outstanding plug-in suite does a remarkable job of infusing in-the-box recordings with the sound of analog console goodness, and we know a number of engineers who won’t mix without it. But up until now, we couldn’t use it with native Pro Tools systems. Now, there’s both RTAS and 64-bit AAX support! Look for a review soon.

Universal Audio
The ever expanding galaxy of UA software is a dream for engineers and musicians recording or mixing in the box and utilizing UA’s award-winning Apollo hardware/interfaces. With Apollo Expanded, you can now combine up to four Apollo units of any design/model, or up to six UAD-2 devices per host computer.

The upcoming UAD Software v8.0 adds OS X Yosemite (10.10) compatibility and a variety of new plug-ins. The Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808 has been faithfully modeled, and a Sound Machine Wood Works plug-in is designed to make Piezo acoustic guitar pickups sound more like studio-miked guitars, similar to the acoustic guitar modeling many players are familiar with from Fishman’s Aura direct boxes.

Antares Auto-Tune Live now provides real-time pitch correction, making it more affordable than ever before to have live pitch correction in your performances.

And finally, as if UA’s fantastic ENGL amp models weren’t good enough, UA has now introduced a collection of Friedman Amplifier plug-ins that emulate the boutique Friedman DS40 and BE100 guitar amplifiers. Sweet (tone)!



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