Winter NAMM just ended and as usual there’s a lot to talk about. I’ll be covering the various new products and oddities over the next few days, as well as a big picture overview on my podcast.The show was generally filled with enthusiasm and everyone was feeling pretty prosperous. Hope it stays that way in the age of Trump, as things could fall apart quickly if we get into a trade war with China. Let’s dig in.
On the audio side of things, this was a show dominated by in-ear monitors. So many companies large and small are trying to get into the space (even Fender), that the future on stage amplifiers and floor monitors is looking pretty dim. I won’t even begin to touch on that here because we could spend a couple of days just on the subject, but I did see one outstanding product in the space that I’ll cover on the next New Music Gear Monday.
Let’s get into the audio products at NAMM, in no particular order. Some of them might not be exactly new, but I never spent much time looking at them before so they’re new to me.
Probably the coolest audio product that I saw was the new Maag Audio Magnum K compressor. Cliff Maag (who’s a great engineer, by the way) has been talking about this for a while, and it’s now a reality. What makes this compressor so different is that it’s really 4 units in 1. It has a standard compressor with most of the features you’d expect, which feeds into another special compressor just for the midrange, with a EQ 2 in parallel to put back the lows and highs that might be lost during compression. Finally there’s a soft limiter on the output. Sounds wonderful. It’s around $2,400 for a single channel, but no other compressor on the market does what this one will do.
I love JST plugins and Joey Sturgis has come up with a couple of great new ones. The first is Soar, which is a very realistic tape echo, and the second is Toneforge which may be the best, most intelligently laid out guitar simulator on the market. There are a lot of parameters in Toneforge that can be tweaked, but they’re all easy to get to and just make sense the way they’re presented, which can’t be said for many other similar plugs. Toneforge is available for a NAMM special of just $79. Soar will be released later in the Spring.
Lynx showed its new Aurora (n) interface, which will go up to 32 channels in a single U rack mount unit, in 8 channel increments. It can be connected via USB, Dante, Pro Tools HD or Thunderbolt. The prices start at $2,799 up to about $6,600 with all the options, which is pretty good for that many channels of high quality conversion.
Apogee showed a neat little device called the Groove that’s one of the best sounding computer headphone amps you’ll ever hear. It connects via USB and can handle sample rates up to 192kHz. It can be found for around $265.
On the speaker front, Barefoot Sound showed their new Footprint01’s, which sounded great. There’s so much sound coming from such a small speaker that it’s hard to believe, especially on the bottom end. They’re only around $3,400, which is a pretty good price for this quality of speaker.
Chandler Limited presented the new RS124 compressor, which is a reproduction of the Abbey Road version of the old Altec 436C compressor. EMI boffins did a lot of technical upgrades to the original Altec unit and rechristened it the RS124, and now you have have that same legendary sound for around $2,900. The company also showed its REDD .47 mic preamp, a reproduction from the famous Abbey Road tube consoles, which is available for around $2,300.
Speaking of tubes, Teegarden Audio presented its Fatboy DI and Magic Pre 4100 mic preamps. I love tube mic DI’s, and most bass players agree that they’re really hard to beat. This one goes for around $700.
Nugen Audio showed one of the coolest plugins at the show with its Mastercheck Pro. The plugin goes across your master buss and will tell you the best settings for numerous distribution sources like Youtube, Spotify, Pandora and just about anything else you can think of. Not only that, it will also send it through the appropriate codec so you can hear what your mix might sound like on the service so you can adjust accordingly. This seems like it should be a must have for today’s mixer. It’s available for $149 until the end of the month.
Warm Audio had a number of new products, starting with the updated WA-12 MKII ($469) that now has an output control and socketed chips, the WA-412 ($1,199) with 4 channels of old-style API preamps, and the WA-87 U 87 clone. At just $599 it’s hard to beat if it sounds as good in the studio as it did on the show floor.
Speaking of mics, EveAnna Manley revealed her new Manley Silver tube mic. It will retail for around $4,000 when it begins to ship later in the year. It falls directly between the company’s Reference Cardioid and Reference Mono Gold mics.
MOTU demonstrated some new additions to its audio interface family, as did Slate Digital with its VRS-8. The company also had a new virtual mic, the MLS-2, which is the first with a small diaphragm.
That’s it, more on NAMM tomorrow.