2012 Winter NAMM Tech Highlights

While Anaheim is most famous for attracting hoards of children to Disneyland each year, this past weekend the “adults” of the music world got to take over for a long weekend.

The enormous Anaheim Convention Center was absolutely packed with virtually every gear and instrument manufacturer that one could imagine. As I had never been to a Winter NAMM show this was a great treat for me, and I had an awesome day walking around and chatting with representatives from some of my favorite companies. My only complaint was the fact that, pathetically, my legs were sore the next day!

This year at NAMM there were quite a few big announcements from some major players in the audio world, along with the typically exciting spread for musicians, so without further ado… let’s discuss:

Universal Audio

In the past ten years, Universal Audio (UA) has a come a long way, not only continuing to make their classic hardware products, but also creating one of the best lines of plug-ins that’s out there right now. They’ve really embraced the DAW age, and in the process have created what most engineers and producers now consider an essential part of their creative toolset. This year there was a lot of buzz surrounding UA’s release of their first foray into the world of multi-channel audio interfaces: Apollo.

The Apollo interface is feature-packed: Offering 18×24 inputs and outputs, it will work at sample rates up to 192 kHz and connects to the user’s CPU via either Firewire 800 or Thunderbolt. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Apollo’s functionality is that it is also loaded with either the UAD DUO or QUAD DSP cards, so you’ll also be able to run the full complement of UAD plug-ins when using the interface.

Apollo can also be completely software controlled, and UA has built a fantastic software interface that works seamlessly with most DAWs. For the first time, UAD users will be able to use their coveted plug-ins with near zero latency! Not only that, but you are now able to track with as many DSP-powered plug-ins as you like, and you also have the option to print the processed tracks as you record; with less than 2 ms of input latency. The system is naturally instantly recallable, and in the demos that I saw, is very solidly incorporated with the user’s choice of DAW.

Apollo w/ laptop. Available in both DUO CORE ($1,999) and QUAD CORE ($2,499) processing in this first quarter of 2012.

In addition to the Apollo interface, UA also announced a new Direct Development partner for their UAD-2 platform: Sonnox. As with other third-party developers like Brainworx and SPL, this partnership means that Sonnox will be able to directly create software for the UAD platform, and to sell these plug-ins via UA’s online store.

I was also assured by Lev Perrey, UA’s Director of Product Management, that AAX and 64-bit versions of all of the UAD plug-ins are a top priority, and that they should be ready by the end of the year.

Slate Pro Audio / Slate Digital

I was excited to see some big surprises here! Steven Slate was on hand to announce three big new products, two of which were completely unexpected. First of all, the new Raven X1 Production Console was introduced.

The Raven is a unique console and control surface solution for DAW users. It is, essentially, a monitor and cue section loaded into a 32-channel frame. Along with racks for favorite gear, the Raven also ships with 4 Avid Artist Mix controllers pre-loaded, as well as an LCD monitor, metering, and a unique set of laptop-style monitors built into the surface. This is definitely a cool (and more cost effective) alternative to Avid’s D-Control and Command control surfaces.

While price is still TBD on the Raven, and the model on the show floor was just the prototype, Slate Pro Audio assures the first consoles will start shipping in 60 days.

Designed for the new age of audio production

Next up from Slate was the new Siren D3 Monitoring system. The Siren is a 1,000 watt 3-way monitor speaker with a phase-linear DSP-powered crossover. The coolest thing about these monitors is that the user can alter the crossover settings remotely using an iPhone app; different speaker response characteristics can be easily emulated by changing the way the crossover works. This feature essentially gives the user several different types of monitors all in the same package.

Slate Pro Audio's new Siren D3 Monitoring system

Last but not least was Slate’s new tape emulation plug-in, called the VTM (Virtual Tape Machine). Although tape emulations have been a bit de-rigueur over the past few years I’m definitely excited to hear what this one sounds like. The VTM models two machines, a 16 track 2”, and a 2 track 1/2”, and according to Slate, every aspect of the machines’ characteristics were gone over. In fact, Slate’s CTO, Fabrice Gabriel went as far as to say that the algorithm they used was “bloody” in its complexity: sounds good to me!

Pricing/availability on the Siren D3 and Slate Digital VTM plug-in have not yet been announced. Stay tuned!

Dangerous Music

Over at Dangerous Music, the major news was their brand-new monitor controller called the Dangerous Source.

Dangerous designed the Source with portability in mind, incorporating the components and build quality of their other monitor controllers into a smaller box. This is a desktop or rack installable unit providing monitor control for up to two pairs of speakers and headphones with digital, analog and USB sources. Especially notable here is that this is a “Dangerous”-ly well-crafted product at a sub 1k price point!

The Source has two headphone outs, a USB-in for use of Dangerous’ superior D/A converters in place of a traditional I/O interface, and multiple digital and analog inputs (including an 1/8’ in). An especially interesting feature, which you’ll be hard-pressed to find in another small-footprint monitoring solution, is the inclusion of four monitor outputs that can all be used at the same time if desired; users can monitor on two sets of different speakers, or incorporate a subwoofer as a supplement to one set of speakers. The Source will begin shipping in the 2nd quarter of 2012.

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  • Glowbot the Jew

    Amazing! Congrats and Keep producing