Winter NAMM Show Offers a Bit of NAB Preview

It’s not NAB or even AES, but the annual Winter NAMM Show, which took place last week in Anaheim, CA, has become a harbinger for the former and is giving the latter, according to some, a run for its money. Winter NAMM (the smaller, summer edition takes place in Nashville in July) has become the launch pad for new products from a growing number of manufacturers that see it as the year’s first real pro-audio expo. This year’s crop of introductions didn’t disappoint, especially from the live-sound and installed-sound perspectives.

JBL Professional
The VTX F Series premium line of two-way multipurpose loudspeakers is designed to add to JBL’s VTX Series line arrays. The F Series includes three models: the F12 and F15 full-range loudspeakers and the F18S subwoofer. The VTX F12 and F15 loudspeakers feature the large-format JBL D2 dual-diaphragm dual driver used in the VTX V25 full-size line-array loudspeaker and the M2 master-reference monitor. All F Series models also feature JBL’s lightweight, high-power differential-drive transducer technology.

The VTX F12 is a bi-amplified two-way enclosure that features a progressive-transition waveguide (90 x 50 degrees) and the 2262H 12-in.-diameter (3-in.) dual voice coil, neodymium differential-drive, Direct Cooled transducer. It boasts power handling (AES two-hour) of 1,000-W continuous, 4,000-W peak (low frequency) and 200-W continuous, 800-W peak (high frequency).

The F15 is a bi-amplified two-way enclosure featuring a progressive-transition waveguide (90 x 50 degrees) and the 2265H 15-in.-diameter (3-in.) dual voice coil, neodymium differential drive, Direct Cooled transducer. It offers power handling (AES two-hour) of 1,000-W continuous, 4,000-W peak (low frequency) and 200-W continuous, 800-W peak (high frequency).

Launched at Winter NAMM, the single-channel WMS420 wireless system is designed for smaller venues, such as schools, town halls, and houses of worship. It features the SR420 UHF stationary receiver with two external and detachable antennas on the rear side and BNC connectors at standard 50 ohms. The HT420 handheld transmitter’s and PT420 pocket transmitter’s charging contacts, like the AKG WMS470’s, are compatible with the AKG CU400 charging station.

Blue Sky
For monitor speakers, Blue Sky announced the worldwide debut of its newest monitoring solution, the Star System One 2.1, comprising a single Sub 12D digital-powered subwoofer and two Sat 6D digital satellite speakers. The system offers advanced-design Class D amplifiers that maintain audio performance at levels equal or superior to Class AB amplifier designs. A new Audio Management Controller (AMC) optimizes and controls a wide array of functions across the entire monitoring system.

The AMC is a 5.1/7.1 digital processor with 31-band parametric EQ on each channel, time delays for channel alignment as well as lip-sync, sample-rate conversion, and both analog and digital inputs and outputs. The AMC’s hybrid touch/hardware remote control provides solo, mute, presets, master volume, and other functions. Some setup functions, including room EQ, are accomplished in conjunction with a PC attached via the AMC’s USB port. The measurement and room EQ program uses a proprietary equalization-optimization system called BOO (Binary Organic Optimization). Room measurement can be accomplished with the built-in measurement tools or imported from third-party systems. The Sat 6D is designed primarily for use in a 2.1 or 5.1 system but is also capable of being deployed very effectively as a full-range system, thanks to DSP and a sealed-port design. (Blue Sky/Group One Ltd. VP of Sales Chris Fichera says the new monitors are expected to be part of the specification for the next generation of remote trucks built by a major builder for a major-network client this year. Names will be disclosed later.)

On the console front, Vi Version 4.8 software is a substantial new update for Soundcraft Vi1, Vi2, 4, and 6 consoles. The most significant of the new features is the upgrade of the busing system on Vi1, Vi2, 4, and 6 to allow all 32 of the console’s mix buses to work in stereo mode when required — without stealing any other buses — to allow use as in-ear mixes. In addition, a new source-selection switch allows each individual aux or group bus send from channels to be sourced from four different points in the signal path: post-fade, post-EQ and dynamics, pre-dynamics but post-EQ, and pre-EQ and dynamics. Other features include stereo mode for matrix buses (including up to eight stereo matrices on the Vi1); post-fade insert points for automixer insertion on Vi2, 4, and 6; and colored channel-label backgrounds. A new enhanced-aux VCA system allows monitor engineers to selectively use VCA mixing within a monitor mix.

Winter NAMM was the first West Coast presentation in a trade show of SSL’s Live, the company’s first console for live sound production. Sporting a tablet-style multi-gesture touchscreen, Live offers 976 inputs and outputs and 192 full-processing audio paths at 96 kHz. All processing is built into the console surface as well as a collection of I/O connectivity built into the frame. A full range of stagebox I/O connects to the console via MADI, with the potential for larger systems to make use of SSL’s own Blacklight technology, which carries up to 256 channels of bidirectional audio and control via a single fiber connection.

New TouchMix digital mixers put 12-20 channels of audio on their screens, along with comprehensive dynamics, graphic EQ, hi-pass, lo-pass, and notch filters. TouchMix also has ample stage-monitor mixing capability. Both models can drive multiple wired stereo in-ear monitors directly. What TouchMix also has — and this will endear it to HOW users — is a choice of Advanced Mode operation, enabling total control over all parameters, or Simple Mode, which provides essential controls only, giving churches with a wide range of expertise a lot of flexibility. There’s other help for novice or harried users: for example, an onboard Effects Wizard, which guides users through the process of selecting and assigning appropriate effects, and the Gain Wizard, which continuously monitors and displays input clipping. An extensive library of complete mixer scenes is also included, and all user parameters of any mix can be saved, both internally and via USB drive.

The new M32 is an affordable 40-input digital mixer with a host of connectivity options, including an onboard 32×32 USB interface for real-time tracking and multiple expansion cards — such as ADAT, MADI, and Dante — available for digital networking. The $5,000 desk is 96-kHz-ready and features 192-kHz AD/DA converters.

Lots of iPad integration was on display at the show. Focusrite’s iTrack Dock comprehensive studio-quality Lightning iPad recording interface features dual Focusrite microphone preamps plus two line inputs and an instrument DI, independent stereo monitor and headphone outputs, and a USB port for class-compliant MIDI instruments and controllers. The iTrack Dock provides everything required to record, monitor, and control music on the iPad with digital conversion at up to 24-bit, 96-kHz sampling. (It even charges and powers the iPad at the same time.)

And Behringer’s new X18 digital mixer, designed specifically for use with the iPad, with 18-input/12-bus portable mixer, comes with Midas-designed mic preamps. An onboard virtual FX rack is loaded with models of famous processors, such as the Lexicon 480L, PCM70, and Pultec EQs and Teletronix and Fairchild compressors. Access is provided to four onboard true-stereo (eight mono) multi-effects processors, such as delay, chorus, dynamics, and more. Plus, the X18 can run production-quality, true-stereo reverbs concurrently with 31-band GEQ. Built-in WiFi connectivity provides direct tablet control over the mixer’s functions, without the need to set up and configure an external router.

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