NAB 2010: Audio Round-up in a Video World

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The year 2010 marked, for better or worse, my fourth consecutive National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention. It was, for the industry's sake, good to see larger crowds than I remember from the past couple years, and, at the very least, there seemed to be more “excitement” in the air. In particular, 3-D was all the rage (and, should you be interested, 2009 was notable for DSLR Video, 2008 for The Great Recession and 2007 for Final Cut Studio and The Red Camera). It was as though most companies had, overnight (post-Avatar), transitioned their entire business model to remodeling your favorite sporting event or video game. I was skeptical at first, thinking 3-D sounded a bit “gimmicky,” but that all faded away the moment I laid my bespectacled eyes on the massive 3-D purposed screen in Sony's booth. It appears the third dimension really does make all the difference.

Otherwise, here are some new products that stood out in Pro-Audio:

Firstly are Sennheiser's HMD26 Headsets. These lightweight yet rugged broadcast headphones are special purposed for noisy environments. The HMDs feature closed supra-aural ear-cups that reject a hefty 25dB of outside noise. You can even employ the NoiseGard feature on the HMDC model for an additional 18dB of attenuation. And while your environment is ensured to be faint, the headphones themselves are capable of getting loud – up to 105dB – and come with ActiveGard limiting technology to transparently eliminate peaks. The HMD 26 line also incorporates a dynamic hypercardioid microphone (with a specially designed windscreen) for the ultimate in voice-isolation. The gooseneck can be employed on both the left and right sides – and mutes when when adjusted to be vertical. Last but not least, the HMD 26s are comfortable too.

Next up is the Blue Series from JK Audio. As the name implies, these devices allow users to harness Bluetooth technology for some common wireless applications.

 For starters, the JK BlueDriver F3 offers the ability to transmit signal from a dynamic microphone – or your mixing console's microphone level output – to your Bluetooth enabled cell-phone or headset. You can additionally use the Blue Driver F3's stereo mini output to make a recording of the microphone (left channel) and the blue tooth return signal from the cell-phone or headset (right channel). Conversely, reach for the BlueDriver M-3 if you want to feed your Bluetooth enabled cell-phone or headset into one of your mixer's mic inputs while, all-the-while, transmitting your mixer's headphone output back to your cell-phone or headset.

If, however, you need to use your Bluetooth cell-phone or headset to replace a wired headset (as part of an intercom system) then you will be interested in the BlueSet series. Plug these into your Party-line (PL) belt pack and – as with the BlueDriver – expect up to 33feet of transmission and enjoy the ability to make a recording of your microphone and Bluetooth return signals. Battery performance is also strong with up to 10 hours of performance from a USB rechargeable internal Lithium Ion battery.

Cable Techniques subsequently impressed me with two new handy offerings. The first is their RX Emergency. If you find yourself in desperate need of an extra wireless feed but don’t have the available input on your for 3,4 or 5-channel Sound Devices Mixer you can now connect your wireless receiver’s line output to the RX Emergency for subsequent injection into your Sound Devices’ mix bus by way of its “Mix-Input.” You now have what amounts to an extra channel on your mixer -- and you can rest assured you won't find a less expensive option for more Sound Devices. Cable Techniques also released its Battery Bud II. Reach for one should you need a small, rugged solution for distributing DC power from a single battery source to up to 5 devices by way of a standard Hirose 4-pin connection.  

While drooling over the aforementioned three-dimensional display in the Sony booth, I also managed to spot a few other new Sony attractions. The first was the Sony DWM-01/C31 digital wireless handheld condenser microphone. It employs a hypercardioid pickup pattern, a 60Hz-20kHz frequency response, a 151dB input level and a choice of 1, 10 or 50 mW output gain. Two AA batteries afford approximately 5 hours of UHF power. Reach for the DWM-01/F3142 if you prefer a dynamic microphone (up to 18kHz). Either way, both can be used with the Sony DWR-R01D42 dual-channel, rack-mountable digital wireless diversity receiver. This 48kH/24 bit unit features digital modulation for reliable and secure/encrypted transmission with less interference – along with up to 50% more wireless channels, with both clear channel and active channel scan functions for easier setup. You can also control your transmitters remotely from the front panel and remotely monitor the DWR-R01D42's paramaters from a Windows PC. As if that isn't professional enough, there's additionally Word Synch i/o, AES3 digital and analog outputs and the ability to cascade up to 8 units enabling more than 16 channels to operate simultaneously. You can then reach for the AN01Antenna should you need to add up to 18 dB of gain to increase range and minimize interference. (Note that you need two AN01s for a diversity reception – i.e the DWR-R01D42). Finally, Sony suggests the RMU-01 Remote Control for controling up to 82 digital wireless transmitters in one system (9 per RMU-01) at up to 32feet in distance, all over a remote control network for use with one or more DWR-R01D42 receivers.

I would have to say K-Tek's 3-section Mini Boompoles probably won the "cute" category. Reasonably priced, the Graphite model (KX-26) expands from 12 to 26 inches while the Aluminum model (KX-24) extends from 12 to 24 – both just right for adding a little reach into your sonic task. You can then accesorize with a K-Tek Quick Connect for – just like the name promises – quickly connecting your 3/8 thread-accepting gear to K-Tek "spuds" for connection to the Quick Connect's base – which is in turn connected to a boompole or any other "universal" 3/8" mount. Should you also need to mount something to Velcro, K-tek now offers a flat-surface Velcro Shoe Plate for affixing wireless receivers, portable field recorders and the like to your camera by way of its hot shoe. Sometimes it's the little things that make the big difference.

Or it's just the big things. Lectrosonics debuted their Quad Pack for housing two Lectrosonics dual-channel SR receivers. The Quad Rack then offers 4 mini XLR outputs and DC inputs for power. It's a very handy way to consolidate and distribute your wireless feeds while using some of the best gear on the market. 

With that, I paid one more visit to the Sony booth in time to catch a final 3-D soccer match on the drive-in-movie sized screen. The big voice in the Las Vegas Convention center sky then announced the end of the show, to the relief of everyone, especially those working it. Leaving I couldn't help but wonder what the “hot” trend will be for NAB 2011. Any guesses?