Audio / News

NAMM 2016 in Review: The Products You Need to Know


The 2016 Winter NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) has come and gone and there’s a ton of new products from pro audio, consumer audio, and instrument manufacturers slated for release. We’ve covered most of the “talk of the town” leading up to and during the event. In this roundup, we’ve culled some great products that may not have shown up on your radar.

Warm Audio: An LA-2A for the Rest of Us

It seems the world cannot get enough of the classic optical tube compressor, originally released in the late 1950s and a unit that is as desirable as ever due to its ability to deliver smooth, “warm” compression for vocals and bass, among other instruments. The slow, gentle, and versatile multi-stage release time has graced many a hit record, a sound that relies heavily on its unique optical photo cell. The one drawback to possessing an original, or even some of the modern recreations, has been the cost of ownership, but a recent announcement by an appropriately named company, Warm Audio has set about to change the equation.

True to the original design, the WA-2A uses the classic four-tube design, with dual transformers and the optical photo cell. For transformers, Warm Audio turned to Cinemag, a company highly regarded in the high-end audio community for its expertise in that department. As for the delicate enclosure, packed with photo resistors and a luminescent panel, Warm chose Kenetek, widely regarded as a premier maker of opto-cells. The WA-2A, along with its completely discrete signal path and through-hole component topology, allows the new addition to the company’s lineup to challenge firmly the notion that premium audio quality has to be expensive.

—Jurek Ugarow

Manley Offers the Nu Mu and Elop+ Dynamics Processors

Always a trusty source of top-notch rackmount units, Manley is unveiling two new compressor/limiter combos which B&H is proud to offer. Let’s take a look!

The Nu Mu is a dynamics processor featuring a hybrid tube/solid-state design, giving you the best of both worlds. It’s dual-channel, capable of compression and limiting, and offers Manley IRON input transformers. The Nu Mu comes stocked with four matched 6BA6 vacuum tubes for ultimate smoothness, while an HIP circuit allows the subtle lifting of soft dynamic material without crushing those loud, powerful sections. With switchable back-lit meters, balanced connection points, and linkable channels, this unit is sure to be a hit with hit-makers everywhere, so look for this item on the master buss of a chart-topping single near you.

The Elop+ also features Manley’s IRON-balanced transformer-coupled inputs with an all-tube audio path and an electro-optical attenuation circuit to provide the pleasantly smooth tone (and gracefully musical release times) characteristic of optical compressors. This unit offers ratios of 10:1 and 3:1, high-pass filter buttons for the detector circuit of each channel, meters that are lit and switchable and, last but not least, linking options between both channels. So whether you need to smooth out an individual element while tracking or add some musical glue to a subgroup, the Elop+ will light your way.

—Nicholas Messitte

New Mackie Powered Subwoofer and ProDX Wireless Mixers

Mackie released several new products at the show, including the SRM1550 Powered Subwoofer and ProDX4 and ProDX8 Wireless Digital Mixers.  The SRM1550 continues the SRM legacy of being compact and affordable without sacrificing performance or capability. Designed from the ground up to be the perfect match for SRM450 and SRM350 speakers, the SRM1550 delivers 1200W of power paired with a custom high-output 15" woofer for powerful, room-shaking performance. It also features a variable digital crossover that includes presets for the Mackie SRM350 and SRM450.

Expanding its line of wireless digital mixers, the 4-channel ProDX4, and 8-channel ProDX8 deliver powerful digital mixing capability with wireless control and Bluetooth streaming, complemented by an intuitive, easy-to-use interface. Great for solo performers, small bands, venues, and commercial applications, the ProDX series makes mixing simple with its single knob design, perfect for quick and easy level adjustments. For fine-tuning and total wireless control, the MixerConnect app unlocks recallable mix presets, and gives access to built-in processing like EQ and compression per channel, as well as great-sounding ReadyFX effects presets. Plus, with Bluetooth streaming, you can wirelessly play back music or backing tracks right from your phone.

—Jason Tables

Audio-Technica Offers New Headphones, In-Ear Monitors, Microphones, and Wireless Transmitters

Japanese manufacturer Audio-Technica announced a bevy of new products, including the ATH-M50xMG Professional Monitor Headphones, a limited-edition matte-gray version of its popular ATH-M50x headphones. With 45mm large-aperture drivers, sound-isolating ear cups and robust construction, the ATH-M50xMG is built for the most critical audio applications, including recording, live sound, broadcast, DJ, as well as personal music listening. The included cables and storage pouch are gray to match the headphones.

The company also debuted the new E-Series Professional In-Ear Monitors, which includes the ATH-E70, ATH-E50, and ATH-E40 models. Bringing the sonic signature of the M-Series to an in-ear design, the three models in the E-Series have been designed to answer the needs of demanding sound professionals and musicians from the studio to the stage to the DJ Booth. The flagship ATH-E70 employs three balanced armature drivers for an extended response across the entire frequency range, while the ATH-E50 is fitted with single balanced armature drivers for an accurate full-range response. The ATH-E40 has a proprietary dual-phase push-pull driver design that improves fidelity and efficiency. E-Series headphones are compatible with A-T’s M2 and M3 in-ear monitor wireless systems.

The ATM230, a new addition to the Artist Series line was announced, a new hypercardioid dynamic instrument microphone, made for capturing drums and percussion. The mic’s proprietary capsule is designed to excel in high SPL applications, delivering full, well-rounded audio with an accurate low end. The hypercardioid polar pattern reduces pickup of sounds from the sides and rear, improving isolation of desired sound source. It also sports a low-profile design, which allows for a wide variety of placements. The ATM230 is ideally suited for miking toms, snare, and other percussion instruments.

A-T also introduced the Artist Elite AE2300 Dynamic Cardioid Instrument Microphone, which features a proprietary double-dome diaphragm design, giving it a high-frequency and transient response that exceeds typical dynamic microphones. With its rugged, brass metal construction, low-profile design, and ability to handle high SPLs, the AE2300 is a versatile performer, great for guitar amps, brass, woodwinds, and drums.

Last, but not least, the manufacturer showed a new desk-stand transmitter and a boundary mic transmitter, both compatible with System 10 PRO Rack-Mount and Stack-Mount Digital Wireless Systems. Designed to work with phantom-powered gooseneck condenser microphones, the ATW-T1007 System 10 Microphone Desk Stand Transmitter pairs with a System 10 digital wireless receiver to provide 2.4 GHz wireless performance. A perfect fit for conference rooms and other meeting spaces, the cardioid ATW-T1006 System 10 Boundary Microphone Transmitter likewise pairs with any System 10 PRO or System 10 digital wireless receiver to provide clear, natural sound quality with reliable wireless performance.

—Jason Tables

PreSonus ULT Series Loudspeakers

The PreSonus ULT Active Full-Range Loudspeakers combine extra-wide horizontal and focused vertical dispersion, a rotatable horn with ultra-long throw, a wood enclosure, and ample Class D power. The series is an excellent solution for mobile or permanent installations.

The ULT12, ULT15, and ULT18 make up the series, delivering outstanding speech intelligibility and natural music reproduction. Plus, the companion ULT18 active subwoofer delivers a powerful, clear, and accurate low-end punch in a compact design. Creating even coverage throughout a venue space, the speakers can be mounted vertically or horizontally for a variety of applications, such as stage monitors or FOH (Front of House). Finally, the ULT series enables the audience to hear clearly wherever they are, and is ideal for all of your sound-reinforcement applications.

—Greg Johnson

The Sennheiser HD 25 Headphone Lineup

For more than 25 years, the HD 25 has been the industry standard for a wide range of professional applications, including mixing, mastering, and DJing. Sennheiser announces a new streamlined HD25 family and introduces three models delivering the good, better, and best solutions for professional applications.

Featuring the HD25 Light, HD 25, and the HD 25 Plus, which the technical specifications and—most importantly—the sound is unchanged; however, the mechanical joint between the ear cups and the headband, and its joints, are now more solid, providing a smoother adjustment for a better fit. The HD 25 Light is offered with a simplified headband. The HD 25 will include a splayed headband and straight cable, and the HD 25 Plus comes bundled with a coiled cable, an additional straight cable, a second set of ear cushions, and a protective pouch.

—Greg Johnson

Fostex Offers Balanced Options for Tesla Headphones and Headphone Amplifier

Fostex has announced the AMS-TH-900mk2, which offers the same form and function of the original Ultra-Premium 1.5 Tesla Stereo Headphones, but with a detachable cable and a balanced cable option.

Additionally, Fostex is offering the AMS-HP-A4BL, which is an update to the HP-A4, but with a 4-pin XLR balanced headphone output. The DSD audio playback resolution has also been extended from 5.6MHz to 11.2MHz playback.

—Andrew Eisele

Numark Releases New Products for DJs/Producers

Numark has been at the forefront of DJ production technologies for more than 40 years, with a wide range of products for the hobbyist/beginner to the full-fledged professional. At this year’s NAMM convention, Numark announced six new products for 2016.

The CDMix USB is a fully self-contained DJ system featuring two complete CD/USB players with built-in effects, a mixer with cueing capabilities, two microphone inputs, an auxiliary input, balanced outputs, and dual 1/4 – 1/8" headphone jacks. Each player utilizes dedicated controls, complete with multifunction jog wheels, gain controls, 3-band EQ, and a crossfader.

The Dashboard is a high-resolution DJ display for any Serato hardware. The low-profile, three-screen display complements any existing hardware setup. Two of the screens provide moving waveforms, play head, deck, and FX status, while the third central screen offers a dedicated view of the library and is switchable to stacked parallel waveform options for simple, direct visual beat-matching. The Dashboard display offers 1:1 real-time feedback of Serato DJ, enabling DJs to close or move the source laptop, allowing for a greater focus on the music. There are currently 43 existing Serato control systems that work with Dashboard with more on the way.

The Party Mix DJ Controller ships with the industry-standard Virtual DJ LE software for a complete solution for the mobile DJ or hobbyist. The unit features eight color pads with multiple modes, including looping and sampling. The Party DJ control system offers dedicated outputs for master and cueing, as well as a 1/4" headphone jack. The on-board sync buttons automatically beat-matches, making mixing a breeze for anyone.

The Red Wave Carbon headphones offer professional-level sound from the 50mm neodymium drivers. The headphones offer a deep, potent bass response that, when combined with their high-temperature/high-power voice coils, offer a nuanced sound with detail and accuracy. The ear pads are a special, breathable protein-leather material, designed to stay comfortable and cool with no “sweating” during extended listening sessions.

The WS-100 is a digital wireless microphone system featuring a dual-antenna diversity system that ensures interference-free performance with consistent, reliable operation and no unexpected dropouts. The included wireless handheld microphone transmitter works with the dual antenna receiver utilizing 24-bit digital wireless technology for an ultra-clean pro-quality signal, which operates in the 500-980MHz frequency range. The system has a 200' operating range with a frequency response of 50 Hz to 18 kHz.

The N-Wave 580L is a desktop DJ monitoring system that consists of two compact self-powered near-field monitors, offering solid output from an enclosure that fits easily into tight spaces. Each magnetically shielded monitor features a 5.25" woofer and a 1" silk dome tweeter, powered by an integrated 40W amplifier. Additionally, the monitors offer multi-colored LED illumination with the ability to cycle or pulsate.

—Andrew Eisele

Celemony Offers Melodyne 4

For many years, Melodyne by Celemony has been go-to software for any engineer looking to tune or re-align any out-of-tune/out-of-pocket note—be it monophonic or polyphonic—into something resembling acceptability. Celemony is back with Melodyne 4, which is available in Studio, Editor, Assistant, or Essential versions.

Updates to this classic tool include a sound editor for manipulating the very overtones nestled within each note. Unlimited multi-track editing with DNA (Direct Note Access) now features two more tuning algorithms: polyphonic sustain (for strings, organs, and other sustaining agents of harmony) and polyphonic decay (for any staccato chord clusters). Additionally, a more transparent and natural polyphonic tuning process can be achieved with Melodyne 4’s  “dynamic just intonation,” which capitalizes on the ancient, ratio-based tuning method as categorized by Ptolemy (that old cut-up), only re-imagined for the digital age.

Tuning is but a mere facet of this update, with new rhythmic offerings rounding out Melodyne 4. Using Tempo Intelligence—a feature that detects tempos, key signatures, and any fluctuations thereof—you can easily beat-map a click-track to a live recording, a choice that often wins out against the alternative: tediously aligning a multi-tracked live recording to a predetermined click, thereby draining the life out of the results. Indeed, within Melodyne 4, you can use Tempo Intelligence to tame any wild tempo fluctuations while keeping the spirit of a somewhat-meandering live tempo intact.

A new single-window interface browser provides simpler, more streamlined editing, with browser and inspector windows able to be called arranged for a flexible, adaptable configuration. Also, Melodyne is now available in 64-bit.

—Nicholas Messitte

Marshall Amplifiers Offer the New Code and Mini Jubilee

The newest line from this legendary amplification company, the CODE emulates both vintage and modern Marshall tones while adding high-quality effects into the mix. Fourteen preamps, four power amps, and eight cabinets have been faithfully emulated in conjunction with Softube to offer you a powerhouse of customizable timbres. Set up your own amp-cab configuration, then add compression, stomp-box distortion, auto wah, pitch-shifter, phaser, flanger, tremolo, and chorus into your chain as you see fit. Tap-tempo delays and top-notch reverbs are also available. But wait, there’s more! Connect via Bluetooth and you can stream music from your smartphone straight to the CODE using the Gateway app. Conversely, you can hook into a computer through USB and record straight to your DAW, or use the headphone jack to ensure you’re not disturbing your neighbors. But if you want to let your neighbors know exactly how hard you rock, you can crank this amp all the way to eleven in 25-, 50-, or 100-watt combo models, as well as a 100-watt head.

An update on a 1980s classic, Marshall’s Mini Jubilee is offered in a “small box” head or combo, with both providing 20 watts of power, a full complement of tubes (or valves, for all you anglophiles out there), high/low output switching, and a built-in effects loop. Both models offer separate 4/8/16 Ohm speaker outputs, though the combo provides you one smooth speaker in the Celestion G12M. Designed and constructed at the Marshall factory in England, this amp offers the classic silver vinyl and chrome paneling of the original while keeping the same preamp circuitry from the 2555X.

—Nicholas Messitte

Eden Amplifiers Offer an Idyllic Paradise of Tones

The Terra Nova series of amplifiers is designed to give you excellent tone in a compact frame, rendering the product line a great fit for rehearsals, small venues, and recording (its DI-out ports nicely into a PA, mixing console, or recording interface). Both the TN501 and the TN226 models feature four-band EQ circuits with semi-parametric control over the midrange, an effects loop, a bass-boost circuit, high and low instrument inputs, an onboard compressor, and more.

The Euke amplifier allows Ukulele players to enjoy some of that great Eden tone by way of a 20-watt combo amplifier catered solely to their specific needs. A small amp with a great tone for fans of this Hawaiian instrument!

—Nicholas Messitte