NAMM 2006 Highlights


A good example of the amalgam of music and computer technology is the new Miko product from Open Labs. It has an AMD single or dual core CPU inside, runs XP, includes a keyboard, 15' LCD touch screen, high quality faders, 24/96 audio I/O, firewire, Ethernet and USB connections. It even includes some video editing capabilities and a DVD burner. That's a whole lot of stuff packed into a portable package expected to hit the street this spring for under $2k. The Open Labs web site greets new visitors with this claim in bold letters, 'Time to Ebay all your crap.' If the Miko performs like they claim it does look for a rush on the Help-You-Sell-It outlets.

Sony Media Software unveiled ACID Pro 6, the latest rev of its cut and past loop production tool. However, it's no longer just about the samples. ACID Pro 6 is now a full-featured DAW with multitrack, MIDI and looping capabilities. But Sony isn't abandoning its loop library. Not even close. The company is investing in making it more realistic by having world-class musicians play along with existing libraries to create an even greater catalog of musical phrases that lock together. Bassist Tony Franklin was on hand to sell his new library of riffs that lock to other loop libraries. The end result is more musical sounding building blocks to use in ACID Pro 6. ACID was launched in 1998 and has been building quite a following. With Intel now inside the Mac this program may even go cross platform. If that happens, Apple's ACID rip-off, Garage Band, won't look so cool anymore. ACID 6 Pro combined with Sony's Vegas Video environment is a very potent combination.

Roland had its own hanger at the NAMM show with the complete lineup of Roland audio and video gear. Roland products are so cool because you can walk up to them and immediately start making noise. From synths, to electronic drums to electronic pianos Roland makes professional gear that's fun and easy to use. Roland's Edirol division was at the show with its latest video gear including video synthesizers and samplers. If you can synthesize, sample and manipulate audio why not do the same thing with video' I could have spent a day with the Edirol equipment alone. This is going to be huge in the clubs as DJs integrate live video samples into their shows.

DJs were once looked down upon by musicians but now get equal play and are a key market of music merchants worldwide. A DJ's life just keeps improving with the advent of digital gear that allows for more performance options and less stuff to haul around. The Electro Voice ZX-4 and ZX-5 series of speakers combined with a subwoofer can fill any hall with sound and don't require a trailer to transport. Cortex, a new spin-off of Gemini unveiled a hybrid CD/LP unit for modern DJs that don't want to give up the vinyl. The company will soon launch a very cool MP3 rack mount and table top controller that can access any kind of storage device for mixing. For example, instead of a box of records a DJ could bring a few USB hard drives and mix, scratch, pitch shift, sample, loop'etc all from a high quality MP3 collection. This is much cooler than using a PC because if the operating system in the PC takes a dump you're SOL. Plus the multiple external hard drives offers some redundancy in case one fails. Nothing like showing up to the gig with no music. Uh..yeah..um..well my &#*#& crashed. Not good. Hercules was also showing a consumer friendly desktop unit running XP for mixing both audio and video files.

There were lots of gadgets for recording musicians, the cheapest being a simple USB preamp. Guitarists can now jack right into the PC using a USB cable. The cable has a standard guitar jack on one side and USB plug on the other. The cable includes a preamp circuit so the audio coming into the PC is ready for recording. This is very convenient for laying down quick ideas without having to set up any gear. Educational titles will also be able to benefit from this. Software can analyze what the student is playing.

Frontier Designs had a wireless control unit for tracking in a DAW program. A solo musician laying down tracks will be very happy with one of these. USB controllers are common but have to be relatively close to the PC to work. With wireless, a musician could lay down tracks in another room away from all the heat and noise from the recording equipment. Bands will be able to lay down tracks for demos more easily without being tethered to a computer.

Visit Open Labs for more information about the Miko, our funkyfresh pick for NAMM 2006.

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