CES 2013: A Prelude to NAMM 2013
This week saw the beginning of the annual Consumer Electronic Show (CES) 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Typically CES is home to the latest innovations and announcements from the world of cameras, televisions, and new smart phone technology. There are however a good amount of professional audio companies that are in attendance, and these companies are there to unveil their latest generic consumer products instead the more targeted and musician/producer focused gear we see at the NAMM show. There are some very interesting audio devices coming out of CES this year and while you are desperately waiting in anticipation for all the new gear at NAMM, here are a few things to whet your appetite.
IK Multimedia has been at the forefront of developing hardware and interfaces that allow for audio recording on your computer, iPad, and iPhone. They are committed to developing tools to compliment the ever advancing technological landscape when it comes to audio capture and production. The IK Multimedia AmpliTube iRig brought us the ability to plug a guitar up to our iPhones with the popular AmpliTube app. IK Multimedia has imporved upon this design with the introduction of the iRig HD. The concept is the same but the audio quality has been improved. One of the nice advancements is that you now transport audio via the 32 pin connector for older generation iPhones as well as the new Lighting Connector on the iPhone 5. Other companies are beginning to abandon connecting their devices to the 1/8 inch headphone jack which is a welcomed improvement and will likely make these iPhone devices more useful for quality productions.
iRig Devices and iRig Recorder for Android
Apple is clearly not the only game in town and it seems IK Multimedia heard the call from other smart phone users by allowing us to use iRig MIC, iRig MIC Cast, iRig PRE, iRig MIX and iKlip STUDIO with our Android devices. In addition the iRig Recorder app is now available to Android users which is more a less a simple way to record, edit, and export some quick ideas, interviews, and any other recording application you can imagine. There isn’t much new in whats going on here with the construction and fidelity of the iRig devices, but for Android users that have been waiting for the day when all these Apple-centric devices make the move to cross platform, your wait is finally over. This leads one to predict that at the NAMM Show 2013 we will probably see a lot of the popular Apple specific products beginning to be integrated with Android and others.
iLine Mobile Music Cable Kit
Because IK Multimedia centers many of their products around utilizing the headphone jack on tablets and smart phones, their release of a kit with every cable you could ever need to make those connections is very cool. This is not only a great kit for those that use the iRig devices, but its a great kit to have for any audiophile who struggles to find these type of conversion cables. Personally I like to have every type of cable and converter at my disposal so this kit looks to be something in my studio and should be in yours too. Especially if you like to use apps on on your tablet or phone and want to incorporate them in an easy way into your studio production. While many of these cables already exist out there they are typically sold individually. IK Multimedia will be shipping these as kits for $59.99, as well as individual units in February 2013.
iDJ 2 Go
ION Audio came to CES 2013 with an iPad heavy showing. Most of you may recognize the iDJ 2 Go as being strangely similar in design to the Numark DJ2GO but this time around ION Audio has synched it up with the iPad and Algoriddim’s DJ app. Nothing new here in terms of innovation but another way for you to DJ on the move.
Scratch 2 Go
If you want to talk innovation then look no further than the ION Audio Scratch 2 Go. Yes folks that’s right. You are looking at 6 knobs, 2 jog wheels, and a crossfader that suction on to your iPad for controlling DJ mixes. This is the marriage of analog touch control and tablet interfaces that we haven’t seen before outside of gaming controls, and this makes it very exciting for technology enthusiasts. In an age where many DJ’s are having the debate over what constitutes the proper way to DJ and the proper gear to do it with, this looks to blow that conversation wide open and push those on either side of the fence even further towards their respective sides of the spectrum of the debate. Again nothing really innovative here in the way of DJing, but its certainly innovative in the way it uses the iPad and opens up a new conversation amongst DJ’s, digital DJ’s, musicians, and producers when it comes to tablet technology.
All-Star Guitar Lightning
Seriously I can already hear your thoughts on this one which is probably what I heard on the Scratch 2 Go but don’t write these off too easily. iPad’s are taking the music performance and production world by storm and these types of instruments (yeah I feel safe calling them that) are the product of inevitability. You aren’t going to win any Grammies using these guys but I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw some indie electro rock band using one of these in the near future. Whatever your feelings on these iPad controllers, they are the beginnings of a technology that could see some amazing substance and longevity in the years to come. The app is free and has selections for different guitars, effects, and a function that teaches you how to play. I always love to see tools that make learning an instrument fun and easy so that once you become fully committed to the instrument, you can upgrade your gear. Although many would argue that the cost of an iPad and this controller is more expensive than a cheap acoustic to learn on, and I would agree. I think we both know who this guitar is for.
Monster Diamond Tears Headphones
While the Diamond Tears headphone line from Monster were released in 2012, they have used CES to announce new colors to the existing line as well as preview their new line of stylish headphones. Monster is synonymous with quality and fidelity as evidenced by the popular Beats by Dre. Line and of course their commitment to excellent, lifetime warranty cables. Headphone technology seems to have run its course for the time being which is why Monster opted for style rather than innovative fidelity. You can find out more about the new styles for Monster headphones on their website.
Master Tracks Headphones
The Master Tracks are an upgrade from Sol Republic’s previous line of Tracks headphones and according to the floor reporters at CES, provide better fidelity, more sound isolation, and are more comfortable than their predecessors. Although Sol Republic has acknowledged that these are not meant to be the preeminent headphones for the best audio, they are an affordable choice for those looking for a stylish and quality headphone choice. Look for these headphones to begin shipping towards the end of February 2013.
With a price tag of $999, these certainly look to be the most expensive ear buds on the market but Sennheiser claims that these are the best sounding ear buds period. While the IE 800s have been around since late 2012, Sennheiser have been showcasing them more and more. The design allows for better sound isolation and a clearer response without the unwanted distortion that often plagues ear buds. We’ll leave it up to you guys to determine if they are worth the price tag.
Nessie USB Microphone
With a built in pop filter and shock mount, the Nessie from Blue Microphones is another step forward in quality USB microphones from a company that has been developing solid microphones for smart phones, tablets, and computers. The Nessie looks to alleviate extra time spent mixing and EQing your audio recordings. It has three recording modes including vocals, instrument, and raw audio. You also have controls for headphone volume and Blue touts this as having zero latency headphone monitoring. No word yet when this will be hitting stores but it looks like it will only set you back around $100.
We have now come to the one piece of gear at CES that has got me the most excited. With a plethora of devices out there that connect to the iPhone and iPad for audio recording, this looks to be the first professional instance of audio capture devices for Apple’s smart phone and tablet. It records in 24 bit/96k, has a pair of matched cardioid condenser microphones in an XY pattern, and connects to your Apple device via the 32 pin connector. RODE has also developed an app called RODE Rec. for adjusting input levels and a high pass filter to control your audio signal in the field. There are also equalization effects, geo and photo tagging (awesome), and one touch publishing to SoundCloud, Dropbox, email, FTP and iTunes. This looks to be the one field recorder that can please any user from the student recording lectures, DSLR filmmaker recording field audio, or the music fan recording live shows or impromptu ideas, all with amazing audio fidelity. I will have to get my hands on one to determine if all the hype is true but if it is true, this looks to be one heck of an innovation for portable field recorders. No word on the exact price just yet but the RODE iXY will be shipping this month.
What to expect at NAMM 2013
CES says a lot about the age we live in when it comes to consumer electronics, but will NAMM have a similar message at their show this January? Scott Steinberg at Rolling Stone brings up some fascinating points about our culture favoring instant gratification and practicality over performance at CES 2013. This couldn’t be more true with the types of audio products announced at this years CES, but NAMM will of course bring us those professional products that make the annual event so exciting for gear heads and audiophiles. With that said, the smart phone and tablet look to be the stars of the show when it comes to new products coming out in 2013 and if ION Audio’s Scratch 2 GO is a preview of the types of products featured at NAMM this year, we will surely see the smart device market exploding with touch screen goodies. In addition I think Scott is on to something here with the instant gratification and practicality argument. It seems that much of the gear we have seen coming from NAMM in last couple years has been geared (pun intended) towards making things streamlined, less time consuming, and in one word: easier. This is particularly useful to the musician or producer with experience who has been plagued by technology limitations in their creative endeavors. Conversely this has a negative effect on those with less experience who see these new tools as a way to curtail education in favor of instant gratification.
Sure there is no one proper way to do anything really, but without the core foundations associated with engineering, production, and performance, things like iPad DJ controllers and guitars, USB microphones that need no EQ, and headphones that value style over fidelity, say a lot about the current state of consumer and popular culture. We want it now and we don’t want to do anything over again. We don’t want to make mistakes ever because it takes too much time to learn from them. This discussion started with digital recording, went further with auto-tune, and has now seeped into the lexicon of professional audio equipment manufacturers with catch all terms like “ease-of-use”, “great for beginners”, and “plug-and-play.” Of course we want things to work, but some of us are still excited by the prospect of being challenged. This is not to berate those with limited experience because we all have to start somewhere, its more of an open-ended question about how far audio technology can progress before a struggle for sublime creativity is as easy as pushing a button. NAMM 2013 will have all the products that can get the beginner plugged and playing with ease right out of the box, but there will surely be those gems which push technology forward without making it so mundane and elementary. With optimism running through our veins we will cover everything under the sun at NAMM because for gear heads like us, we love it all.
We will be doing live reports from the NAMM 2013 Show this year so be sure to check the links listed below for all the latest updates from NAMM 2013.