First up: Fender is NOT going public after all. I’m not used to hearing about Stratocasters on prime time TV and NPR, but I’ve been inundated with the news (known for some time now) that Fender’s IPO launch was imminent. What that meant to me was that Fender, with its history of success and growth, had arrived at the next logical step for a company of this size and with this kind of critical mass. Now, what it meant to my reactionary friend was something along the lines of The Death of Quality. “It’s 1965 and CBS all over again!” laments my doomsaying friend. But this is, of course, nonsense. Or more specifically, it’s a case of “correlation does not imply causation.” Just because some people perceived a dip in quality (though perhaps it was really “collectability”) after CBS bought Fender in the mid-’60s (which, let's not forget, was, 47 years ago) doesn't mean it was because of the acquisition.
In any case, the point is academic because Fender withdrew their IPO just recently, citing unfavorable market conditions. This seems completely reasonable and there's no reason not to take it at face value. Sure, going public would have meant that Fender be more transparent, but that shouldn't affect anything regarding the instruments they make. The best hedge Fender has against failure—in markets strong and soft—is producing quality product. I think they’re on solid ground in that regard, as demonstrated by their continuing ability to produce great guitars and amps, keep them affordable, and maintain the supply chain across all their lines. If the market wasn't favorable, they can always try again at a later time.
The second bit of news is that Avid is divesting some of its brands, most notably M-Audio. As a home recordist and multi-instrumentalist with big ears and wee finances, I am a huge M-Audio fan. They produce affordable gear that may not be at the top tier, but is quality stuff nonetheless. I have never, ever, ever had a project returned to me because it was recorded on M-Audio gear versus higher-fidelity (and more expensive) components. My favorite M-Audio piece has been my Fast Track Ultra. It is lightweight yet solid (I’ve been plugging into and out of it on a daily basis for years), and yields great sound. The most important aspect, though, is that I just enjoy using it and looking at it. It blends just the right combination of aesthetics, control layout, feature set (including insert points, which are a must for mobile and unpredictable recording situations), and overall gestalt that draws me to it time after time.
So the fact that M-Audio has found a new home with inMusic—the folks who also provide corporate shelter to Akai, Alesis, and Numark—is reassuring news to me. If M-Audio must leave Avid, inMusic is exactly where they should go. (inMusic is also acquiring AIR, formerly Wizoo, too.) Last week I reviewed the Akai EIE Pro Interface, a canny combination of well laid-out features, clean sound, and appealingly retro design (complete with VU meters—gotta love that in a digital interface!). It’s the same principles that unite Akai, Alesis, and Numark. Hmm ... I think my Fast Track is getting jealous. I’m thinking of having it and the EIE slug it out for studio dominance.
The third piece of news is that the tablet wars have entered a new, smaller theater: the 7-inch paradigm. Now, I love my iPad, but for many mobile situations it’s still too big, too heavy, and seemingly too fragile. Conversely, my 7-inch ebook reader is perfect for one-hand operation and convenient toting, but is too limited functionally. Oh, if only they could get married! Well, now we have simultaneous and multiple entries in the 7-inch platform from Amazon (with the new Kindle Fire 2), Google (the Nexus 7, using the Android’s latest OS, Jellybean), and—wait for it—Apple themselves with a 7-inch iPad (something the late Steve Jobs said he’d never do). I’m hoping that companies with a considerable investment in larger formats have an easy time porting down to the smaller screen. Because I am all over a 7-inch solution for better portability, affordability and comfort.
The old curse of “May you live in interesting times” doesn’t seem to apply to music technology. In these sleepy days of mid-summer, developments in our world have been significantly interesting enough to make prime time news. And in no way is that a bad thing.
|This Week on HC|
It's all good, though, because the summer show is smaller than the massive winter extravaganza in Anaheim, so we were able to spend some quality time in the booths, and check out the gear in detail. It was definitely less hectic (I mean, who could move fast in that heat?), the vibe was mellower, and you could actually hear yourself think!
We hope you enjoyed our show coverage, but if you need to catch up, check out the Summer NAMM Trade Show Coverage forum, where you'll find the dedicated threads for photos and videos. We have over 700 photos (which have already garnered over 11,000 views!) and over 70 videos from the Show floor, so there's plenty to sink your eyeballs into.
If you're not into chatting and want a reallly efficient way to satifsy your video-viewing jones, check out HC's 2012 Summer NAMM Show YouTube channel. Viewing the playlist allows you to scan all the video titles and descriptions at a glance. But we hope you'll spend some time in the forums too, commiserating with your fellow musicians.
Please don't be shy (as if we have to tell you) about chiming in with your comments, asking questions about what we saw, and if you were at the show, giving us your impressions of this year's bash.
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|Featured Industry News|
This week's pick hits from our News section—including Summer NAMM Releases!
The new Synth Arp & Drum Pad app lets users play and produce phrases from a variety of musical genres, including dance, hip-hop, rock, and pop.
Ignite is standalone music creation software built from the ground up to enable musicians to build songs in an organic fashion. It's not just another DAW—in fact, it’s not a DAW at all.
C. F. Martin & Co. invites musicians to take a trip back in time with the introduction of the new four-piece Retro Series: D-18E Retro, D-45E Retro, HD-28E Retro, and OM-28E Retro.
In Korg’s first polyphonic tuner, a simple strum reveals the current tuning status of all strings simultaneously, saving time and effort for convenient tuning.
The PSR-E433 offers intriguing synthesizer features like an arpeggiator, complemented by all the necessary components for learning piano, including the Yamaha Education Suite, Portable Grand button, and a built-in recording function.
The DelayLab combines a wide array of modeled delay effects with multi-mode stereo looping and expressive control of all delay parameters.
Blackstar’s first signature amplifier—the Gus G. Blackfire 200—was a close collaboration with guitar hero Gus G. (Ozzy Osbourne, Firewind).
The new Kronos X features hardware technology enhancements, including a boost in the internal memory capacity and the size of its SSD, plus enhanced sampler functionality.
The newly redesigned Loudbox Performer offers increased power, improved bass response, and enhanced features in a lighter, more efficient form factor.
The ADL 700 channel strip combines a high-end, Class A tube preamplifier with a fully variable, FET-based compressor and a four-band semi-parametric equalizer.
Designed by Soldano, the Jettenuator can attenuate a tube amplifier’s output (up to 100 watts) down to a more manageable level.
Each Collection Series consists of one electric and one acoustic guitar made with the most exacting methods and the most prized components, including pernambuco necks and fingerboards.
Figure 1.1 now adds saving, browsing and loading of songs, as well as variable loop lengths and export of audio through iTunes file Sharing.
Triple Play’s slim and intuitive form factor allows fast, easy setup so guitarists can quickly get to an unlimited palette of instruments and sounds at their fingertips, all with the freedom of wireless control.
Ten of Arturia’s most popular software instruments have had a complete makeover, including 64-bit compatibility, MIDI assignment improvements, and better performance.
Earthworks has upgraded its measurement microphones to include electronic calibration files in addition to the accessories previously offered, but now at no additional cost.
Bose Professional Systems Division has expanded the range of available coverage patterns for the RoomMatch array module loudspeakers with five new patterns.
Still only occupying 1U of rack space, despite doubling its track count from 32 to 64, the BBR64-Dante now ranks alongside its 64-channel MADI sibling as one of the smallest large-scale audio capturing device currently available.
Power Tools for Reason 6 is a comprehensive book that provides a quick-start tutorial that not only gets you up and running quickly, but also delves into advanced sequencing and mixing techniques.
Featuring 168 assignable inputs with 32 fully programmable high-end mic preamps and 16 configurable mix buses, the X32 is one of the most affordable full-function digital mixing consoles.
A few of this week's top discussions from our Forums
Is your guitar’s surface beat up? Is it sporting a poor paint job you’re itching to strip off? If so, you may want to refinish your guitar—but take a look at this thread to see what’s involved in giving your axe a facelift.
Lots of picks and props for the guitar model that’s a perfect blend of solidbody sustain and hollowbody resonance.
What starts as comments about Behringer’s X32 mixer veers off into a fascinating discussion of digital mixers in live performance, mixing trends, monitoring, and more.
Can you really use iOS stuff for making music? Really? Are the apps any good? What about live performance? The answers may surprise you.
Until now, the only way to get a Fender Cabronita was to pay the big bucks for a Custom Shop model—but a new version, with “street” prices starting around $600, has generated a ton of interest.
Discofreq, a long-time friend of Harmony Central and contributor to our Frankfurt show coverage, is keeping tabs on the pedal scene at Summer NAMM.
Every performance has gone through ”request hell” at one point, and the Solo and Duo Acts have some pretty good comebacks. Warning: Don’t be drinking anything when you read some of the replies, unless you want to spray your keyboard.
The Studio Trenches community looks at the challenges of recording a high-powered amplifier direct and silently, as well as discusses possible solutions like speaker simulators and resistive load boxes.
The thread turns quickly into the Drum Forum’s mosh pit, but if you want to see lots of videos featuring punk drummers (although there’s quite a bit of debate over what is and what isn’t “punk”), this thread’s a riot.
The OP keeps getting this weird clack sound . . . and it’s the Bass Forum to the rescue, with some other useful tips on getting a consistent bass sound.
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Editorial Craig Anderton, Editor in Chief • Jon Chappell, Senior Editor • Phil O’Keefe, Associate Editor • Chris Loeffler, Reviews Editor