The clear gear winner wasn't recording, but live performance. Was this a blip, a glimpse of the future, or something else altogether?
The dust has settled. Musicians no longer haunt the halls of the Anaheim Convention Center, the midwest music store owners who welcomed a respite from winter in southern California have probably gotten over their disappointment that it was cloudy and/or rainy all four days, and manufacturers now need to figure out how they’re going to ship all the stuff they promised they’d be shipping. And at Harmony Central, my video camera gets to sit around and rest for a bit until the Frankfurt Musikmesse kicks into high gear.
So what were the big trends? The show was definitely about evolution, not revolution; but with the ever-quickening pace of technology, evolution is also speeding up—and it’s particularly apparent with products for live performance. PreSonus made a big splash with their StudioLive AI line, particularly at their product introduction—where the main question afterward was “so were there any other speakers, or were the ones on the stage the only ones you used”? The answer: What you saw was what you heard.
PreSonus also introduced a 32-channel StudioLive digital mixer, but keep an eye on SoundCraft. Their Si Expression digital live console brought the SoundCraft cachet to a wider market by hitting a more affordable price point. Add those to Behringer’s X32, Waves’ eMotion digital mixing engine (which Peavey put to good use in their digital mixer), and Yamaha’s continuing evolution in digital mixing, and it’s clear that after a slow start back at the turn of the century digital mixing is here to stay.
And live performance gear is following the same curve as the rest of the technological world: smaller size, more power, smaller prices. But if you really wanted to see an example of low price combined with high technology, oddly enough a guitar amp took that particular prize. Peavey’s Vypyr VIP-2 not only offered modeling for electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and bass, but included a ton of effects—including some pretty mind-blowing ones, like a synthesized sax—and delivered the whole package for around $200. There are three models in the line (20, 40, and 100 watts), and they rocked the show.
Wireless was also huge, from Alto’s Stealth system that turned powered speakers into wireless speakers, the four billion iPad-based products (including Mackie’s smaller, 8-channel version of their DL1608 digital mixer), wireless mic and guitar systems, and Numark’s outstanding Orbit wireless MIDI controller that’s aimed at DJs, although it has many more applications.
But the big question for me is that given the steady increase of live performance-oriented gear, does this mean that live performance is coming back? Are there really more venues for bands to play these days? Are more people leaving the house and catching live music? Or does the lowered barrier to entry for live gear simply mean that more people own their setups, more houses of worship can afford a better system, more corporate presentations are accompanied by better sound, and schools and colleges are retrofitting their auditoriums? Is it a musician’s world, or a sound contractor’s world? I’m curious to hear what you think, so I started a thread in the Live Sound & Production forum where you can clue me in as to what’s happening out there in the field.
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