[Photo: Numark TTi]Back in the day, and we mean waaayy
back in the day, when an artist suddenly got the idea for a rhyme or lyric, he
or she scrambled for pen and paper to write it down.
If the thought came for a melody or
beat, they either tried to keep it in their head until they got home, or they
called their own answering machine (an object people used to plug their land
lines into for messages) and sang into it.
Folks, were not making this up.
Fast-forward several decades, and now
its voice mail, texting, Blackberries, smart phones and, best of all, personal
recorders. The latter were on display all over the winter NAMM show, with
seemingly every manufacturer coming up with one of these gizmos.
When you think about Olympus, you probably think about
cameras. The LS-10 24-bit Linear PCM Recorder is their $399 entry into music industry, and the only personal
recorder on the market that allows all three recording/playback formats: WMA,
WAV and MP3. With a 2GB internal memory, it also features an SD slot. Long
battery life gives you up to 12 hours of recording.
The LS-10 has a stereo mic, line-in
jack, ear jack, choice of auto or manual recording levels, built-in stereo
speakers, and runs on either two AA batteries, two Ni-MH rechargeables or an external
power supply. Designed to be user-friendly, it operates via a simple menu, with
the main menu on the left and submenus on that main screen. Mac and PC
compatible via USB, its loaded with Steinberg Cubase LE 4 software and can be
used with other software as well.
The LS-10 is pocketsize and weighs in
at just over 5 ouncesperfect for recording your high-quality rhymes quickly in
digital recorder records and tracks on MP3 or WAV files with 2GB of memory. The
Pocketrak is incredibly light at 1.7 ounces, and ultra-slim at only half an
inch thick. Its long-lasting rechargeable battery gives you 19 hours of
consecutive MP3 recording.
With a built-in speaker and direct USB
connection, the Pocketrak comes with Cubase AI Digital Audio Workstation
software and a high-sensitivity tilt-up microphone. You can also record from
other devices via the line input, and variable playback speed allows 20 percent
increase or 25 percent decrease. It lists at $399 but streets for less.
Sonys PCM-D50 Portable Linear PCM Recorder transfers over many features from its popular PCM-D1. The D50 has
built-in X-Y or Wide stereo condenser mics, 24-bit recording, a 4GB internal
Flash memory, a memory stick slot for up to 4GB expandable memory, Mac and PC
compatible USB port, 14 hours of recording time using four AA batteries, and an
optional remote control. It comes loaded with Sound Forge Audio Studio 9 LE
software and features a pre-record buffer, digital pitch control and A/B
New from Tascam is the DR-1, with a built-in stereo condenser mic that works on an angle
mechanism. At $299, the DR-1 is also the first portable recorder to include a
1GB card, allowing for hours of recording time. With 24-bit recording
resolution, the DR-1 offers MP3 and WAV recording/playback, analog auto-gain
control, chromatic tuner and voice cancel features, overdub feature and an
internal lithium-ion battery.
Now that you have the tools to capture
your words as they come to you, lets look at just a few more standout gadgets
from the winter NAMM show!
Akais XR20 portable beat production center goes
for $299 and, were told, is geared toward making Hip-Hop and R&B beats
wherever and whenever inspiration strikes. With over 700 preloaded sounds and
an integrated effects engine for reverb, EQ and compression, it features sounds
of standard and electronic drums, single hits, bass and synth.
Battery or AC powered, it has a drum roll/note
repeat feature, backlit pads for visual cues as samples are played, 99 preset
and user patterns, tap tempo, mic input, and can be used for performances as
well. Bring this and your mic to the gig, Akai tells us, and you can plug
right into the p.a. to perform and to mix vocals.
Still cant bring yourself to hire a
real live knuckle-dragger? Then you may want to look into the Alesis SR-18 professional drum machine, which for $399 features all of the SR-16
legendary sounds and more. The SR-18 has a 32MB sound set with percussion bank
and bass synth and is great for rock, blues, jazz, punk, reggae, funk, techno
Integrated effects include reverb, EQ
and compression for customizing sounds. It uses AC and battery power, features
MIDI in and out, headphone output, 175 preset patterns and 100 user patterns, a
mute function, and footswitch control for total freedom.
Oh, and just kidding about the
knuckle-dragging. Drummers are among the Gadget Inspectors best friends or
were, until they read that knuckle-dragger comment.
Cant part with your vinyl but cant
take it with you? Numark’s TTi is a
USB turntable with pitch control and a universal iPod. With it, you can record
your favorite vinyl records to your computer or directly to your iPod. The
included softwareEZ Vinyl Converter software (PC) and EZ Audio Converter
(Mac)archives your records to CD or MP3, while Audacity recording software is
included to reduce vinyl noise and pops. (Yes, kids, we really had those.)
The TTi works with all docking iPod
models when used through iTunes. Note, however, that this is a 33 and 45 RPM
belt-drive turntable; recording 78 RPM records (ask your grandparents) requires
using bundled software. With easy setup, and for only $449, the TTi is ideal
for your inner archivist or first-time DJs.
IK Multimedia, to quote
the patois of the street, totally rocks. The products this company comes up
with are enough to make the most nonmusical, noncreative of our population want
to invest in gear just so they can buy this stuff, entertain themselves all day
and night, and never leave home againkinda like that other computer
self-entertainment, only this time for your ears! And if you already own IK
products and are a registered user, you can crossgrade and get a sizable percentage
off on your purchases. Hows that for incentive?
First up is ARC, IKs Advanced Room
Correction system. IKs Tony Grund demoed this for us at NAMM, explaining,
Many Hip-Hop artists work from home, including doing their mixes. So we wanted
to create something different. ARC is the only product like this on the market
available as a plug-in. It comes with a mic and measurement correction
software, takes any room and corrects it for flat frequency response for your
mix. It eliminates distortion phasing as well as sweet spots. The result is
true, clear reality. This levels the playing field for consumers working from
People record and need 12 to 13
mixesfor their iPod, iTunes uploads, car stereo, website, home, etc. ARC eliminates
the number of mixes needed. People spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to
create a room in a high-end studio, and even that studio can benefit from this
product. It measures time and frequency into an EQ system to eradicate
distortion and problems.
A traveling engineer doesnt need to
bring his monitors or buy new ones. The measurement microphone measures the
information and takes it to the software to pull up a graph showing you where
the distortion problems are.
Be forewarned: This is not user-friendly out of the box. You
cant just set it up and start EQing. Because there is no other product like
ARC, its imperative that you read the manual. ARC lists at $599 (crossgrade
IK also demoed their SampleMoog software, which offers over
1700 basses, leads, pads and effects from 16 Moog synths, all for only $249
(crossgrade $219). SampleMoog has 4.5 GB, two synth enginesSTRETCH and
Traditional Resampling, 32 built-in DSP effects, total sound editing
capabilities, full MIDI control, zone editing, 256-note polyphony, and plug-in
or standalone modes. One piece of software, an entire synthesizer historyright
there at your fingertips.
Among the coolest products demoed at
NAMM was Avant’s AVANTONE MixCubes. We told
you about Avants remarkably affordable quality mics in our first installment
of NAMM coverage. Their MixCubes were created to help you get the best
possible sound out of your mixes and, quite frankly, listening is believing.
Avant showcased these babies by putting the best music through them: The
Regardless of your personal taste, or
what kind of tracks youre making, theres no denying great stuff when you hear
it, and Eleanor Rigby coming through MixCubes was so pure and so perfectin
the middle of a loud, crowded trade show, no lessthat it brought tears to the
Gadget Inspectors eyes.
If the Beatles sound this good through
the Cubes, anyone can. (And if youre rolling your eyes right now, call us in
40 years and let us know whether your
songs are still getting airplay.)
MixCubes, which are full-range mini
reference monitors, offer two options. A pair of passives will run you $199,
but you need an amp with them. The actives are $359 a pair with no amp needed;
just plug right into your computer.
The fine people at Avant told us: Many
home recording artists dont understand mixing and what theyre listening and
looking for. What you hear when youre mixing might not come out as nicely on
other systems. The Cubes mix for boom boxes, car stereos, whatever you need. If
you make your mix sound good on these, youre in good shape. Theyre like a
magnifying glass on your mids, the meat and potatoes of your sound. Anybody who
is mixing needs speakers like this to look at their mids for good separation
and make sure theyre not muddy.
So much to see, so little
time. Let the countdown to summer NAMM begin!