Gadget Inspector: For The Record

[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 […]

[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, we’re not making this up.


Fast-forward several decades, and now

it’s 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, it’s 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 ounces—perfect for recording your high-quality rhymes quickly in

high quality.


Yamaha’s Pocketrak 2G

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.


Sony’s 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, let’s look at just a few more standout gadgets

from the winter NAMM show!


Akai’s XR20 portable beat production center goes

for $299 and, we’re 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 can’t 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

and Hip-Hop.


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 Inspector’s best friends … or

were, until they read that “knuckle-dragger” comment.


Can’t part with your vinyl but can’t

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 software—EZ 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 again—kinda 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. How’s that for incentive?


First up is ARC, IK’s Advanced Room

Correction system

. IK’s 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

mixes—for 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 doesn’t 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

can’t just set it up and start EQing. Because there is no other product like

ARC, it’s 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 engines—STRETCH 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 history—right

there at your fingertips.


Among the coolest products demoed at

NAMM was Avant’s AVANTONE MixCubes. We told

you about Avant’s 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 you’re making, there’s no denying great stuff when you hear

it, and “Eleanor Rigby” coming through MixCubes was so pure and so perfect—in

the middle of a loud, crowded trade show, no less—that it brought tears to the

Gadget Inspector’s eyes.


If the Beatles sound this good through

the Cubes, anyone can. (And if you’re 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 don’t understand mixing and what they’re listening and

looking for. What you hear when you’re 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, you’re in good shape. They’re 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 they’re not muddy.”

So much to see, so little

time. Let the countdown to summer NAMM begin!