Gadget Inspector: Pro DJ, Producer and Musician Gems

  After three years in other markets, the NAMM show finally returned to Nashville for its summer session, and as the old saying goes, there’s no place like home. Popular consensus leans toward the belief that this trade show and “Music City” belong together, and activity in both the Nashville Convention Center and the surrounding […]


After three years in other markets, the NAMM show

finally returned to Nashville for its summer session, and as the old saying

goes, there’s no place like home. Popular consensus leans toward the belief

that this trade show and “Music City” belong together, and activity in both the

Nashville Convention Center and the surrounding clubs after hours certainly

supported that theory.


Rather than do the standard “what happened at NAMM”

coverage, we’re going to break this into a couple of key components for you.

First up, we’re looking at hot headphones and music software that were demoed and

displayed at the show.


American Audio has so much cool stuff. Their HP headphone line—consisting of the 900’s, 700’s and 200’s—is well known, with the 700s leading the popularity chain.


For Summer NAMM, American Audio was all about

their new HP 550, which use similar drivers and input through a mini-plug with ¼ inch right angle adapter. They come with an extra set of ear pads, bag, and the flexible design means easy fold-up and the option of double- or single-ear monitoring. The HP 550 is American Audio’s high-quality, lower-priced alternative at $49.


Also from American Audio, check out the EB 700 and new 900 earbuds.

These were created for DJs and Hip-Hop artists, meaning they have good bass

response and noise reduction up to 20 dB. All metal, with carrying case, nine-foot

cord and compact design, they’re perfect for stage use. The 900’s list at $169,

the 700’s at $129.


Seems we always associate the Numark name with controllers, mixers and all things DJ, yet we often forget that they also make headphones.


Their PHX premium headphones, featuring 50 mm magnet drivers, come with two styles of interchangeable cuffs, three cables, are fully adjustable and made for comfort, thanks to a two-part ear cup design that incorporates rubber and silicone casing and fits securely between your ear and shoulder. They also fold and store easily in the accompanying carrying case. Pick them up for $99.95.


Numark’s HF-125 headphones are made for mixing. They feature flexible, seven-position, independently adjustable dual ear cups, large 40mm Mylar speaker drivers, a six-foot tangle-resistant cord with 1/4″ connector and padded headband. They street for an unbelievable $18.


From Future Sonics, makers of the original Ear Monitors® custom earphones, comes the second revision of their acclaimed


® professional earphones, making them perfect for stage, studio and broadcast, as well as gaming and digital media players. The Atrio offers full bass response accuracy, natural midrange, detailed treble and maximum comfort with multiple fitting options. Unique to these earphones is their single studio-grade dynamic driver, designed and manufactured by Future Sonics.


New features include QuietCables™ II for excellent audio quality, more flexibility, less tangling and more comfortable fit, improved performance

with TrueTimbre™ frequency response of 18Hz – 20,000Hz—meaning less need to

crank up the volume to achieve the wider range of audio quality, and improved

cable slider for more secure positioning and greater comfort when cabling is

worn behind the ear. Invest in the Atrio for $199.


Sony offers a full range of headphones in their MDR line, beginning with the 7502. Designed for basic listening, this is a cost-effective, general-purpose headphone, lightweight with deep bass response and high sensitivity. It lists at $65.


The 7505, with acoustic design, zeroes in on detailed listening and more power. The Auto-Swivel earpiece makes it ideal for DJs and videographers who prefer single-sided monitoring. It stores easily in the included bag and lists at $115.



top seller is the 7506, an industry standard, with larger diaphragm and full ear enclosure for better isolation. The lightweight model, which also folds neatly into its bag, was designed for comfortable extended wear, making it perfect for the studio at $130.


The 7509HD is Sony’s newest model. Larger and more comfortable, it features a bigger pad, handles twice as much power—3000 mW power handling capacity and 80 kHz ultra-high frequency reproduction for 96-bit recording—and was designed for critical listening and studio reference. The driver units were designed to eliminate pressure in accordance with the angle of the ear. It’s Sony’s most expensive model at $265, but if your time is spent in the studio, where every detail counts, this is the way to go.


Yamaha’s new RH10MS professional monitor headphones feature S-Logic three-dimensional Surround Sound, ergonomic design for extended wear, and accurate digital-music reproduction, with frequency response at 18-21 k and sensitivity to 96 dB. S-Logic technology sends sound around the listener’s head and off of multiple surfaces of the ear canal,

eliminating the need for artificial echo or digital processing. By purchasing

earphones with S-Logic, you ensure monitor accuracy and perfect detail. The RH10MS headphones sell for $129.


DJ Flex, Timbaland, Diddy’s band members, Kanye

West, Chris Brown, John Legend, Joss Stone, Shania Twain and Vernon Reid are

among the many artists who swear by Ultrasone headphones. Even a dedicated headphone hater like the Gadget Inspector can attest to the comfort and quality of Ultrasone, having test-driven several sets at the NAMM show. (Granted, the ’phones were plugged into the Cream reunion DVD, which would sound good through tin cans connected with string, but honestly, through the Ultrasones I heard every note, every nuance, with amazing clarity—and no outside noise seeping in. Bliss!)


Paul Taylor, president of Ultrasone Inc., told us

a bit more about S-Logic, noting, “Most headphones pull sound directly down the

ear. We’ve offset the drivers and angled it to push sound from front to back,

not directly into the ear. S-Logic uses the natural reverberation of the outer

ear down into the canal to tell you where sound comes from and to create

natural Surround Sound. We don’t use any digital signal processing or enhancers, just an offset driver.


“What’s also very important is the 40 percent

reduction of decibel levels this provides for the potential of not developing

hearing problems or tinnitus. A lot of DJs, gamers, mixers and producers live

in their headphones and the radiation goes directly into their heads. We use a

metal buffer board to reduce that radiation up to 90 percent.”


Ultrasone employs S-Logic throughout their HFI, DJ

and Pro lines, with prices beginning at $109, increasing incrementally based

upon your choices and needs. All headphones come with a two-year manufacturer’s




line features six models, beginning with the ultra-lightweight 15G,

Ultrasone’s smallest HFI model that’s perfect for personal listening, and

ending with the HFI-2200, which comes with velvet earpads and detachable cable.

The Pro line, with four models, begins with the 550, professionally designed

and equipped, and maxes with the 2500 open-back. All models include hard case,

detachable cables and spare earpads.


The DJ line features two models: DJ1 and DJ1 Pro. Warning: Unless you plan to purchase on the spot, do not test-drive these headphones, as you will never want to take them off. Parting with them can be heart wrenching! Finally, if “simple and portable” is your thing, you’ll want Ultrasone’s iCans. Also featuring S-Logic technology, sleek, foldable and adjustable, they’re perfect for your iPod or MP3 player.

There were some firsts in software at the Summer

show, with guitar and amp manufacturers debuting amazing new gear.



Amplification introduced their first-ever software product, JamVOX, which will be in stores in

October 2008 (price TBA). Mac- and PC-compatible, JamVOX provides drag-and-drop

access to virtually any combination of amp and effects models and allows you to

import your MP3/iTunes library or favorite CD tracks.


Using Korg’s

new GXT Guitar XTraction

technology, guitarists can extract or “solo” guitar parts, reduce and

essentially “mute” guitar parts from any prerecorded track, or record their own

guitar performances over favorite tracks. GXT technology can also extract or

reduce vocal tracks. Guitars and microphones can be directly plugged into the

USB-powered hardware component. WAV/AIFF recording capabilities enable the

player to overdub vocals as well as guitar.


JamVOX features precise

models of 19 of the most sought-after guitar amps, 12 popular cabinets, 54 vintage

and modern effects and a choice of guitar pickup simulations, as well as a

Korg chromatic tuner and an array of drum tracks. The JamVOX head can double an audio interface for popular software programs and for listening to music downloads on your computer.

Peavey enters the market with ReValver MKIII, their revolutionary 64-bit amp-modeling software. It captures the true characteristics of vacuum tubes while giving you unprecedented control over their tone and gain structures. ReValver models 15 of the most popular amps, including several Peaveys. The software is user-friendly, thanks to its drag-and-drop interface and customization tools. You can add and subtract components such as amps, preamps, power amps, stomp boxes and effects, and program more than 15 features on each tube stage. Effects include chorus, distortion, wah, tremolo,

compression, limiter, delay, octaver and many more. Retails for $299.99.

Yamaha unveiled Audiogram 6 and Audiogram 3, two new computer recording systems shipping in August that can turn your computer into a powerful, intuitive tool for recording and editing audio from virtually any microphone, instrument or audio device.


The Audiogram

series is packaged as a complete computer music solution, bundling a hardware

interface with audio inputs and outputs, software for recording and producing

music, and a USB cable for computer connection. Simply install the included

music-production application, Cubase AI, on your computer, connect the audio

interface via USB, and you can begin recording from instruments, mics, CD

players or MP3 players.


Audiogram 6 ($199.99) features two XLR combo

inputs with preamps and one-knob compression. One input has switchable phantom

power for using high-quality condenser mics. Two stereo inputs, stereo and

headphone outputs, and a USB jack complete the unit’s connections. Audiogram 6

includes separate controls for audio inputs and computer playback for complete

control while recording.


Audiogram 3 ($119-139.99) features one phantom-powered

combo input switchable for microphones or instrument recording, a stereo input,

a stereo and headphone output as well as a USB jack for connection to the


From Numark comes ArKaos Grand VJ—next-generation, powerful video mixing software for VJs, DJs bands and clubs. Hardcore VJs know and trust the ArKaos name; as the Cadillac of VJ software, Grand VJ features user-friendly, customizable interface, dual synth/mixer mode, real-time access to all mixing parameters, high-res output, an effects library and multiple camera support.


The Mac and PC-compatible software supports

Quicktime, MPEG2, MPEG4, Windows Media, Flash text and animations, and most

other common media formats. Whether you’re looking to enhance your events with

existing content or create video from scratch, Grand VJ delivers.

Demoed at NAMM with the Akai MPK 49 USB/Midi performance controller/keyboard, Grand VJ is perfect for layering all video footage and attaching text and audio. Look for it in September for $399.95.