Best New Gear From NAMM 2023
Our gear hounds report back from this year's NAMM show in Anaheim, California with the best new gear to look forward to in 2023...
Amphion made a splash with the new One25A 3-way active studio monitor - a departure from their otherwise entirely passive range. Amphion CEO Anssi Hyvönen explains, “Our design philosophy has always been driven by results rather than technology–oriented. So, we use whatever approach we feel works best for a certain product. One25A’s active 3-way high-resolution filter is simply a natural progression from the active 2-way filters that we have utilized in our Base systems since 2015.” Anyone familiar with Amphion speakers will know what to expect from these new monitors with their balanced sound, excellent stereo imaging, informative mid-range and unhyped LF response while still being a pleasure to listen to. As Amphion say themselves, “beautifully honest”!
Atlas i8 is Antelope’s first foray into the monitor market and it’s safe to say they’ve come out with all guns blazing. Atlas i8 uses two identical 8” LF drivers sealed in an isobaric configuration which allows plenty of powerful, clean bass from a smaller cabinet size compared to more traditional designs. Built-in DSP offers FIR/IIR filters for focused stereo imaging. A coaxial driver eliminates the risk of comb filtering in the mid and high frequencies with the added benefit of permitting portrait or landscape positioning. 400W of digital amplification delivers 200W/100W and 100W to the LF, Mid and HF drivers respectively. AES/EBU connectivity and a software control panel facilitating various EQ and room optimisation functions completes the package. With pricing set at USD $4500 per pair, Atlas i8 is up against some serious competition from the likes of PMC, Focal, Barefoot and HEDD. It will be interesting to see how customers react to these.
MM-100 is the second in Audeze’s series of professional headphones designed in collaboration with Grammy award-winning engineer/producer Manny Marroquin. Newly designed planar drivers and patented waveguides deliver pinpoint precision and ultra-low distortion. Specifically aimed for studio use, the robust build and highly comfortable gel-filled leather earpads means you can wear these for extended periods without fatigue. Audeze LCD-X and MM-500’s are already customer favourites – the pocket-friendly £449 price tag should make these a winner.
Avid have improved their already class-leading MTRX audio interface with the new MTRX II, built in collaboration with Danish converter meisters DAD. Designed as a highly flexible modular system, MTRX II provides 64 channels of I/O over Avid’s proprietary DigiLink format, 256 Dante and 64 MADI channels. The interface can be used with any DAW system with a native channel count of 256 via a new Thunderbolt 3 module. As expected, MTRX II is made for Dolby Atmos with DADman Pro control software included and a monitoring matrix up to 512 x 64. This is a tool clearly aimed at multi-channel power users including large recording studios and film post production with a price tag to match. Pricing from £6000 ex VAT, availability expected from August.
Ever wish you had just a touch more gain for your low output ribbon or dynamic mic to avoid having to run your preamps at full tilt? Cloud Microphones have expanded their range of “microphone activators” with the new Cloudlifter X. Cloudlifter X adds up to +36dB of ultra-clean gain before it hits your preamp - now with a nickel core Cinemag transformer for a touch of harmonic saturation. Safe to use with delicate ribbon microphones - Cloudlifter X uses phantom power to generate the additional headroom without passing it through to the mic. UK pricing around £265 inc VAT.
UK company Cranborne Audio generated a lot of interest with their Carnaby 500 Series EQ module. Offering a fresh approach to equalization, Carnaby 500 is essentially a 3-band parametric EQ that uses harmonic saturation to boost and cut frequency content. Users can apply processing in the same way as a regular 3-band EQ with additional harmonic saturation adding an “exciter” element to the audio path – dynamic response also changes as the circuits are driven harder. Cranborne’s “Optosync” feature allows stereo linking of two or more units – useful for bus processing and complex stem mixes. At a very affordable £499 inc VAT, these add a genuinely new flavour to your EQ palette.
It’s been 12 years since Empirical Labs released new hardware so it was great to see the new PUMP 500-Series compressor on their stand. Created to be a versatile workhorse compressor, PUMP incorporates elements from several other Empirical Labs stalwarts including Distressor, Arouser and Mike-E. The unit offers eight ratios – 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 6:1, 8:1, 10:1, 12:1 and 20:1 – each with their own compression curve. Stepped Attack/Release controls allow easy recall and there’s a soft Opto-Coupler release feature. A powerful “Attack Modification” feature shapes the initial Attack envelope for more pronounced transients – perfect for retaining snap without sacrificing compression and there’s also a germanium diode saturation clipper. At £699 inc VAT, PUMP offers a lot of bang for your buck and is probably the closest thing to a “500 Series Distressor” currently out there. Should do very well!
Canadian manufacturer Flock Audio were showing their new Patch VT 128-point (64-in/64-out) digitally controlled patchbay system. They were also showing their CX standalone hardware module, offering 8 channels of transparent mic/line boost ensuring seamless compatibility with the +4dB line level standard used in the rest of the Flock Patch range. Connectivity is via DB25’s on the rear of the unit with a couple of front panel balanced I/Os. Flock’s patch system maintains the sonic integrity of analogue routing (no digital converters in the signal path) with patching executed by an easy-to-use digital app. Less cabling, more functionality, save and instantly recall routing setups and the ability to keep the usual rats’ nest of patch bays in a remote machine room make this a very attractive system.
David Marquette was showing his new Mercury 666 limiting amplifier, based on the Fairchild 666 (a lesser known sibling to the iconic 660 and 670 valve compressors). Unlike their usual approach of being as faithful as possible to the original vintage designs, David explained that so many changes needed to be made to make this new processor usable in modern applications that they decided to just go for it and try to make the best valve compressor they could. Mercury 666 is a hybrid solid-state & valve compressor utilising a new “Mercury SSGRE” solid-state gain attenuation stage that provides no gain to the signal. All the makeup gain after the SSGRE is provided by a separate amplification stage based on 12AX7 and 12BH7 valves alongside a custom transformer.
Mercury 666 was designed to be more of a “modern hybrid 660” augmented with a comprehensive set of features and controls which were either missing or relatively inaccessible in the originals. These include threshold and expanded attack/release controls, output gain control with DC adjust, wet/dry mix control, 2-band Baxandall EQ, side-chain filter switch, stereo link switch, insert switch, bypass and zero meter control. Mercury gear is always built to exemplary standards and sounds gorgeous - we’re very much looking forward to getting this one in!
Neumann’s smaller KH Series nearfield monitors have been a consistent bestseller with our customers, and rightly so – offering unprecedented accuracy and balance across the frequency range in a diminutive nearfield cabinet. KH120 II takes an already successful product and re-engineers it for improved performance in LF response, higher SPL and increased linearity (44 – 21kHz +/- 3dB). Improvements to the DSP provide phase linear crossovers and room alignment via Neumann’s proprietary MA1 Automatic Alignment technology. A 5.25” woofer and 1” tweeter are married to 145W/100W amplification respectively. Priced @£1599 inc VAT.
Ever since Sennheiser’s acquisition of Merging Technologies in 2022, we’ve been waiting to see what would come out of this affiliation. So it was great to see Neumann’s new MT48 high-resolution audio interface (based largely on Merging’s excellent Anubis interface) at NAMM. Compared to Anubis, MT48 offers USB connectivity, ADAT/Optical I/O for expansion using 3rd party converters, firmware and GUI tailored for music production and a single AES67/Ravenna connector. It’s great to see Neumann branch out in this direction with a premium product straight off the bat. UK pricing @£1749 inc VAT.Not entirely new, but still great to see was UK manufacturer Prism Sound’s flagship Dream ADA-128 modular converter - it really does impress! Prism’s venerable ADA-8XR set the standard for almost 20 years and there’s every reason to believe the new model will have a similarly long working life. Hugely flexible with up to 128 channels of pristine conversion, sample rates up to 768kHz and a beautifully designed remote-controllable user interface make this a serious bit of kit. There are some really clever features which will grab the attention of any studio owner running complex high-channel count systems. Four independently synchronised clock domains mean you can simultaneously run 4 different sample rates allowing a single unit to deliver independent configurations for up to 4 separate recording systems. If you’re running a multi-room facility that’s a very attractive proposition! Prism’s “Advanced Digital Routing Architecture” allows internal and external point-to-point routing and it can be the centrepiece of any Dolby Atmos facility without breaking a sweat.
Since its introduction in 2015, RND have sold over 25,000 channels of their popular RNDI DI box. The new RNDI-8 packs 8 channels of the same circuit into a 1U rack making it a neat and convenient solution for larger studios, high-end live rigs and synth users. The secret sauce lies in its custom transformers and FET amps, delivering a clean, focused sound that captures the full depth of any source and ensures you have a great platform for post-processing.
SSL introduced their latest 500-Series processor at this year’s NAMM – the B Series Dynamics Module. This is based on the compressor and expander/gate sections from the 4000 B-Series console – known for their more coloured and aggressive sound compared to the cleaner E-Series topology. The compressor section offers three stepped ratios (2:1, 4:1 and 10:1), a de-esser setting and four switchable release times (0.2, 0.4, 0.8 and 1.6s). The expander/gate section has 5 release settings (0.1, 0.2, 0.4, 0.8 and 1.6s). The compressor and expander/gate sections can each be bypassed and stereo link and LCF complete the feature set. First shipments are due later this summer.
Trinnov’s ST2 Pro room optimiser has established itself as (very probably!) the best acoustic room correction system for pro audio users. When running customer demos it’s always a pleasure to see the inevitable “Aha!” moment when users hear it switched in. After 4 years in development, Trinnov have now released their new NOVA optimiser. Where the previous system was based on custom PC’s running Linux, NOVA uses an ARM processor, fits into a smaller 1U chassis and comes with a more pocket-friendly price tag of £3390 inc VAT. NOVA can process and optimise up to 6 channels (perfect for 5.1 surround) including bass management, is a powerful monitor controller in its own right and can be used as an audio interface for direct DAW-to-monitor integration via Audinate’s Dante Virtual Soundcard software. Shipping expected June 2023.
Announced just before NAMM, Universal Audio released three more pedals in their UAFX range. Galaxy ’74 is a tape echo & reverb pedal based on Roland’s classic Space Echo. Del-Verb offers three classic reverbs (60’s Tube Amp Spring, Studio Plate and Vintage Digital Hall Reverbs) and three delay effects (Vintage Tape, Analogue Bucket Brigade and Studio Grade Digital Delays). Finally, Max is a preamp and dual compressor offering 610 valve mic preamp, LA-2A, 1176 and Dyna Comp settings. All three pedals are priced @£325 inc VAT.
That's it for another year!