Pro Audio Makes Noise at NAMM Show
Pro audio was plenty evident at the recent 2015 NAMM Show, as it has progressively been in recent years, with an estimated 289 qualified pro-audio exhibitors according to one editorial source. Several pro-audio suppliers used the mostly musical-instrument show to launch products that, in earlier times, would have debuted at an AES or Infocomm expo.
These new products ranged from Electro-Voice’s EKX line of speakers to Audio-Technica’s ATH-R70x open-back reference headphones and included several software updates by broadcast-audio stalwarts. Jünger Audio, for example, used the show to announce a joint engineering venture with plug-in developer Flux that, for the first time, makes Jünger’s Level Magic loudness-measurement, -correction, and -management algorithm available in a software version.
Another familiar broadcast brand, Riedel, was there to show its new Tango TNG-200 network-based platform supporting AES67 and AVB standards.
Audinate, whose Dante system has made significant inroads into broadcast audio-signal transport, was there informally and let SVG know that its Dante Via — a software audio bridge that will connect PCs with local USB, FireWire, Thunderbolt, and analog audio interfaces, transforming them into networked devices — is due out in the second quarter. Like other pro-audio companies targeting the NAMM constituency, Dante is seeking to extend its reach into the huge mid- and entry-level tiers of the content stew. Audinate CEO Lee Ellison pointed out, for instance, that the Via software bridge will allow podcasters using USB microphones to put their audio onto the same kinds of Dante-enabled networks that broadcast sports programs are using.
A clear theme at this year’s show was the substantial growth in the loudspeaker category: in the number of new brands, new models, and various types, with a particular emphasis on smaller, self-powered portable PA systems, such as the SRX 800 speakers that JBL introduced on the show’s opening day.
“This is happening across all brands now,” said Guy Low, content and creative manager at Bosch, which owns the E-V brand. “Powered speakers have overtaken passive speakers, in part because there are more applications for getting sound into places it hasn’t been before. Self-powered speakers just make that a lot simpler.”
He added that better-quality portable sound systems are also showing up in high school and other youth sports leagues and events.
The proliferation of loudspeakers was underscored by Bennett Prescott, sales and operations manager, B&C Speakers, which asserts to be the largest OEM provider of transducers for professional audio. Sports venues in particular, he noted, have driven the growth in brands and types of speakers, with the trend to multipurpose venues propelling implementation of PA systems optimized for both music and speech.
“The single biggest trend of the last 10 years, though, has been the growth in subwoofers,” Prescott pointed out. “You hardly see any installations these days that don’t include subs.”
The tsunami of new speakers and related products featured entries from Samson, JBL, Peavey, Turbosound, ATC, E-V, Yorkville, QSC, and others. Several key trends were apparent: the shift from passive to self-powered operation, the increase in the number and feature sets of portable PA systems, and increased DSP options for speaker management, such as smartphone and tablet remote control via WiFi or Bluetooth.
Another trend of note was the introduction of several wireless microphone systems, including Audio-Technica Systems’ 10 Pro and Sennheiser’s D1. Both are aimed at the local-hero/indie music market, and both use the 2.4 GHz spectrum range. As more “professional” UHF spectrum disappears to government-mandated reallocation for use by consumer devices, additional R&D and experience in the 2.4 GHz range by new wireless systems aimed at the music market help include that frequency range in the options that broadcast-audio users can draw on in the future.
Also at the show, the TEC Awards, for achievement in audio products and projects, which migrated from the AES Show to the Winter NAMM Show in 2011, were celebrated on Saturday Jan. 24. Among the awards was a single but salient broadcast category, and the winner for best Remote Production/Recording or Broadcast was: the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.