NAB 2016: Audio Gear Recap

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Aaton-Digital-CantarX3-Full-Package_finalNAB 2016 was huge, awesome, and exhausting. Industry leaders in so many different fields launched so many incredible products and breakthroughs in such a short amount of time. We’ve done our best to cull the cream of the crop from this year’s show floor. To start off our NAB 2016 recap series, here’s an overview of the top audio gear we were able to check out firsthand.

Aaton Digital
Cutting-edge audio tech specialists Aaton Digital displayed their Cantar X3 recorder and unveiled the new Cantarem 2 12-fader external mixing panel and recorder accessories. Though the Cantar X3 was available last year, this was its first showing at NAB.

In terms of number of inputs, record tracks, and recording media, the Cantar X3 is the most capable portable recorder available today, and also leads the pack in sophisticated mechanical design and build quality. It’s the only recorder in its class capable of recording 24 tracks, and it can record up to four media simultaneously (the included SSD, two SD cards, and USB flash drive). It’s meticulously crafted with a very intuitive interface and exceptional smoothness in the faders and knobs, none of which actually contact an audio signal. The chassis is waterproof, and although not a touchscreen, the X3’s display is otherwise the best and largest display of the available portable recorders – very bright and offering great glare resistance, it can be viewed easily in direct sunlight. The recorder even offers EQ and filtering control with graphic display for all analog and digital inputs. With the X3, Aaton really has all the boxes checked for a flagship recorder.

In addition to being compatible with the original Cantarem 8-fader control panel, Aaton designed the new Cantarem 2 12-fader panel specifically for the X3, and it’s ergonomically and durably designed with the company’s signature chic ethos. Combined with the X3’s 10 linear faders and 8 rotary trim controls, the Cantarem 2 seamlessly extends the recorder’s capabilities with 12 additional assignable faders.

Aaton also announced the release of the new version of their Majax software for OS X and Windows.

For more information, visit: www.aaton.com

phonakPhonak Communications
Phonak Communications debuted their new Roger Earpiece system, a super-discreet in-ear wireless receiver with the companion Roger BaseStation and mobile Roger Touchscreen Mic transmitter options.

This micro-sized earwig is 30% smaller than Phonak’s well-known Invisity line of earwigs and boasts an improvement in audio quality with a 100 Hz – 7.2 kHz frequency response (compared to the 3.5 kHz limit of previous models), an SPL of up to 100 dB, and a range of up to 40 meters. Performers will appreciate the audio fidelity and volume, especially when using the system for music playback scenes.

An unlimited number of earpieces can be paired to a single transmitter, eliminating the need for the traditional “toaster” programming device, and Phonak’s proprietary adaptive frequency-hopping technology helps avoid any interference issues. Contoured to fit inside the ear canal, the Roger earwig is virtually invisible to audiences and cameras. The earpieces have twelve hours of battery life and do not require belt packs or cables.

The two transmitter options available, the stationary Roger BaseStation and the mobile Roger Touchscreen Mic, can work together in one network. This system is designed to give sound professionals the flexibility to configure audio transmission from a single fixed source or multiple mobile sources as required.

Phonak drew from their years of experience crafting high-end hearing aids to create this new and improved earpiece system. Evert Dijkstra, Phonak’s managing director, says: “It is the fruit of years of research and development that brings our advanced audio transmission technology into film and video production. As formats from news to game shows to late-night talk shows have become ever-more dynamic, fast-moving, and unpredictable, the need for a reliable, comfortable, and discreet in-ear receiver has never been greater.”

The Roger Earpiece system is available now. Contact your local Phonak dealer for more information, and check out the Roger Earpiece system here.

Ktek_header2K-Tek
K-Tek displayed expansions to its popular Stingray line of audio bags and accessories.

The new KCH2B cable hanger with buckle allows cables, headphones, and other items to be hung on the Stingray audio bag, harness, belt, or wherever you can clip the mini carabiner. It has an adjustable strap with a max length of six inches and comes in a set of two.

The KSTGD1 Stingray DTS Pouch provides quick storage for regularly used gear. This oversized pouch fits on the Stingray belt and easily folds up small when you don’t need it. Fully expanded, it’s perfect for holding a number of NP-style batteries, AA and 9V cells, transmitters, lavalier mics, and more The pouch easily connects to belts, pockets, and MOLLE straps.

K-Tek also had their KWP1 Universal Wireless Pouches on display. These neoprene pouches are made to wrap around your wireless transmitter/receiver, leaving ample room for audio/power cables and securing the transmitter/receiver with touch-tab fasteners. The pouches attach to your audio bag or camera easily with an included durable clip.

Another cool accessory from K-Tek, the KSERX Holder, houses the Zaxcom ERX receiver and adds an extra layer of protection. The main compartment is made of a silicon-like material that securely grips the ERX, and an oversized lip on top gives easy access to the knob and switch while safeguarding against any accidental bumping. The KSERX Holder comes with a built-in belt clip and a 1/2-20 threaded insert. The belt clip makes it easy to clip the holder to belts, pockets, and MOLLE straps, and the threaded insert allows for convenient mounting to a camera or magic arm. The KSERX Holder is compatible with all versions of the Zaxcom ERX.

K-Tek also debuted their new KBAC1 Boom & Accessory Holder. It’s a multipurpose clip that attaches to a belt, bag, or MOLLE straps. It wraps around a boom pole with a swivel belt-style clip that makes it a great boom holder, and it quickly turns into a headphone or cable holder. The Velcro-like fastener material and versatile design make this clip truly multi-functional.

For more info, check out www.ktekpro.com

GM1600-Gooseneck-for-dscreet-Omnidirectional-Miniture-MicrophonesDPA Microphones
DPA Microphones showcased the new linear variant of their very popular d:facto handheld microphone range (used by Sting, Stevie Wonder, and others). This new version has an extremely linear frequency response when compared with the original d:facto, which has a boost at 12 kHz. The new d:facto is designed specifically for engineers  desiring a totally uncolored sound that allows full room for EQing. The linear d:facto features a new capsule with an isolation-optimized supercardioid polar pattern that has been tweaked by the geniuses at DPA to specifically augment the human vocal range. Combining the best of cardioid and supercardioid directional characteristics just like the original, the new d:facto ensures total focus on the sound source with minimal bleed, delivering exceptionally natural sound, high separation, and SPL handling of up to 160 dB.

Like previous iterations, the linear d:facto is entirely modular. The capsule can be removed and replaced with any other d:facto capsule for whatever different recording or performance requirements a user might have. With DPA’s flexible adapter system, the microphone can morph from a wired version with a handle to a handheld wireless microphone. Plus there’s seamless integration with all leading wireless solutions – Sennheiser, Shure, Sony, Wisycom, Lectrosonics, and Line6.

DPA’s new GM1600 Gooseneck is designed to work with DPA’s entire range of instrument mounting clips. When used with DPA’s d:screet 4061 Omnidirectional Lo-Sensitivity microphone, the six-inch GM1600 Gooseneck gives excellent stability and allows for repeatable positioning for close mic’ing instruments – in studio and for live broadcast. Used with the d:screet 4060 Omnidirectional Hi-Sensitivity microphone, designed for softer sound levels or for picking up ambient sound, the Gooseneck works perfectly as a concealed plant mic for film and TV recordists, capturing clean, detailed, natural sound, even when the mic isn’t pointing directly at the sound source.

DPA also showcased their other, established microphone models, such as the practically invisible d:screet Slim 4060 Omnidirectional mic with button-hole mount and the d:fine 66 and 88 Headset Microphones. DPA also upgraded their listening stations, so their entire NAB presentation was top of the line.

Check out DPA’s website for more info: dpamicrophones.com

ambientuniversityAmbient Recording
Ambient introduced some great new products this NAB, as well as a new educational resource, Ambient University.

The new ASF-2 Compact Hydrophone is an expansion to Ambient’s line of underwater products. Housed in high-quality aluminum and protected from seawater corrosion by an anodized exterior, this mic features 48V phantom power and can handle depths of up to 30 meters. With its polyurethane cable cast into the housing for a watertight seal, the ASF-2 was made to handle even the most severe field conditions. The ASF-2 has a linear frequency range of 70 Hz – 20 kHz that allows for an ideal spectrum of sound while avoiding low-frequency noise from cable handling. The ASF-2 is now shipping.

Also new from Ambient is the ACN-LSB Lockit Slate Bag, which is specially designed to protect your slate from weather, dirt, and shocks. Made with a rigid, sewn-in framework and developed to stay tough even when dealing with extreme production conditions, this bag reliably shields from the worst weather with its robust, waterproof fabric and long, overlapping covers, keeping your slate dry, clean, and ready to use.

The bag’s magnetic buttons allow easy opening/closing and locking, even in low-light situations. The magnetic buttons release when you pull the slate handle, making slate removal a snap. Quivers for keeping board markers and other utilities are placed under the lid and on the bag’s front, providing ambidextrous access. Also, the bag’s several loops and a comfortable carrying strap allow for attaching to a belt, sound cart, or magliner. The ACN-LSB provides great protection and versatility and can be placed or hung near the AC or sound mixer for convenient and quick slate access. The Lockit Slate Bag will be available by late summer this year.

Ambient gave a sneak preview of the comprehensive ACN Master Lockit system’s expanded functionality with their upcoming firmware update. The new firmware provides ACN Master Lockit connectivity to Sound Devices 788T and 6-series mixer/recorders. This includes ingesting audio-take metadata in the ACN system and offers remote control functionality directly within the Master Lockit web interface. Plus, the new firmware fully integrates the audio recorder into the ACN timecode system with zero-drift “Continuous Jam” and full timecode monitoring.

Lastly, as industry leaders in timecode and synchronization for film and television production, Ambient has desired to share their expertise with professionals and beginners alike. This inspired the launch of the company’s new learning resource, Ambient University, a free-to-access video library with short-subject educational videos that break down and explain all the modern production elements of timecode and sync. The library’s quick yet thorough videos will bring you through the in-depth background of timecode and synchronization and onto step-by-step instructionals that demonstrate how to put the theory into practice in the field. Ambient University includes videos illustrating external timecode and sync distribution setups with the most commonly used cameras, including ARRI, RED, Sony, Panasonic, Canon, and more. Ambient states: “Our goal is to continuously develop and update the channel to provide the most comprehensive pool of knowledge on this topic – that’s always available in your pocket.”

Check out Ambient University here: ambient.de/en/university

Wisycom_MTP41SWisycom
RF specialists Wisycom debuted a firmware update for their MTK952 Dual Transmitter. The update integrates the company’s new ENS compander and enables collaboration with their new MPR50 in-ear monitor and popular MPR30-IEM receiver. The firmware update also adds factory presets helpful for speedy setup during on-location broadcasts, and new intuitive menu options can be controlled through the hardware, further increasing the device’s user-friendliness.

Wisycom also displayed the new MTP41S Pocket Wireless Transmitter, a very small and lightweight transmitter for wireless microphones. The MTP41S is built with all of the features that made the company’s MTP40S transmitter so great, just in a smaller frame, and it includes an integrated hardware limiter that acts as a variable attenuator, maintaining distortion of less than three percent without sacrificing transmission quality.

Also introduced at NAB, Wisycom’s new CSI16T Smart Passive Wideband Combiner is designed to work with the company’s MTK952N transmitter through coaxial inputs and allows for smart power management by automatically compensating any combiner loss on the transmitter side. The CSI16T is able to combine 16 inputs into 4/2/1 outputs with selectable combination via a three-position selector on the front panel (i.e. 16:1, 2 x 8:1, or 4 x 4:1). The transmitter has wide-band operation of 470 – 800 MHz and works with high-input power up to 3W.

For more info, visit: wisycom.com

sound-devices2Sound Devices
Sound Devices announced their recent collaboration with Dan Dugan Sound Design on the Sound Devices 688 mixer/recorder Firmware Version 3.00 update, which is now available at no cost to 688 owners.

With the new firmware update, the 688 becomes the first and only field production mixer that offers Dan Dugan Sound Design’s powerful automatic mic mixing algorithm. With the inclusion of the Dugan Speech System, along with Sound Devices’ MixAssist, Sound Devices is aiming to make the 688 the ‘go-to’ automixing tool for field production applications.

Dan Dugan, CEO of Dan Dugan Sound Design, says: “This collaboration brings together the durable, professional-grade audio equipment Sound Devices is known for and the well-respected Dan Dugan automixing algorithm. Dugan automixing takes over the nerve-wracking job of cueing mics in and out, freeing up the location recordist to pay more attention to the artistic balance. Mixes are cleaner and post-production time is reduced for dramatic dialog recording. In addition, over-the-shoulder recordists for news, documentaries, and reality shows will appreciate how my automixing makes it possible to use several mics at once without background noise build-up.”

Learn more here: sounddevices.com

zaxcomZaxcom
The innovators at Zaxcom released some new gear at NAB this year. Their latest line of digital recording wireless transmitters has brand-new modulation called Zaxcom High Density (ZHD). With ZHD modulation, up to 10 channels of wireless can be operated in 1 MHz of frequency spectrum space. The new ZHD models – the TRXLT3, TRXLA3, and TRX743 – like the company’s other digital wireless transmitters, are 100% digital, have built-in backup recording with timecode, include NeverClip for superior dynamic range, and are fully encrypted.

Glenn Sanders, president of Zaxcom, has this to say about the new ZHD products: “This is a major development for our industry. There’s currently a genuine concern because the available spectrum for wireless microphones is shrinking. In the near future, many broadcasters won’t have enough spectrum to cover events as they did in the past. Since so many more wireless mics can be utilized per MHz with ZHD modulation in comparison to current wireless microphone technology, this won’t be a problem anymore.”

Sanders ensures that compatibility with Zaxcom’s current transmitters and receivers will allow users to migrate to the new ZHD gear without a total equipment overhaul.

Here is Zaxcom’s own introduction to ZHD modulation: zaxcom.com/an-introduction-to-zhd-modulation

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