Wednesday, March 25th, 2009 | by matthew mcglynn
Here’s my overdue photo roundup from Winter NAMM 2009… lots of gear photos and even a couple guys from Dream Theater (w00t!).
I went to NAMM to see two things: drums and microphones. I believe the show had some guitars and keyboards too, but I didn’t manage to take any pictures of any of them. Actually at one point I saw an entire room filled with pianos, and from across a long hallway I imagined it would sound like 50 terrible keyboard players banging out everything from Chopsticks to Free Bird, out of key. Still, it would be quieter than the drum room. But everyone inside dressed like the Wurlitzer salesman at the shopping mall, so I didn’t want to go there.
Pictured are some prototype Tama StarWorks toms. These are reportedly an entry-level line with some garish wrapped finishes; they caught my eye at first, but upon reflection I realized (with some dismay) that I’m no longer 14.
Despite this, my visit to the Tama booth nearly cost me $1500, because I fell in lust with the Starclassic Maples. My mistake was in visiting Tama while shopping for a new drum kit. That’s like going to the grocery store just before dinner — the gourmet, local-organic, solar-powered grocery store where a pint of cherry tomatoes costs $47 because they’re awesome and also because they have a picture of Thomas Keller on the package. Or something.
Tama’s Starclassic Maple drums sound amazing. The StarCast mounting system is the industry’s best. But they didn’t fit my budget, no matter how hungry I was. Sigh.
I am surprised to see that his basic kit configuration hasn’t changed, as far as I can tell, in over 20 years… this kit looks very much like his clinic kit from 1994 (photos here) and like the recording kit from the Protocol CD I bought on his clinic tour in 1988. After all this time, Simon is still playing Tama, with two kicks, four racks, Octobans, 2-3 floor toms, and the gong bass drum. The man knows what he likes.
The Telefunken USA booth hosted some bold comparisons, such as vintage vs. reproduction Ela M 251s, U-47s and C12s, side by side, enabling attendees to audition the old and new through headphones. As I mentioned in my NAMM Microphone Review, the NAMM show floor is a challenging environment for comparative listening tests, but I give high marks to Telefunken USA for putting their mics head-to-head with the industry’s best.
Purists get bothered by any modern reproduction or reinterpretation of these classic mics, but the new mics look and sound great, even if the tubes and capsules aren’t identical.
Violet Design mics were displayed by their US distributor, FDW, along with several other faraway brands: Sontronics from the UK, and Nevaton from Russia. I’m looking forward to hearing the Global Pre and some of the lollipop capsules (laid out on the table in the photo above) soon.
Here’s Victor Wooten giving a solo concert.
I’m not sure what the story on John Blackwell’s hat was. It’s like there’s some kind of catalog of ironic accessories that famous musicians get. Not that it’s a bad hat — I’m just saying, if I saw it on a rack somewhere I’d be thinking “who on earth would wear this?” And now I know.
I can’t do what I want to do with this site without the help of some industry insiders, so I was glad to meet a few of them:
Michael Chiriac of Cascade Microphones was running has large booth solo, fielding questions about the ubiquitous Fathead and the other dozen microphones he sells. Here he’s holding the Cascade Gomez ribbon mic, and the award it won from Electronic Musician Magazine.
Wes Dooley showed off the phantom-powered A440 and told some interesting stories about building high-end ribbon mics. (Apparently he shops at the same place John Blackwell does.)
David Royer was showing off his new stereo tube condenser, the Mojave MA-202ST, and his new stereo tube ribbon, the Royer Labs SF24V. We had a chance to chat about the new products and the origins of the tube-condenser line (the MXL 2001 tube mod).