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Mic News, January 2012

If you pay any attention to the pro audio industry, you've noticed an avalanche of new product announcements recently—new companies, new endorsements, new products, even some old products with new paint jobs (really). It's not a coincidence; it's the NAMM show, the industry's annual insiders-only event.

Thousands of companies filled the Anaheim Convention Center last week to spend four days schmoozing dealers, distributors, the media, and me. (And I can tell you, I was overdue for some schmoozing!)

The "NAMMvalanche" of audio product news results from thousands of companies tying their product development cycles to the annual trade-show schedule. The news you've been hearing is just an advance peek at a year's worth of products to come.

I will post a roundup of microphone news within the next week. As you should expect, it will go deeper than the breathless press releases, to tell you the stuff that really matters.

In the meantime, we've got a sensational new sponsorship prize for January, and lots more good stuff below.

January Newsletter Sponsor: RealTraps

I've been a fan and unofficial endorser of the RealTraps "Portable Vocal Booth" for years, so I'm really excited to announce that now I get to give one away. Huge thanks to Ethan and James from RealTraps for this opportunity!

The PVB is a hinged acoustic panel that stands behind your microphone to control room reflections. It works in both directions: it reduces the sound going past the mic and into the room to bounce around and muddy up your recording. And it reduces whatever ambient/reflected sound there is from coming back into the mic. In the words of the manufacturer, it creates "a highly controlled environment for recording vocals and spoken narration in acoustically hostile spaces."

When the PVB and other "reflection filters" first hit the market, I was suspicious of the hype. But I tested the PVB extensively, and was impressed enough to buy it. Here's an excerpt from my review of the Portable Vocal Booth: "The PVB looks good. It sets up quickly. It is undemanding when in session. And it works as advertised. I wish I could say that about the rest of my gear."

If you don't have a purpose-built vocal booth, you'll use this every time you track. I say this from personal experience.

James from RealTraps recorded a podcast about the product, which not only gives you another demo of its effectiveness, but presents a neat approach to capturing a controlled room tone.

If you received this newsletter via email, you're already entered in the PVB drawing, which will take place in mid-February. If you're reading this online and would like to subscribe to the newsletter, click here for details.

Shure Month!

Since I met the gang from Shure, they have consistently stepped up to provide obscure product details, historical perspectives, and evaluation gear. The support has been fantastic, and has fueled a recent series of content features: First, we had Jordan Reynolds' voiceover test of the KSM313 and KSM353 ribbon microphones. Next we had Jon Tidey's over-the-top review of the A27M stereo mount and A75M multi-clamp. Finally, four of Shure's exclusive condenser capsule designs—from the KSM42, KSM44/44A, SM27, and Beta 27, pictured above but in a totally different order—have been lovingly documented in the Large-Diaphragm Capsule Directory.

Coming soon: an homage to the vintage Shure SM5BShure SM5B broadcast dynamic. (Meanwhile, the KSM ribbons will wing their way to NYC for part III of Marc Mommaas' "Quest for the Ultimate Sax Mic" feature.)

Everything You Need To Know About Audio!

When we were trading emails about the PVB sponsorship, Ethan Winer mentioned that he has a new book coming out, modestly titled Everything You Need To Know About Audio. I put it on my Amazon wishlist immediately! Well, then I took it back off because I remembered that Ethan promised to send me a review copy. But I'll buy it if I have to, because I think it's going to serve as an outstanding reference for audio engineers. Check out the TOC: from basic concepts like comb filtering, the null test, Fletcher-Munson curves, and perception issues, to recording techniques, mics and outboard effects, even video and MIDI. It's a big book, with a companion website filled with audio and video examples. (Seriously, why try to imagine what flutter echo sounds like when you could just go listen to a sample of it?)

Preview the book: The Audio Expert: Everything You Need to Know About Audio. See also Ethan's description.

Announcing the Kel Audio HM-3C Winner

The Kel Audio HM-3C condensers work midrange magic on strings. Kelly Dueck of Kel Audio generously donated a pair of them, which have been won by ... (drumroll please) ... Todd McKernan of Southern California.

Todd McKernanTodd earned his degree at Citrus College's Recording Block Program in Los Angeles. He now works at the up-and-coming Inter-Pulse Studios where he produces many independent acts.

Congratulations, Todd! I'm sure you will enjoy the heck out of those microphones!

Be sure to check the RecordingHacks site next week for the big NAMM Microphone Roundup!
I'm everywhere!
Friends & Supporters
Dave Nachmanoff
Dave Nachmanoff is a lifelong folk artist—a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and longtime collaborator with Al Stewart. Dave produced Stewart's 2010 release, Uncorked (click for audio samples—if you don't recognize Stewart's name, you'll recognize his voice!). And Stewart performs on Dave's newest CD, Step Up (recorded at Veneto West by Ronan Chris Murphy). Read more about Dave on his website, DaveNach.com.

Joshua Craig
Joshua Craig is a composer, producer, live engineer and musician from Sydney, Australia. Josh's focus is mostly directed towards experimental music which he fuses with traditional production techniques to produce a sound that has been described as "what would happen if Sigur Ros took control of the Starship Enterprise and everything in it." In addition to his personal projects, Josh spends his time producing music at Main Street Studios along with owner Adam Jordan and fellow producer Murray Stace. Visit Josh at Main Street Studios.

Peter Najdzin
Peter Najdzin is a bass player, engineer and producer for the musical comedy band Gargerelli, who is currently working on their first CD of original material at Peter's home studio (Big White Studio). Peter also does frequent open mics with lead singer and rythym guitarist Gene Focarelli. Says Peter, "Music is my passion, my second great love (my family is first) and my only hobby."

NAMM Mics Preview
(Mouse over to see names.)

Mojave Audio MA-301 FET

Oktava MKL-111

Lewitt Professional Audio LCT 940

NAMM Highlights, in brief!
Hearing child-rearing stories from Ryan Canestro, poolside at the Marriott... Free drinks from Electo-Voice, plus a place to sit! Two keys to happiness after a grueling day on the show floor... Getting berated by a particularly prickly mic designer. Wait, that wasn't a highlight! ...Staffing the Cascade Microphones booth to give ironman Ken Levy an overdue break... Great conversations with John Born, Chad Wiggins, Chris Lyons, and more friends from Shure... Meeting Ronan Chris Murphy in person, finally... Really great tacos with Jon Mattox; best lunch at NAMM by far... Getting a sneak preview of the Wunder CM67 from Brad Avenson (details here)... sharing horror stories about a particular un-favorite audio forum with a couple mic vendors... impromptu and frenetic meeting with Doug Doppler, star of the guitar cab ribbon mic shootout... several long conversations with David Royer about microphone design, shockmounts, and the joys of limp microphone cable... peeking under the hood of Brian Loudenslager's hand-soldered prototype of the Lauten Atlantis (details coming soon)... talking tech about guitar slides and metal treatments (Lucazite!) with Jeff Roberts of Latch Lake... a surprise and very warm meeting with Aspen Pittman (Groove Tubes), who has the coolest business cards I've ever seen: laminated, ultra-thin hardwood! More to come...

Do you do location recording with a portable, compact recorder? (Think: Zoom H2/H4N, iPhone/iPad plus microphones) We're rounding up some of the latest digital mics and recorders for a shootout. If you'd like to participate, get in touch.