Winter NAMM: Increasing Focus on Pro Audio

Installed-sound exhibits offer an array of choices for sports-venue systems designers

The Winter NAMM Show (Jan. 21-24 at the Anaheim Convention Center in California) continues to become a pro-audio show to be reckoned with. Although exhibitor numbers won’t be available for a few days, the section of the show floor dedicated to pro audio products was once again crowded, demonstrating the need for the venue’s $180 million, 200,000-sq.-ft. expansion begun in 2014 and set to open this year.

Another sure sign that NAMM’s influence on the pro-audio sector is waxing: the Audio Engineering Society hosted a membership drive during the show. AES members also participated in education events at the TEC Track, the education component of the show (formerly the H.O.T. Zone).

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The Anaheim Convention Center is home to the Winter NAMM show this week.

Winter NAMM is drawing more installed-sound manufacturers and systems, and the trend reflects the broader array of choices for sports-venue systems designers. They’re also coming from farther away to access the U.S.’s robust sports-venue market. Loren Robinson, business development manager at Spain-based D.A.S., notes that the company’s PA-system products have been added to an outdoor stage in a fixed entertainment area around Miami’s American Airlines Arena, whose main PA system already features D.A.S. products.

“The installation is currently in progress,” he says “It’s a smaller version of what’s in the arena, but it’s part of the larger trend towards sports venues’ also becoming entertainment destinations.”

Winter NAMM has also become the venue for a growing number of significant product introductions and announcements. Among this year’s:

•  Sennheiser gave SVG a peek at a steerable-array microphone, as yet formally unnamed and just entering beta testing, whose five capsules — including a top-mounted one, which would make it compatible with new immersive-audio formats like Atmos and MPEG-H — will have a sports application, according to Strategic Innovation Manager Sebastian Chafe. Using a companion DSP package, the microphone, set up in a central location, would be able to “track” movement of a player, a ball, or a puck across a field of play.

JBL SUB18 high-output subwoofer

JBL SUB18 high-output subwoofer

•  JBL has also introduced two iOS apps, SpeakerAngle and SpeakerPro, intended to help users optimize speaker positioning for improved performance. SpeakerAngle allows precise adjustment of toe-in angles; SpeakerPro uses sound to precisely measure the distance of each speaker from the listening position, as well as the distance between speakers. Distance is displayed accurately within fractions of an inch, allowing optimization of speaker placement. Additionally, SpeakerPro uses distance data to provide intelligent toe-in angle recommendations for optimized imaging at the listening position. Both apps can be used with Apple iPhone, iPad, or iPod devices.

•  Yamaha Commercial Audio Systems, the installed-sound division of the company, exhibited at the event for the first time. The reason: smaller music-instrument sales and A/V retail companies are adding installation services, according to marketing manager Marc Lopez, for facilities range from neighborhood stores to high school athletic departments. “Audio products are getting better and more affordable, so they’re going into more places,” he points out. “Smaller retailers, like the ones we find at [Winter NAMM], are moving into those markets.”

Shure KSM8 Dualdyne cardioid dynamic mic

Shure KSM8 Dualdyne cardioid dynamic mic

•  Shure unveiled the KSM8 Dualdyne cardioid dynamic microphone. Billed as the world’s first dual-diaphragm dynamic handheld, the KSM8 extends the company’s wired-microphone line and is designed for live-sound applications where vocal clarity and sound quality are absolutely critical. It offers a very tight cardioid polar pattern and the ability to virtually eliminate proximity effect and master off-axis rejection thanks to the patented Dualdyne cartridge, which features two ultra-thin diaphragms—one active and one passive. Additionally, its pneumatic shock mount offers exceptional rejection of handling noise without loss of low-frequency response. The retail price for the KSM8 starts at $499.

•  DiGiCo’s new Hydra 2 interface card is now available. It provides interconnectivity with Calrec’s Hydra 2 network system for DiGiCo’s SD series consoles, through DiGiCo’s Orange Box interface.

•  Wireless-microphone-system manufacturer AKG announced additional frequency bands for the WMS40 Mini wireless system for use in major U.S. cities. The new frequency options are US25A 537.500 MHz, US25B 537.900 MHz, US25C 539.300 MHz, and US25D 540.400 MHz. The dual-band WMS40 Mini2, meanwhile, addresses the combined frequency bands US25A/C and US25B/D.

•  Though not exhibiting, Lawo announced during NAMM that it has fully integrated L-S-B Broadcast Technologies, German developer and manufacturer of broadcast-control and -monitoring solution Virtual Studio Manager (VSM), into the Lawo company structure. The products will be marketed under the Lawo brand. Service, support, and project management with focus on R&D for VSM and theWALL will remain in Wiesbaden, whereas sales will be served via Lawo in Rastatt, Germany. The full integration of L-S-B into the Lawo brand represents the consistent result of the previous joint commitment to generate synergies in particular in international sales and customer service. The common goal is to advance VSM as a manufacturer-independent control system open for all remote protocols and to establish the new theWALL multiviewer-control software for monitor walls to the worldwide market.

The NAMM Show will continue to be mainly a cacophonous draw for the music side of audio, but its gravitational pull for pro audio continues to increase, especially as those two universes converge.