It was a sobering time at the Frankfurt Musikmesse this year, with increased security at transportation hubs, and a heightened awareness after the attack in Brussels. Fortunately the event was well-attended. There were almost 110,000 visitors from around 130 countries there to place orders, find out about the latest innovations and try new products from 2,043 exhibitors from 60 countries. Additionally, more than 20,000 music fans attended the 50-plus concerts of the Musikmesse Festival, which was held for the first time at over 30 locations.
For people who have been coming to the Messe for years there were some difficult things to get over. As someone who has advocated turning shows like NAMM into consumer shows it was an interesting lesson in what happens when you actually do it. The ambience was something between a concert and a trade show. The aisles were very crowded which is great, but the noise level was really loud, which isn't so good. There was a much quieter area that required a retailer or press pass to enter, but the traffic was sparse. It was easy to get lost, especially if you assumed you know where you were going.
There were two areas for music tech products, in two separate halls: The consumer area, and the industry area. The problem was that only the largest companies actually had the staffing resources to man two booths at the show. And they in many cases weren't inclined to commit them, especially with the Superbooth Show happening in Berlin only a week ahead of the Messe. No comment on the politics involved with this...
One of the personal highlights of the show was Eduardo Tarilonte's new Kwaya library in the Best Service booth. It's a great sounding collection of recordings from an African choir from Uganda. We'll be doing an interview with Eduardo shortly and he'll be telling some interesting stories about how it came about and what it took to organize it.
Plugin Alliance was showing Brainworx bx_panEQ ($299). This is a pretty nifty plug-in that allows the user to EQ different parts of the stereo spectrum. For example, a user may want to give the hit more emphasis on the right side of the mix. It's got a color-coded Panoramic Spectral Analyzer that plots changes to pan position.
Funny how things go in cycles, Softube was showing the new Softube Modular Eurorack emulator plug-in ($99 – Ships in May). The initial version includes emulations of six Doepfer modules and 20+ utility modules, such as sequencer, mixer, delay and more, and a preset library. Of course there is an in-application store and additional modules will be available in the future. Particularly interesting is the flexible routing matrix, including to external devices. Owners of Heartbeat will also be happy because Heartbeat's drum channels and EQ can be used as separate modules. They were also showing an increased commitment to their Console 1 ($849) platform with the British Class A for Console 1 ($249 – Ships in May). It's an emulation of four vintage Neve Class A units. Console 1 now runs inside runs inside of PreSonus Studio 1, and they're hoping to get support for other DAWs.
We were pleased to see a demo of Bitwig Studio ($299) running on the touch screen of a Microsoft Surface. They have made some changes to the UI to take advantage of the multiple touch environment and it's pretty cool. There's an input window that allows the user to move their fingers to change several parameters at once. The latency on the Surface is about the same as a desktop.
IK Multimedia had a large booth showing their new products including the new Lurssen Mastering Console ($199), which emulates the mastering processing chain, including tube and solid-state equalizers, limiters, de-essers, and compressors, employed by mastering engineers Gavin Lurssen and Reuben Cohen. There are 25 mastering templates created by Lurssen and Cohen for specific musical genres, using the same workflow as they do in their mastering studio.
ROLI was there in force. They were demonstrating the new 4-octave Seaboard RISE 49 ($1149). There is no sound generator built in, but it ships with an optimized softsynth called Equator. The Rise can be connected to a computer wirelessly over Bluetooth.
Speaking of wireless, Yamaha was showing their wireless MIDI connectors. The UD-BTO1 (digital connector) and the MD-BTO1 (standard MIDI connector) can be used to connect class compliant USB devices to computers, mobile devices, and MIDI devices. They take advantage of the Bluetooth LE (Low energy) standard. Each one is priced at $49.
Universal Audio had a centrally located and very active booth where they presented various producers every few hours. Visitors were entertained by Blitz the Ambassador from Ghana, who was performing with producer Fab DuPont. They have announced a new development partnership with Fender. Good news for guitar playing owners of products in the Apollo family. They'll be announcing the first product in a few weeks. They were also showing their new UAD-2 Satellite USB DSP Accelerators ($999-$1499) for the Windows USB 3 platform.
iZotope is packaging some of the algorithms they have developed as part of their larger software packages as individual and lower priced plug-ins. They were showing the Mobius Filter plug-in ($49). It's an experiment for a company more associated with full featured packages like Ozone, at higher price points.
One of the most interesting press conferences was Eventide's. They have just released Tverb ($149 until May 31st, 2016 (MSRP $249) in collaboration with acclaimed recording engineer/producer Tony Visconti. Visconti is well-known for recordings of David Bowie, including the amazing Heroes from Hansa Studios in Berlin in 1977. It is impossible not to feel a bit emotional hearing Bowie's vocal track soloed in the mix. You can see it for yourself here (The relevant part starts around 11:53). TVerb is an innovative concept based on that recording that allows the user to split an audio track into three separately placed and gated mics that are designed to simulate various locations used in the big room at Hansa during the actual recording of David Bowie's vocal track. They're going to do well with it.
Zynaptic was showing their new Wormhole (Price TBD) plug-in, which is in at least one person's opinion a clever title for an application that combines an eccentric spectral warping section with a lush reverb and precision-engineered processor that integrates pitch and frequency shifting into a single process.
And finally, the next time you are in Frankfurt you should check out Vinum:
Eat at Vinum - If you want to feel safe