NAMM 2015 H5 Zoom handheld recorder – TEC award winner

Zoom H5 Handy Recorder
Zoom H5 Handy Recorder

The Zoom H5 Handy Recorder was a winner at the 2015 NAMM TEC Awards. We are fans of handheld recorders and stopped by the Zoom booth to learn more about what made this winner a winner.

The H5 is a portable 4-track digital recorder with interchangeable mic inputs–detach the included shockmounted X/Y mic capsule and connect an optional Zoom condenser mic to suit your recording needs. We like the fact the mics can be swapped out, especially because the unidirectional X/Y mic capsule is capable but not adjustable.

The H5 lets the user select stereo recording for two tracks or multitrack for four tracks. Record .wav and MP3 files directly to SD and SDHC cards up to 32GB capacity. Pitch change and a variable playback feature aid learning. The H5 can also automatically begin and end recording when a certain level of sound is detected. Another attractive feature is Backup-Record, which saves a stereo version of your original track–handy should something unexpected happen with the original. The H5 uses two alkaline batteries and can record approximately 15 hours.

We think the H5 is worthy of consideration for those in the market for a handheld recorder for either audio alone or audio/video. It plays nicely with external i-devices, provided you have the necessary software to complete the interface–and offers flexibility and a host of useful features at an affordable price point of $269.99.

Read more about the Zoom H5 here.

NAMM 2015 first listen: AKG K812 High Fidelity headphones

 

AKG K812 Pro Superior Reference Headphones
AKG K812 Pro Superior Reference Headphones

The AKG Pro Audio K812PRO Superior Reference high-fidelity headphones won the best headphones category during this year’s winter NAMM TEC Awards show. As we’d just given the impressive Blue Mo-Fi headphones a listen our curiosity was piqued. We made a trip over to AKG to hear what the competition had to offer.

First, know the K812 is an expensive, high-end headphone–but more on that later. “More” and “bigger” seem to be the K812‘s winning formula. The K812 promises to produce sound as close to natural as possible, thanks to its 1.5 Tesla magnet system, which is the strongest on the market today and which produces extremely high quality sound. The company also hypes the headphones’ 53mm transducer, the largest AKG has built yet.

Relatively fresh from our brief yet satisfying test drive of Blue Mic’s Mo-Fi headphones, we were excited to try these out. It’s hard to dig deep at noisy conventions but we just wanted the highlights. As with the Mo-Fi, we were able to sample a variety of genres of music at AKG’s headphone sample station. And like the Mo-Fi, we found ourselves blown away by the K812‘s extreme sonic clarity and crisp, even tones. If you’ve never heard music through today’s high-fidelity headphones, you owe it to yourself to listen to it through a pair of K812s. The sound is unreal, more there than there if that makes sense. These are built for studio work, as they capture every detail of every sound.

Fit was comfortable and the finish seemed solid. And at an average retail price of $1499 the K812 is a serious headphone meant for industry professionals and only the most dedicated audiophiles.

Read more about the AKG K812 here.

Casio showcases four new digital pianos at NAMM 2015

The Casio Celviano digital piano
The Casio Celviano digital piano

The news over at the Casio booth at NAMM this year was the expansion of its Privia and Celviano digital piano lines with four newcomers.

We always enjoy the Casio Press Event and this year the company hosted two of its artists, Kristian Terzić and Stephan DeReine, who each put the Privia through its paces with a couple incredible musical performances that stopped us in our tracks. We digress–back to the gear.

The Privia series welcomes the PX-760 and PX 860. These touch-sensitive pianos are portable performance workhorses. The Celviano series hosts new recruits AP-260 and AP-460. Privia digital pianos are engineered to replicate realistic grand piano sound. Celviano models are housed in an upright piano casing that reminds us at ADT of the many practice pianos of our youth.

These four new pianos include a Hall Simulator and Concert play, which are engineered to enhance the playing experience. Pianists may play along with 10 orchestral classical pieces in Concert Play, which also allows players to add or remove the symphonic accompaniment as they practice or perform. Students may use the lesson feature to slow down the tempo of the orchestral accompaniment as they learn to play along. Casio has also developed its proprietary “AIR” technology that recreates the sound and feel of real sustain pedal dampening and release.

Celviano retail pricing begins at $1499. Privia pricing begins at $1099.

For more information on the new Casio Celvianos, visit http://casiomusicgear.com/products/menu_celviano

For more information on the new Casion Privias, visit http://casiomusicgear.com/products/menu_privia

NAMM 2015 first listen: Blue Mo-Fi high fidelity headphones

Blue Mic Mo-Fi High Fidelity headphones
Blue Mic Mo-Fi high fidelity headphones

During last year’s winter NAMM show we reported Blue Mic’s tease of their then to-be-released Mo-Fi high fidelity headphones. Mo-Fi was being kept well under wraps but the suggestion and promise of sound unlike anything we’d heard before ensured we’d be back.

This year we eagerly swung round to the Blue booth for a first look and, most importantly, our first listen. Impression: awesome. This is the audiophile’s dream headphone–good looks, great sound and affordable price point. We slipped on the phones and queued up samples of the entire suite of demo tracks. Be it rock, classical, jazz, pop or soul, the sound was jaw-droppingly encompassing, alive and rich.

The Mo-Fi headphone promises to deliver “real audiophile performance and sound quality on every device–from professional studio gear to laptops, tablets and even your phone.” The headphones are also designed with adjustable ear cups and a multi-jointed headband that allow the listener to adjust them to create a custom fit. To us, a full-sized headphone will always be a full-sized headphone–but they were light and we appreciated the ability to adjust Mo-Fi for comfortable wear.

Mo-Fi owes its dynamic sound clarity to a built-in audiophile amplifier and precision drivers. The ear cups completely isolate outside noise. Three amp modes let listeners adjust sound to their preference. The headphones automatically power on when opened and off when closed. Mo-Fi also provides approximately 12 hours of rechargeable battery life.

At present, Mo-Fi is available in a single model that retails for $349.

Visit http://mofiheadphones.com/ for more.

30th Annual NAMM TEC Awards honors Slash, Nathan East, Ed Cherney

Orianthi, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Slash and Richie Sambora at the NAMM 2015 TEC Awards.
Orianthi, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Slash and Richie Sambora at the NAMM 2015 TEC Awards.

Jan. 24, 2015, Anaheim, CA.  – This year the NAMM TEC Awards celebrated its 30th anniversary as it honored 2014’s best and brightest contributors to audio and technology. Comedian Sinbad deftly handle Comedian Sinbad deftly handled host duties, ensuring the audience was entertained throughout the almost four-hour event, which culminated with the celebration of three venerable contributors to the combined arts of technology and creativity: Nathan East, Ed Cherney and Slash.

While these names may need little introduction to many, let us at AllDayTech provide some context as we too celebrate their achievements, along with many others who received accolades on this night.

First up among the honorees inducted into the 2014 TEC Awards Hall of Fame was renowned Grammy-award winning bassist Nathan East. If you remember a little Phil Collins’ ditty called “Easy Lover” you know his work–he co-wrote that huge 80s hit with Collins and Earth, Wind and Fire vocalist Philip Bailey. He has also worked with other very big names, among them Beyonce, Michael Jackson, Toto, George Harrison, Eric Clapton,   Daft Punk–on and on. After giving a heartfelt and humble acceptance speech he did what he does best and performed a couple jazzy grooves with the house band for the crowded ballroom of guests.

Six-time Grammy Award-winning engineer Ed Cherney was next up for the 2014 Hall of Fame honor. An affable fellow with an almost endlessly bedazzled resume, Cherney is one of the most recorded engineers in the business. He is also respected among his peers as one of the greatest rock engineers of all time, having worked with the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan,  Bonnie Raitt and Spinal Tap. Not that we’re biased but TAP! We digress. Cherney is a big deal who has made incredibly profound contributions to both music and music education. He recently finished a teaching residency at USC.

The TEC Awards is never complete without its final presentation: the distinguished Les Paul Award. 2014’s award belonged to guitarist Slash, known for his incredible contributions to rock music as the lead guitarist for Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver and his own independent projects.  Slash is also committed to supporting and resuscitating music education programs in schools. He wrapped the show with a blazing jam with an impressive lineup that included Richie Sambora, Don Was, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Orianthi and Kenny Aranoff.

See a full list of the night’s winners here.

Moog exhibits Theramini at NAMM 2015

Moog Theramini
Moog Theramini

The theramin is one of the first electronic instruments ever invented. Patented in 1928, it is controlled by frequencies produced through two antennae–one controls volume, the other controls pitch–depending on the distance from each the performer positions his or her hands. The performer never touches the instrument.

The theramin is enjoying quite the rebirth of late. Modern rock music has embraced this haunting, ethereal electronic machine whose otherworldly tones were first heard by many in retro sci-fi movies and emotive motion pictures dating as far back as the 1940s. Robert Moog discovered and embraced the instrument during the early 1950s. Now the Moog Corporation has created a new line of affordable modern versions for today’s musician, which it placed on display in its booth during the winter NAMM 2015 show.

I had to visit the booth to try my hand at Moog’s consumer-friendly version, the Theramini. I’d studied via YouTube videos how to play the instrument and, with just a 5-minute tutorial from a booth rep, was easing my hands up, down, in and out, making noises that sounded eerily familar. When you’re doing it right, that’s the sound you produce: eerie, whiny, creepy.

The Theramini looked–to me, at least–very much like a white suppository with one vertical antenna that modifies pitch via hand movements and a flat, flared loop off the left that controls volume. Pitch controls near the center let me set the key from which I wanted to manipulate my sounds. Within 10 minutes I was offering tutorials to other newbies I glimpsed flailing about trying to make sense of it all. Within 20 minutes I had managed a wobbly, yet triumphant version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

This is not an easy machine to master. If, however, it speaks to you, the Theramini is more than worth your time…and frustration. The Moog Theramini retails for $319.

Find more Moog Theramini details and specs here.

Blackbird Guitars debuts eco-friendly Ekoa instruments at NAMM 2015

Blackbird Ekoa El Capitan guitar
Blackbird Ekoa El Capitan guitar

Among the more intriguing things we saw this year were manufacturers innovating with new materials to create more eco-friendly instruments. Blackbird Guitars, an acoustic instrument manufacturer based in California, showed off two new eco-friendly instruments in its lineup, the El Capitan guitar and the Clara ukulele.

Both instruments are made entirely of a linen composite material. That’s right–Blackbird has developed a new plant-based material technology it calls Ekoa. The company describes Ekoa as “a proprietary, first-of-its kind, bio-based material that provides warm, vintage sound and feel with the toughness of carbon fiber.”

Blackbird promises the El Capitan and Clara will possess vintage tone and hardy construction capable of taking the kind of abuse typical for the most road-worn guitars. Blackbird also takes pride in good looks and has taken pains to craft its Ekoa finishes to resemble those of decades-old, old-growth wood.

Sustainability doesn’t come cheap: The Ekoa El Capitan will run you at least $3,000 and the Clara ukulele more than $1,000. And while we are impressed and fascinated by the idea of guitars made from linen, and while both instruments sounded great during the demo the Blackbird rep performed during the media preview expo, we can’t help but wonder how the material will age over time. As wood ages on a typical guitar, the tone also warms. How Ekoa’s looks and tones evolve over the years remains to be seen and heard.

Still, we have to applaud the considerable lengths the company has taken to replicate the experience of a traditional wood instrument in an environmentally friendly guitar.

The El Capitan Ekoa guitar will be available April 2015. The Clara Ekoa ukulele is presently shipping.

Read more about the El Capitan and Clara Ekoa guitars here.

IK Multimedia showcases iRig Mic Field at NAMM 2015

IK Multimedia iRig Mic Field
IK Multimedia iRig Mic Field

The iRig Mic Field is an upgraded version of the company’s previous version, the iRig Mic Cast. It is lightweight and roughly the size of a cheese cracker with an input that rotates 90 degrees for optimal positioning. Operation is simple: plug in, turn on your i-device’s recorder and the mic’s status indicator lights up to let you know it’s on and ready to go. The Mic Field has a gain control wheel and an audio-out jack for users who want to monitor their recordings through headphones.  The Mic Field comes with a black foam windscreen and soft carrycase, all which fit neatly in a pocket.

The mic can be used to record just audio as well as audio for video. We found the Mic Field’s recorded clean sound with solid fidelity–our video recording of the No Wonder band provided an  impressive first go with the mic. We also tested the Mic Field’s audio-only sensitivity at home, setting it to record for several minutes in a quiet room. It deftly picked up the subtlest sounds of house settling and outdoor noise.

Our only gripe? The input has no extension, nor is there an included adaptor, which required us to unsheathe our device from their protective cases to connect the Mic Field. If your device is swathed in Otterbox-style protection–any sort of case, actually–know you will have to remove it to use the Mic Field out of the box, which many users will not find practical. We asked about this limitation while at the booth and were told the solution at this time is to buy an aftermarket adapter. We hope this is a limitation IK Multimedia addresses with its future i-device mics.

The IK Multimedia iRig Mic Field retails for $99.99. Find more information here.

George Clinton brings funk to the Lennon Bus at NAMM 2015

George Clinton at 2015 NAMM Media Preview Day
George Clinton at 2015 NAMM Media Preview Day

George Clinton joined forces with the John Lennon Educational Tour bus at this year’s winter NAMM show to promote both music education and funk.

Clinton was on hand Wednesday, Jan. 21 to mentor Berklee City Music Network students through a recording session on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus. Clinton appeared earlier the same day before the media, dressed to his usual nines in a plaid three-piece suit and jaunty fedora, to speak on his passion about the importance of music education.

Clinton also promoted his new “First You Gotta Shake the Gate” Funkadelic CD and his new book, “Like George.” After his press appearance he climbed aboard the Lennon Bus to share insights with the students from his decades of industry experience and musical knowledge as they worked together to craft an original song.

Friday night George reunited with Parliament Funkadelic for a rousing, eagerly awaited set during the “Imagine Party,” hosted by The Lennon Bus.

The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus is a state-of the art, non-profit mobile studio. The bus travels the country to bring songwriting, studio production experience and performing opportunity to music students, schools and communities.

Learn more about the Lennon Bus here.

 

BMW 535d is elegant way to save fuel, have fun

2014 BMW 535d
2014 BMW 535d

OK, I’m hooked and I admit it. Yes, I love diesel cars.

Hybrids are fine but they cost a bit more and don’t deliver quite the fuel economy claimed, at lest some don’t. Every diesel, however, has met or even exceeded claimed gas mileage. Yep, Each one I’ve tested.

One of my favorites is the BMW 535. It’s already a car to long for, but add diesel technology and it’s nearly irresistible.

The 535d has the same equipment as the 535i except the six cylinder engine is a turbocharged diesel which makes a so-so 255 horsepower, but – wait for it – 413 pounds-feet of torque. Yes, you could pull stumps out of the ground if this were a truck. It’s not. It is a luxury sedan that can hit 60 miles per hour in 5.8 seconds and achieve 26 miles per gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. That’s 30 mpg overall. Oh, and it has x-Drive, BMW’s all wheel drive system.

The engine is coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission that can shifted like a manual from the steering wheel. It is buttery smooth, acting as if it’s not there at times. You can downshift quickly if you need to pass or cruise effortlessly in eighth gear. Yes, it’s quick for its size, but BMW has taken a bit of the sport out of the 5-series. It’s more comfortable and luxurious than before, but not as attitudinal. You can get that in the M or even the 550i with a V8, but I still think this 5 strikes a great balance between sport and comfort.

Driving this automobile is really a pleasure. There is enough feedback from steering and the road feel from the tires to know what’s going on. You can still find twisty roads to conquer but a tad bit more care is necessary. Don’t worry, this is still a sports sedan, despite the fact it’s as quite as Grant’s tomb.

Can’t say enough about the car’s iconic styling. The double kidney grill still screams BMW. The overall shape is sleek and eye pleasing. Still one of the best looking cars on the road.

There’s plenty of technology, some optional. Intelligent cruise control, blind spot detection, antilock brakes, LED headlights, bunches of air bags, stability and traction control and navigation were present. The ubiquitous high end stereo with terrestrial and satellite radio was also present.

My turn in the Bimmer didn’t allow me to test the x-Drive system. The weather was perfect. I’m still not sure if I’m sold on i-Drive, although it gets better with every new update. X-drive controls most of the car’s functions with a single knob. I’m not bothered by many buttons so long as each feels good to the touch or offers an easily definable function.

How much for the goodies. Well, my test car was around $60,000 with options and destination. That’s about average for cars in this class. Love the gas mileage with the diesel engine (which of course does not smoke nor makes much noise per diesels of old). Couldn’t ask for much more.

cross@alldaytech.com