I was lucky enough to get to Las Vegas this spring for the annual National Association of Broadcasters conference, better known as N.A.B. It was my second time attending the conference but with a a gap of ten years between my two appearances. I am of two minds about attending conferences like this, given the current world of total digital access that we now live in. Fifteen years ago this kind of tradeshow/conference was where you had to go to really get useful information about what was new and exciting in the audio world, but now that is not so much the case. These days, at the same moment that a company is introducing a new product on the show floor, the company’s website is rolling out just about all the information you could need, with video tutorials and tech specs, all accessible from your comfy couch at home. You can go online and swap opinions and observations about new stuff with other audio nerds via blogs and user forums. Plus almost all software has some sort of demo available for download before purchase, so you don’t need to be on site to get a firsthand try at it. As a sound editor, attending N.A.B. to get a handle on what's new is no longer a must.
On the other hand, attendees with big spending budgets can get a lot accomplished on the show floor. High-end hardware, like consoles and outboard gear, are only easily demo'ed where there's dealers - so mostly only in big cities like New York and Los Angeles. If you're from a smaller place, coming to Vegas is your big chance to get your hands on all the gear at once. As an example, while the new Avid S6 control surface is well represented on AVID’s website, it was a different experience to see it in person and watch it get put through its paces on the show floor.
The N.A.B. show is massive and it takes a lot of seemingly endless walking to get through the whole show. Granted, large sections of the conference are of no interest at all to the average audio pro, but I found almost all of the exhibits interesting on some level. I try to use some of my time there to get a sense of the industry as a whole. For the purposes of this post though, I will stick to a few audio-related discoveries that I found especially interesting.
First up: swag! The prize for best bit of swag from the show? The Izotope RX3 hand sanitizer. This is a clever little play on the software’s audio cleaning capabilities. I picked up about 30 pens and a bunch of USB stick drives from other companies - stuff that I might end up actually using more, but the Izotope freebie is the one that I really remember.
Blastwave had a booth that was manned by Ric Viers - obviously - it's his company - as well as Colin Hart of Hart FX. I talked a bit with both of them and they were super nice guys. Blastwave announced the third edition of its flagship product in Sonopedia 3.0. I learned that I had been pronouncing the name of this SFX collection wrong for a long time; the proper way is so the beginning sounds like sonar. Version 3.0 has 40,000 sounds, up from the 30,000 SFX you got with version 2.0. That basic info was readily available. What I learned from talking to Ric in person was that version 3.0 first carved out 7000 older SFX and actually added 17,000 new sounds to get to the final 40,000. Meaning that if you already own Sonopedia 2.0, as I do, upgrading to the latest version means you are actually ending up with 47,000 total SFX, because you would already own the sounds they carved out of 3.0. That is a little complicated to describe in a press release (or a blog post for that matter.) It's the kind of thing you learn on the show floor by actually talking to the guy who's responsible.
Klover Products had a small booth that I stumbled across while I was wandering around lost, looking for another company. They make parabolic microphone dishes, and seem like they really know what they are doing. The owner is a design engineer and was brought into the audio game from the science end of things. He was commissioned to make a better parabolic dish by Fox TV for their NFL coverage. He must have been successful, because Klover now provide both MLB and NFL broadcasts with the dishes they use to capture the cracks of bats and the smashing of shoulder pads. Klover had a brand new product debuting at N.A.B. that is smaller and more portable. The Klover 09 is only 9 inches in diameter and is designed to be fitted with a lavalier microphone. Although it was impossible to properly test it against the wall of noise on the show floor, the manufacturer claims that a quality lav mic in this little dish compares very well with high-end shotgun mics. Could make an interesting addition for a field recording kit for someone who already owns a lav microphone.
Finally, GlenSoundUK had a really interesting device called the Cub: a 2-channel field mixer that connects directly to an iPhone. The phone can be used as a on-board hard drive, adding recording capability to the mixer. It also can feed the audio from the mixer directly into an iPhone's out-going phone connection. Meaning you can have your sounds being fed directly down the line for live interviews for radio or television. Again, I could not really test the preamps on the noisy show floor but it's an interesting concept. The Cub looked like it could take a beating too, as it was a sturdy little piece of gear. My only fear is that next time Apple changes the type of connection that iPhones use, the Cub could become a bit of a paper weight.
There were lots of other great new releases at NAB but these three were a bit under the radar, so I thought I would shine a little light on them here.