CTW NAMM 2013 Coverage: Behringer Speakers

On Wednesday, we looked at some new Behringer input devices, today we’ll look at output; namely speakers. I’ll disclaim this once so I don’t have to do it each time—we didn’t hear any of these so I can’t comment how they sound. I got to know the HOW rep at the show and their new PR guy is a good friend, so perhaps we’ll be getting some demos soon.

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NEKKT K5 and K8

In a clever typography trick, they used two “K’s” to make an X. Kind of. The KK of course, stands for Keith Klawitter, whom you may know from a little company called KRK. Uli asked Keith to design some monitors for them, and he did. They look a lot like KRK models, at least in shape. The cones are white, however. Since DSP is cheap now, they built some in. You can download various DSP profiles to your speakers using your iPhone and they will simulate various studio monitor setups around the world. You can also adjust the DSP settings from your phone, while you sit in the sweet spot. 

Powered by a 100W or 150W amplifier respectively, the speakers are bi-amped. Silk dome tweeters and long-throw 5” and 8” woofers make the sound. You can send audio to them via analog ins, but where’s the fun in that. How about using the built-in USB inputs instead? Or better yet, you can stream audio to them via Bluetooth from you phone. That could be pretty useful if you want to demo a track, or show some song ideas. Prices are $399 and $499, respectively. A pair. 

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Eurolive Speakers

The new B112W and B115W are 12” and 15” portable, pole mount speakers. They come with two channel mixers built-in, are powered by 1000W Class D amps, and are composite box. Nothing too surprising there. However, they also are “Wireless ready” and you can use the speakers as a receiver for their line of digital wireless mic's (I didn’t even know they had those). You can also stream via Bluetooth to a stereo pair of speakers from you iPhone or Andriod. Cost is $329 or $379 each.

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iQ Series Speakers

You may or may not have noticed that Behringer bought Turbosound. Well, they did. And since they also own Klark Technik, they have some interesting design help now. The first product of this marriage is the new iQ series. A line of six boxes (four tops, two subs), the iQ line is quite interesting. 

For full-range boxes, you have the iQ 8, iQ 10, iQ 12, and the iQ 15. As you might expect, the main drivers are 8, 10, 12 and 15 inches. A 1.75” titanium driver handles the highs. Each box is powered by a 2,500 W Class D amp, and is endowed with a good bit of KT DSP. They are fiberglass-reinforced composite boxes, and can be used as mains or monitors; stacked, pole mounted or flown. 

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Each box includes Ultranet for connecting directly to the X32 line of mixers or personal monitors, USB input for control of the DSP (you can also use the rear screen), and a pair of mic/line inputs with separate level controls. The DSP seems pretty impressive for a set of portable speakers. From their website, “This dynamic digital engine commands a phase/time-correction crossover, EQ, noise gate, automatic feedback eliminator, and much more to maintain optimal performance.” Not bad. Assuming they sound good...

Also in the line are the iQ15s and iQ18s, which, as you would expect, are the sub models. Same 2,500 W power, same DSP built-in. 

Prices are as follows: iQ8: $549; iQ10 $599; iQ12 $699; iQ15 $799; iQ15s $899; iQ18s $999. When you pair that with an X32 mixer and a pile of their personal mixers, you could do a dual 15 tops, dual 18 subs system with 8 personal mixers for a little over $8000. And the whole system connects via a couple of Cat5 cables. Can anyone say portable church?

Again, we haven’t heard these, but Turbosound generally doesn’t suck, so I’d say they’re going to be worth a listen. 

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CTW NAMM 2013 Coverage: EV ZLX Powered Speakers

I’m a fan of EV’s LiveX speakers, and many of their small speakers for that matter. They sound pretty good, and are very affordable. We put the LiveX 15’s along with the single 18” subs in our student room and have been very happy with them. This year, EV builds on that lineup with the ZLX series. 

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Whereas the LiveX speakers are wooden boxes, the ZLX’s are composite. Composite boxes are easier and cheaper to make, which brings costs down. They are also light; the ZLX 12 is only 18 pounds, and with the three built-in handles, a Jr. High girl could put these up on a stand. 

Running a 1000W Class D Amp, the speakers have plenty of get up and go. They also included some built-in DSP. While not complete control over every parameter, you can select from a few preset, adjust the bass and treble and tell the system whether or not you’re using a sub. They are very affordable, too. The powered 12” version will list for $399, while the 15” will be $499. 

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Each speaker includes two XLR inputs with separate level controls, plus an 1/8" input jack for aux input. An output XLR is also included for daisy chaining.

EV has the best listening room at NAMM, and we got in for a quick audition. Just like a few years ago when I heard the LiveX speakers, I was impressed. The bass extension is good, even on the 12”, though perhaps not as deep as the LiveX. Still, for a portable system, I wouldn’t feel bad taking these on a gig. The mid-range is quite good, especially for a sub $500 powered speaker. I have always liked how EV voices their speakers; vocals are very clear and natural and seem to be emanating right in front of your face. The high end sounded clean as well, and not at all harsh (and harsh is something I’ve grown to expect from composite box speakers). 

I really can’t wait to get a set of these in to play with. Now that we have some Yamaha DXR-10s, it will be interesting to put these next to those and the LiveX’s and see what happens. The only downside to these boxes is the lack of fly points. Basically, EV isn’t looking at these as inexpensive install speakers, they are strictly portable models. I’m OK with that, but I wish I could fly them. They will be available sometime in April. Their website is a bit sparse on info right now, but there you go.

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CTW NAMM 2013 Coverage: Behringer Audio Interfaces

Behringer has been on a juggernaut of late. Most people know they build their stuff in China. What most don’t know is that they have their own city there, and everything the build is in their own factories. They are investing $50 Million in a new R&D and manufacturing campus in China. Uli Behringer went there to live for a while just to understand how they work. To some extent, I think Behringer is kind of like a mob family trying to go legit.

At NAMM this year, they introduced a bunch of new stuff; 28 products at their press event. We’ve already covered the extensions to the X32 line in video, so we’ll skip that here. First up, USB 2.0 audio interfaces.

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U-Phoria

I’ll skip the UM2 because it doesn’t have much relevance to what we do. The first one to look at is the UMC22. It’s a 2x2 interface with a single MIDAS preamp and a line input. Two TRS line outs on the back round out I/O. It samples at up to 48KHz, and offers phantom power and zero-latency direct monitoring. It’s $79. I know.

Next up is the UMC 202 which offers two MIDAS preamps as combo jacks for either mic or line inputs plus two TRS outputs. Offering sampling rates up to 96KHz, it also includes zero-latency monitoring as well as clip lights for monitoring signal level. I believe they said the price would be $129.

The UMC204 ups the ante a little bit more. Featuring two MIDAS preamps (again as combo jacks) and four outputs (two TRS, four RCA) plus a pair of TRS inserts and MIDI. Again samples up to 96KHz, with a price of $149.

These may not be ground-breaking, but to get a pair of MIDAS pre’s in a USB 2.0 interface for under $150 is pretty amazing. I would seriously consider the UMC202 as a portable measurement interface.

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iStudio is202

Need an interface for your iPad? Check out the iStudio is202. As it’s name implies, it includes 2 mic/line combo jacks (they don’t mention MIDAS, so I would assume they are not), and will output to either the TRS or RCA jacks. It includes two foot switch inputs plus MIDI I/O. They even include composite video out on an RCA. Right now, it’s 30-pin only, but a Lightning model is coming soon. It can also be battery powered for a completely portable solution. And the price? $149.

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ADA8200

This is the update the the “beloved” (their words) ADA8000 interface. If you have a Yamaha 01V, you probably have an ADA8000. It was a cheap and reasonably good way to get another 8 mic's into your 01V via ADAT. It was also found in many a studio that needed more mic inputs. For the 8200, they beefed it up with MIDAS preamps, 24-bit Cirrus Logic A/D converters and a new switched mode power supply for lower heat and longer life. It’s also now red. Of course, you also get 8 XLR outputs, and the ADAT I/O can be clocked independently if needed. The cost for all these upgrades? $349.

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CTW NAMM 2013 Coverage: Aviom A360 Personal Mixer

Continuing on with our personal mixer theme…

OK, so maybe I’m jaded. When I heard Aviom was introducing a new mixer, my first reaction was, “It’s about time.” After inventing the segment almost 15 years ago, they’ve pretty much milked that little blue box for all it’s worth, and then some. It was revolutionary for it’s time, but many have vastly improved on the concept, while Aviom just kept selling A-16IIs. 

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So now we have the new A360. And honestly, I’m not that impressed. While Roland and A&H are bringing in up to 40 channels, Aviom chose 36 (?). I suppose you could say it’s better than the 16 they used to have, and that’s true. They added stereo groups, meaning any of the 16 inputs can now be mono or stereo without eating up an additional channel. That’s progress to be sure. 

They added a 17th “Dual Profile Channel” that, to be honest, I’m not sure I understand. It can be another input, or a mirror of any of the other 16 channels, and it has two mix settings for level, stereo placement and reverb. I suppose that could be useful for a background singer who leads one song, for example. Or it could be unnecessary complication for a musician that’s already struggling to get a good mix. 

They made a big deal of their “enhanced stereo placement” feature, which basically lets you pan mono or stereo sources. So even a stereo source can be panned, while still maintaing some stereo spread. You can now adjust tone (yes, tone), reverb and level for each channel. Master bass and treble are still included. An ambient mic is also included, or you can designate one of the 36 channels on the Cat5 an ambient mic and it shows up in the dedicated “ambient section.” 

Perhaps the most interesting feature is the quick mix recall. You can save four versions of your mix to one of the four quick-recall buttons. This could be useful for trying out different mixes quickly or when lead parts move around during a set. Most personal mixers will let you save and recall, but this is really fast and easy. You can also save 16 presets the regular way.

The surface is exactly the opposite of the A&H ME-1. Whereas the ME-1 is very minimal with regard to button layout and sports a nice, bright display, the A360 is cluttered with buttons and level LEDs. While it may not be hard to get used to, it’s not pretty to look at either. But that’s not my major gripe. 

The biggest complaint of Avioms over the years (past the limited channel count) is that they don’t sound good. The headphone amps don’t get loud enough and there is no dynamic range. It just sounds as though the life has been sucked out of the music. When we talked to the rep (very briefly), we asked about this. He said the new one sounds “amazing!” So we listened to it. After about 4 minutes of twiddling with the mix trying to get it to sound like something, both Van and I looked at each other like we’ve been sucking on lemons, took off the headphones and said, “yuck.” 

It’s always hard to tell if the tracks are just terrible, but what we heard was not impressive. When I put headphones on at MyMix, EliteCore or Roland, the sound is rich, full and dynamic; even if the mix isn’t dialed in yet. The A360 never sounded good, no matter what we did to the mix. 

And there’s more bad news; the list price is $899. And while it’s compatible with the existing Aviom architecture, the only way to get to the 36 channels is to use the Pro64 snake system. The booth was packed, so I couldn’t get anyone to explain the math of how you get 36 channels from a system built in 16 channel blocks. 

2-6-13 UPDATE: I was informed that the a360 does not use the Pro64 snake system, but instead uses the new AN-16i v.2. Apparently, you can chain up to 4 of these devices together (for 64 total channels) and choose which 36 of them go to the a360. But since it's still in 16 channel blocks, you're either going to be 4 channels short if you buy two AN-16i v2s, or have 12 channels more than you need if you buy three. Seems silly and wasteful, but what do I know. Thanks to Ryan Durbin from Sight & Sound Technologies for the updated info. END UPDATE

If you’re still interested, you can learn more at their website. But frankly, I think there are better options. 

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