NAMM hits the high notes

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I’ve spent this past week recovering from a few days at one of my favorite trade shows of the year: the NAMM music show in Anaheim, Calif., put on by the International Music Products Association. For music fans, it was truly an amazing show—and one in which both the Mac and the iPod played significant roles.

The iPod’s presence was a bit of a surprise. NAMM tends to be a high-end show targeted at professional musicians—you expect to see lots of music hardware and advanced software from developers like BIAS, Steinberg, and Native Instruments. What you don’t expect to see are a lot of iPods. Nevertheless, there were plenty of the music players around the show floor, with companies displaying iPods that worked with their devices.

Ultrasone, a company that makes headphones for the audio industry, drew on 12 years of expertise and made the iCans, a white and silver headphone that uses the company’s patented audio technology, S-Logic. The technology directs the audio signal to the back of ear, which actually reduces the pressure on your eardrum. I talked to Cathy Kelly, the president of Ultrasone and she said consumers would really notice a difference using the headphones because of S-Logic.

I listened to iCans for a few minutes, and I must say, the sound was very clear with a good amount of bass. The iCans cost $129, so they’re not the cheapest headphones on the market, but they are built by a professional audio company that focuses on sound quality.

A new company, Cortex, made its mark at NAMM by releasing several high-end products for DJs that use iPods (or any USB storage device ) to store and play music. The company demoed their devices using an iPod nano, during an event at its booth. What set Cortex’s products apart is the increased control it gives DJs over the audio files. The devices work with several audio formats and include advanced controls like pitch resolution, front and rear USB ports. One of the units also has Scratch Control.

While there was a presence of iPods on the show floor, it was nothing compared to the amount of Macs. iMacs and Power Mac G5s were everywhere I looked, as companies demoed their products and services.

The great thing was that companies showing off hardware products that had nothing really to do with computers turned to Macs for displaying their Web sites or interactive demos. There was a definite increase in the number of Macs on the NAMM show floor from the 2005 event.

One thing you can be sure of at NAMM is that you will see a lot of famous people wondering around the show floor. I bumped into people like Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Black Label Society guitarist Nick Cantenese just by wandering around the exhibit hall. The cool thing is, they will actually talk to you—I stopped for a minute and said hi to Nick and he was very gracious, considering how much he must get bothered by people.

On Saturday night I went to a party put on by guitar-maker Gibson. The special guests were Twisted Sister. Yes, for the first time in 21 years the original line-up for Twisted Sister played in California. I wasn’t sure how it would go over, but the place was jammed with people waiting to see the group perform.

NAMM is becoming a more important show for Mac users and Twisted Sister fans every year.

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