Archive for February, 2010

Feb 26 2010

Imprint, eBeam and Self Assembly all delay EUV Litho

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At the SPIE Advanced Lithography Conference, updates on NanoImprint technology, eBeam and Self Assembly techniques were presented that were all confident that EUV would be pushed out until the 16nm process node at the earliest.  In addition to new equipment (such as the Nikon NSR-S620D) and techniques for double & quad patterning, it was clear that optical and existing technologies for lithography through the 22nm node were the solution of choice.  While EUV has made progress in the recent past, the cost and throughput were still sited as major issues.
Several universities and Molecular Imprints presented papers on the recent advances in NanoImprint Lithography (NIL).  Molecular discussed their NuTera HD7000 system which is tarted to the disk drive and patterned media market.  The tool is a very high throughput (>300 double sided dph at field size up to 95mm [3.5inch]) while maintaining a sub 25nm resolution.  The new machine is about half the footprint of its previous 150dph machine and is shipping in 2010.  Molecular has sold 13 of these systems to five drive customers including Hitachi.   The new technology is currently in the 800+Gb//in sq density range and they have a roadmap to address the over 4Tb/in sq range in the future.
To accompany the new printer, they announced installation of thier Perfecta TR1100 template printer.  One of the previous limitations on imprint technology was the long creation time of the templates and their associated wear cycle.  The new template printer can create 10 templates/hr (equiv of a “soft tool” for the prototype world) for production use vs the greater than 1 week turnaround for a traditional Gaussian e-beam created master (equiv of a “hard tool” for the prototype world).  These template printers have also been installed at traditional masking companies such as Hoya.
On the semiconductor side, their Imprio 300 printer is now providing 4 wph throughput while allowing for mix and match overlay accuracy to a 193i layer of better than 20nm for applicability to current CMOS memory use.  DNP has purchased thier mask replication tool for use in 24nm half-pitch applications.
D2S and the eBeam Initiative announced application of their direct write on wafer technology using character shaped beams (DFEB) to mask making.  As their technology advances for wafer throughput, they applied the technology to mask mastering and achieved a combination of higher design accuracy on via and cell printing, while maintaining the current wafer throughput.  The new application is being investigated and tested by current members DNP and Toppan.  As a result, they announced that several customers and inspection profivers have now joined the initiative including Global Foundries, Samsung, KLA and Jeol.
One of the most crowded sessions was on Self-Assembly (SA) techniques and materials.  This session was dominated by papers from IBM. The results indicated that “bounding” and “guide” techniques for the SA materials in the 5-6nm feature size, could be used to create usable lines and hole patterns (devices/interconnect and vias) for 22nm node half pitch applications.  They presented preliminary results that indicated these techniques were extensable to use at 16nm nodes and further delay the need for EUV.  The major advancement was the rapid formation of the structures moving from close to 1 hour assembly times to the 1-5minute time frame.
PC

At the SPIE Advanced Lithography Conference, updates on NanoImprint technology, eBeam and Self Assembly techniques were presented that were all confident that EUV would be pushed out until the 16nm process node at the earliest.  In addition to new equipment (such as the Nikon NSR-S620D) and techniques for double & quad patterning, it was clear that optical and existing technologies for lithography through the 22nm node were the solution of choice.  While EUV has made progress in the recent past, the cost and throughput were still sited as major issues.

Several universities and Molecular Imprints presented papers on the recent advances in NanoImprint Lithography (NIL).  Molecular discussed their NuTera HD7000 system which is tarted to the disk drive and patterned media market.  The tool is a very high throughput (>300 double sided dph at field size up to 95mm [3.5inch]) while maintaining a sub 25nm resolution.  The new machine is about half the footprint of its previous 150dph machine and is shipping in 2010.  Molecular has sold 13 of these systems to five drive customers including Hitachi.   The new technology is currently in the 800+Gb//in sq density range and they have a roadmap to address the over 4Tb/in sq range in the future.

To accompany the new printer, they announced installation of thier Perfecta TR1100 template printer.  One of the previous limitations on imprint technology was the long creation time of the templates and their associated wear cycle.  The new template printer can create 10 templates/hr (equiv of a “soft tool” for the prototype world) for production use vs the greater than 1 week turnaround for a traditional Gaussian e-beam created master (equiv of a “hard tool” for the prototype world).  These template printers have also been installed at traditional masking companies such as Hoya.

On the semiconductor side, their Imprio 300 printer is now providing 4 wph throughput while allowing for mix and match overlay accuracy to a 193i layer of better than 20nm for applicability to current CMOS memory use.  DNP has purchased thier mask replication tool for use in 24nm half-pitch applications.

D2S and the eBeam Initiative announced application of their direct write on wafer technology using character shaped beams (DFEB) to mask making.  As their technology advances for wafer throughput, they applied the technology to mask mastering and achieved a combination of higher design accuracy on via and cell printing, while maintaining the current wafer throughput.  The new application is being investigated and tested by current members DNP and Toppan.  As a result, they announced that several customers and inspection profivers have now joined the initiative including Global Foundries, Samsung, KLA and Jeol.

One of the most crowded sessions was on Self-Assembly (SA) techniques and materials.  This session was dominated by papers from IBM. The results indicated that “bounding” and “guide” techniques for the SA materials in the 5-6nm feature size, could be used to create usable lines and hole patterns (devices/interconnect and vias) for 22nm node half pitch applications.  They presented preliminary results that indicated these techniques were extensable to use at 16nm nodes and further delay the need for EUV.  The major advancement was the rapid formation of the structures moving from close to 1 hour assembly times to the 1-5minute time frame.

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Feb 18 2010

ISQED and ISETC programs finalized

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The 11th Annual International Symposium on Quality Electronic Design (www.isqed.org) and the 1st Annual International Solar Energy Technology Conference (www.isetc.org) have finalized their programs for March 22-24, 2010.
The ISQED conference is once again featuring a full day of tutorials on the theme of Design Technologies and Opportunities in the Nano-Scale Era, and embedded tutorials on the use of field solvers in both IC and System Level design, and Parasitic Extraction.  The conference has 24 sessions in 4 parallel tracks over the next two days.
Once again, the conference is holding an evening panel discussion and dinner.  This years panel is on the subject of design methods for long life cycle and is moderated by Tets Maniwa.  There are a total of 7 keynote speakers – the lunch keynote is by Antun Dominic of Synopsys, and the morning Plenary sessions have talks from Inphi, Cadence, Denali, HelloSoft, Mentor, and D2S/eBeam Initiative.
Discounted registration is available through March 9th, and the FREE registration for attending the exhibits and poster will open soon.
The ISETC event is new and is also being held at the Doubletree Hotel in San Jose concurrent with the ISQED event.  It is focusing on the technology behind capturing and use of energy from solar rays.  The inaugural conference features speakers from both academia and industry including such luminaries as Dr. Ted Kamins of Stanford, Dr. J Campbell Scott of IBM Research, and Dr. Homer Antoniadis of Innovalight.  The first year conference is a one day event featuring nine speakers.  Advanced registration is currently available at the site.
PC

The 11th Annual International Symposium on Quality Electronic Design (www.isqed.org) and the 1st Annual International Solar Energy Technology Conference (www.isetc.org) have finalized their programs for March 22-24, 2010.

The ISQED conference is once again featuring a full day of tutorials on the theme of Design Technologies and Opportunities in the Nano-Scale Era, and embedded tutorials on the use of field solvers in both IC and System Level design, and Parasitic Extraction.  The conference has 24 sessions in 4 parallel tracks over the next two days.

Once again, the conference is holding an evening panel discussion and dinner.  This years panel is on the subject of design methods for long life cycle and is moderated by Tets Maniwa.  There are a total of 7 keynote speakers – the lunch keynote is by Antun Dominic of Synopsys, and the morning Plenary sessions have talks from Inphi, Cadence, Denali, HelloSoft, Mentor, and D2S/eBeam Initiative.

Discounted registration is available through March 9th, and the FREE registration for attending the exhibits and poster session will open soon.

The ISETC event is new and is also being held at the Doubletree Hotel in San Jose concurrent with the ISQED event.  It is focusing on the technology behind capturing and use of energy from solar rays.  The inaugural conference features speakers from both academia and industry including such luminaries as Dr. Ted Kamins of Stanford, Dr. J Campbell Scott of IBM Research, and Dr. Homer Antoniadis of Innovalight.  The first year conference is a one day event featuring nine speakers.  Advanced registration is currently available at the site.

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Feb 12 2010

3D Packaging brings New Design Challenges

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Multi-Die packaging is one of the newer areas for co-design.  Space and function concerns are driving the multi-die assembly in the Z-axis direction.  There is a lot of activity in determining both engineering solutions and cost of production solutions for this space as was evident from the number of papers presented at this week’s ISSCC event.
The area of 3D assembly involves many options including die on die with bond wires, die on die with bump, package on package, and TSV (Thru Silicon Vias).  Each of these methods has benefits and tradeoffs in performance, price and reliability.  TSV technology also has several methods, an in-process solution and a a post-process solution.  As there is no standard IP interface between multiple die for assembly, these interface between logic, memory and analog signal paths on these chip have to be analyzed for DFT, thermal, DC &AC parametrics, and timing conformance with hand assembled CAD tool flows and engines.
Knowing that die with be subjected to thinning and scribe lane modifications for multi-die assembly vs single die assembly, impacts the design rules used in the layout of the Ics involved.  CAD Tools addressing these early stage 3D issues are severely lacking in the commercial sector.  Without the support from tools, the community relies on the engineering standard of experience and education.  To help with this process, the MEPTEC Chip to System Symposium in Feb, is having a presentation by Jan Vardaman on the tradeoffs in the various 3D assembly options and information on how to select the best fit for an appliation.
The symposium also features a session lead by Gary Catlin of Plexus,  whose semiconductor experience has been continuous for over 40 years. His session focuses on available CAD tools that can be cross-utilized for 3D assembly and multi-die packing as well as design practices that should be used.  These tools and techniques are focused on addressing the yield and reliability of the end packaged system through high volume production.  The session includes a Mentor Graphics presentation on BIST and DFT for mult-die systems, by Sigrity, Inc on SI and power design/delivery aspects of the system, and on thermal modeling by CAD Design Services.  At Plexus, Gary works with customers on complete end-to-end product design and implementation solutions for commercial and industrial multi-die applications.
PC

Multi-Die packaging is one of the newer areas for co-design.  Space and function concerns are driving the multi-die assembly in the Z-axis direction.  There is a lot of activity in determining both engineering solutions and cost of production solutions for this space as was evident from the number of papers presented at this week’s ISSCC event.

The area of 3D assembly involves many options including die on die with bond wires, die on die with bump, package on package, and TSV (Thru Silicon Vias).  Each of these methods has benefits and tradeoffs in performance, price and reliability.  TSV technology also has several methods, an in-process solution and a a post-process solution.  As there is no standard IP interface between multiple die for assembly, these interface between logic, memory and analog signal paths on these chip have to be analyzed for DFT, thermal, DC &AC parametrics, and timing conformance with hand assembled CAD tool flows and engines.

Knowing that die with be subjected to thinning and scribe lane modifications for multi-die assembly vs single die assembly, impacts the design rules used in the layout of the Ics involved.  CAD Tools addressing these early stage 3D issues are severely lacking in the commercial sector.  Without the support from tools, the community relies on the engineering standard of experience and education.  To help with this process, the MEPTEC Chip to System Symposium in Feb, is having a presentation by Jan Vardaman on the tradeoffs in the various 3D assembly options and information on how to select the best fit for an appliation.

The symposium also features a session lead by Gary Catlin of Plexus,  whose semiconductor experience has been continuous for over 40 years. His session focuses on available CAD tools that can be cross-utilized for 3D assembly and multi-die packing as well as design practices that should be used.  These tools and techniques are focused on addressing the yield and reliability of the end packaged system through high volume production.  The session includes a Mentor Graphics presentation on BIST and DFT for mult-die systems, by Sigrity, Inc on SI and power design/delivery aspects of the system, and on thermal modeling by CAD Design Services.  At Plexus, Gary works with customers on complete end-to-end product design and implementation solutions for commercial and industrial multi-die applications.

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Feb 05 2010

Network ICs – packaging is a key design element

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I recently had a chance to have a conversation with Judy Priest of Cisco about some of the design and packaging issues for accepting and qualifying new SOCs for high speed networking applications.  Historically, the high end network packages were being designed and selected as both heat spreaders and pitch spreaders between the IC pad pitch and those of the interconnect on the PCB.  This has changed in a current era of board level signals >20GHz and power supplies below 1V.
In order to meet these performance specifications, these networking systems have become very large die (around 20mm/side) and these are in packages occupying 55mm/side.  These can be either single die systems, multiple die arranged in a planar fashion in a single package cavity or thinned and stacked die in one package.  For single die systems, the package configuration has a great deal of influence on the placement and separation of voltage islands, and global placement of power down blocks and functions as dictated by the bond wire and board level signal integrity requirements. For multi-die systems, these same issues as well as data pattern based thermal management inside the package environment is also a key design element that needs to be fed back to the IC design as a floor plan constraint.  Stacked die (traditional, not TSV based) and very large single die have these same design constraints in addition to package and die / package warpage and material stress issues.  The warpage and stress that is in the package is variable based on the density and material used for the different styles of current generation HiK and Lead free packages.  These two effects can cause differences in the leakage power and timing  performance of the die since it mechanically changes the planarity of the silicon substrate.
Most high speed networking products are being deigned for 10yr+ die and package/bond reliability.  This brings back to the chip design and architecture level the final assembly criteria of die thickness, pad size and reliability for wire or bump bond, shock survivability from a drop test and wave solder/post assembly high temperature processing (a known susceptibility for technologies such as PCM memory).
Judy will be discussing these and more details about design tradeoffs between package and die at the MEPTEC Chip to System Symposium (http://www.meptec.org/meptecfromchipto.html) being held in San Jose at the end of February.  With the invasive nature of the need for high speed connectivity in most of today’s systems and SOCs, is driving package interaction from a niche issue to being a mainstream concern very quickly.
PC

I recently had a chance to have a conversation with Judy Priest of Cisco about some of the design and packaging issues for accepting and qualifying new SOCs for high speed networking applications.  Historically, the high end network packages were being designed and selected as both heat spreaders and pitch spreaders between the IC pad pitch and those of the interconnect on the PCB.  This has changed in a current era of board level signals >20GHz and power supplies below 1V.

In order to meet these performance specifications, these networking systems have become very large die (around 20mm/side) and these are in packages occupying 55mm/side.  These can be either single die systems, multiple die arranged in a planar fashion in a single package cavity or thinned and stacked die in one package.  For single die systems, the package configuration has a great deal of influence on the placement and separation of voltage islands, and global placement of power down blocks and functions as dictated by the bond wire and board level signal integrity requirements. For multi-die systems, these same issues as well as data pattern based thermal management inside the package environment is also a key design element that needs to be fed back to the IC design as a floor plan constraint.  Stacked die (traditional, not TSV based) and very large single die have these same design constraints in addition to package and die / package warpage and material stress issues.  The warpage and stress that is in the package is variable based on the density and material used for the different styles of current generation HiK and Lead free packages.  These two effects can cause differences in the leakage power and timing  performance of the die since it mechanically changes the planarity of the silicon substrate.

Most high speed networking products are being deigned for 10yr+ die and package/bond reliability.  This brings back to the chip design and architecture level the final assembly criteria of die thickness, pad size and reliability for wire or bump bond, shock survivability from a drop test and wave solder/post assembly high temperature processing (a known susceptibility for technologies such as PCM memory).

Judy will be discussing these and more details about design tradeoffs between package and die at the MEPTEC Chip to System Symposium (http://www.meptec.org/meptecfromchipto.html) being held in San Jose at the end of February.  With the invasive nature of the need for high speed connectivity in most of today’s systems and SOCs, is driving package interaction from a niche issue to being a mainstream concern very quickly.

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Feb 04 2010

NAMM 2010 – Bourns tunable passives drive audio design

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One of the key components of the audio systems (amplifers, guitars, mixers, etc) are the knobs and sliders.  Continuing their long history in the potentiometer business, they are re-issuing classic products and bringing out new products for new applications.
On the classic side, they have reissued the Model 82 Vintage Premium Guitar Potentiometer.  The new pot is now RoHS compliant, has the same low noise performance as the original from 1977 and features a 100,000 turn rotational life.  This is the classic guitar and bass tuning knob used with Seymore Duncan pickups on Fender Signature Series guitars.
On the new products side, they have added new RoHS compliant Resistive Sliders for the audio and broadcast mixer market.  These sliders are motorized with built in servos and are available with and without the built-in data converter.  They feature a long life carbon element and support either PC terminals or a snap-in connector option.
New products in the low noise, RoHS compliant line are manual sliders for mixing boards, and for solid state and tube amplifiers are forth coming.  All of these parts are designed to maximize the Quality and Reliability.  The targeted life cycle in use at the application is 20+yrs, for this reason, testing and quality assurance are hallmarks of these parts.
They are in the process of developing new potentiometer technology based on non-contact magnetic materials.
PC

One of the key components of the audio systems (amplifers, guitars, mixers, etc) are the knobs and sliders.  Continuing their long history in the potentiometer business, they are re-issuing classic products and bringing out new products for new applications.

On the classic side, they have reissued the Model 82 Vintage Premium Guitar Potentiometer.  The new pot is now RoHS compliant, has the same low noise performance as the original from 1977 and features a 100,000 turn rotational life.  This is the classic guitar and bass tuning knob used with Seymore Duncan pickups on Fender Signature Series guitars.

On the new products side, they have added new RoHS compliant Resistive Sliders for the audio and broadcast mixer market.  These sliders are motorized with built in servos and are available with and without the built-in data converter.  They feature a long life carbon element and support either PC terminals or a snap-in connector option.

New products in the low noise, RoHS compliant line are manual sliders for mixing boards, and for solid state and tube amplifiers are forth coming.  All of these parts are designed to maximize the Quality and Reliability.  The targeted life cycle in use at the application is 20+yrs, for this reason, testing and quality assurance are hallmarks of these parts.

They are in the process of developing new potentiometer technology based on non-contact magnetic materials.

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Feb 01 2010

NAMM 2010 – Sampling & Modeling Gen 3 by Peter Chatterjee

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This years NAMM show, and some carryover from CES, was heavily focused on making use of the advanced processing & storage capabilities available in very low power form factors.  The result was Generation 3.0 of advanced sampling and modeling systems that now using the full data bandwidth and signal handling features that are available in standard components for both the consumer and industrial marketplace.
The Generation 1.0 was started back in the 1960′s with the analog based sampling, effects and modulated playback that was defined by the Moog Synthesizer invented in 1964 by Bob Moog.  To honor this starting place, the NAMM show and The Bob Moog Foundation displayed some key artifacts, equipment and material from the Waves of Inspiration: The Legacy of Moog exhibition which is running from August 29, 2009–April 30, 2010, at the Museum of Making Music’s facilities in Carlsbad, California.
The Generation 2.0 was the long cycle, still on-going, of sampled music and sampled MIDI/VST instruments that ranged from rudimentary low resolution data to high accuracy single note and single sound samples at mid level data rates. These digital solutions were targeted at moderate capability portable and stage devices, based on power limitations, and high quality capability has been reserved for desktop/studio platforms.  These generation 2.0 solutions were still prevalent in existing digital products from Yamaha, Roland, Sony hardware and software from Garritan, Calkwalk, Native Instruments, and Garage Band.  Yamaha introduced a MIDI audio-visual device designed by renowned artist Toshio Iwai.  The device is shown in the following photo, and is an interactive art piece that has 256 programmable LED buttons that can display patterns and play music in the modes of up to 64 simultaneous samples at once.  The features and SD card and MIDI interfaces and utilizes dual 32 bit embedded processors on a custom (linux based) OS.  The music can be programmed as full songs, or in draw mode, fully interactive with sounds based on touch interface with the LED keys.
The Generation 3.0 is now starting and is characterized as utilizing the full capability of 2010 era mobile and studio digital processing as well as “musical sampling”.  “Musical Sampling” is the concept and the capture of instrument sounds and effects, NOT on a standalone note basis, but in context of other notes and chords, and materials of the instruments.  The Generation 3.0 has been in place for a little while, promoted by Line6 with their DSP based solid state modeling amps which recreate historic tube amplifiers, and Roland with their V-Series of instruments.  Roland continued to expand thier V-series instruments with a new electronic drum kit and components, a new drum pad (the Octapad). a V-series combo piano/organ, and a new low priced and simple interface voice processor (VP-7), in addition to their existing keyboard line.  The V-line of equipment is migrating from stored samples as the playback method, rather they have created continuous time and multi-note correlated models for the notes, chords and phrases being played back.  Following this technology, the VP-7 is small effects box that takes a microphone input (through an XLR connection) and a MIDI interface from a keyboard, and then generates vocal harmonies as either female choir, kids choir, Gregorian choir, jazz scat, duet or trio in real time, for use in live performance environments, based on both the notes sung by the vocalist and the chords played on the keyboard.  Previously, these products were only available as studio products in the several thousand dollar range, the VP-7 is a small form factor accessory in the several hundred dollar range.  A demo is available at http://www.rolandus.com/products/productdetails.php?ProductId=1062
Yamaha also has introduced a new line of stage pianos and electronic drum systems.  These incorporate phrase and context based samples as well as new materials.  The drums have new electronic heads that are both more responsive and sensitive.  The keyboards feature new weighted keys that are almost indistinguishable from those used on their concert grand acoustic pianos.  The keyboards also supports full modeling of the hammers, pedals, and both adjacent and non-adjacent keys being used simultaneously and the harmonics generation on the sound board.
The drop in price, capacity and performance for external HDDs has made them the new preferred distribution format for the sampled and modeled instruments.  The availability of this format (typically a 60GB-1.2TB distribution) has allowed for a new form of sampled data.  The resolution is higher at 24bits/96K or 24bits/192K sampling.  In addition to traditional “note” based information, context, phrase based, “grove based”, and equipment options are now part of the environment.  On the equipment side, it is not only effects and amp modeling, but on band instruments there are also options.  On the band instrument side it includes wood and metal mutes for brass instruments, different mouthpiece types for woodwinds and both current and classic drum kits and cymbals.  PG Music’s Band in a Box product is shipped on a 160GB USB HDD for their complete “chord based” music samples in compressed format.  Their full “audiophile” lossless product has the samples in an uncompressed format that is suitable for professional studio application is shipped on a 1.5TB USB HDD.
Following this trend toward more realistic sound, for percussion Sonic Reality has introduced “Epik Drums – a Ken Scott Collection”. Ken is the legendary British recording engineer and producer who recorded The Beatles, David Bowie, Elton John, Supertramp, Pink Floyd, Jeff Beck, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Dixie Dregs, Devo, Lou Reed, America and many other iconic artists.  The new virtual instrument plug-in contains 80GB of 24 bit drum samples recorded in multi-track as a combination of audio grooves and MIDI kits.  These samples were recorded from authentic historic drum kits and configurations by top drummers Billy Cobham, Bob Siebenberg, Terry Bozzio, Woody Woodmansey and Rod Morganstein as they played on the original albums.  [figure]
To utilize these new samples and virtual instruments, the folks at Eigenlabs (UK) have created a new performance oriented instrument called the Eigenharp.  It is available in three models the Alpha (top of the line, largest, professional market), the Pico (smallest, consumer product) and the new Tau (middle).  The instrument has patented 3D position sensitive keys, pressure sensitive resistive strip controllers, and a breath pipe controller that act as the programmable and playback surface for the device.  The three models differ in the number and type of control keys (standard and percussive), number of strip controllers and finishes.  Using the instrument the musican can play and record loops, change scale and key, transpose, alter tempo, program beats, create arrangements, switch and layer multiple sounds, all while the musician is performing live on stage.  A photo of the Eigenharp Alpha follows.
Another instrument that is getting new modeling capabilities are the guitar and bass.  Brown’s Guitar Factory (Minnesota) has been building custom electric basses for several years.  Recently they created a Kahler bass tremolo system with acoustic and MIDI saddles that can track and sound as accurate as the best performing keyboard synthesizers on the market. They are offering this as a conversion kit and as a 4 string acoustic-MIDI electric bass.  It can be played as a standard bass or through a modeling system to act as a full synthesize controller.  On the guitar side, Gibson introduced thier 3rd generation auto-tuning guitar – The Dusk Tiger.  Once again, based on the Les Paul solid body guitar, the auto-tuning system features improved PZT controls for the tuning heads, a new re-chargeable battery configuration, and a modeling systems that can be downloaded into the guitar.  Using the supplied software, you can program the guitar to different tuning modes, to sound like different pickups and guitar models.  The new control knob also supports several standard classic guitar models as standard loaded in the guitar.  As in previous models, the guitar is targeted as a stage performance instrument, so at playback, just a standard guitar amp is used through the 1/4″ jack and it is played normally.
The last area that saw improvement in dynamic range and sonic reproduction was in the area of headphones and earphones.  Ultimate Ears (now a Logitech Company) has been making in-ear custom monitors for touring musicians and sound engineers for over 12 years.  Using advanced sound guide design, custom cross over circuits, and state of the art COTS speakers, they were presenting custom molded duel ear monitors with 2 to 6 speakers, including sub-woofers.  The custom ear molds insure that there is sufficient sound isolation from the ambient environment to allow the performers to hear the playback they need during live stage performances.  These in-ear monitor systems feature a frequency response of 20hz-18KHz and input sensitivities up to 124dB @ 1mW, and 26dB of noise isolation.  These are typically professional level products, however their intro level product is a dual speaker system that is price compatible with most DJ level and home studio over the ear headphones.
On the consumer side there several new in-ear speaker systems from Monster Cable.  Based on their experiences with the Dr. Dre “Beats” headphones from Monster Cable,  Erin Davis (Miles Davis’s son) and Vince Wilburn Jr (Miles Davis’s nephew) approached Noel Lee about making a headphone for the Jazz marketplace.  Working with the group at Monster they created the Miles Davis Tribute in-ear speakers that are derivative of the Turbine in-ear speakers released in 2009.  In order to test and qualify the product, in addition to standard testing, they also sought feedback from artists who have been in Jazz for a long time and some of whom played with Miles.  One of the people reviewing the product was Lenny White who played with Miles on the seminal album “Bitches Brew”, is the drummer for the Jazz-Fusion defining group Return to Forever, and has recorded and played with artists from just about every genre.  In addition., to the Miles Davis in-ear speakers, Monster also released the Turbine Pro Copper product with is an upgraded version of the Turbine in-ear speakers featuring enhanced bass, and a faster response time for improved clarity at the high frequencies.  The Pro product is more of studio class / audiophile product than the Turbine speakers.  The new ear buds improve sound isolation, so the in-ear product behaves in the same class as a traditional over the ear product.
The summary from the show was that now that processing power is available in mobile and low power platforms, the environment to musically capture, playback and monitor high performance audio, based on a digital signal path, is at levels nearly inpercetibly different from traditional analog (strings, woodwind and brass) instruments.  This adds a new dimension to the ability to distribute music and adds another dimension of creativity to the traditional musician to explore new music and styles anywhere / anytime.
Peter Chatterjee and Pallab Chatterjee

This years NAMM show, and some carryover from CES, was heavily focused on making use of the advanced processing & storage capabilities available in very low power form factors.  The result was Generation 3.0 of advanced sampling and modeling systems that now using the full data bandwidth and signal handling features that are available in standard components for both the consumer and industrial marketplace.

The Generation 1.0 was started back in the 1960′s with the analog based sampling, effects and modulated playback that was defined by the Moog Synthesizer invented in 1964 by Bob Moog.  To honor this starting place, the NAMM show and The Bob Moog Foundation displayed some key artifacts, equipment and material from the Waves of Inspiration: The Legacy of Moog exhibition which is running from August 29, 2009–April 30, 2010, at the Museum of Making Music’s facilities in Carlsbad, California.

The Generation 2.0 was the long cycle, still on-going, of sampled music and sampled MIDI/VST instruments that ranged from rudimentary low resolution data to high accuracy single note and single sound samples at mid level data rates. These digital solutions were targeted at moderate capability portable and stage devices, based on power limitations, and high quality capability has been reserved for desktop/studio platforms.  These generation 2.0 solutions were still prevalent in existing digital products from Yamaha, Roland, Sony hardware and software from Garritan, Calkwalk, Native Instruments, and Garage Band.  Yamaha introduced a MIDI audio-visual device designed by renowned artist Toshio Iwai.  The device is shown in the following photo, and is an interactive art piece that has 256 programmable LED buttons that can display patterns and play music in the modes of up to 64 simultaneous samples at once.  The features and SD card and MIDI interfaces and utilizes dual 32 bit embedded processors on a custom (linux based) OS.  The music can be programmed as full songs, or in draw mode, fully interactive with sounds based on touch interface with the LED keys.

Tenori-on Orange

Tenori-on Orange

The Generation 3.0 is now starting and is characterized as utilizing the full capability of 2010 era mobile and studio digital processing as well as “musical sampling”.  “Musical Sampling” is the concept and the capture of instrument sounds and effects, NOT on a standalone note basis, but in context of other notes and chords, and materials of the instruments.  The Generation 3.0 has been in place for a little while, promoted by Line6 with their DSP based solid state modeling amps which recreate historic tube amplifiers, and Roland with their V-Series of instruments.  Roland continued to expand thier V-series instruments with a new electronic drum kit and components, a new drum pad (the Octapad). a V-series combo piano/organ, and a new low priced and simple interface voice processor (VP-7), in addition to their existing keyboard line.  The V-line of equipment is migrating from stored samples as the playback method, rather they have created continuous time and multi-note correlated models for the notes, chords and phrases being played back.  Following this technology, the VP-7 is small effects box that takes a microphone input (through an XLR connection) and a MIDI interface from a keyboard, and then generates vocal harmonies as either female choir, kids choir, Gregorian choir, jazz scat, duet or trio in real time, for use in live performance environments, based on both the notes sung by the vocalist and the chords played on the keyboard.  Previously, these products were only available as studio products in the several thousand dollar range, the VP-7 is a small form factor accessory in the several hundred dollar range.  A demo is available at http://www.rolandus.com/products/productdetails.php?ProductId=1062

Yamaha also has introduced a new line of stage pianos and electronic drum systems.  These incorporate phrase and context based samples as well as new materials.  The drums have new electronic heads that are both more responsive and sensitive.  The keyboards feature new weighted keys that are almost indistinguishable from those used on their concert grand acoustic pianos.  The keyboards also supports full modeling of the hammers, pedals, and both adjacent and non-adjacent keys being used simultaneously and the harmonics generation on the sound board.

The drop in price, capacity and performance for external HDDs has made them the new preferred distribution format for the sampled and modeled instruments.  The availability of this format (typically a 60GB-1.2TB distribution) has allowed for a new form of sampled data.  The resolution is higher at 24bits/96K or 24bits/192K sampling.  In addition to traditional “note” based information, context, phrase based, “grove based”, and equipment options are now part of the environment.  On the equipment side, it is not only effects and amp modeling, but on band instruments there are also options.  On the band instrument side it includes wood and metal mutes for brass instruments, different mouthpiece types for woodwinds and both current and classic drum kits and cymbals.  PG Music’s Band in a Box product is shipped on a 160GB USB HDD for their complete “chord based” music samples in compressed format.  Their full “audiophile” lossless product has the samples in an uncompressed format that is suitable for professional studio application is shipped on a 1.5TB USB HDD.

Following this trend toward more realistic sound, for percussion Sonic Reality has introduced “Epik Drums – a Ken Scott Collection”. Ken is the legendary British recording engineer and producer who recorded The Beatles, David Bowie, Elton John, Supertramp, Pink Floyd, Jeff Beck, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Dixie Dregs, Devo, Lou Reed, America and many other iconic artists.  The new virtual instrument plug-in contains 80GB of 24 bit drum samples recorded in multi-track as a combination of audio grooves and MIDI kits.  These samples were recorded from authentic historic drum kits and configurations by top drummers Billy Cobham, Bob Siebenberg, Terry Bozzio, Woody Woodmansey and Rod Morganstein as they played on the original albums.

Ken Scott - Epik Drum

Ken Scott - Epik Drum

To utilize these new samples and virtual instruments, the folks at Eigenlabs (UK) have created a new performance oriented instrument called the Eigenharp.  It is available in three models the Alpha (top of the line, largest, professional market), the Pico (smallest, consumer product) and the new Tau (middle).  The instrument has patented 3D position sensitive keys, pressure sensitive resistive strip controllers, and a breath pipe controller that act as the programmable and playback surface for the device.  The three models differ in the number and type of control keys (standard and percussive), number of strip controllers and finishes.  Using the instrument the musican can play and record loops, change scale and key, transpose, alter tempo, program beats, create arrangements, switch and layer multiple sounds, all while the musician is performing live on stage.  A photo of the Eigenharp Alpha follows.

Eigenharp Alpha

Eigenharp Alpha

Another instrument that is getting new modeling capabilities are the guitar and bass.  Brown’s Guitar Factory (Minnesota) has been building custom electric basses for several years.  Recently they created a Kahler bass tremolo system with acoustic and MIDI saddles that can track and sound as accurate as the best performing keyboard synthesizers on the market. They are offering this as a conversion kit and as a 4 string acoustic-MIDI electric bass.  It can be played as a standard bass or through a modeling system to act as a full synthesize controller.  On the guitar side, Gibson introduced thier 3rd generation auto-tuning guitar – The Dusk Tiger.  Once again, based on the Les Paul solid body guitar, the auto-tuning system features improved PZT controls for the tuning heads, a new re-chargeable battery configuration, and a modeling systems that can be downloaded into the guitar.  Using the supplied software, you can program the guitar to different tuning modes, to sound like different pickups and guitar models.  The new control knob also supports several standard classic guitar models as standard loaded in the guitar.  As in previous models, the guitar is targeted as a stage performance instrument, so at playback, just a standard guitar amp is used through the 1/4″ jack and it is played normally.

The last area that saw improvement in dynamic range and sonic reproduction was in the area of headphones and earphones.  Ultimate Ears (now a Logitech Company) has been making in-ear custom monitors for touring musicians and sound engineers for over 12 years.  Using advanced sound guide design, custom cross over circuits, and state of the art COTS speakers, they were presenting custom molded duel ear monitors with 2 to 6 speakers, including sub-woofers.  The custom ear molds insure that there is sufficient sound isolation from the ambient environment to allow the performers to hear the playback they need during live stage performances.  These in-ear monitor systems feature a frequency response of 20hz-18KHz and input sensitivities up to 124dB @ 1mW, and 26dB of noise isolation.  These are typically professional level products, however their intro level product is a dual speaker system that is price compatible with most DJ level and home studio over the ear headphones.

On the consumer side there several new in-ear speaker systems from Monster Cable.  Based on their experiences with the Dr. Dre “Beats” headphones from Monster Cable,  Erin Davis (Miles Davis’s son) and Vince Wilburn Jr (Miles Davis’s nephew) approached Noel Lee about making a headphone for the Jazz marketplace.

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Vince Wilburn Jr.

Vince Wilburn Jr.

Working with the group at Monster they created the Miles Davis Tribute in-ear speakers that are derivative of the Turbine in-ear speakers released in 2009.  In order to test and qualify the product, in addition to standard testing, they also sought feedback from artists who have been in Jazz for a long time and some of whom played with Miles.  One of the people reviewing the product was Lenny White who played with Miles on the seminal album “Bitches Brew”, is the drummer for the Jazz-Fusion defining group Return to Forever, and has recorded and played with artists from just about every genre.

Lenny White

Lenny White

In addition., to the Miles Davis in-ear speakers, Monster also released the Turbine Pro Copper product with is an upgraded version of the Turbine in-ear speakers featuring enhanced bass, and a faster response time for improved clarity at the high frequencies.  The Pro product is more of studio class / audiophile product than the Turbine speakers.  The new ear buds improve sound isolation, so the in-ear product behaves in the same class as a traditional over the ear product.

The summary from the show was that now that processing power is available in mobile and low power platforms, the environment to musically capture, playback and monitor high performance audio, based on a digital signal path, is at levels nearly inpercetibly different from traditional analog (strings, woodwind and brass) instruments.  This adds a new dimension to the ability to distribute music and adds another dimension of creativity to the traditional musician to explore new music and styles anywhere / anytime.

Peter Chatterjee and Pallab Chatterjee

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