1/22/2012 11:25 AM
One of the high points of my day was a visit to Akai and Alesis. Continuing with the iDevices theme that Gino reported, these two companies are doing as much to support the iPad, in particular, as anyone. Alesis is showing two new devices to supplement their popular iODock, which contrary to some rumors is not being discontinued (so I'm hoping to order one soon).
The silver-gray DM Dock is designed to replace the sound module in an electronic drum kit. Your iPad slips inside the unit, and your drum pads connect to the 13 quarter-inch trigger jacks on the back panel. You also get a pair of balanced quarter-inch audio outputs, MIDI and USB I/O, stereo headphone out, and a minijack for mixing in an external audio signal. In addition, an assignable footswitch input and the included app let you scroll through kits, start and stop sequences, and set tap tempo.
The fire-engine red Alesis AmpDock hosts a signal-processing app and works with most recording and amp-modeling apps. It provides six physical knobs for controlling levels and on-screen settings, and it comes with a separate footpedal control unit. Its I/O complement includes guitar in, combo XLR/TRS in (with phantom power), balanced and unbalanced stereo 1/4-inch outs, USB, and MIDI In and Out.
Another Alesis product that's causing a stir is the Vortex, a strap-on keytar controller with an on-board accelerometer. Said to be the first USB keytar controller, it works with hardware or software instruments, even on your iOS device if you have a USB adapter. The accelerometer lets you tilt the keyboard for pitch bend or modulation.
Over at Akai, the focus is on the MPC Renaissance, their flagship music-production controller. Rather than fight the tide of computer-based production, the Renaissance gives you all the hands-on controls you'll need for MPC-style production using the included MPC software for your Mac or PC. The Renaissance has 16 trigger pads, 16 Q-Link knobs, two MIDI inputs, four MIDI outputs, and a built-in 4-channel audio interface. The MPC Studio and MPC Fly give you similar but scaled-down functionality in smaller packages. The MPC Fly is especially interesting because it provides real hardware drum pads for your iPad.
Two Akai keyboards also caught my eye. The SynthStation49 is like a larger version of the SynthStation25, but for the iPad rather than the iPhone. The Max49 has semi-weighted keys with aftertouch, 16 trigger pads, transport controls, and 8 LED touch faders you just have to try. Most notable is that it has control-voltage and gate outputs in addition to MIDI and USB I/O. Akai wants it to become the keyboard of choice for modular synth players.
On another note, Open Labs has expanded beyond their Neko and rackmount hardware platforms and introduced a new laptop. It's a modified Dell computer with a custom touchscreen and preloaded software. It centers around the Music OS, which is not an actual operating system, but a music-control environment that lets you accomplish recording and performing tasks very quickly.
Casio has gotten back into the pro synth market with two new models, the XW-P1 and the XW-G1. The P1 is a keyboardist's instrument with solo synthesizer, drawbar organ, and Hex-layer ensemble sounds and up to 4-zone keyboard splitting. Designed more for DJs and remixers, the G1 (the G stands for "groove") features a step sequencer, a phrase sequencer, and a sample looper.
Before I go, I'd be remiss not to mention Korg. Everyone who's seen them is wowed by the diminutive Kaossilator 2 and Mini Kaoss Pad 2, both about the size of an iPhone. The Kaossilator 2 is a handheld synth and loop recorder with 150 internal sounds. Designed with DJs in mind, the Mini Kaoss Pad 2 delivers 100 effects and is also a recorder and MP3 player. Korg has also expanded the handheld Monotron synth line to include the 2-oscillator Monotron Duo (with cross-modulation from the Korg Mono/Poly) and the Monotron Delay, which features a complement of delay and echo effects.
That's all for now, but stay tuned for Electronic Musician's NAMM Show wrap-up, coming soon.
— Geary Yelton