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Top Music Gear Picks from Day 1 the 2017 NAMM Show

January 19, 2017

On day one of the NAMM Show 2017, we got some expected news, as well as some delightful surprises. Standalone MPC workstations are back, as are Dave Smith Instruments and Teenage Engineering, with exciting new synthesizers at different ends of the price spectrum. Stick with us until the end to see the crazy new Expressive E Touché instrument/controller.

Also check out Keyboard’s Top Keyboard Gear Picks NAMM 2017, Day 1.

Bitwig Studio 2 DAW, $399, available February 28

What We Love About It:
• Adds modulation slots to both Bitwig devices and third-party plug-ins for inserting 24 Modulators, including different types of envelopes, LFOs, sequencers and much more.
• New Spectrum Analyzer, effects and lots of new note manipulation devices.
• New MIDI and CV devices let you control hardware MIDI and analog CV hardware with Bitwig.
Caveat: It does a lot of things your favorite DAW doesn’t, but is it enough to switch?

Akai MPCX and MPC Live standalone sampler/sequencers, $2,199 street and $1,199 street, availability TBA

What We Love About Them:
• Both units are standalone sampler/sequencer production workstations that also act as controllers for the much-improved new MPC 2.0 software.
• Both units have multi-touch color displays: a whopping 10.1” display on the MPC X.
• Both units have 16GB hard drives with 10GB of included sound content, SD card slots, and two USB ports for connecting flash drives, MIDI controllers, and more.
Caveat: The ability to work as standalone units drives the price up from earlier models, but not as much as we expected.

Presonus StudioLive Series III digital consoles/recorders, $1,999 street (StudioLive 16, available Q1) and $2,999 street (StudioLive 32, available now)

What We Love About Them:
• StudioLive 16 has seven touch-sensitive, motorized faders, 24 inputs and 17 recallable XMAX preamps; StudioLive 32 has 33 touch-sensitive, motorized faders, 40 inputs and 33 recallable XMAX preamps. Both are fully recallable.
• Includes Capture multitrack recording software with virtual soundcheck installed directly into the console for live recording to SD cards.
• Capture session import into the included Studio One Mac/Windows DAW with the entire mix scene transferred, including fader levels and Fat Channel settings. 
Caveat: Because Presonus makes Studio One, you’re not likely to get tight integration between Capture software and other DAWs.

Neumann KH 80 DSP 4” powered nearfield studio monitor, $499 each street, February 2017

What We Love About It:
• It’s an affordable small-format monitor with DSP and Neumann.Control software for configuring the bi-amped technology.
• It’s frickin’ Neumann.
Caveat: There may be a bit of an exchange of power for affordability going on here, but there should be plenty of power for a small studio.

Aston Microphones Starlight small-diaphragm condenser mic with onboard lasertargeting, $349, availability TBA

What We Love About It:
• Laser targeting lets the user recall mic positions accurately.
• 3-tone voice switching between Vintage, Modern and Hybrid settings.
• Beautiful, unique styling.
Caveat: Flashy features take a back set to a microphone’s sound, but Aston has a great track record so far.

Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator PO-32 battery powered drum/percussion synth/sequencer, $89 street, available February

What We Love About It:
• It packs a great-sounding synth engine, effects, and sequencer into a smartphone-size unit for a minimal price.
• When bundled with the Microtonic VST drum machine for $139 total, some interesting digital audio transfer technology from the plug-in to the PO-32 lets you load new sounds into the hardware.
Caveat: Great sounds, pocket sized, built-in speaker and mic, battery powered and less than $100? There’s little not to like about this, but it still will have to deliver usable results to avoid the “toy” classification.

Dave Smith Instruments REV2 16-voice polyphonic analog synthesizer. $1,999 street, availability TBA

What We Love About It:
• 16 voices descended from the lineage of the Sequential Circuits Prophet ’08.
• Bi-timbral operation, waveshape modulation and unison mode.
• Onboard effect engine, OLED dispay and USB
Caveat: We don’t have much info on the Unison mode yet, but we hope it lets you stack up all those voices into giant patches, otherwise you’ll have to MIDI up a second part to really take advantage of the 16 voices.

Expressive E Touché instrument and controller, $399, available latter half of February

What We Love About It:
• Produces sounds or manipulates others sounds with a variety of sliding, impact and bending motions.
• Works with software and hardware instruments over USB, MIDI or CV
• Comes with customizable software and more than 150 sounds designed for it by UVI.
Caveat: Will have you have to get two if you want to position one for both your left and right hands?

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