This is my first chance to write this column since the NAMM show, so I thought I''d share with you some impressions. My biggest takeaway was the sense of optimism that was present at this year''s show, in marked contrast from the gloomy outlook—due to the recession—of the past couple of NAMMs. Attendance this year was record-setting. More than 90,000 people set foot in the Anaheim Convention Center during the four-day event.
In the music production/recording segment of the show (most of which is clustered in Hall A, especially in a section referred to by some as “software alley”), there were new products galore. We''ve got a dozen of them profiled in the What''s New section of this issue on page 12 and a lot more covered in our NAMM section at emusician.com. As mentioned, there was a general feeling among the manufacturers that 2011 is going to be a good year. I hope that''s the case, because a healthy industry will mean that more innovation takes place and more new products are developed and brought to market. Not only is that good for the manufacturers and the press that covers them, but also for the gear-buying public.
On the subject of new products, when you look at the product review section in this issue, you might notice something a little different about the ratings. We are now allowing half points. Instead of being restricted to whole numbers between 1 and 5, EM reviewers now have the freedom use the half point (for instance a 3.5 or a 4.5), if they feel it''s warranted.
In essence, this modification changes our ratings from a 5-point to a 10-point system, which allows reviewers more subtlety and nuance in how they rate products. This change has been instituted not only for full reviews, which have four different ratings categories, but for “Quick Picks,” which have a single overall rating.
Those of you who''ve been reading EM for a while might remember that we have tinkered with our rating system on occasion in the past. For many years, we did use the half point. Then, in 2006, after what I recall was about a three-hour meeting about it (at one period in its history, the EM editorial staff had famously long meetings), we decided to go to whole numbers only, thinking it would be more direct and would encourage reviewers to “commit” to a particular rating. But after several years of that, we''ve decided that a more flexible system would work better. We want to be as fair and accurate as possible with how we rate products.