It’s the annual event that has the musical instrument industry sitting up and paying attention. 2019’s NAMM show in Anaheim, California, felt like an especially fruitful time, with all sorts of companies releasing all sorts of new products – expanding their ranges and the possibilities available to musicians everywhere.
With so much on display, and plenty to get through, we’ve decided to compile our top picks from the show floor, shedding light on the hardware that got us thinking this January.
Korg Minilogue XD
Another diminutive ‘logue from Korg is reminiscent of both their Prologue synth (thanks to its boosted processing engine) and their Monologue as well (straightforward sequencing, support for tuning individual notes). Add to those features the extra controls you get from the XD, and it starts to leave the ‘vanilla’ Minilogue far behind. We’re predicting big things for this one.
We actually saw this one for the first time at last year’s NAMM show, but even a year later, the Kyra still feels like an interesting instrument that pushes things forward. A synth powered by what Waldorf call a ‘Field-Programmable Gate Array’, this one certain one to keep your ear out for in the coming years.
Instead of launching their new synth at the start of the show, Behringer patiently waited until the last day to unleash their $199 analogue synth on the world. This semimodular is a more ‘original’ instrument than we’re used to seeing from Behringer, although some classic components are still onboard: a well-known VCO and a respected ladder-filter join the fun, giving the budget synth some serious analog credentials.
Dubreq Stylophone GEN-R8
The first Stylophone was a primitive but quirky instrument that left an immediate impression, but under the leadership of Dubreq, things have moved on in leaps and bounds. While the R8 retains the idiosyncratic way of playing the Stylophone’s ‘keys’, the synth itself has fully analog circuitry and can be patched out into other modular gear.
Korg Volca Modular
Joining the rest of the Volca gang, the Modular takes the pocket-friendly concept to a new level, with its West-Coast inspired way of working. In the Volca Modular, then, you’ll find a wavefolding oscillator and two low-pass gates, for example. Its reverb generation is also very impressive – especially for such a small unit.
The name gives the game away to a certain extent - it's a modular synth in Korg's Volca format - but that's not quite the whole story.
Teenage Engineering PO Modular
Not to be outdone in the realms of budget modular gear, Teenage Engineering have launched their own. These are DIY modular setups that require the user to build them out of aluminium, power units and circuitry. The whole system, once built, is also Eurorack-compatible, and we can see this turning into something even bigger as the years go by.
This four-voice monosynth (with paraphony support) does look a bit unusual, and once you look into its features, it seems even more so. There’s a digital oscillator plus an Oberheim-style filter. There’s a PCB keyboard onboard, and a mod matrix as well, all going into a wonderfully esoteric instrument that could inspire some real creativity.
Based on Moog’s Taurus bass synth, the Sirin uses a modified oscillator that extends its stability into higher frequency ranges, meaning it’s also a dab hand at lead tones. There’s also a four-pole ladder filter, two envelopes, an LFO and more.
Interestingly, the Sirin is a limited edition synth of which only 2500 will be made – it’s time to pounce if you want one.
Here, Elektron responds to a couple of popular judgments: that they cost too much and that it’s hard to wrap your head around them. This sample-based instrument gives you straightforward control of its inner workings, and costs a mere $449.
Sure, that’s not ‘cheap’, but the sound quality of the Model:Samples is high-quality, with the filter, the delay and the reverb being excellent for sonic manipulation. The sequencer also has plenty of facility to create bass or lead melody lines.
Yamaha CP73 and CP88
Yamaha are following the lead of companies such as Nord for this stage piano release, giving users a simple way to adapt their sound as they play. The interfaces of these two machines divide the controls into four panels, making things very straightforward.
The CPs look like a great option for those who need ‘the instrument that does everything’