2005 Winter NAMM Daily Update


The hottest product news direct from the floor of
Winter NAMM in Anaheim, California

The third and fourth days of NAMM were very exciting. The trends that seemed to emerge at this year''s show include the continued expansion of USB connectivity (including mics with USB connectors from Blue and Samson), the use of physical modeling to better emulate orchestral instruments (Garritan, Tascam, and Synful), and the increased popularity of orchestral libraries. There were plenty of star sightings, such as Joe Zawinul checking out the amazing TimewARP 2600 (virtual ARP 2600) at the Way Out Ware booth, Edgar Winter trying out saxophones, and a killer guitar/bass jam between Mike Kenealy and Michael Manring.

Propellerhead was showing off Reason 3.0, which is nearing release. The Combinator feature lets you build combis, so you can chain your favorite instruments and effects into one patch and enhance the live performance capabilities of the software.

Another fascinating release came from Focusrite, who recently divorced itself from its distribution deal with Digidesign. The Focusrite Sapphire (Mac/Win; $495) is a 4-in by 10-out FireWire interface with onboard DSP effects. It boasts two XLR inputs, two line inputs, and S/PDIF digital connectivity, among its many features.

The field of music notation products is about to expand with the release of Notion (Win), which features easy-to-use note entry and includes an integrated sample library that was recorded using the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios. One very interesting feature is the Trigger track, which allows you to set the pace of playback by striking a key on your ASCII keyboard. It''s an impressive product I can''t wait to check out when it''s released.

Edirol showed plenty of new products, including the PCR-M30, which combines a 32-key MIDI controller with a 1X1 MIDI interface. They also announced that they are shipping the R-1 portable digital recorder.

Next door, Roland announced an even larger number of products, but my favorites included the V-Synth XT, a rack-version of V-Synth synth workstation; and the V-Stage Series TD-12S electronic drums, which sports smaller pads and a reduced-feature sound module but offers the same great sound as the more expensive V-Pro TD-20S.

While I''m on the subject of racked synth workstations, Yamaha introduced the Motif ES Rack, which puts the features of its Motif ES in a portable package. The demo I was given used the Yamaha/Steinberg Studio Manager technology to put the Motif rack, a keyboard-based Motif ES, and plenty of studio gear under the control of one laptop computer: very impressive.

In terms of keyboard-based workstations, however, the Korg Oasys seemed to top them all. It offers 16 tracks of hard-disk recording; combines three types of synth modeling (analog, tonewheel, PCM); and includes wave sequencing, vector capabilities, KARMA control, MIDI sequencing, and plenty of rich sounds. Although the full-size, 88-key version will cost around $8,000, it is definitely in a league all its own.

There were many more products shown at the show, so stay tuned to Emusician.com for Senior Editor Mike Levine''s show report.
-- Gino Robair, Senior Editor

Greetings from beautiful (and unseasonably warm) Anaheim, California, home of the 2005 Winter NAMM show. It's the beginning of day three, and my list of new and interesting products is already a long one -- and we have two more full days to go! Although I originally intended to get an update online yesterday describing the first day of the show, I was invited to an early pre-show event and then whisked directly to the show floor for another full day of press events (EM editors were present at roughly a dozen of them), product demos, and back-room meetings to see emerging technologies.

If you have never been to a NAMM show, it can be a little disorienting at first. Imagine being in your favorite music store -- packed to capacity --with someone playing nearly every instrument in sight simultaneously. Today, Saturday, is typically the busiest day of the show and is universally described as "insane."

But before I run over to the convention center to fight the crowds once more, here are a few choice items we viewed during the first two days of the show.

Native Instruments showed a number of new things, but the most exciting is Kontakt 2 (Mac/Win). This substantial update includes drag-and-drop functionality, convolution capabilities (including an impulse response reverb ), and the new Kontakt Script Processor for creating real-time effects. This is a product you'll want to watch for when it becomes available. They also announced Electronic Instruments 2 XT and NI Komplete Sound (which bundles all of their sound expansion titles).

Another exciting release was announced by Lexicon. The MX200 (Mac/Win; $249) combines a hardware processor that you can control using a VST plug-in via USB. And at that price, the MX200 promises to become very popular.

M-Audio and Roger Linn Designs announced the Black Box ($299), an Adrenalinn-like USB digital interface. Besides the guitar input, the Black Box includes an XLR microphone input, a drum machine, and is bundled with a lite version of Ableton Live. That's a screaming package for the guitarist getting into desktop recording.

Tucked away downstairs in Hall E is the company Synful, which has announced the Synful Orchestra (Win; $479) VST/DXi plug-in instrument. What's remarkable about this instrument is that it uses additive synthesis to model orchestral instruments -- they call it Reconstructive Phrase Modeling -- based on analysis of idiomatic phrases played on each wind or string instrument. The strings sound especially nice (the programmer is a string player, himself, naturally), and there's a 15-day demo online. Highly recommended.

While we're discussing Hall E (which, by the way is where the smaller, and often more innovative, companies can be found), boutique stompbox company Zvex is shipping three new pedals. The Vexter Series Fuzz Factory ($225) is a less expensive version of the company's extremely popular Fuzz Factory. In addition, the company is offering Jonny Octave ($420), an octave-up pedal, and Seek-Trem, an 8-step sequencer with a volume control for each step. Company super-genius Zachary Vex was also showing a prototype of the Imp amp, a tube-based hi-fi amplifier (1W per channel) that's the same size as the Nano Head, but designed for use with portable music players, such as the Apple iPod.

Garritan Orchestral Libraries is showing its Jazz & Big Band library (Mac/Win), which can be used stand alone or as VST, DX, AU, and RTAS plug-ins. This unique library offers a jazz rhythm section, trumpets, trombones, and the entire range of saxophones (including contrabass and subcontrabass saxophones!). The package will include a Kontakt sample player.

Cycling '74 is showing a very promising tablet controller, with a color touch screen. Lemur, designed in France and priced around $2,500, uses Open Sound Control and connects to your computer with an Ethernet cable. In addition, the company will be distributing Hipno, a suite of over 40 exciting Pluggo-like plug-ins that includes both audio- and video-based effects. The demo I was given of Morphulescence, which is described as a "cascaded bank of LFO-modulating morphing filters," was very impressive.

Musitek introduced SmartScore 3 music-scanning software, which promises greater accuracy and an easier-to-use interface.

Microphone manufacturer SE Electronics is showing the Titan ($1,499) , a Class A FET multi-pattern condenser mic with a titanium diaphragm. The Titan includes a -10 dB pad, and has a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz.

Telefunken North America unveiled the Ela M 16 ($1,399), a 9-pattern tube mic that is aggressively priced (the rest of the line ranges in price from $4,995 to $15,999). The hand-built mic includes a power supply with a remote variable switch, a shock mount, a wooden box, and a 1-year warranty.

ADAM is showing its new Artist desktop monitors ($1,600/pair), which are housed in an attractive aluminum cabinet. The active monitors include balanced XLR and unbalanced coaxial (RCA) inputs, as well as controls for tuning the product to the needs of your studio.

Celemony has announced Melodyne Uno (Mac/Win; $199), a less expensive version of its audio processor that can be used on one track at a time, but includes ReWire support and works at a resolution up to 24-bit, 48 kHz.

Blue Microphones is showing a near-shipping version of the Kickball, another addition to its series of distinctive spherical mics. As you'd expect, the Kickball is designed for kick drums and other low-frequency sources. In addition, Blue has introduced the Snowball, a dynamic mic with a USB output and two capsules (cardioid and omni) that can be used separately or together. The Snowball is aimed squarely at the desktop recordist and will be priced in the $100 range.

These are by no means the only products announced in the last two days: there are plenty more, which I will add to this page very soon. Shortly after the show, Senior Editor Mike Levine will go live with his online show report covering even more NAMM product highlights, so stay tuned to Emusician.com.
-- Gino Robair, Senior Editor
Electronic Musician