Every year, the music tech industry descends upon the Anaheim Convention Center to showcase their latest and greatest, as well as teasing future products. There were a handful of surprising announcements in the lead-up, as well as some shocking ones the day of the event. Each previous year has its own standout highlight, and this year's seemed to be the rise of smaller companies with powerful products, and bigger companies making surprising moves into other markets.
There are always loads of random little companies on display, but this year there seemed to be quite a few that really stood shoulder to shoulder with the bigger and more known companies, which was good to see. Also, it seems like many of the really high-end brands have started to shift their focus to the more entry-level market, with companies like Solid State Logic and Barefoot Sound unveiling products that many people could actually afford. It's nearly impossible to cover the entire show, but below, we've provided you with some of our highlights.
ASM Hydra Synth
A newcomer to the synth world, the ASM Hydra Synth made waves after it was first announced a while back. ASM had it both versions on display, featuring the newest update. This a very powerful machine capable of creating massive sounds. We didn't get too much time on it, but it plays very nicely.
Known for their extremely expensive studio monitors, Barefoot Sound had two extremely surprising items on display. First was their new Footprint02, a 6.5in monitor that features all the bells and whistles, at a price that isn't out of many people's budget. Granted, they are $2750 for the pair, which isn't exactly cheap, but being in the sub-$3000 range opens them up to a whole new market. They also announced their collab with Output, which you'll find below.
Although not actually at NAMM, Behringer unveiled its newest clones, the RD-6 (TR-606 clone), its System 100 (Roland System 100 clone) and 550, 35, and 15 Series (Moog module clones). Then, out of nowhere, they finally unveiled their Arp 2600 clone, the Behringer 2600.
Buchla & Sensel
Buchla is credited with the creation of West Coast synthesis, and many of its instruments have long been adored by synth lovers around the world. Their newest creation, the Easel Command, was on display at the Sensel booth, with Sensel having their Thunderbird overlay connected directly to the synth. It was awesome to see both working together.
Denon's pre-NAMM announcements were in full display and looking great. The new touchscreens on the SC6000 players were vivid and sharp, while the new smaller controllers looked rugged and ready for battle. The Prime GO was definitely the standout of the three.
A newcomer to the NAMM floor, we randomly caught these guys whilst cruising the isles, who had their new Reminder effect unit on display. Featuring a multimode filter, delay, reverb, and LFO, the Reminder is an impressive piece of kit and looked beautiful with the wood sides. This could be a solid investment for many producers, as the effects are high quality, and the price, about $600 or so, is one that's accessible for many.
Last year, our friends at Fluid Audio teased a new monitor that looked like it should cost about $3000 per monitor. This year, they brought it back and had it up and running, and wow, it sounds fantastic. The 'Image 02' had a very tight and wide soundstage, thanks to the ribbon tweeter and multi-speaker cabinet. Rumor has it they will be releasing smaller and larger versions and should be ready around summertime. The 02 is set to cost about $1300 per monitor. Stay tuned for more info on that.
Perhaps one of the coolest things we saw the entire show was Jamstik's new MIDI guitar. What made it really stand out was that it's a real guitar with MIDI capabilities, and both outputs can be used separately or in parallel. They had it connected to Ableton controlling Serum, and it was certainly a sight to behold. This is the real deal and a total gamechanger for both studios and live performances.
Korg always has a great booth display, and this year was no different. Their new Wavestate synth was a big hit, but the biggest attraction was their reissued Arp 2600. We were lucky to get our hands on it for a bit, and it did not disappoint. They also had their new DIY Nu:Tekt line on display, and we were thoroughly impressed by the NTS-1. They even hooked us up with one, so stay tuned for the build video. Korg also teased an upcoming FM synth called Optix, but wouldn't say anything about it.
Long known for ultra-expensive synths, Modal introduced a new entry-level synth called the Craft, and since then, it has been focusing more on building hardware that won't cost you a fortune. They recently announced their Argon8, a fully digital wavetable synth with nearly endless sound possibilities. Just before NAMM, they unveiled a 64-key version, as well as a desktop version, with prices ranging from $650-$820.
Output is one of those companies that always has a trick up its sleeve, and this year was no different. On display was their first venture into the speaker world, a collaboration with Barefoot Sound that looked amazing. They also sounded top-notch, although Output said there were a few little tweaks to be made. At only $799, these might be the best monitor to exist at that price point, but that remains to be seen.
On the first day of NAMM, Pioneer DJ unveiled its new flagship DJ mixer, the DJM-V10. It's hard to deny that the mixer doesn't demand your attention. This thing is HUGE. You can definitely tell it's taken inspiration from its competitors, but we think that's a good thing. Pioneer claims they put a ton of emphasis on the sound, and in my short experience playing with it, I will say that it did sound quite nice and punchy. It's always tough to judge something like that in a place as noisy as NAMM, but we'll get back to you on that once we get our hands on one.
Solid State Logic
SSL announced its new entry-level SSL 2/2+ interfaces just before NAMM, which were sitting loud and proud in their booth. They looked great and felt high quality. We didn't get an actual chance to play with them, but we are definitely excited to try them out.
Perhaps one of the most surprising announcements of the show was UAD and its Luna recording system. The best way to describe it is as a DAW, but not fully. Only available for users of their Apollo interfaces, Luna uses DSP to keep things flowing without crashing your computer. They also showed their new Moog Model D emulation, which is something we'd suspected they'd eventually get into. More info on that soon.
A relatively unknown brand for non-synth lovers, UDO first showcased their Super 6 at Superbooth last year as a barebones prototype. The ones on display are nearly ready for market, and boy do they look, feel, and sound amazing. They aren't cheap, about $2800, but believe me when I say this synth is next level. Check out the audio demo below.
Roland always has one of the biggest booths on the floor, with their various brands and products on display for the masses. The highlight though, was perhaps the smallest item in their booth, the new GO:CAST. The ultra-portable device makes streaming anywhere a breeze and is something we definitely can't wait to get our hands on.
Just before NAMM, Sequential announced its new Pro 3 mono/paraphonic hybrid synth. Both the standard and special editions were on display and looking great. We didn't get too much time on them, but the short interaction was enjoyable.
Although they didn't have an actual booth, we ran into Superlative at a post-show event, and they had with them their SB-1, a modern and innovative take on the legendary SH-101. The jet-black color scheme, ultra-thin profile, dual sequencers, and 20-hour battery life make this a truly interesting product that we hope to see more soon.