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2012 Musikmesse Report - Lost in Frankfurt

I lost my iPhone while I was in Frankfurt at the 2012 Musikmesse. It is a humbling learning experience to lose a device like this, especially in a foreign country during a trade show. FWIW I suggest the following to anyone that is thinking about losing their own:

  1. Make sure it is backed up before you leave home (I had).
  2. Make sure to keep it password protected (D'oh!).
  3. Get a receipt from every form of transportation you take because you might need it for something other than an expense report (I didn't). I know there are at least 7 different cab companies in Frankfurt because I called them. Unfortunately it was probably one of the others that had actually found my iPhone in their cab.
  4. If you do lose your phone hold your nose and go to the nearest Internet Cafe where you can buy a cheap phone and SIM card. It's surprising what you can get for 30 Euros. At least I could get on with the rest of my trip.

It would be great to say that the Frankfurt Musikmesse was worth losing an iPhone for...

Like NAMM, most of the software companies did not have booths. There were still a lot of new iPad app announcements, but as expected more of them were control apps rather than being full solutions.

Propellerhead didn't have a booth, but they had a big announcement at their evening event and it might have been the most interesting software event of the show. They now support plug-ins with their new plug-in format called Rack Extensions (Re) and they have opened a web store to market Re compatible plug-ins.

The good news is that they have thought it through carefully and believe the porting process for developers will be relatively painless. They felt they needed to create a new format to maintain consistency with the design of Reason (e.g. plug-in GUIs need to fit into their rack), but also because they could add a few features that existing formats don't support. One is the ability to Undo from within the plug-in and another is to remove the possibility of a plug-in causing the host to crash.

The bad news (depending on your perspective) is that they have established a new format, which is not at the top of request lists of plug-in developers. As one developer glibly pointed out – I get to choose between making 10 products, or supporting 10 different formats with one product.

This hasn't scared away several developers including Korg, GForce, Softube, and u-he, all of whom have announced that they will port plug-ins to the RE format. There are a lot of Reason users out there and that by itself is a compelling reason (pardon the PUN) for developers to seriously consider supporting the format.

They also showed a cute little iPhone product called Figure. How can you go wrong at $0.99..?. Somebody pinch me...

Universal Audio had a major presence. Apollo has been released. They have shipped several hundred units and they are focusing on getting lots of user feedback before they mass produce it. I got a more detailed demo than NAMM, I have to say it is very impressive. One feature I particularly liked was the ability to consolidate several plug-in GUIs into one rack, which can save a lot of screen real estate.

Avid, Steinberg, and Cakewalk were also exceptions. There is an axiom in technology marketing that the market leader makes a profit, the company in second place makes a small profit or breaks even and everyone after that loses money. Avid is the market leader and recently posted their first profitable quarter in a while, and the other two are part of Yamaha and Roland respectively so they all have the resource to continue their marketing efforts. All three had large booths in central locations.

Avid was showing Pro Tools 10. And speaking of plug-in formats they are very happy with the acceptance of the AAX format by developers. Another company to announce support was Wave Arts who will port their entire product line to the format. Release is tentatively set for June 1 of this year.

Steinberg was showing Cubase 6.5, which an addition to features like a dedicated Comp tool and the integration of warp quantizing, introduced a couple of new synthesizer plug-ins: Retrologue (guess what it does...) and Padshop (same question...).

At work in the u-he booth

Cakewalk was demonstrating their new PC2A T-Type Leveling Amplifier Module ($79), which models the sound of this legendary hardware unit into SONAR X1 Producer's Expanded's ProChannel.

There were a few other companies that should be noted. Bucking the trend u-he was back after a two year hiatus. They were showing Diva (€179), which is a very cool analog softsynth that has been shipping for a few months. It is designed to model the analog circuitry of the classic synths and has over 1200 presets taken from sounds over the last 5 decades. And it sounds great! Also in their booth were a couple of interesting prototypes; a dedicated keyboard controller for Diva, and a Faderfox controller. Between demos they were still coding. More about this serious geek stuff can be found here.

Another Messe first-timer was Scuffham Amps. They were located in the Guitar area near a massive vintage guitar exhibit, which may have been the best in the show from a personal point of view, but back to Scuffham. Their S-Gear ($75) amp modeling plug-in is a nice piece of work from a former Marshall engineer. They have chosen to focus on the amp modeling first, and add FX as they go. Best of luck to them in a crowded segment.

Other news...

Several companies were at the Messe without booths. Jim Cooper of MOTU was spotted. They have their heads down in the final stages of DP 8 (Mac/Win 64-Bit) development, preparing for a spring release. They just released the MicroBook ll USB 2 audio I/O ($249). Huge feature set. Little itty-bitty package. I also ran into Eric Persing (almost literally). Spectrasonics is working very hard on something new. That was all I could get out of him.

Although they didn't have a booth either I did speak with the folks from Toontrack who are now shipping EZKeys Grand Piano ($179). It's an interesting move for a company best known for their drum plug-ins. It utilizes many different piano grooves in various keys that can be manipulated easily and then dropped into a DAW. Especially nice for songwriters for whom piano is not the the primary instrument.

Blade by Rob Papen

And finally Rob Papen has shipped Blade ($119), which has vampires everywhere running for the hills. The driving force behind it is the importance of the human input so there are many ways to control it in real time. I have added this to my collection along with all of Rob's other products.

Thanks to online commerce my new iPhone (ordered from Prague) was waiting for me when I got home. And now I have Siri, but that's for another day.

Chris

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