The 2017 NAMM Show was held in Anaheim, California January 19-22. It coincided with the presidential inauguration and the women's march in major cities of the world. Depending on which facts you believe, they were both very well attended. As one who was actually at NAMM, I can say with confidence that it WAS well attended, reflecting a positive trend for our industry. All exhibitors we talked to were very pleased with the turnout and booth traffic.
NAMM is going to significantly expand the show in 2018 and Software.namm is one of the initiatives to assist that growth. It's now the second year, and judging by the major increase in booth traffic between last year and this year they are in the right track.
One of the developers demonstrating in the Software.namm area was the winner of the KVR Developer Challenge Julijan Nikolic, who made the trip all the way from Serbia with the sponsorship of NAMM. He was showing the KVR community award winning Youlean Loudness Meter:
Other highlights in the Software.namm area included:
Indigisounds is from Trinidad, so as one might expect, they had a Kontakt library of sampled Steelpan Drums ($99). It was created in their Caribbean studio by people who really understand both the history and spirit of these unusual instruments. Products like this make the world a little smaller, and that's important these days.
On the other side of the world in Greece Accusonus has been making plug-ins for a while, but recently have stepped out to do their own marketing. The new Regroover ($199) is an artificial intelligence beat machine. It's a very intuitive and effective way of splitting transients and creating other layers with them. Definitely something to check out...
In both the software.namm area, and on the main show floor Eventide was showing their new Structural Effects technology, which has an audio splitting technology. Structural Effects is patent-pending technique that can cleanly split a sound into its tonal and transient components. Each of the components can then be individually processed before recombining them. The first product to utilize it, Fission (price TBD), is scheduled to be released at the end of February.
It was nice to see Antares with a booth. Steve Berkley, the founder of Bias (developer of the Peak audio editor) is the new CEO of Antares, following the acquisition of the Soundsoap product line, and retirement of founder Andy Hildebrand. The company is excited about the new energy. They were showing the latest version of AutoTune, which among other things adds a "Low-Latency" feature requested by users who were OK with a slight amount of grunge to keep latency really low for live use.
Companies will have to make their own decisions with regard to the expense, but consider the three most important reasons to attend a trade show:
- Make industry contacts – In the current environment very few companies exist solely by sales of their packaged products to customers. OEMS, and licensing are a great way to enhance your revenues. There's no better place to be to meet potentials OEMs and licensees then a place where most of the larger companies are all assembled.
- Meet the press - All of the industry press regardless of the industry segment descends on NAMM at this time of year. If you are there you have a better chance of demonstrating your product for them, and even making it into non-fake show reports.
- Meet retailers who can demonstrate and sell your products in their stores or online. Unless you are an already highly popular brand you can't do it all by yourself.
If you are a start up software developer and you want to be in the retail channel one way to go about it is the Xchange Market. The company is the brainchild of former Steinberg North American distributor Ray Williams. It's currently being used by many developers, ranging from Celemony to Fabfilter to Waves. The company allows the developers to have a presence in large retailers like Guitar Center, and Long and McQuade, and soon the KVR Marketplace. In fact the Software.namm initiative owes something to Ray's efforts.
Ray is also the president of IMSTA. IMSTA always has a booth at NAMM where a number of software developers strut their stuff. Celemony was there showing the new 4.1 version of the amazing Melodyne ($399-699). The new version includes a playback type for higher pitched instruments (think piccolo or soprano sax), and optimizations for using a clip, or entire track.
One of the first things a company in the musical instrument industry can do when launching a new category is find talented individuals to create and perform music that couldn't be done with anything else. That was the case in the Roli booth with the amazing Marco Parisi (and others) showing the Seaboard Rise ($799-1199). It's hard not to join the Roli bandwagon. The company is doing a lot of things right, and innovative products like the Seaboard help to stimulate an industry. While of particular importance to keyboard players, it potentially lowers the barrier for other instrumentalists (guitar players will be pleased to find that Middle C can only be played in one place on a keyboard), who want to express themselves with MIDI. If that sounds too complicated you can check out their new Blocks. No Middle C to worry about...
The A3E group presented a great line up of seminar events, with a similar focus on the future of technology format to last year's event. KVR was pleased to moderate a panel on mobile music products that featured keyboard virtuoso (and CEO of Wizdom Music) Jordan Rudess and Pat Scandalis, CEO of Moforte, discussing the development of their products. At the conclusion of the discussion Jordan played a beautiful rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" on his iPad using GeoShred version 2, which like the Seaboard and Roger Linn's Linnstrument now supports the emerging MIDI/MPE spec.
MOTU was showing the new 624 ($795), and 8A ($795), which are designed for routing digital audio streams in live performance systems, AVB/TSN network installations, or recording studios of any size. A mounting bracket kit allows two units to be joined side-by-side with each other, or mixed and matched with other MOTU half-rack units, to create a single rack-space configuration. Billy Joel's music director for the last 23 years, David Rosenthal, was doing the demo in the MOTU booth. He played a medley of Joel tunes, along with one of his compositions from the forthcoming Happy the Man album reissue.
The Spectrasonics booth was constantly crowded with an assortment of musicians stopping by to play and chat with Spectrasonics' founder Eric Persing. They were showing the new Keyscape Creative (free for owners of Keyscape and Omnisphere), a set of patches that plays on the important connection between their recent Keyscape ($399) plug-in and the amazing Omnisphere.
One of musicians that showed up in the Spectrasonics' booth was Stevie Wonder. He was also spotted in the Marcodi Booth playing the harpeggi ($1999-5999), which is an interesting string tapping instrument. Apparently Stevie has been woodshedding on it for the last year. We should all be lucky enough to have ears like his...
Nomad Factory has announced the provocatively named named Garbage LSD ($49). It's a sound mangler that features reverb, distortion, a ring modulator, and 6 different filters. And speaking of Garbage, attendees of the She Rocks Awards on Friday were entertained and inspired by Shirley Manson's provocative acceptance speech as she received the award. Other honorees included the legendary Ronnie Spector, and the incredible Esperanza Spalding.
Moog Music didn't have any new product announcements, but they did have a nice celebration of some of the synth pioneers who passed away in the last year.
Celebrating the Moog past...
If you are in the right place at the right time, you have a good chance of running into a certified master instrumentalist, like Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads), who has just released Take Me to the River (Natch...), a non-profit film/tour designed to build community with music, or drummer Kenny Aronoff (a lot of people), who has just released a book chronicling his experiences as a sought after studio and live drummer.
Building on top of their soft synths Codex and Element, Waves is getting deeper into the virtual instruments market. They were showing the Waves Electric 80 piano ($69). The plug-in features studio-quality effects, compressor, and amp. Sampled from two individual instruments, Electric 80 also includes high-quality effects. For example, you can use the phaser for a classic '70s stomp pedal sound.
Waves Electric Piano
Focusrite debuted Scarlett OctoPre ($399) and Scarlett OctoPre Dynamic ($599) with eight channels of Focusrite's second-generation Scarlett preamps and built-in 24-bit / 192 kHz conversion. The OctoPre Dynamic adds analog compression and D/A conversion to the standard Scarlett OctoPre. Dual ADAT ports enable eight channels to be used at sample rates up to 96kHz, while four channels can be transferred at 176.4/192kHz sampling. They also announced that the XLN Audio Addictive Keys virtual instrument is now included for free with all Focusrite Scarlett and Clarett audio interfaces, all Novation Launchkey keyboards and the Novation Launchpad Pro grid instrument. It will be made available to existing customers of these products as well.
Softube has announced a lower price for the Console 1 hardware ($499), and they were demonstrating the ability to control UAD plug-ins within a DAW using Console 1. They also announced that musicians can now control five dimensions of touch from the Roli Seaboard Rise: Strike, Press, Glide, Slide and Lift in their Softube Modular ($99) software. The software to make the connection can be found on the Softube site.
Bucking trends at the time, Orchestral Tools started exhibiting at NAMM a couple of years ago. This company is doing some really interesting things with their sound libraries. They have announced Metropolis Ark 2 ($599), which builds on their original Metropolis Ark 1, inspired by the 1927 Fritz Lang movie of the same name. The new version emphasizes the dynamic lows of orchestral instruments.
IK Multimedia's separate room reflects their growth as they have stepped up their commitment to the Consumer Electronics market. It's good to see this kind of investment because it creates increased awareness of music-making. They have announced the iLoud Micro Monitor ($299). As the title suggests it's a reference monitor that easily fits into a laptop bag. They were also showing the new Fender Collection 2 ($99) for Amplitube.
Korg has reissued a full-size ARP Odyssey FS ($1599) with a standard keyboard and completely analog signal path. Some will applaud the fact that it will be assembled in the great city of New York, and that it will be available in the original Rev 1, Rev 2, and Rev 3 designs. Co-founder of ARP, David Friend will be in charge of the US operation. More about David Friend soon...
Universal Audio was showing the Apollo Twin MkII ($899-$1299) 2x6 audio interface. It's the next generation of the product and it features redesigned A/D and D/A converters in addition to a bit more processing power to run the company's Unison technology, which is designed to emulate the behavior of tube and solid state pre-amps, guitar amps, and stompboxes. They were also showing the new API 2500 plugin for the UAD System.
And speaking of API, Internet viral star and master shovelist Justin Johnson (see video below), was jamming in the booth with API's new TranzFormer ($492) stompbox (say what?). It's API's legendary channel strip in a guitar or bass optimized stomp box. It's not cheap, and requires 18 volts to drive API's time honored circuitry, but will be especially great for guitar and bass players working in the studio.
Line 6 had two plug-in announcements. One of the first 3rd party plug-ins to appear in the market back in the 90s was Line6's Amp Farm, which worked with the Pro Tools TDM environment. At the show they announced Echo Farm 3.0 for AAX. People with old Pro Tools projects were not happy that their old tracks couldn't play on current versions since they no longer have Echo Farm. Echo Farm 3.0 is exactly the same algorithms with exactly the same parameters, but in AAX format so that old Pro Tools sessions can work. Of course it has that Line 6 sound, and new Pro Tools customers can add it to their arsenal too. The other plug-in announcement was Helix Native. This is a complete DSP set, with full patch compatibility, with their guitar processor, Helix. It will be released in the spring, and will be in 64-bit AAX, AU, and VST3 formats. It will sell for $399 ($99 for owners of the Helix hardware).
Not as many relevant things in a Hall E this year, but there were a couple of highlights. We ran into John Worthington (former "music guy" at Apple until the Beatles lawsuit in 1989) at the Jambé booth. The Jambé ($799-999) is an advanced percussion instrument that combines a hardware controller with an iOS-based sound engine architecture, dubbed Sample Powered Matrix synthesis, or SPX. Jambé was designed with the idea that a single hand or stick strike on a pad maps to an individual voice, each with advanced expression and sound design features.
There were two companies from Poland that we hadn't seen before. Sonicsmith was showing a couple of synthesizer stomp boxes that take audio input from a Hi-Z input and play a synthesized tone using a oscillator chip they have developed themselves.. There are two versions; the Squaver P1 ($729), and the Converter ($419). Release is planned for May.
Zylia was demonstrating their new Zylia ZM-1 ($1299) surround microphone for multi-track recording. It contains 19 individual directional microphone capsules within a sphere and Zylia has created a software recording application that splits the audio into separate tracks. The price includes the microphone, software, free usage of Soundcloud. Pretty nifty, but also pretty expensive. Perhaps it will find a market with intelligence agencies...
The world can be stressful place, so sometimes it's fun just to beat on something that won't fight back, and won't get hurt, like the people in this crowd were doing...