Though the weather felt like it, it wasn't January and no one was missing NFL playoff games. The conversation could have been about who wasn't there (Gibson, Fender, Roland, Korg to name a few), but the show was more crowded than expected so the companies that were exhibiting were pleased. Booths had been moved around almost randomly, so it was hard for some to schedule appointments linearly, but we did the best we could over the three day period.
There were hourly performances by both local and international artists on the stages between the hotels, but it wasn't as much of a street party as in recent past years. Rather it was the kind of entertainment people who are committed to music products expect and hope for.
Finally, this was the last show for Joe Lamond, who has served as the CEO of NAMM for the last 20 years. We wish him the best. The incoming CEO is John Mlynczak.
MIDI 2.0 has arrived
Although there weren't a lot of new product announcements there were a few themes. One was the acceptance and support for MIDI 2.0. Just before the start of NAMM the MIDI Association brought together an incredible group of people from major companies throughout the tech and music products industries to Japan for a discussion of support for MIDI 2.0. Companies included Apple, Microsoft, Google, FaceBook, Roland, and Yamaha, and more.
"The last three weeks have been the most amazing three weeks of my life. We had a meeting in Japan with Apple, Google and Microsoft and Korg, Roland, Yamaha, and Kawai and it was amazing to see the cooperation among everybody in trying to get things together. Apple already supports MIDI 2.0 in the OS, with Logic, and Audio Units. Roland already has a firmware upgrade prototype for their A-88MKII Controller Keyboard, so 40 years after the very first demonstration of MIDI 1.0 between and a Prophet 600 and Jupiter 6, we were showing the first public demonstration of a Roland A-88 connected to an Apple Computer running Logic with Ivory 3 instantiated as an Audio Unit using MIDI 2.0 with support for 65,000 steps of velocity.MIDI Association President, Athan Bilius
One company helping MIDI 2.0 product developers is AmeNote. In their booth AmeNote founder Mike Kent (Chairman of the MIDI 2.0 Working Group) was showing several products designed to encourage support for the standard, including their MIDI 2.0 interfaces that allow MIDI 1.0 and MIDI 2.0 devices to talk to each other on a network. Their MIDI 2.0 prototyping tool, ProtoZOA utilizes a Raspberry Pi.
Mike Kent discusses MIDI 2.0 at ADC22
Ivory 3 is the first MIDI 2.0 compatible plugin. It's a whopping 63 GBs of samples, which translates to 65,536 values of velocity with MIDI 2.0. For pianists who play with the instrument's full range of dynamics, it's a wonderful upgrade once more controllers come on the market. In the meantime they will have to settle for 16,384 values with MIDI 1.0 (CC88) Velocity Extension.
On the cutting edge
Some of the products that are already on the cutting edge of MIDI 2.0 or at least MPE, include:
Embodme was showing their Erae Touch MPE MIDI controller, which was first announced at Superbooth 2021. It's fully customizable and can store up to 16 templates + 16 variations. It appears to be a very flexible controller and can serve several different roles in a studio.
Arturia had a hotel room where they were showing some exciting new products that will be announced soon. The first one was... stay tuned...
As markets mature consolidation often happens and the music software products market is no different. One person who has noticed is Greg Stein, who has collected a group of various developers into a collective called Triple G Ventures. Triple G is positioned as a global business growth accelerator and venture studio for rising brands, especially in the creative space. For their chosen portfolio companies they offer everything from Brand management and product definition to capital investment.
Among the brands they already represent are Artiphon, creators of the unique Orba controller, and the aforementioned premium acoustic piano library developer Synthogy.
The North Hall
To what seemed like a steady stream of fans Sound Radix, makers of a number of popular production and post-production products was showing their new upgrade to Auto-Align. Auto-Align 2 features and increase in speed and offers a new spectral phase correction module. They were also giving away SurferEQ Boogie, a de-featured version of their SurferEQ plugin to lucky NAMM attendees. How cool is that...
GPU Audio was hosting an "Innovation Lounge" in the center of the North Hall tech room. They have established partnerships with companies like VSL, MNTRA, and Mach1 to illustrate the benefits of implementing GPU Audio technology to enhance and accelerate the length and breadth of audio experiences. This is especially important for PC users who generally specify their graphic hardware components as they build their computer setups.
Sharing is caring
Another thread that ran through the entire spectrum of computer and Internet based companies is collaboration.
NUGEN was showing an interesting new plugin and standalone called Jotter, a timecode-linked annotation tool that allows engineers and mixers to collaborate between each other, and directly with clients, to and from anywhere in the world. A user can add comments on a track and share them with another utilizing the plugin. For example: "Crossfade at Bar 38 or 1:23:128 needs to be fixed." The comments can be moved between platforms, so it should be quite useful for collaborators who aren't using the same DAW.
Audiomovers, developers of the widely used Listen To application, were showing their new INJECT audio routing plugin. INJECT allows DAW users to easily route audio in and out of DAW channels with no need to switch DAW Playback engine.
If you're happy and you know it CLAP...
u-he and Bitwig next to each other and aligned in the effort to promote the new CLAP plugin format, which they believe will simplify the licensing issues. They will be holding a CLAP & Audio Development Workshop at Superbooth, Friday, May 12 @ 11:30 in room H305. Many users are looking forward to the upcoming release of Zebra 3.0.
Bitwig was also showing Bitwig Studio 5 with its many new features including an overhaul of their modulation system. The upcoming version will introduce five new multi-segment envelope generators (MSEG), as well as a major upgrade to the entire modulation system. They have also added new ways to perform live with Bitwig Studio and cutting-edge new browsers.
Like most companies, Avid had a much smaller space than past shows. They were showing the new MIDI features in the latest version of Pro Tools Studio.
Good cooking takes time
Zynaptiq was showing their Orange Vocoder. They have showed it at past NAMM shows, but this time they have shipped it. Vocoder aficionados will find the level of detail pretty astounding. It's a great sounding product and it drew a crowd, so they should have success with it.
The recently released MPE synth osmose was being taken through its paces by many visitors at the Expressive E booth. There's a lot of buzz around this instrument and it could be the best MPE keyboard yet from a design point of view. Osmose is not just an MPE controller and is untethered to the computer. Its onboard synth engine works in complete harmony with the unique keybed design. It's rightly called a next generation expressive keyboard, and it's not inexpensive ($1799), but for those living on the cutting edge and craving more expressivity it's a great choice. Now that MIDI 2.0 is here we'll start to see more and more of these types of instruments.
Ummm. There was no Hall E. Check back in January 2024.
Celebrating 40 years of MIDI 1.0
Saturday afternoon saw a celebration of MIDI. The event honored a number of electronic keyboard pioneers including Bob Moog, Dave Smith, and Ikutaro Kakehashi. Michelle Moog-Kuassa accepted one of the Lifetime Achievement awards on behalf of her late father Bob Moog.
There were a number of performances on traditional and forward looking MIDI controllers. Mike Garson and Mark Isham performed music from their many film scores.
Finger drummer and Ableton Live virtuoso Rick Feds performed solo and with French vocalist and controllerist Cecile DeLaurentis.
A compelling video tracing MIDI's history and its effect on music was made by Daniel Keller and scored by Jeff Rona.