NAMM 2013: the best new music tech gear
28th Jan 2013 | 16:47
The wrap up
In music technology terms, Winter NAMM 2013 was the show at which analogue synths came right back to the fore. Whether you want to spend a few hundred quid or several thousand, there’ll be a new one to tempt you this year.
Squelchy-sounding keyboards didn’t hog all of the limelight, though: you couldn’t move for MIDI controllers in Anaheim and, predictably enough, hardware that integrates tightly with the iPad was also popular.
Here’s our pick of the best music tech products from NAMM 2013. We’ll see you for more new hardware and software at Musikmesse 2013 in April.
Korg MS-20 mini
It’s the synth everyone is talking about, and will probably still be talking about until well after it’s released in April.
The MS-20 mini replicates the original MS-20 monsynth’s analogue circuitry but comes in a case that's 86% of its size.
You’ll probably want one even if you don’t need one, and with a price tag of £499/$599, you might just be able to afford it.
Dave Smith Instruments Prophet-12
Although they both offer analogue circuitry, the Prophet-12 is in some ways the antithesis of the MS-20 in that it’s big, was designed from the ground up (rather than being based on any previous design) and has a hefty $2,999 price tag.
It offers 12 voices of polyphony, with each voice featuring four oscillators, a sub-oscillator, resonant analog low- and high-pass filters and analogue VCAs. There’s a Character section, modulation options aplenty and even a couple of touch sliders.
For many, the release of the Prophet-12 in the second quarter of 2013 will be the synth event of the year.
Moog Sub Phatty
If you’ve hankered for a Moog synth that delivers a bit more dirt and bite, the Sub Phatty could be for you.
It’s a monophonic machine that features two variable waveshape oscillators, one square wave sub oscillator and one noise generator, while the Multidrive section is designed to add warmth and girth.
And, of course, being a Moog synth, the interface is totally conducive to hands-on tweaking. Look out for it in March at a price of $1,099/£819.
Real analogue synths came back in a big way at NAMM 2013, but if you’re satisfied with a keyboard that creates its sounds by modelling such things, the KingKorg is bound to pique your interest.
Designed with live performance in mind, it promises classic-sounding virtual oscillators, filters and effects and a vacuum tube driver circuit to beef everything up.
For extra authenticity, the KingKorg - which will cost £1,139/$1,299 when it’s released in February - even comes with a CV/Gate output.
Livid Instruments Base
We get the sense that Base is Livid’s most ‘mainstream’ controller yet, delivering 32 pressure- and velocity-sensitive pads, eight function buttons, nine capacitive touch faders and eight capacitive touch buttons in an aluminium shell.
It can be used with any DAW you like, but it seems likely that users of Ableton Live and the forthcoming Bitwig Studio will be particularly interested in paying the $399 price tag when the March release rolls around.
Novation Launchkey controllers
Should you buy yourself a new MIDI controller keyboard or a pad-based device for clip triggering and the like?
Novation is letting you have both in one hit with its new Launchkey devices, which also sport knobs and faders. There are a couple of companion iPad apps, too, one of which is a performance synth.
Launchkey 49 is due for release in March with an RRP of £139.99/$249.99. The Launchkey 25 and Launchkey 61 are both due to arrive in April, with RRPs of £99.99/$149.99 and £159.99/$249.99 respectively.
We don’t think we’re being unfair on Roland when we say that the company didn’t have its best NAMM in terms of exciting new products, but with the RD-64 it may at least have come up with something that fills a niche.
This is a portable 64-note stage piano with weighted keys and SuperNatural sounds. It’s also got a dedicated controller mode, which should ensure that it has a role to play both when you’re performing and in your studio.
The RD-64’s RRP is being listed as £819 and availability should be in April.
While the current fashion is for pad-based controllers that come with their own companion software applications, Akai has gone down a different road with the MPX8.
Each of the eight pads can have a sample assigned to it - some sounds are included, and you can transfer any others you like via SD card. There are tuning and reverb options, too, and the MPX8’s compact size is also a selling point. You’re looking at a £80/$99 price point when it’s released in the summer.
A 16-input, 8-bus digital mixer that can be controlled with your iPad. But that’s not all, as the iX16 can also serve as an 18 x 18 channel USB 2.0 audio interface.
Some might argue that the iPad compatibility is a bit of a gimmick but, as Behringer points out, what this does mean is that you can pick up your tablet and control the mix from anywhere in your venue.
Taking its style lead from the keyboards that ship with Arturia’s Analogue Experience packages, the MiniLab is a retro-inspired 25-note controller that’s notable for its touchstrip pitch and modulation controls.
There are 16 encoders and eight pads, too, while the Analog Lab software gives you 5,000 synth sounds to play with.
You’ll pay £99 for this one when it’s released in April.