10 of the most interesting and innovative products from NAMM 2016Article 10 Cool Products from NAMM
Now that NAMM is over, and we’ve had a chance to catch our breath and get over the jet lag, we compiled a list of the ten products that most impressed us, either because they were innovative, sounded great, offered exceptional value, or some combination of the three.
The products are listed here in alphabetical order by company name, and each has an accompanying video.
Arturia MatrixBrute ($1,999)
The key word in the name of this new analog synth from Arturia is “Matrix.” In addition to its three oscillators (two like the one in the Minibrute and a third that offers triangle, saw, square, and sine waves) two filters, and five analog effects, the synth has a modulation matrix that allows you to create your own routings, giving you the flexibility of a modular synth. The creative possibilities are endless. What’s more, the matrix can also be used for recalling presets and playing sequences. And the MatrixBrute’s classic, fat analog sound is sure to impress.
Celemony Melodyne 4 ($699, upgrade from Editor $149, other upgrades available)
How would you like to edit the pitch and timing of every vocal track in a song in one window? How would you like to easily add a click track to a song recorded without one, or drop a quantized drum track into a clickless song and have it mesh perfectly? Or how would you like to be able to edit the harmonics of notes, in addition to the notes themselves? All of this and more is possible in Melodyne 4, a very significant upgrade from Celemony Software. If you're a Melodyne owner, this is a must-have upgrade. If you're not, consider purchasing Melodyne 4, it's gives you a ridiculous amount of control over your audio.
Dave Smith Instruments OB6 ($2,999)
What do you get when two synth-building legends — Dave Smith and Tom Oberheim — collaborate on a new synthesizer? The OB6. This analog poly synth was unveiled at the show by Smith and Oberheim, and features the sound of vintage Oberheim synthesizers along with some modern synth touches. Based on Oberheim’s classic SEM, the synth engine includes two voltage-controlled oscillators and a sub-oscillator per voice, variable waveshapes, voltage-controlled amplifiers, and a 2-pole resonant filter. Also included is an arpeggiator, a polyphonic step sequencer, and an effects processor, among other features.
Lumit Audio Digital Audio Workstation ($149.99)
Just when you think there isn't room in the market for another DAW, boom, here comes another one: The generically titled Digital Audio Workstation from Lumit Audio. Thankfully, the developers were a lot more creative with the software design then they were with the name. The DAW only runs on Windows at the moment, but will be coming to the Mac within the year, according to a Lumit Audio spokesperson. What’s particularly cool about this software is that it is multi-touch enabled, and so can run on a tablet like the Microsoft Surface (although no iOS support is currently planned) with the same functionality that it has on a desktop computer. Though it's designed with ease of use in mind, it has plenty of powerful features.
Marshall Code Amplifiers (Code 25 $199.99, Code 50 $249.99 Code 100 & 100H $TBA)
Marshall has finally thrown its hat in the modeling-amp category, with a line of huge-sounding digital amplifiers. I had some doubts before I visited the company's booth to audition them. How can a digital model come close to the roaring sonic beauty of a vintage Marshall? Well, Marshall has broken the “code” as it were, because these amps really rock. After listening to a demo in the isolated sound room at the Marshall booth, I was mighty impressed. The Code line consists of three combos (25W, 50W and 100W, and a 100W head and cabinet), all featuring JTM45 2245, 1962 Bluesbreaker, 1959SLP Plexi, JCM800 2203, JCM2555 Silver Jubilee, JCM2000 DSL100, JVM410H preamp models, EL34, 5881, EL84 & 6L6 MSTA tube models, a number of cabinet models, as well as a suite of multi-effects. The amps even include models of Fender and Vox amps (although they can't officially use those names.) You can even use the amps as USB audio interfaces, and you can stream music to them via Bluetooth.
Roland El Cajon EC-10 ($399)
Putting digital drums and percussion into a cajon for layering with the acoustic sounds is one of those ideas that seems so obvious when you hear about it that you slap your head and say, "Why didn't I think of that." But nobody had, until Roland's product designers conjured it up. For those unfamiliar, a cajon is a hand-percussion instrument made of a box that you sit on. It gives you a variety of different sounds depending where you hit it, making it possible to loosely emulate a drum kit. Roland’s EC-10 can be played acoustically like a conventional cajon, or you can turn on the power and select one of its 30-built in kits and layer the electronic sounds (of both acoustic and electronic percussion) on top, thanks to a built-in amplifier and speaker. According to Roland you can get up to 12 hours of playing from a pair of AA batteries. We didn’t have an opportunity to shoot our own video, but here’s one from Roland:
Shure KSM8 ($499)
Shure released one of the more original products of the show, a dual-diaphragm dynamic vocal mic. Why two diaphragms? Well, according to Shure, this design (which they refer to as “Dualdyne”), offers better control over the proximity effect (it's less muddy sounding), and a very flat frequency response. In addition, Shure says the mic's cardioid pattern is so accurate that off-axis sounds (such as instrument bleed onstage) are reproduced more naturally. We can’t wait to try one out.
Tech 21 Bass Fly Rig ($299)
Tech 21 has followed up on its popular Fly Rig guitar processors — which are self contained multieffects pedals with analog signal paths — with a Fly Rig made for bass. Featuring a compressor, Sans Amp, Octafilter (octave and filter effects), chorus and distortion, the Bass Fly Rig provides a wide sound palette. Redesigned, larger knobs make adjustments easier than on the guitar Fly Rigs, and it even has such conveniences as a built-in tuner, and both XLR and 1/4” outputs. On top of it all, it sounds great. Bassists will surely be lusting after this unit.
Vox Starstream Type 1 ($TBA)
If you’ve ever played a Line 6 Variax or Fender Roland Stratocaster, you will find the Starstream to be famiiar. But while the concept may not be original, Vox's take on it features some unique touches, such as a futuristic-looking lightweight body with a wood center surrounded by a plastic frame, and built-in effects. The Starstream handles the input of signals from the strings to its modeling circuitry a bit differently, with two humbuckers for its electric guitar sounds and a piezo pickup under the bridge for its acoustic instrument tones. It also lets you add effects like distortion and reverb. We had a chance to play it, and it had a nice feel, impressive sounds (especially the electric ones) and an easy-to-use interface. The model collection incudes a variety of electric guitar sounds, from fat Les Paul-style humbuckers to Strat and Tele like single coils; an electric 12-string; several acoustic guitar types; a Dobro (in this case a model of National-style metal-body resonator, suited for blues); a banjo and the obligatory sitar. In addition to playing it ourselves, we got a demo of it from one of the folks from Vox, which you can see in this video:
Waves NX ($49)
Imagine putting on your headphones and mixing in a virtual environment with perfect acoustics, and being able to mix in both stereo and 5.1 surround — all through your regular studio headphones. That's what you get with the powerful new Waves NX plug-in. For mixing on the go, or as a secondary reference in your studio, NX is a great solution. And the ability to mix in surround on stereo headphones is pretty mind boggling. NX doesn't try to emulate specific types of studio monitors, its intent is to put you into a high-end virtual mix room. (The quality of your headphones will impact the sound quality.) One of the most impressive aspects of NX is that, in conjunction with your computer’s webcam or an optional Bluetooth sensor that clips to your headphones, its head-tracking technology automatically adjusts your position in relation to the virtual speakers when you move around. And best of all, this sophisticated plug-in only costs $49. I’m still scratching my head over how it could be so inexpensive, but believe me, I’m not complaining.