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At the NAMM Show in Anaheim, California, it’s not uncommon for the old and the new to cross paths. For more than a century, NAMM has been the place to showcase the latest innovations in music-related products. In 2013, we witnessed the rebirth of a synthesizer that was originally released in the late 1970s, and we were also introduced to a new kind of interface that makes it possible to interact wirelessly with that reborn 1970s instrument using the latest iPhones and iPads. In this article, we’ll take a close look at our favorite new products from NAMM 2013, whether their roots date back several decades, or if it seems like they arrived from the future.
It’s common for instrument manufacturers to reissue classic guitars. However, this kind of thing is unusual in the world of analog synthesizers. That’s why the new Korg MS-20 Mini was one of the most exciting announcements of NAMM 2013. It’s a true monophonic analog synthesizer, designed by the same team that made the original MS-20. It comes with the same owner’s manual that shipped with the 1978 model, because the operability of the new MS-20 Mini is exactly the same. As the name implies, the Mini is a bit smaller than the original, and its 37-note keyboard features keys that aren’t quite as small as what you find on a MicroKorg, but are a little smaller than standard keys. It features a mini-plug patch panel (cables are included), MIDI in and USB connectivity for sending and receiving MIDI notes.
Don’t assume that Korg is only concerned with miniature keyboards, because they also released a giant gorilla of a synthesizer called the KingKORG at NAMM 2013. Even though this 61-key analog modeling synthesizer is big on sound with its three oscillators, diverse filter section, three master effects and vacuum tube driver circuit, it only weighs 15.43 lb (7 kg), making it a practical gigging instrument. While sound quality is obviously an important aspect of the KingKORG, the layout and abundance of hardware controls also add to its appeal. Sporting three OLED screens and the number of knobs you’d expect on a twenty-year-old synth, the KingKORG delivers an impressive amount of hands-on control.
In the recent past, MIDI Interfaces remained a rather unexciting product category, but the new iConnectMIDI4+ adds a great deal of intrigue to this formerly dull space. It acts as a hub for all of the gear in your studio, including Macs, PCs, iPads, iPhone and iPod touches. Its rear panel features four traditional MIDI ins and outs, and if you attach a USB hub to its USB port, you can connect all of your USB-based MIDI controllers. An Ethernet port enables you to connect it to your Wi-Fi network, so you can wirelessly route MIDI information to and from multiple iOS devices. There’s one more killer feature: audio. The iConnectMIDI4+ passes audio to and from any connected device. You can route the audio and MIDI from any USB-enabled keyboards or drum machines to your computer. You can send the audio from iPad apps to your computer without any D/A A/D conversion. iConnectivity also announced the iConnectMIDI2+ at NAMM 2013, which is a two-in, two-out version with the same advanced capabilities.
While we’re on the topic of iOS-compatible hardware interfaces that handle audio, Apogee released some gadget-friendly new interfaces at NAMM 2013. The ever-popular Apogee Duet was updated to include a dedicated USB port that supports MIDI hardware, as well as iOS compatibility. It even has a new name: Duet for iPad & Mac. The Apogee Quartet has a new name as well: Quartet for iPad & Mac. It now ships with new firmware that makes it compatible with iOS devices as well as Mac computers. Existing Quartet owners can download the new firmware from Apogee to get the iOS compatibility.
Apogee also unveiled a completely new product called ONE for iPad & Mac. It shares many similarities with the Apogee ONE, such as having a built-in microphone and a refined tabletop-style design, but the new ONE for iPad & Mac is a more capable device. As the name implies, the new ONE is compatible with iOS devices, in addition to Mac computers. It comes with a 30-pin cable, and it’s compatible with new iOS devices when you use a separately available Lightning to 30-pin adapter. In spite of what its name implies, the new ONE for iPad & Mac is capable of recording two inputs. There are two microphone preamps housed inside its die-cast aluminum body, and an included breakout cable enables you to connect an external XLR microphone and an electric guitar or bass. It’s also possible to supply a condenser microphone with phantom power. It operates at high 24-bit 96 kHz sampling rates, and features high-speed USB 2.0 connectivity. All of the new Apogee gear is designed and built in the U.S.A.
Kemper introduced their new Profiler products at NAMM 2013, which build on the reputation of their innovative Profiling Amplifier. The new Profiler series completes the package by adding the option for a built-in, 600-watt amplifier. This is a guitar head system that has the ability to “profile” an amp. You connect a microphone to the Kemper, and connect an output to the amp that you want to profile. You initiate the profiling process, and the Kemper will send out and record a series of test tones. This process captures and saves all of the nuances of the amp that you profile. Each Kemper product comes stocked with profiles of great-sounding amps, and you can download more from the user community. These heads also have built-in effects, and all the controls you would expect from a great guitar amp. In addition to their unique “lunchbox style” PowerHead, the Profiler will be available in a 3U 19” rack unit, which will be available as a PowerRack with the 600-watt amplifier built in, or you can get the Rack without the amplifier.
If a 600-watt guitar amplifier that can authentically profile vintage tube amplifiers is more than you presently need, Roland announced some new CUBE products at NAMM 2013 that are ideal for more casual users. The new CUBE Lite Guitar Amplifiers are available in black, white and red, and they’re designed to stylistically blend into the decor of your home. These amplifiers do double duty by also acting as powered speakers for portable devices like smartphones and tablets. They have a 1/4" guitar input and built-in COSM effects, and you can utilize a free iOS app called CUBE JAM, which can play backing tracks for you to jam along with, and you can record your performances too. You can even utilize a “Direct Mode,” which outputs a dry version of your guitar playing into the connected iOS device, independent of the COSM effects that you apply in the amp. You can record the dry signal to experiment with later, or feed it into another guitar effects app to achieve more tonal variations.
Vocalists can tap into the creative potential of external effects units as well, and the new TC Helicon VoiceLive Touch 2 offers a clever mic-stand-mountable and tabletop-friendly approach. The VoiceLive Touch 2 features a touch panel interface that has a slider area for real-time effects control, and you can layer up to six tracks with its VLOOP Performance Looper. This relatively compact device is filled with effects like Harmony, Adaptive EQ, Compression, EQ Shaping, De-essing, Stutter, Chopper, Reverb, Delays, Vocal Doubling, Distortion, Echo and more. An integrated LCD provides you with graphic icons that make it easy to operate the device.
When you’re working with sound, it’s always useful to have reliable monitoring on hand so you can accurately hear what you’re doing. Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones have stood out from the pack as a popular monitoring choice in recent years, and at NAMM 2013, Audio-Technica released a red version of these esteemed closed-back studio headphones.
The ability to interact with iPads has become increasingly important, and in light of this, Novation released their new LaunchKey series of USB Keyboard Controllers at NAMM 2013. Available in 61, 49 and 25-key versions, each model features 16 velocity-sensitive pads that are illuminated by multi-color LEDs. The pads can be used like a mini Launchpad to control Clips and Scenes in Ableton Live, and they also interact with the Novation Launchpad iPad app. A LaunchKey can be connected to an iPad when using the separately available Apple Camera Connection Kit (which is compatible with iPads featuring the 30-pin port). With the LaunchKey connected to an iPad, a traditional computer can be left out of the picture, and the included LaunchKey app for iPad is a synthesizer instrument that you can play and control. The LaunchKey is a fully featured, bus-powered USB keyboard with 50 hardware controls for the DAWs and instruments on your Mac or PC, and two Novation synthesizer plug-ins are included.
Another new controller announced at NAMM 2013 that features iPad chops is the new QuNexus from Keith McMillen Instruments. It features 25 “Smart Sensor” keys that detect pressure, tilt, velocity and Polyphonic Aftertouch. Like last year’s QuNeo, the new QuNexus began its life on Kickstarter, where it was fully funded before it was built. In addition to its backlit Smart Sensor keys, it features Control Voltage outputs, and gets all of the power it needs from a USB connection. The QuNexus can also be connected directly to an iPad.
Music apps for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch are really popular these days, but their flat touch-screen displays aren’t very emotive for performing. At NAMM 2013, Yamaha announced the new i-UX1, a simple MIDI interface for iOS devices, which enables you to connect the 30-pin port directly to a USB-enabled instrument or controller. This way you can utilize real keyboards and drum pads to interact with your favorite music apps.
The Panorama P4 and P6 are both finely crafted USB controller keyboards that offer deep integration with both Reason and Cubase. However, not everyone needs another keyboard in their studio. At NAMM 2013, Nektar Technology added a third product to their Panorama series with the announcement of the Nektar P1, which features nine 45mm faders, 16 encoders, 8 LED buttons, an 11-button transport control, 22 navigational buttons, 11 F-key buttons, an assignable footswitch jack and the much-praised TFT display. It’s a great option for users who want the power of Nektar’s DAW integration, but don’t want another keyboard.
The ongoing popularity of portable digital recorders proves that many different kinds of users need the ability to record high-quality audio in the field. The use of the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad has also been insanely popular, so Australian manufacturer Røde put one and one together and came up with the new iXY Stereo Microphone. It’s a stereo microphone with a matched pair of 1/2” cardioid condenser capsules that are fixed in an XY alignment. The iXY connects to the 30-pin port on the iPhone 4 and 4S, and the first three generations of iPads. A free app called RØDE Rec LE is available, which makes it possible to record 24-bit 96 kHz audio files on your Apple device when the iXY is used.
The NAMM Show is a massive event, and there were many more exciting product announcements besides the ones presented in this article. PreSonus released some really interesting near-field studio monitors, and a full line of active loudspeakers.
Thanks for checking out this B&H InDepth article. If you have any questions about the new gear from NAMM 2013, feel free to submit a Comment below. You can also speak to a B&H Sales Professional by visiting our SuperStore in New York City, giving us a call at 1-800-606-6969, or joining us online for a Live Chat.