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The biggest and craziest trade show of the year in pro audio just took place in Anaheim California. NAMM is the place where new products get announced, buzz gets generated, and audio nerds like myself get to map out how we're going to squander our hard earned dollars over the course of the next 12 months. Even though the announcements of the 2010 NAMM haven't been the most drool-inducing of all time, there were still plenty of things to be excited about this year. Here are the highlights:
The iPK25 features a landing dock for your music apps
There's nothing really exciting about a new gadget with an integrated iPod dock, but a new gadget with an integrated app dock suddenly does gets interesting. The new iPK25 from Akai Professional is a unique controller keyboard with a docking station for iPhones and the iPod Touch. When your iPod is attached to the iPK25, you can launch music applications and utilize its two octave, velocity sensitive keyboard. You can use it anywhere with AAA batteries, or you can plug it into your computer and use it as a standard USB MIDI controller. It has both stereo RCA line-level outputs, and a headphone output for monitoring. Currently, the iPK25 is only compatible with Akai Professional's Synth Station app, but they're making the API kit available to developers so other music apps can utilize hardware control.
Two popular live performance applications became one at NAMM 2010
The world of professional DJing took a leap forward at NAMM 2010 with the announcement of The Bridge. Serato has been a dominant force in the vinyl-style control of digital files, and Ableton Live has been a favorite among DJs who like to create live remixes and push the envelope of digital DJing. The Bridge fuses Ableton Live 8 and Serato's Scratch Live and ITCH products. When you launch both of these programs (it doesn't matter what order), the two programs behave as one. A miniature version of Live's Session View can be opened in Serato's GUI, allowing you to trigger clips and scenes. Live Sets can be played on Serato's decks and controlled with timecode discs. Plus, you can record anything you do in Serato's software as a Live Set to be mastered after your performance. The best part is, If you own Scratch Live or ITCH and Live 8, The Bridge is free. So if you're tempted by the Vestax VCI-300 ITCH controller, or the awesome new Rane Sixty Eight, it's a great time to get in on the fun.
The new KAOSSILATOR Pro - more than just a pretty, green face
The new KAOSSILATOR Pro from Korg may look like a KP-3 KAOSS PAD, but it's really more like four KAOSSILATORs in one. It's packed with 200 sounds (leads, acoustic sounds, chords, sound effects, patterns, and twice as many drum sounds as before). You can create four loops in a 16 bar progression, pile them on indefinitely, and change the length of a loop with the twist of a knob. The master tempo can instantly be adjusted by tapping. The green, backlit touch pad allows intuitive control over the creation, performance, and mixing of the sounds. You can sample sounds from microphones or analog sources (such as a MicroKorg XL) and loop them into the mix on the fly. Your creations can be saved to an SD card and transferred to and from a computer. It can also sync via MIDI with a computer or instrument. What's really cool is that you can attach an external keyboard via MIDI and play all of its instruments on a proper keyboard.
Wave hello to the Tascam DR-08
The invasion of new portable digital audio recorders did not slow down at NAMM 2010. The new Tascam DR-08 is an ultra-compact recorder that writes to Micro SD media. It has a cool little kickstand, and adjustable stereo microphones that swing out to its sides and rotate, and a built-in speaker to monitor your work. All of the new Tascam recorders feature USB 2.0 connectivity, and the DR-08 ships with a 2GB card. Tascam also came out with the DR-2D. It features improved microphone elements with very low signal-to-noise ratios. What's really neat about the DR-2D is its "dual recording" capability. This function records a second copy of your stereo audio at a lower level, so if you experience distortion, the second copy of audio will likely be free of any nasty sounding clipping. They also came out with the DR-680, which is an 8 track location field recorder. It features 4 XLR combo inputs and 2 TRS mic inputs, with phantom power available on all 6 inputs. It has stereo S/PDIF inputs and outputs and records independent channels for all 8 tracks to SD Cards.
Record high-def surround sound from your pocket with the PalmTrack
Alesis brought two new portable digital recorders to the market, starting with the PalmTrack. Anyone who's looking for an ultra-portable and affordable digital audio recorder that can capture high-resolution sound in either stereo or four microphone surround will now have the option of the PalmTrack. You can record MP3s, or up to 24-bit 48 kHz WAV files. It has an external mic input and a line-level input. There are built-in effects and a built-in speaker; it can remove vocals from MP3 files for playback, and it even has a tuner.
If you're in the market for a portable digital audio recorder that can also record video, you now have the option of the Alesis Video Track. The Video Track has a large built-in screen with 640 x 480 resolution. It creates QuickTime .mov files so you can easily import your videos into editing software. It's designed to be easy to use; it has a headphone output, and a user replaceable lithium ion battery. If these things catch on, You Tube videos might actually sound good some day.
The Serato/Ableton Bridge is great news for anyone who can spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on professional DJ gear, but what about the person who wants to get started in DJing with a minimal investment? The new DJ Mouse from DJ Tech is an all-in-one hardware and software DJing solution for Mac and PC. It includes Deckadance software and the hardware mouse controller. This mouse is a bit heavier than the one you used to click into this article. The added weight makes it a little more solid for performance. It features a vertical wheel for scrolling playlists, rewind and fast forward, and for fader moves. The left click lets you drag and drop songs, create cue points, access effects, and play samples and loops. The right click button allows you to sync beats, reset effects, toggle loops, and memorize cue points. A large jog wheel controls the crossfader, knobs, and scratches. A dedicated scratch button activates the scratch mode. A special slip mat is included for optimum performance.
The Roland Octapad returns as the SPD-30
Back in the nineties, I played bass in a band and our drummer used a Roland Octapad as a part of his drum kit. It was a fine piece of equipment, and it served our band well. So I was psyched to see the return of the Octapad at NAMM 2010. It has a similar size and look, but there's a lot more going on under the hood. The original Octapad was just a MIDI controller, so you needed a drum module to make sounds. The new SPD-30 Octapad can be used to trigger modules, but it also has 50 kits worth of built-in sounds and 30 different types of effects, plus phrase loop functionality for live looping. You can plug four more trigger pads into the SPD-30 (including a hi-hat controller), so it's really a full drum kit. My drummer used the Octapad in conjunction with his acoustic drum kit. Drummers today can put triggers on their drum heads to plug into the additional inputs on the SPD-30, thereby blurring the line between their electronic kit and their acoustic kit.
Last year at NAMM Akai Professional announced the APC40, which turned out to be as hot as Cabbage Patch Kids were back in 1983. This year saw the introduction of its little brother, the APC20. While it may look like an APC40 cut in half, there's a little more to it. The transport controls (play, stop, record, MIDI overdub) are available on the track select buttons. These buttons are also used for navigating around Session View with right, left, up, and down buttons (pressing shift allows you to use the same buttons as track select buttons). The activator, solo/cue, record arm, and master fader are exactly like they are on the APC40. The 8 track faders double as controllers for panning and sends in addition to volume control. You can also create individual user presets for these controls. A new Note Mode button has been added that allows you to use the trigger grid to play instruments and Drum Racks.
Build the piano sound of your dreams with the Yamaha CP series
Yamaha came out with a really nice new line of digital pianos. The CP1 has everything you're looking for in a first rate stage piano, plus the CP series' unique ability to customize and create your own piano sounds. The CP5 is a great new piano for performers, featuring balanced XLR outputs for premium sound quality on stage and in the studio. The CP50 is an excellent option for touring musicians who want to tap into the power of Yamaha's new CP line and still travel light. The CP50 weighs less and is more compact than the others, without giving up its 88 weighted hammer action keys.
There's a lot more cool stuff that was announced at NAMM 2010 that's definitely worth checking out. Be sure to take a look at the complete list of gear from NAMM 2010 that's available at B&H at this link. And thanks for reading this B&H article! If you have any questions about the latest portable audio recorders, DJ equipment, or keyboards with built-in app docks, don't hesitate to contact us online via live chat, on the phone at 1-800-814-2999, or in person at our SuperStore in New York City.
Sam Mallery is a location sound mixer, writer, and musician who lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.