NAMM 2012 looked like a great place to be this year. I’ll take this opportunity to tell you what I liked and didn’t like. There were some vendors that did their homework and some vendors that didn’t. Most of the items I’m going to talk about are hardware because I see the world of software as a place of diminishing returns. I think there is a lot we can do with software, but it is difficult to replace knobs with mouse clicks.
First, is the Nord Drum this was an exciting tease and I really let me imagination get the best of me. I love grooveboxes. The immediate playability, versatility, and compact size. My most recent pieces of gear are really oldies but goodies (i.e. RS7000 and the Electribe EMX). I was disappointed that Nord Drum is really not a groovebox, but a drum module. I wanted to be able to program beats into the Nord Drum. It still does look like a really good piece of hardware, but doesn’t quite fit the workflow I’m looking for. But I could still sequence it through outside gear. hmm
Next, let’s talk about the MPC Renaissance. I had high hopes for this too, but was very disappointed. What I love about MPC’s is they are stand alone products; what I hate about them is their quality. Almost every MPC I have gotten my hands on has had faulty pads, slider issues, and broken buttons. The old MPCs are classic, but there is a gap in the market at the moment for drum machine samplers that portable and good quality. When I looked at the new line of MPCs I thought they would be stand alone hardware, and I would feel differently if they were. It seems that they are trying to get into the hybrid market that Maschine has dominated, but it would have been great to have a hybrid that you could use apart from the computer. I think Akai is really depending on their name recognition, but that is quickly fading.
Next, the analog gear. I think that Moog, Arturia, and Waldorf hit the nail on the head. I have been waiting for a contemporary analogue synth, covered in knobs, and that I can afford. Moog Minitaur looks like a promising piece of hardware that could really tear apart your speakers. It has two VCO’s, classic Taurus filter, a lfo, and two dedicated envelopes. I can’t say anything bad about this synth because I can’t think of anything bad and the fear that lightning would strike me. Of course it sound ridiculous and I intend to take a quick trip to Asheville, NC to check it out in person.
Arturia’s minibrute looks really exciting as well. I really think that Arturia has been paying attention, they have been down the hybrid road, but they saw that more options can actually be limiting. I like the immediate playability and easy to work with interface. I was also surprised to see Mike Acosta. This guy knows what he is talking about and I really think there is a benefit to have someone knowledgeable at your booth (take note Akai). The only thing missing is another VCO, but I’m not too concerned about that. Instead, they provided various ways to tweak that VCO with adding various waveforms and tweaking those waveform with pulse-width and syncing. There is a Sub oscillator, which I guess would be considered another VCO, and it is hard to complain once you hear it.
Last but not least is the Waldorf Pulse 2. I have to say that I’m really excited about this, but that is easy to say when you haven’t seen it in action. I also don’t know how much it costs. I have high hopes for this one, but something tells me I won’t be let down.