Wednesday, 13 January 2016

NAMM 2016 - rumour mill roundup

It's nearly here! Now that the New Year has been and gone, the Winter NAMM show will be returning to Anaheim, CA from 21-24 January 2016 and promises to showcase all the latest products that musicians will be lusting after over the next 12 months. Naturally this gets the gear geek in me incredibly excited!

As is customary, I usually scour the usual news sites about a couple of weeks before the event takes place for the inevitable product teasers and fakes that are running around that will interest me and some thoughts about other manufacturers that will be joining the show (so expect a subjective list full of synthesisers, drum machines and sound effect news - no guitars sadly). We certainly won't have to wait very long, as the Wednesday before the show is usually a press day, with videos starting to trickle out of conference rooms from the evening onwards.

So here's a collection of all the NAMM 2016 news that I have collected ahead of next week's convention!


Moog:

Having released their Mother32 monosynth towards the end of last year, you could be forgiven for thinking that giants Moog had peaked too early ahead of NAMM, where their competitors try to hold back on any products and save them for the Big Reveal in the new year. As an aside; Moog's release of the rather affordable semi-modular unit ahead of the Christmas rush was a genius move on their part. Not only that, it also saves PR focus at NAMM for them to reveal what is widely expected to be the follow up to the Moog Voyager, which they announced would be taken out of production at the end of September.

What they are planning to do as a follow up is anyone's guess. Moog in their current form has yet to make a true analogue poly synth (the PolyMoog was not designed by Bob) and the closest they have been to polyphony is the duophonic Sub 37, so there is expectation that a polyphonic Moog will finally be released - especially when some of their competitors have powered ahead with polys of their own. However, as there has not been a lot of news as to what the successor of the Voyager could be, waiting for the announcement is both frustrating and exciting.

Nord:

All quiet on the synth front from Nord, with the exception of this rather lovely piano that they have teased in this video. I am sure there will be plenty more from the Swedes before the show is out, but the demo does spell great things for people looking for an amazing modelled piano.



Korg:

Korg are in an interesting position as they have recently had their big reveal "leaked" a week ahead of NAMM; the Minilogue, a budget $499 four-oscillator polysynth with minikeys, 200 patch memory, a gorgeous blue OLED oscilloscope, lots of different play modes, a built in sequencer and even sound effects.

The only drawback that fans have identified so far is the lack of multimode filter (based on the screenshots released), as the filter seems to be a 12/24db Low Pass filter with a design echoing the one used in the Volcas. This all said, at this price Korg have made the conscious decision to make a highly affordable product that ticks most boxes. As some have already pointed out, any kind of flaws people might have with the product are quickly forgotten by realising that this is probably the most affordable analogue polysynth since the Volca Keys.

The release of these details has already piqued interest on forums across the Internet, with a complete lack of audio demos and a clear shot of the front panel stoking the demand for more information. For more information, crowd-sourced from fans, I recommend checking out and joining the Facebook group Minilogue. It deserves to do well, regardless of what detractors like DSI will say (as they are the other manufacturer making analogue polysynths) and Tats at Korg can chalk up another win. Speaking of Tats, there is an expectation that more Volca units are on the way - we can only hope!

Waldorf:


Despite not getting round to actually buying any of them so far, I really quite like Waldorf's lovely little desktop synthesiser and effects units. It's nice where function doesn't follow form and both work nicely together, with the Rocket's detuning of particular interest. So it was with some delight that the leaked Kassettenspieler (Cassette Player) tape loop synthesizer machine follows the familiar form factor as the Rocket, Streichfett and 2-pole, resplendent in a blue-coloured trim.

To date I have only seen this mockup image that leaked last week, with very little other information about how the machine operates. I don't think it's something for me based on the features identified on the front panel, but I'm interested enough about the prospect of adding user-loops to the process that I would like to look into this in more detail before making up my mind.

Other interesting things:

Expressivee: I am not familiar with the company, but there is some kind of wooden controller with multi-touch options that will be announced at NAMM 2016. Check out the details here: 
http://www.expressivee.com/#product

Arturia: There is a suggestion that Arturia have been busy with something dubbed the PolyBrute (a polyphonic version of the popular MiniBrute) hot on the heels of their previous successes. Allegedly Yves Usson has mentioned something along these lines, but like Moog there has been very little information from Grenoble on this one.

DSI: Despite retiring some of their older products, their current product line is quite saturated at all levels so it's tough to guess what they have in mind for their next release. I am reminded that they do have been given the Sequential Circuits name from Yamaha (which they announced earlier) so perhaps there is scope for another remake of an SC keyboard with more modern quirks from Dave Smith.

Akai: Aside from an updated MPC machine, it seems that Akai have seen sense after the lackluster Timbre Wolf and Tom Cat machines (though I hope this means that they will be sold cheap to get rid of them) and I look forward to seeing if they have learned from mistakes.

Roland: In the same vein as Moog, Roland had already released their ACB-based Boutique range before Christmas in a limited run, leading me to wonder what they have in store. Some different Boutique models this time around? Another System-1 plug out? Further Eurorack gear? Your guess is as good as mine.

Looking forward to next week!

It's nice to know that there is plenty to get excited about while lots of other products yet to be leaked ahead of time for next week. In the meantime, check out Sonic State for the excellent coverage from Nick Batt and his team.

Links:
https://www.namm.org/thenammshow/2016 - NAMM website
https://www.facebook.com/groups/KorgMinilogue/ - Korg Minilogue Facebook group
Google search for NAMM news!
www.sonicstate.com - Sonic State video and press coverage