New music gear makes a splash at NAMM 2010

We look at some of the new audio and music production products to come out of this year's NAMM show in Anaheim.

The NAMM show, put on by the International Music Products Association, is one of the largest music product trade shows in the world. The 2010 NAMM Show took place this weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA, and companies from all over the music industry were busy unveiling a wide variety of new products all across the board. The following is a quick list of some of the things that particularly caught my eye.

For the DJ or Producer

Ableton and Serato: The Bridge: Two superstars in the music industry collaborated to close the gap between producing and performing.

Serato Scratch Live is a vinyl emulation software that allows you to use audio files (like mp3, wav, aiff, ogg, etc.) and transfer them onto a time-coded vinyl or CD to be used like an actual hard copy.

Ableton is a DAW that is geared towards being used as an instrument for live performances and is used for composing and arranging music, as opposed to music editing on a step sequencer.

"The Bridge" closes distance between making beats and performing with them. Using an integrated interface that is a blend between the two programs, you can do things like create/load your own multi-track mixes and control them using your DJ equipment to fire off samples or cut to certain parts of songs/mixes; or you can also easily create mixtapes with the software by performing your mix with Serato and then recording/chopping it up and adding effects with Ableton.

There is no set release date for The Bridge, but owners of both Serato Scratch Live and Ableton 8, will get it for free.

Allen & Heath Xone:DX DJ Controller For Serato ITCH: Allen & Heath and Serato Audio collaborated to create a new Plug'n'Play DJ controller designed for Serato's ITCH software. ITCH is a venture into a world of DJing without the use of turntables or CD players.

ITCH is a 4-deck DJing application that comes with a comprehensive set of digital FX, looping, and time stretching. Controllers like the Xone:DX have recently gained popularity and some recognition in the DJing scene.

The effector knobs, faders, and buttons give the user a considerable amount of control and has a decent learning curve. Combined with the power of ITCH, the Xone:DX is a powerhouse.

The Xone:DX is a powerful 24bit/96kHz audio system that is comprised of a 20-channel USB 2.0 soundcard and MIDI controller that can send up to 168 individual MIDI control messages. There are two dual layer deck simulators, which are aided by effects in a 4-channel layout, mix outputs via RCA and balanced XLR, and RIAA/phono inputs for external decks. The Xone:DX designed for Serato ITCH, it actually comes with a full version copy of the software. You can pick up this versatile, next-gen DJing utility for $US1299.99.

Korg KAOSSILATOR PRO: The KAOSSILATOR PRO, the latest addition to the KAOSS family,is the evolution of the popular dynamic-phrase synthesizer and loop recorder that we all came to love back when it was a bright yellow brick back in 2007.

The KAOSSILATOR PRO utilizes the same intuitive X-Y touchpad, 31 selectable scales, and gate arpeggiator as its predecessors. There are now 200 programs, including synths, drums, FX, a various instruments, and fifteen vocoder programs.

The sounds are said to complement all styles of electronic and dance music including techno, house, breaks, hip hop, R&B, reggae, and electro. It also features a new PCM sound generator, which offers realistic drum sounds.

There are 4 recordable loop banks that have unlimited overdubbing and 8 programmable memory buttons that allow quick access to your favorite sounds. Recording from external devices is possible using the line input. Loop data and user settings are managed by SD cards that can be swapped between different KAOSSILATOR PRO units.

You can save and backup loop recording data onto your computer for use with a DAW via USB and use the KAOSSILATOR PRO as a midi controller via MIDI in/out. It will run for $US460 MSRP.

Guitars and Amps

VOX amPlug Cabinet: VOX created quite a stir in the guitar community with its amazing amPlug headphone amplifiers and attempts to continue their hot streak with the all-new mini cabinet that transforms your VOX amPlug units into a tabletop mini-stack.

The amPlug plugs into your electric guitar like a regular cable and, with the use of your headphones, makes for a very portable, private and enjoyable practice session. These powerful preamps faithfully reproduce VOX-quality sound without disturbing the people around you anywhere you practice.

Continuing the themes of portability and quality, the VOX amPlug Cabinet is an add-on unit for your amPlug unit, which is powered by a 3-inch speaker that outputs around 0.7 watts and weighs a mere 0.65lbs, making it ideal for jam sessions with your buddies or even a little street performing. A 9V battery will give you up to 10 hours of play time. The cabinet will cost $US50.

IK Multimedia's Amplitube 3: Arguably one of the best guitar/bass amp modeling software programs on the market to date, IK Multimedia has upgraded its popular Amplitude to its third version.

Amplitube's drag-and-drop user interface promises to make sound modeling as quick and painless as possible. Simply connect your guitar or bass to your PC or Mac, load up your favorite DAW (digital audio workstation) or use Amplitube as a standalone application, and start tinkering with over 160 pieces of gear -- mix, match, and start making music. Inside the package are 51 individual stompboxes and effects, 31 amplifiers, 46 speaker cabinet models, 15 high-end stage and studio mics, and 17 rack effects.

The software will also be expandable with other IK Multimedia software. Preorders start at $US349.99, but current users of other IK Multimedia software can upgrade starting from $US199.

DigiTech's JamMan Solo and JamMan Stereo Looper Pedals: While looper pedals are nothing new to guitar players, DigiTech has done its best to create a pair of the most convenient and non-visiually-intimidating looper pedals to-date. Both pedals will allow you to record up to 35-minute long CD-quality loops. Both can record up to 99 different loops on separate tracks.

The JamMan Stereo will allow up to 16 hours of storage, and the JamMan Solo will allow up to 48 hours. If that's not enough space, both pedals have an SD-expansion slot perfect for the ultra-creative types.

Besides the metronome with multiple sounds and time signatures, one of best features available on both pedals is USB-connectivity (for both PC and Mac), which will allow you to save and organize your JamMan loops with DigiTech's free JamManager software. For more information, take a look at DigiTech's website here:

Grid1's G1:World's First Lithium Battery-Powered Guitar Tube Amp: Measuring in at 27-by-10-19 inches, and weighing around 40 pounds, Grid1's G1 (BPT212) is the first tube amp to be powered by built-in rechargeable lithium batteries.

It pumps out 60 watts (RMS) with its Eminence high-quality neodymium magnet speakers to produce a warm tube sound. Features include a clean and distortion channel with tone controls (treble, mid, and bass) for each channel, a proprietary double reverb circuit useable on each channel, and an "effects send/return that allows the 'send' input to act as a preamp out if no return is present".

There are "green" options for the construction of your G1, including a bamboo cabinet made of the highest quality bamboo plywood, and a hardwood elm cabinet that comes from salvaged fallen trees. A special plaque is mounted on every G1 amplifier made of local wood so that customers will know all of the details about the wood used in it. Pricing will be around $US3995.

Marshall introduces JMD:1 Series Amps: Marshall's new JMD:1 series hybrid amps integrate an all-valve power amp, advanced digital preamp and studio-quality multi-effects to create a powerful library of sound.

The JMD:1 is powered by EL34 pentode vacuum tubes to produce the distinct Marshall sound. The digital preamp offers 16 different presets that are divided into clean, crunch, overdrive, and lead categories.

The JMD:1's range of effects include: modulation effects (chorus, phaser, flanger, and tremolo), delay effects (with Tap-Tempo timing, Hi-Fi, Analog, Tape or Multi voicings, and Reverb), and the Series/Parallel FX loop, which offers dedicated dry/wet mix control.

In addition to a headphone output and unbalanced (1/4") line output, there is also a balanced XLR line output on the back panel that will remove need to mic up the speakers during performances.

Recording/Live Sound

Korg SOS (SOUND on SOUND) Unlimited Track Recorder: This pocket-sized multi-track touchscreen recorder allows you to overdub your recordings as many times as you want, while helping bring your creativity to the next level.

There are many handy features, including loop recording and Sound Stretch, allowing you to change the playback speed of your recordings without affecting the pitch. In addition to the internal mic, there is an external microphone jack, dedicated guitar input, and line input for an external audio device. Also included are 100 effects that can be layered onto tracks both during and after recording. There are even on-board rhythm patterns, useful in situations where you might need a little inspiration or at least a tempo guide.

Each overdub is recorded to individual tracks as WAV files at 44.1 kHz/16-bit resolution. You'll be undo/redo as many times as you want, and then move those files onto a computer-based DAW by the use of a microSD or microSDHC card.

It will be available in April for $US400.

Blue Microphones Yeti USB Condenser Microphone: Blue Microphones can stand proud as being the first company to produce a THX-Certified microphone. The Yeti boasts four patterns (Omni, Cardioid, Stereo, Bidirectional) for "incredible versatility and superior results in any situation". It also includes studio-quality performance and features, with zero latency, amplified headphone monitoring, microphone mute, and hardware-based gain adjustment.

The Yeti has a driverless installation and works with both PCs and Macs. It has an estimated MSRP of $US150.

Mackie HD Series Powered Subwoofers: Mackie has released the 15-inch HD1501 and 18-inch HD1801 subwoofers as complements to its highly successful HD Series High-Definition Powered Loudspeakers. These compact units include Class-D Fast-Recovery amplifier technology and deliver up to a whopping 1600 watts (800w RMS) of peak power in the HD1801 and 1200 watts (600w RMS) in the HD1501.

These beauties were designed and finely tuned by Eastern Acoustic Works (EAW) and contain active electronics with 3-band EQ. Both subs are pole-mountable and flyable (meaning, you can hang them) and their all-wood 15mm birch plywood construction makes them able to handle just about anything, or as Mackie says "Built-Like-A-Tank". The HD1501 has an MSRP of 1099.99 and the HD1801 has an MSRP of $US1249.99.

Honorable Mention

Pearl E-Pro Live Electronic Drumset: Pearl has created an electronic drumset that looks, feels and sounds like real drums! The set features 10-inch, 12-inch and 14-inch toms, a 14-inch snare drum, and a 20-inch bass drum (the sizes found on real acoustic drums), while the cymbals (a 3-zone ride, a crash, and hi-hats) on the E-Pro Live are Pearl's E-Classic high-end electronic cymbals, made with real brass.

One of the highlights of the E-Pro Live is that you can replace the electronic heads (Pearl's Tru-Trac Electronic Heads) with acoustic heads, so you're basically getting two drumsets in one.

The E-Pro Live powered by the r.e.d.box drum module which utilizes 128MB of memory, contains 1000 high definition sounds and 100 high definition kits, and has space for 100 user-created kits. Additionally, Pearl has teamed up with professional digital drum samplers Toontrack, Sonic Reality, Ocean Way, Steven Slate Drums, Virtual Drumline and BFD, to utilize the r.e.d.box's "Memory Switch" feature, which will allow you to flash the memory of the unit and substitute it with other high-end sound kits, which will be available on redboxsoundshop.com.

Korg SP-170 Digital Piano: Simple and sleek with an emphasis on playability and sound, the Korg SP-170 features a full 88-note keyboard with naturally weighted hammer action keys that resemble and feel like "real" acoustic piano keys. There are eight different useable tones and selectable Reverb and Chorus effects. It can also be used as an input device via the MIDI output.

The SP-170 has a built-in sound system with oval-shaped speakers, but more importantly has dual headphone outputs for situations like parent/child or teacher/student interactions. Students and hobbyists in the market for a straightforward, workhorse digital piano without all the unnecessary flair will appreciate the SP-170's simplicity, tonal quality, and relatively low price.

The SP-170 comes in two colors--black and soft white--and will come packaged with a music rest and sustain pedal. It will be available in April 2010 with a retail price of $US600.

Korg WiTune Wireless Tuner: Korg touts the WiTune as ideal for tuning "any instrument in any situation, unobtrusively, accurately, and easily." The WiTune is comprised of two parts--the transmitter clip and the tuner--and is powered by 2 AA batteries. The transmitter clip attaches to your instrument and sends a wireless (2.4GHz) signal up to 5 meters away to the tuner. The tuner unit has a built-in mic and Sound Out mode that creates a reference tone for tuning by ear.

The WiTune comes in three models: The WR-01 for Guitars and other stringed instruments, the WR-01BW for Brass and Woodwind instruments, and the WR-01S that comes with a strap and is intended for use with instruments like Saxophones and Clarinets. All models are available at $US150 MSRP.

Blackbird Guitars Carbon-Fiber Ukulele: Blackbird attempts a drastic renovation to the Ukelele by reinventing it completely with a (proprietary) hollow neck and all carbon fiber unibody construction. For those wondering why anyone would ever want a stringed instrument made out of anything other than wood, apparently carbon fiber is supposed to be more acoustically efficient than wood, and more importantly it is resistant to humidity, which is the bane of all wooden instruments.

Strutting its ability to resist the elements while remaining exceptionally loud and full of tone, Blackbird Guitars has designed this unique, ultra-lightweight ukulele to be the "ultimate travel instrument" (in addition to its carbon-fiber guitars). It will be available in Spring 2010 with a street price of $US999.:

For more information about the NAMM Show, visit NAMM's Web site, and for more news from NAMM, check out Harmony Central's coverage.

Tags music technologynamm 2010

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David Saetang

PC World (US online)

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