It’s difficult to summarize a show as diverse and expansive as NAMM. Plenty of other sites provide detailed, exhaustive coverage of new product announcements. So instead, I offer here the top ten themes of NAMM 2013.
1. The MI Industry Is Rebounding, Slowly
According to NAMM, the market for music and audio equipment has rebounded nicely from the economic downturn a few years back. In 2011, MI was a $16.3 billion industry, up 3% over 2010. Although the MI market has not yet fully regained its pre-crisis peak ($18.2) it has rebounded nicely. And so has the NAMM show, which is now as vibrant as ever. For 2013, there were 93,908 total registrants, a 2 percent decrease from 2012. According to NAMM, this decrease was the byproduct of an intentional effort to make the show more business-focused. The result was an increase buyer in attendance (up 4% over 2012) and a decrease in non-industry guests (down 16%).
2. MIDI is 30 Years Young
The 30th anniversary of MIDI was celebrated at NAMM 2013. You know what this means? The 30th anniversary of my first synthesizer purchase (a Roland JX-8P) can’t be far off!
3. Everything Old is New Again
Retro continues to be a major theme – from the way instruments look to the way they sound. Guitar makers are capitalizing on the market for vintage electric guitars by releasing additional “re-issue” guitars designed to exactly emulate their forbears. And every year we see more devices and plug-ins designed to replicate, or at least emulate, vintage legacy gear.
- Universal Audio expanded their library of software models of vintage audio gear, adding new plug-ins that emulate the Teletronix LA-2A, the API 500 EQ, as well as dozens of vintage amplifiers, with their Softube packages.
- Native Instruments released two new plug-ins that model the venerable Lexcon 224 (RC24) and 480L (RC48) reverbs. Available now for $149 each or $199 for both.
- The Joe Perry edition Gibson Les Paul 1959 reissue costs over $10,000 and comes pre-worn on the back where a big 1970’s belt buckle would have scratched it.
- Fender released four new “pawn shop” guitars – remixes of vintage Fender guitars from the past, as well as a reissue of their 1957 tweed Bandmaster amp for $1,899.
- Dunlop released an updated MXR Talk Box for those of us who want to unleash our inner Peter Frampton. Available now for $170.
- The Magnatone brand of vintage tube guitar amplifiers, last manufactured in 1969, is now being relaunched.
4. Real Analog Synths are Back!
Real analog synths made a big comeback at NAMM 2013. These are not modeling synths that emulate analog sounds, they are actual analog synths with real oscillators, filters, etc.
- Moog unveiled it’s Sub Phatty monophonic analog synthesizer, a new twist on the classic Mini Moog. Available in March for $1,099.
- Korg announced the MS-20 Mini analog monophonic synthesizer, a replica of the vintage MS-20 mono analog synth, first introduced in 1978. The MS-20 Mini incorporates the exact same circuitry as the original MS-20, but with modern (!) advances like MIDI. Available in April for roughly $599.
- If one voice isn’t enough for you, upgrade to 12 with Dave Smith’s upcoming Prophet 12. A modern take on vintage polyphonic synths, the Prophet 12 offers four oscillators per voice with all the filters and VCA’s you could want. Available in the second quarter for $2,999.
- Although it was not visible on the show floor, Tom Oberheim announced that his re-imagined Two Voice Pro will be shipping in the spring of 2013 fir $3495.
- Buchla debuted their upcoming Music Easel, a remake of their 1973 vintage analog synthesizer. Available in the second quarter of 2013 for around $4,000.
- Elektron’s Analog Four synthesizer, introduced last November, was also demonstrated at NAMM. Priced at $1149, available now.
- Dubreq demonstrated their new Stylophone S2, an analog synth based on the classic Stylophone, originally launched in 1968. The S2 is now available for $479.
5. Hybrid Everything
NAMM 2013 showcased dozens of hybrid products that blend technologies in every combination imaginable.
- Hybrid MIDI keyboards, synths, pad controllers like Novation’s Launchkey which includes a music keyboard, pads, faders, knobs and a companion iPad app with onboard sounds. M-Audio’s new Axiom AIR controllers offer deep integration with AIR instruments and Pro Tools.
- Hybrid guitars, amps, processors like Line 6’s JTV-89F with 29 onboard Variax instruments as well the ability to change the guitar’s tuning virtually, without adjusting the strings. Peavey’s new Vypyr VIP amplifiers offer built-in bass, acoustic and electric guitar models.
- Hybrid software/hardware solutions like Behringer’s iX16 iPad mixer dock, a 16-input digital mixer and USB audio interface that can be controlled by an iPad.
- Hybrid digital/analog products like Korg’s KingKorg synthesizer, a digital emulation of analog synths that features an on-board vacuum tube.
- Hybrid MIDI and audio capabilities, like Ableton Live 9’s ability to convert audio to MIDI, including drum beats, melodies and harmonies
6. Easy Music Creation
NAMM 2013 continued the trend toward hardware and software products aimed at lowering the barrier to music creation. On the hardware side, a number of new controllers took aim at non-keyboard musicians:
- Ableton’s upcoming Push is a tactile grid controller for creation of beats, harmonies and melodies, as well as sound manipulation. Availability is planned for later in Q1 2013, when Push will be bundled with Live 9.
- Livid Instruments debuted their new Base pad and touch controller, which features 32 pressure/velocity sensitive pads as well as touch faders and buttons. It can be used to drive apps like Ableton Live to quickly create new beats and melodies. Available in March for $399.
- Nektar introduced their Panorama P1 USB DAW controller, which is deeply integrated with Cubase and Reason software. Planned for availability in April 2013 at $299.
- Numark launched Orbit, a wireless handheld DJ controller that looks like a video game controller and incorporates a 2-axis accelerometer.
- The Arturia SparkLE is a smaller, more affordable version of the original Spark software/hardware drum machine. Available soon for $299.
- Tascam announced two new Pocketstudio ‘sketch pads’ that enable quick and easy capture of musical ideas. The DP-006 and DP-008EX and DP-006 will be available in March, starting at roughly $200.
7. iPad and iPhone
iPad/iPhone apps, accessories and integration continued to be a major theme at NAMM this year.
- IK Multimedia demonstrated their iRig BlueBoard Bluetooth MIDI pedalboard (available in Q2 for $99.99) and iLoud speakers (available in Q2 for $299.99) as well as dozens of other iPad accessories.
- Apogee introduced iPad compatability for their audio interfaces, including a new iPhone/iPod audio interface called “One,” as well as updates to Duet and Quartet that enable connectivity and control from iPod, iPhone and iPad.
- Korg introduced the second app in their iPad musical instrument (iMS) lineup. The iMS-20 app includes a virtual MS-20 monosynth as well as a sequencer, drum machine and mixer. Available now for $29.99.
- Rode showcased their iXY stereo microphone for iPhone/iPad, available in March 2013 for $199.
- Numark showcased their iDJ Live II iPad DJ controller that now includes USB connectivity for computer. Available “later this spring” for $99.
- Keith McMillen Instruments demonstrated QuNexus, a USB MIDI controller that can be used in conjunction with MIDI devices, computers or iOS devices. Available in April of 2013 for $149.
- Artiphon demonstrated a prototype of their upcoming Instrument 1, an iPhone powered “multi-instrument.” Available in late 2013 for around $800.
8. Mini Is “Ini”
Some products, like Roland’s RD-64 compact stage piano and the Arturia MiniLab, offer reduced size to enable increased portability. But other products seemed to be focused on just trying to be cute. Either way, there were many miniature products at NAMM 2013.
- Vox released a tiny battery-powered modeling amp, called the MINI5. Available now for $99.
- Dunlop launched Fuzz Face Mini, a line of diminutive effects pedals that emulate late-60’s era fuzz tone stomp boxes.
- Numark launched a tiny DJ interface called dj2go. Available now for $49.99.
- Samson previewed a range of tiny MIDI controllers, which will start at $59.99.
9. The High End Gets Pricier
While many vendors are lowering prices to address the mass market, specialty products abounded at NAMM, including a $120,000 Fender Custom Shop Telecaster decorated with diamonds that sold in 30 minutes. No, I’m not kidding! Other vendors simply extended their product lines in the upward direction.
10. Folk Is Coming Back
With the success of bands like Mumford & Sons, some acoustic instrument categories are experiencing a bit of a renaissance.
- Fender showcased the new Mando-Strat, an electric mandolin that looks like the love child of a mandolin and a Fender P-bass.
- Fender announced a new Connecticut-based Acoustic Custom Shop for high-end acoustic guitars.
- Not to be outdone by Fender, Guild also announced a Custom Shop that is building high-end models, including a special 60th anniversary guitar that is selling for more than $5,000.