I’m a gear geek. I’ll admit it.
When I was asked to cover NAMM 2014 for Best Buy Canada, I was on cloud nine. The show was busy and we had a lot of appointments with vendors with a focus to get a first look at the exciting gear that Best Buy will be offering you.
Along the way, I had to take a look at the gear that I’d love to take home to my studio. Here are some of the products I saw that had me checking my bank account.
In the Studio
This is the tale of two worlds in this section:
On the one hand, there’s the analogue side of the coin. I wouldn’t call it a backlash, but in recent years, there have been a lot of companies that as a result of the popularity of digital recording, were almost on the verge of obscurity. What started as what I’d term a niche resurgence, makers of analogue gear have enjoyed a renewed popularity and have become “that magic something” that you see mentioned in the recording and engineering press.
Gear from names like Neve, Studer, Trident and API were enjoying a renaissance through digital modeling as plug-ins you could use with your Digial Audio Workstation (DAW). The distortion and saturation introduced by analogue technology is something that started to creep back as being desireable in recording and mixing circles. Lately, I’ve seen these companies start to re-enter the market with products that bring back that sound and tactile experience in physical form.
API is an American company that has become an icon in the recording studio. API large-format consoles, EQ’s and pre-amplifiers have been used to record and mix some of the most iconic rock records.
API had THE BOX out on the floor of their booth. THE BOX is a small-format recording/mixing console designed for professional project studios, home studios, and production facilities. With a 5-figure price tag, I think it’d take a while to save up for this toy.
On the other end of the spectrum, Slate Digital had their RAVEN system on display. It’s been called the Largest Mouse for your Digital Audio Workstation:
It’s essentially a large touch-display system that allows the user to interact directly and immediately with the DAW through the touchscreen. It allows the user to use multiple fingers to drag multiple faders simultaneously, to adjust virtual rotary controls and buttons as if they were real physical objects, and to move and shape audio clips and automation data precisely and instinctively. It’s cool, it’s fun … don’t think I can afford it.
Not to make this a theme, but here are two examples of old-school and new-school both grabbing my interest.
Buchla is a modular synthesizer manufacturer that has been around since the 1960’s. They’ve not enjoyed the mass-market appeal that Moog has of their life-time, but have earned a reputation for developing high-quality (read: expensive) electronic instruments. With the resurgance of analogue gear and being used recently by well-known artists such as Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) they’re starting to become the focus of some spotlights.
The Buchla 200e System 6 (modeled by my good friend Reek Havok) looks like it’s intimidating … and it is. But don’t let that fool you – there are little easter eggs of humour hidden throughout this system.
Buchla’s Dual Arbitrary Function Generator Module
Buchla’s Uncertainty Source Module
The Seaboard Roli Grand was one of those products that I wasn’t looking for, wasn’t expecting and literally stopped me to come take a closer look. The booth was out in the hallway on the third floor – out of the way unless you were walking between Gibson Guitars and ESP Guitars.
I’m surprised that Jordan Rudess wasn’t all over this thing as he usually is with odd controllers.
The Seaboard is a MIDI controller that reimagines the piano keyboard as a soft, continuous surface. The controller is a very slim profile and represents a piano-like keyboard by raised impressions of the keys. It’s really quite a surprising feel – I was expecting it to be more stiff. Velocity, pitch, volume and timbre (aftertouch) are all controlled by the touch of your fingers on the “keys”. It’s just one of those things that you need to see and feel to understand.