As this year’s instalment of the winter NAMM show draws to a close, we pick out our highlights of the new gear announcements, including fresh drum machines from Elektron and Teenage Engineering, synths from DSI and Pioneer, plus an iconic name joining the world of Eurorack.
We knew that Elektron would be bringing something new to NAMM, but despite rumours of an updated Machinedrum or Octatrack, the big reveal was actually somewhere in between the two. The Digitakt is described as an “8-voice digital drum computer and sampler”, combining Machinedrum-style synthesis with basic sampling features. The demo unit at the show was under a glass case, meaning we couldn’t get our hands on it to try it out (probably because it’s not finished yet), but the concept seems solid: it’s a fairly small unit (the same size as the Analog Heat) with Overbridge integration and the ability to sequence other gear over MIDI. It’ll be available this spring, priced at $650/€650. Find out more here.
Software emulations of hardware synths are impossible to avoid, but (as far as we can remember) Teenage Engineering’s latest Pocket Operator is the first time that anyone’s released a hardware version of a plugin. Based on Sonic Charge’s excellent Microtonic drum synth software, the PO-32 was probably one of the smallest new products at NAMM, but the Teenage Engineering stand was surrounded throughout the show. It’s a fascinating new addition to the line-up, offering integration with the Microtonic plugin and the ability to transfer and receive data using a built-in microphone. We also love the graphics on the display, designed by Teenage Engineering CEO Jesper Kouthoofd’s nine-year-old daughter Ivana. Find out more here.
DAve Smith Instruments
Aside from a new Pioneer collaboration which we’ll discuss below, the big news from Dave Smith was the introduction of the REV2, an updated version of the Prophet ’08 polysynth. The new synth doubles the ’08’s polyphony to 16 voices while adding a bunch of new features and retaining all the functionality of the original which made its debut in 2007. As DSI put it: “The REV2 retains all of the key features of the Prophet ’08 and expands on them. It has twice the polyphony, twice the mod matrix, waveshape modulation on all waveforms, digital effects per layer in stacked or split voice mode, a polyphonic step sequencer per layer, and more. The result is a true analog powerhouse.” Find out more here.
Pioneer’s partnership with Dave Smith (who provided the analogue filters for the Toraiz SP-16 sampler) continues with the introduction of a basic monophonic synth, designed to sync with Pioneer’s DJ gear. The Toraiz AS-1 is basically a single voice of the DSI Prophet-6, with a built-in sequencer and ribbon-style keyboard. The front panel controls are relatively basic, meaning that most parameters have to be adjusted via the menus on the small display. We’re not convinced how many DJs really want to sync a synth to their CDJs, but it’s an interesting idea and the sound quality is great. It’s due in March, priced at $499.
…and the rest
Moog‘s stand was a sparse offering, paying tribute to some of the musicians who died in the last 12 months and offering attendees the chance to win a creative prize in return for posting a photo on social media.
Nothing new either from Arturia, who introduced the DrumBrute this time last year.
Universal Audio showed off an updated version of their Apollo Twin interface. The new mkII version is a “ground-up redesign” of the unit, with two Unison preamps, next-generation converters, improved monitor controls and the option of Quad-core UAD processing. Prices start at $699.
A relatively quiet year for Korg and Roland, neither of whom sprung any surprises. Korg showed off the Monologue and full-size ARP Odyssey, while Roland’s biggest announcement was the RD-2000 stage piano.
We were pleasantly surprised to see Eventide move into Eurorack with a digital delay module based on their DDL-500 module for API 500-series racks. We’re told the E500 module was only finished earlier this month, but should be available within the next few weeks, priced at around $399 (significantly lower than the DDL-500). Eventide also showed off their new Structural Effects plugin, which looks like a very powerful creative tool.