We look forward to January’s NAMM show with some predictions of what to watch out for, including products from Roland, Behringer and a newcomer with serious pedigree.

The Winter NAMM trade show in Anaheim, California has long been one of the highlights of the year for anyone with an interest in music technology. The annual event typically sees hundreds of companies announce new products in their thousands. Not all are relevant to electronic music production, but you’re still almost guaranteed a few pleasant surprises. Last year alone saw the announcement of the Sequential Prophet-6, Roland JD-Xi, and Korg’s ARP Odyssey and MS-20m, among others.

With NAMM 2016 kicking off on January 21st, we’re expecting another bumper year so we’ve put together a short list of what to expect, including rumours of some intriguing additions to the Roland line-up and the return of a legendary name with a new company.

 

Roland

Japanese giants Roland have been busy over the last few years, what with the AIRA series, Boutique reboots of classic synths, plus the introduction of two separate Eurorack modular ranges, one analogue and one digital. Roland are always one to watch at NAMM, but the company’s recent direction has made their product releases increasingly interesting to electronic producers. Speculation is rife that NAMM 2016 will see a new sampler added to the product line-up, possibly as part of the AIRA series. Gearsluz forum user Tha Knoq, who previously leaked information on Akai’s MPC Touch, claims to have seen a new Roland sampler with built-in modes modelled on classic samplers including the E-mu SP-1200 and Emaxes, the Ensoniq Mirage and the Roger Linn-era Akai MPCs. If it’s true, it would be huge news for anyone interested in classic samplers but unable or unwilling to pay the huge prices they now command.

We’re also interested to see if Roland are planning something new based on the classic Space Echo series. The officially licensed Space Echo plugin for Universal Audio’s UAD platform quietly disappeared from the range a few months ago, leading us to wonder if there might be something new on the way. The RE-201 – which is set to be inducted into the TECnology Hall of Fame at NAMM – is the inspiration for Boss’s RE-20 pedal, but could there also be room for an official plugin emulation or even a Space Echo-inspired model in the AIRA range, perhaps incorporating the company’s new Analog Circuit Behavior modelling techniques?

MORE Samplers?

The release of products like the Elektron Octatrack and Korg’s Volca Sample and Electribe Sampler over the last few years has proven that there’s still a market for hardware samplers despite the fact that it looked like they were all set for extinction thanks to the arrival of affordable computer-based sampling options. Aside from the rumoured Roland sampler, we’ll also be interested to see whether other companies have anything new to offer in this small but hotly contested section of the market.

Affordable analogue polysynths?

Back in 2012, the release of the Arturia MiniBrute ushered in a new wave of affordable analogue synths. With the subsequent release of products like the Korg MS-20 Mini, Novation Bass Station 2 and Arturia’s smaller MicroBrute, you can now take your pick from a pretty decent range of monosynths without breaking the bank, but polyphonic analogue synths still tend to be much more expensive. Even a relatively affordable option like the DSI Mopho x4 will set you back over £700.

With demand for affordable analogue synths now clearly established, it’s surely only a matter of time until a synth manufacturer introduces a budget polysynth, perhaps hitting the sub-£500 price range. There’s been speculation about the possibilty of an Arturia PolyBrute or a miniaturised version of another Korg classic, but we’re still waiting to see who makes the first move. We won’t be at all surprised if one of the big players unveils a budget polysynth at NAMM.

Behringer

… on the same subject, budget hardware specialists Behringer announced just over a year ago that they were set to develop a polyphonic analogue synth. With their track record for affordable products heavily inspired by other companies’ bestsellers, it’s not hard to guess where this one could be going.

Uli Behringer previously claimed that his engineers had “invested a lot of time in the analysis [of] legendary synthesizers from Roland, Korg, Moog, Sequential Circuits, ARP and PPG etc. The Curtis and SSM [chips] are today virtually no longer available and we have therefore used a lot of time, to replicate these with modern and high quality VCA and OTAs… These circuits will now form the basis for our synthesiser.”

We’re hoping to see some kind of prototype at NAMM, if only to find out which classic keyboards have inspired Behringer’s contribution to the synth market.

Rossum Electro-Music

You might not know this new company yet, but we’ve got a feeling they’ll be one to watch at NAMM. Dave Rossum was one of the founders of E-mu, the now-defunct California company responsible for bona fide classics like the Emulator samplers, the SP-1200 sampling drum machine and, of course, some mighty modular synths.

E-MU_modular_plain

Rossum Electro-Music is Dave Rossum’s new venture, set to make its debut at NAMM. The company have revealed in Facebook posts that they’ll be releasing a range of Eurorack modules (and possibly more), but we don’t know yet whether that means analogue, digital or both. Will the modules be reissues of classic E-mu circuits, updated versions or entirely new designs? Will there also be standalone hardware units or is it all modular? We’ll be bringing you more information on this one soon, but for now we’re excited to see what’s unveiled at NAMM.

VINTAGE REBOOTS

Hardly a new trend, what with the release of products like the Roland Aira and Boutique series, MS-20 Mini and over the last few years, but we can’t help thinking that 2016 might be the year we reach peak hardware nostalgia. Instead of faithful reissues, though, think reboots: why go to all the effort of painstakingly tracking down obsolete original components and retooling to manufacture imitations of your own back catalogue when you could just take inspiration from them and create something new with a broadly similar sound?

Cynical? Maybe. But there are still plenty of reboots that prove the approach is worthwhile. For every couple of dodgy cash-ins inspired by a long-forgotten ‘classic’ with a spurious back story, there are genuinely innovative products with bags of vintage heritage. Just look at Dave Smith’s excellent Pro 2 and Prophet-6, inspired by his 1970s Pro-One and Prophet-5 respectively.

Hardware sequencers?

Hardware sequencers were pretty thin on the ground a couple of years ago, but since the incredible rise of the Eurorack modular format and the widespread return of analogue synths, we’ve seen quite a few pop up, including Arturia’s Beatstep models, the Doepfer Dark Time and the Korg SQ-1. Whether at NAMM or not, we’re sure to see a lot of new step sequencers on the way in the modular world, with Sonicstate reporting that Malekko Heavy Industry, Sputnik Modular and Mutable Instruments are all working on new sequencer modules.

We also definitely wouldn’t be surprised to see more standalone sequencers joining the market. That could mean advanced, multi-track MIDI-based options like the Sequentix Cirklon or recently released Social Entropy Engine, or it could mean CV-based models from traditionally analogue-focused companies.

Moog

Speaking of analogue sequencers, Moog are a prime candidate. With a handful of keyboardless modules in the current range, it would be great to see a cheaper alternative to the $8,500 Complement B. There’s a step sequencer built into the Mother-32, so how about a standalone version of that?

With the release of the Sub Phatty in 2013, the Sub 37 and Werkstatt in 2014, then the reissued modulars and Mother-32 in 2015, it might be too much to expect another new synth from Moog. Instead, we’ve got a feeling we might see updates to the Moogerfooger and Minifooger ranges. Meanwhile, it seems a bit odd that we can buy Moog Eurorack cases but no Moog modules to put in them. Could 2016 be the year we see Moog enter the Eurorack fray?

Korg

Like Roland, Korg are active in so many areas that it’s hard to predict where they’ll go next. In recent years we’ve had miniaturised reissues of the MS-20 and ARP Odyssey, the hugely popular Volca series, refreshed Electribes and continued development of the Kaoss Pad/Kaossilator series. So where next? We’d love to see a miniaturised reissue of one of the company’s classic polysynths such as the Mono/Poly, but that might be wishful thinking. If we had to bet, our money would be going on some new additions to the Volca range.

 

Let us know what you’re hoping for in the comments below.

Author Greg Scarth
18th December, 2015

Comments

  • I am sick of this regressive nonsense. We are recreating crap from yesteryear? I want to see a new synth from Access, new VA’s as the technology now allows for sonic depth well beyond anything analogue could ever do!

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  • I am looking forward to seeing what Soundcraft are showing. As far as I know, the Signature MTK mixer/interfaces have not yet materialised so they will have to make an(other) official comment on their expected arrival. Since the product got so much attention, there is also the likelihood that a competitor will launch a similar product. The Engine sequencer above looks great.

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  • I would love to see a new standalone MPC from Akai. There was talk of them using Windows embedded systems for the their next generation of products.

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  • Akai had the potential to make a big come back in the standalone sampler field and they totally blew it twice already because they refused to listen to their customer base and instead chose to compete with Native Instruments, releasing the MPC Renaissance and the MPC Touch, both “tethered” to a software that was hardly usable on its release and lacking the competition’s environment of plugins and libraries.
    Then Akai got involved in the Push with Ableton, which was a bit odd, to say the least, but delivered a good product. Nevertheless, Akai got dropped on the second instalment…
    I don’t believe they will be able to make a come back now. I also think they have lost their customer base confidence by dicking around. I think that Native Instruments (or Roland?) will outdo them once more and release a standalone sampler first.

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  • unsaame, you hit it on the head. I’m a long time MPC user (like 20 years +) and Akai has totally lost me. Why would I use their proprietary software technology with I could just go Ableton or NI? When I first saw that MPC Touch I thought to myself “FINALLY!”, but alas… it’s just yet another controller. Not to mention, but recessing the screen like that, they’ve reduced the usable space.

    I await to see what Roland has to offer, but I’m not holding my breath for a “professional” grade sampler. Roland has been a slave to the groovebox paradigm for far to long.

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  • Sorry to fan the flames, but I really want an ARP 2600 reissue. It’s a bit of a grail for me but haven’t had the guts to do the TTSH thing, so I hope Korg will do something with it but if not I have no choice I have to get one somehow!

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  • I would really like to see a modern hardware pro workstation like the MPC designed for Electronic music. Stand alone, small format, dedicated controls, multiple fx and outputs. Access Virus meets Circlon via MPC. It totally doable in this day and age..I’m happy to pay good money too. My 15 year old Emu sampler is much more powerful than most new hardware..its rediculous.

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  • Outside of the Elektron OT, my OG MPC2000 is still a better standalone device than anything out there atm. Akai is blowing it harder than any company out there, they have the patents and technology to give us what we want but instead release non-sense boring-ass plastic midi-controllers. We want to listen to music not watch it on a computer screen!

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  • I lusted for the 2600 for years myself. The cure? It’s called Synthesizers.Com. When you look at the system you can put together with half the cost of a 30+ year old 2600, It’s crazy! You can have a much more powerful, and reliable, system at a fraction of the cost. An STG Post Lawsuit filter will give you the Arp-ish sound and Krisp 1 for the ring modulator. Since I started my large format system it has sated so much gear lust. Buying things and selling them off. I compare every new piece of gear to how many new modules I can add to the Atomic Synthesis System.

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  • It doesn’t even matter what company anymore, but the serious world of musicians need a stand alone, battery powered sampler that can take (and store) 192kHz audio signal on the fly, assign it to a beat pad (not just a tracker button) and be able to begin creating without menu diving, without uploading or dragging/dropping and a mind blowing amount of next-level-combinable effects. (Just like the Korg microSampler or the Roldand SP line were doing… we need our time to have a piece of gear that isn’t a computer on stage and out in the field…) All functions on the box + near unlimited amounts of exchangeable storage and ability to MIDI map all topographical functions with DAW’s. (I would gladly sit with a company to design something in exchange for the machine, travel, sleeping and food per diem.) I’m a touring experimental musician.

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  • Been a long time mpc user . Since 2004 and swear by time. I since invested in mpc renn which i sold soon after as it couldnt do anything more then my mpc 4000 could. Only the ren wasnt tight like the 4000….latency!!!!!….. i got excited when i seen the touch but then the software bit appeard. Instant disapiontment.. also all these new mpc are not adding new cutting edge functions they can only achieve at best what old mpcs can do….. what akai need to do is re-invent the original mpcs and add scale , key , harmony midi effects like logic and ableton. And have a polyphonic melodic step sequener that can send out midi to other hardware devices as well as trigger internal samples……. and dicky up the mpc with large color screen and l.e.d pads like push total hardware … and the mpc would take the world by storm…even blowing ableton software and push 2 out the water. By the way i am currently using push 2 and ableton as a midi sequencer with all my outboard and it rocks … rocks hard…
    now akai could achieve this if they put mind to it. If they added timestretching features like elektron octatrack….. akai mpc would top it all off sweeeeet

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  • I have a feeling roland could fill that gap very easy if akai dont get finger out

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  • All I want is for Clavia to make a Nord Modular G3. I know it will never happen but I still want it. They made the original Nord Modulars when modulars were not as popular as they are now bur even with their growing popularity, modulars will never sell as much as the lounge band synths they are selling now.

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  • it seems we’ll have no clavia g3 this year…again! 🙁

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  • Yes to a G3 from Nord. Why did I sell my G2?? WHYYY!!!

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  • As far as a classic reissue, I would like Korg to revive the MaxiKorg.
    Amazing piece of gear, almost no one has had the chance to play.
    Come from an earlier time in Korg’s existence, before the MS line became all anyone knew of their analogs.

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  • >> it would be huge news for anyone interested in classic samplers but unable or unwilling to pay the huge prices they now command.

    sorry but that is just nonsense….of any machines for making electronic music, old school samplers are quite affordable and not huge – with exception the sp12/sp1200 or emulator II or III – even the emax samples are still quite cheap, korg dds, mirage and so on are stil lcheap

    if anything the roland sampler toy will eventually push up the prices of the real samplers they try to emulate – dont say you werent warned.,….told you so

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  • “but the serious world of musicians need a stand alone, battery powered sampler that can take (and store) 192kHz audio signal on the fly, assign it to a beat pad (not just a tracker button) and be able to begin creating without menu diving,”

    What a garbage request.
    192 kHz is a buzz term to suck in schmucks with no knowledge of audio physics.

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  • ^ “but the serious world of musicians need a stand alone, battery powered sampler that can take (and store) 192kHz audio signal on the fly, assign it to a beat pad (not just a tracker button) and be able to begin creating without menu diving,”

    You just lost all credibility when you said “battery powered”. Guitar pedals maybe, standalone sound source no way.

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  • There are rumors about a Korg Minilogue (there’s even a registered trademark with that name. 37 keys, 4 voice. Analog signal path (or at least filter) and a knobby interface

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  • Allow me to join the Akai bashing. They just keep putting out total crap when they could be doing something great. Been using the old mpcs for 15 years. Can we please get a new generation, legitimate, modern mpc?

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  • I’m sick of all this ‘small form’ stuff! We want big, impressive looking synths. I’m not against re-issuing old gear but please stop making them look like toys!!!!!

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  • MPC 1000 user wishing for a Roland update to the MV8800. I will definitely cop a used MV in 2017 if no one can fill this hardware gap in 2016.

    MPC 1000 user since 2006 but I am wishing for a Roland update to the MV8800. I just realized last year [2015] what a beast this machine is.

    Keep the box big with big pads & sliders; switch to solid state SSD + 1-3GB RAM and add USB 3.0 ports. HDMI video out instead of VGA. Update the time control/BPM sync feature to make it more seamless & you have hardware worth $1500-2000 US. Make sure to commit to software updates/support and don’t try to screw users with overpriced hardware accessories.

    Otherwise, I’ll just get a used MV8800 for $400-600. It had air tight sequencing and sound quality character. Software is great/cheap but they lack feel/sound character. ELEKTRON gets this & has actually caught my attention with the RYTM & OCTATRACK. The MV will be my fallback should Ableton LIVE fail me as a DAW. The MVs limitations were few & necessary to keep the user focused on making music. I will definitely cop a used MV in 2017 if no one can fill this hardware gap in 2016.

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