The NAMM 2018 show played host to a number of major new product releases. We pick our favourites, including polyphonic keyboards and synths for babies.
New flagship for Korg
The biggest synth release of the show was undoubtedly the unveiling of Korg’s new flagship analogue model, the Prologue. Available in 8-voice and 16-voice versions, the Prologue is a massive step up from the Minilogue and represents the company’s first major synth release since the departure of former lead synth designer Tatsuya Takahashi. It sounds great, with a much more versatile synth architecture than the cheaper models in the range and the addition of digital layers to blend in with the analogue core of the sound.
Arturia go big
Arturia’s excellent MiniBrute was one of the synths responsible for kicking off the resurgence of affordable analogue. For 2018, it’s updated in a couple of different forms and expanded with increased Eurorack-friendly modular capabilities. The MiniBrute was already a good synth and the new versions are significantly better. The 2S is particularly interesting, with the keyboard ditched in favour of a new focus on step sequencing.
You can see the new MiniBrute ecosystem in action above and find out more here.
There’s no avoiding the fact that Sonicware’s ELZ_1 looks pretty similar to the Teenage Engineering OP-1, but that’s not a problem because the OP-1 is fucking great. Coming from Japanese “synthesizer reinvention laboratory” Sonicware, it’s a small and simple unit with a range of digital synth engines (FM, 8-bit, granular, etc) plus effects. It doesn’t have the depth of the OP-1’s multi-track capabilities and wacky sequencer devices, but one of the benefits of digital gear is that it’s possible to add features via firmware updates, so the ELZ_1 is definitely one to watch.
Find out more here.
Three is the magic number
Doepfer updated their Dark Energy semi-modular synth voice for the second time. Version III isn’t a radical overhaul but it improves on a few key areas of what was already an excellent synth: there’s an upgraded VCO, mildly tweaked envelope and LFO. What’s perhaps most interesting is that the redesigned circuit board has been laid out with modifications in mind, encouraging users to hack and mess with key parts of the circuit. No word yet on price or release date but we’d expect the RRP to be pretty close to the Dark Energy II’s €429 price point.
See more from Doepfer here.
synths for babies
One of the most unexpected new arrivals at this year’s show was the charming Blipblox by American newcomers Playtime Engineering. Designed to introduce small children (ages three and up) to electronic sounds, it’s a simple synth groovebox with built-in sequencer and totally unmarked controls (including levers as well as the more conventional knobs and buttons). We found it a bit difficult to understand what was actually going on when we played with it, but that’s probably just our stupid adult brains not functioning on the same level as a toddler.
Find out more here.