NAMM 2017: part II

As it turned out, I had some time last Saturday and decided to stop by NAMM again on my way to a gig. I was there for less than two hours, but that was enough time to check out a few more things.

One of the things I really wanted to check out, was Brazilian manufacturer Stay Music Stands. I found out about these guys two years ago, loved their keyboard stand designs, and wanted to get one. At the time they didn’t have US distribution, but the rep told me I could buy one of their floor models if I came back on Sunday right before closing time. I couldn’t make it and was bummed. So this time I made my way over there and was happy to learn that they have secured US distribution and will be available on Amazon soon. I was less happy about the fact that prices have gone up as a result, but that was -of course- inevitable.

Behringer had a large number of their DeepMind 12 analog synth set up, and that is a fun little synth at a competitive price. Direct competitors are the DSI Mopho, which is the same price but has only 4-voice polyphony, and the Moog Sub Phatty, which is a little cheaper but monophonic. DeepMind offers 12-voice polyphony, an excellent-feeling 4-octave keyboard, and aftertouch. I hope someone swill do a head-to-head shootout with these three synths. DSI and Moog are the analog gold standard, and it will be interesting to see if Behringer can take the fight to them, sonically.

By chance I walked into a demo by Shaun Martin at the Waves booth, which turned out to be for a new virtual instrument, Grand Rhapsody. It is a sampled acoustic grand piano, and sounded pretty good in Shaun’s capable hands, although the demonstration was occasionally marred by audible CPU spikes. Rep says it will be available in February for an introductory price of $69.

I also went upstairs to check out the Kawai booth. I’ve never had a bad experience with Kawai’s acoustic pianos, but I can’t say I have loved their digitals as much. This time I went to try out the MP-7, and I was not disappointed. I love the way it feels and the acoustic piano sounds are competitive, but while the rest of the sounds are good enough, I’m not sure the instrument’s over-all sonic footprint would compel me to deal with the considerable weight and bulk.
I also tried out the new ES-110, which is decent enough for the price, but it doesn’t really stand out. Still, it is a viable alternative to Yamaha’s and Casio’s offerings in that price range, and probably the one I would pick if I was shopping for something like that.

On the way out, I was surprised to see Neumann with a new active studio monitor, the KH-80. Surprised, as I tend to follow industry news, and this one somehow totally passed me by. It is a 4″ woofer version of their popular KH120.

That was all I had time for, although I do want to mention I nearly bumped into Stevie Wonder. I would have actually bumped into him, but for his security detail.

A few things I missed in my previous post:
Touch Innovations had two excellent multi-touch displays in their booth, one ‘regular’ and a very ‘Tony Stark’-y see-through model. They offer bespoke software that tightly integrates it with MacOS, but comes as a subscription only. The day I can ditch point-and-click for a true multitouch desktop experience can’t come soon enough, but it is really just waiting for the DAW developers to recode their applications for this new input method. Until then, products like these are a nice interim solution.

Austrian company Alpha Piano was there with two products. Their haute-couture (Porsche-designed) Alpha Piano, which is powered by VSL’s Imperial Bösendorfer sample library. It features an actual hammer-action, and comes at a price far north of $30,000 for the studio model.  Expect to pay about ten grand less for the “portable” touring model.
They also had their M-Piano on display, but something was wrong with the computer, and a demonstration wasn’t possible at the time. It looks like a really great idea, like the Roli, but better. And again, astronomically priced (~$12,000).

I did see a couple of other interesting things on the way out, like Thonet & Vander, a German speaker company making Bluetooth products that do not look like props from a Star Trek set.
All in all, this NAMM wasn’t as packed with new and exciting stuff as some of the previous ones, but it remains a great way to try out things you don’t usually see in the store, learn about new products you would otherwise never hear of, and it serves as a barometer for where the industry in general is headed.
As always, I’m glad I got to go!



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