Gear Reports from Summer NAMM 2014

July 18, 2014
In its second year at the still-fresh Music City Center, Summer NAMM 2014 saw increased attendance and more exhibitors than in recent years. This was fortunate news for the keyboard community; despite the absence of Korg (and Roland’s focus on Boss products exclusively) at this year’s show, there was plenty to see when it came to synths, digital pianos, home studio gear, and live sound solutions. Scroll to the bottom for our gear videos from the show floor.

Dave Smith Instruments displayed the upcoming Pro-2 synthesizer. We’ve been anticipating the new 44-key analog synth, a four-voice paraphonic (polyphony that shares some common synth elements such as a filter and VCA envelope), with a gorgeous interface and step sequencer. Also on display was the brand new DSM01 Curtis filter Eurorack module, an exciting development for the modular synthesist.

It was a pleasant surprise to see Ravenscroft Pianos exhibiting at Summer NAMM. We first spotted them at previous Winter NAMM shows, where they’ve never shied away from the busy trade show floor (most piano makers display at the quieter upper floors). While they had one of their beautiful grands on display, the focus of their exhibit was the new Ravenworks piano system. The system is comprised of the new Ravenscroft 275 software piano by V.I. Labs, controlled by a specially modified Kawai VPC-1 weighted-action MIDI controller keyboard. Ravenscroft went under the hood of the VPC-1 and altered the key action to their specifications. Custom finishes are available for the personal touch.

Hammond returned to Summer NAMM with their new Leslie G Pedal. Aimed at guitarists, it’s plenty useful to keyboardists looking for emulations of multiple types of Leslie rotary speaker cabinets in a small-footprint stompbox. They were also showing prototypes of the new L-2215 Keyboard Amplifier, a heavy-duty, stationary-speaker combo amp.

Kurzweil was showing the new Forte, an 88-key weighted action keyboard featuring multi-gigabyte piano, electric piano, orchestral, and synth tones. Yamaha gave their Motif line a white paint job to commemorate 40 years of synthesizers. CME unveiled a new 37-note version of their Xkey slim MIDI controller keyboard. Meanwhile, your humble reporter was performing daily at the Casio booth, where they launched two new sampling keyboards. The CTK-2400 and LK-260 (the latter featuring touch-sensitive light-up keys) are somewhat of a throwback to their popular sampling keyboards from the 1980s, albeit with current preset sounds.

There were some new computer audio interfaces making their U.S. debut at Summer NAMM. The Zen Studio from Antelope is a 20-input USB audio interface featuring Antelope’s highly regarded A/D converters and clock technology (found in their Orion interface). Resident Audio displayed a series of new Thunderbolt audio/MIDI interfaces, and PreSonus debuted the AudioBox iOne and iTwo compact USB interfaces.

PhasX showed a prototype of the PX600, a desktop mixing and mastering system comprised of an audio interface and active monitor speakers (with a visual target system to set the proper listening angle for monitoring). Cymatic Audio’s uTrack 24 is a USB audio interface, standalone multitrack recorder (just add USB drive), and live track playback unit and is scheduled to ship at the end of July.

Summer NAMM saw some more new speakers, amps, and mixers for studio and live use. Of note were passive studio monitor speakers from Wathen Audiophile, in exquisite handmade wood cabinets. In the high-end studio amp scene, there was the new SA-250 from Emotiva. For live mixing and recording, QSC exhibited the new Touchmix 16 digital mixer, featuring a large touchscreen, 16 inputs, digital recording, and control of multiple mixes with multiple iPads.

Since Summer NAMM is heavily weighted towards the guitar scene, there were plenty of effects pedals on display. Debuts of note for keyboardists: the Pigtronix Rototron rotary speaker simulator (which uses all analog circuitry), and The Boss DM-2w Waza Craft analog delay. All in all, Summer NAMM 2014 showed a positive trend for keyboardists and synthesists. Nashville is Music City, USA, and it’s not just for guitarists anymore!

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