Top Keyboard Gear Picks for NAMM 2017, Day 2

From new analog synths to evolutionary controllers, the second day of NAMM 2017 kept on delivering for keyboardists.
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From touchpad keyboards to touch surfaces that many not even qualify as keyboards, music tech makers keep on innovating new ways to put notes into the world. New stuff from Roli and Roger Linn is never a bad thing, and we got an unexpected analog monosynth from none other than Pioneer Pro DJ, although with the unimpeachable help of Dave Smith Instruments.

Also be sure to catch up on the other top show picks from us, as well as Electronic Musician.

Top Keyboard Gear Picks for NAMM 2017, Day 1

Electronic Musician:
Top Music Gear Picks from Day 1 of the 2017 NAMM Show

Top Music Gear Picks from Day 2 of the 2017 NAMM Show

Roger Linn Design LinnStrument 128 MIDI performance controller, $999 street, out now.

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What We Love About It:

  • It’s just like the original LinnStrument, except smaller and more affordable, with 128 pads, rather than the original 200. 
  • A new 2-track step sequencer uses the RGB note pads to sequence tracks with 

Caveat: To get the full expressive potential out of the LinnStrument 128, you need instruments with MPE (Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression) MIDI control. To get you started, it comes bundled with the Bitwig 8-track DAW software, which has at least one MPE-based virtual instrument. And speaking of Bitwig…

Bitwig Studio 2 DAW, $399, available February 28

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What We Love About It:

  • Adds modulation slots to both Bitwig devices and third-party plug-ins for inserting 24 Modulators, including different types of envelopes, LFOs, sequencers and much more. 
  • New Spectrum Analyzer, effects and lots of new note manipulation devices. 
  • New MIDI and CV devices let you control hardware MIDI and analog CV hardware with Bitwig.

Caveat: It does a lot of things your favorite DAW doesn’t, but is it enough to switch?

Pioneer DJ/Dave Smith Instruments Toraiz AS-1 analog monosynth
, $499 street, available in March.

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What We Love About It:

  • A compact and fully programmable analog monosynth with a sound that’s basically one voice of the DSI Prophet-6. 
  • Includes a touchpad keyboard and slider, 64-step sequencer, 495 presets, arpeggiator, scale mode for the keyboard and filters and effects from the Prophet-6. 
  • Integrates with the Pioneer DJ Toraiz SP-16 sampler/sequencer.

Caveat: It has limited hands-on tone controls, but the display helps to illustrate parameter changes.

Roli Lightpad Block, Loop Block and Live Block, portable Bluetooth music creation tools, $179/79 each street, out now

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What We Love About Them:

  • The Lightpad Block’s 5D playing surface looks beautiful and it creates a playing style that bridge the gap between Roli’s Seaboard and pad grid controllers like Ableton Push and Novation Launchpad Pro. 
  • A new Dashboard computer software now lets the Blocks integrate with certain DAWs and virtual instruments, and Roli has also launched a developer kit for new Blocks-integrated apps.

Caveat: The included Noise iOS app that integrates with Blocks has great sounds, but is a little bit limited as a loop-building music tool.

Electro-Harmonix Blurst modulated filter pedal, $137 street, availability TBA

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What We Love About It:

  • Analog lowpass filter with LFO modulation for adding analog-synth style filtering to any source. 
  • Plays well with other effect pedals. 

Caveat: You can never really have too many fun effects, but if all you use are analog synths, most of them have this functionality built-in.

Roland GO-61K Go:Keys ($299) and GO-61P Go:Piano ($329), portable battery powered keyboards

What We Love About Them:

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  • Both have built-in speakers and Bluetooth audio and MIDI connectivity. 
  • The Go:Keys has a Loop Mix mode that lays out some of the 500+ piano, synth, string, brass, bass and other sounds across a range of keys. From there, a single touch generates a musical phrase with a x-y controller for tweaking sounds. 
  • The Go:Piano includes a selection of high-quality piano, electric piano, organ and string sounds with 128-voice polyphony, an a onboard practice feature, metronome and transposition. 

Caveat: The flat, touch-panel interface may feel unfamilar at first; no pitch bend/mod wheels.

Presonus Studio 2|6 and 6|8 USB 2.0 audio/MIDI interfaces
, $199 and $299 street, out now.

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What We Love About Them:

  • Pro-level 24-bit/192kHz audio resolution for an affordable price. 
  • For anyone just starting out, these interfaces include PreSonus Studio One Artist software, one of our favorite free bundled DAWs out there due to its generous feature set. 

Caveat: The Studio 6|8 uses a breakout cable to supply its MIDI and S/PDIF I/O connections.