The Most Buzzed-About Keyboards, Software, and Recording Gear from the Biggest Musical Instrument Show in the U.S.
ACCESS VIRUS TI OS 4
What: OS update for Virus TI virtual analog hardware synths.
Main features: New overdrive stompbox models. Vowel filter for more realistic “talking” patches. Comb filter. Arpeggiator can now control any modulation destination.
Who will like it: Anyone who owns anything in the Virus TI line. Free download for Virus owners | access-music.de
What: More compact, affordable version of APC40 controller (reviewed Sept. ’09) for Ableton Live.
Who will like it: DJs and electronic music producers who may have been put off by the larger size and price of the APC40. $399 list/approx. $200 street | akaipro.com
ALESIS MICRON SE
What: Sweet little analog modeling synth.
Main features: Eight three-oscillator voices. Two multimode filters. Three envelopes. Two LFOs. Sample and hold. Eight multitimbral parts.
Why we like it: Tons of sound-creation power for the price, and entirely too much fun. $699 list/approx. $400 street | alesis.com
ARTURIA ANALOG LABORATORY
What: Arturia expanded their Analog Factory Experience soft synth/controller combo to a three-keyboard line. This is the nicest one.
Main features: Controller has aftertouch, plus sustain, expression, and even breath control inputs. Included soft synth has 3,500 patches from Arturia’s “V” line.
Why we like it: It’s like having a collection of most-wanted vintage synths. All of the controls on the hardware unit map to them automatically. $TBA | arturia.com
CAKEWALK MOBILE STUDIO CANVAS
What: All-in-one audio/MIDI interface and Roland SD-50 hardware synth for desktop music production.
Main features: Stereo audio interface with mic and guitar ins. USB-powered. Over 1,000 Roland, GM2, and GS sounds onboard. Plays audio files directly off a USB stick.
Who will like it: Musicians who produce for web-destined video, makers of karaoke backing tracks, or anyone who needs an elegant interface/soundbank that stays out of your way. $399 | cakewalk.com
DAVE SMITH MOPHO KEYBOARD
What: Dave’s Mopho analog synth module (reviewed Jan. ’09), now with 32 keys.
Main features: Two-oscillator, all-analog signal path. Monophonic, but can link to Dave Smith synths via poly-chaining to increase the voice count. Poly-chain it to the four-voice Tetra (reviewed Jan. ’10), and you’ve effectively got a miniature Prophet-5 in your laptop bag.
Who will like it: Anyone with a soul. $879 list/approx. $800 street | davesmithinstruments.com
DIGITECH VOCALIST VL3D
What: Desktop vocal harmony generator.
Main features: Three-part harmonies. Gender bender. Built-in vocal effects chain including “warmth,” compressor, de-esser, noise, gate, and three kinds of reverb. MIDI in, out, and thru. Very simple to use. Sound quality would be great at twice the price.
Who will like it: Singer-songwriters who record their own demos. $429.95 list/approx. $300 street | digitech.com
EIGENLABS EIGENHARP ALPHA
What: “MIDI bassoon” gets it wrong — this is an incredibly expressive and unique controller with customizable key layouts. More compact, affordable Tau and Pico versions available.
Main features: Each of the 120 velocitysensitive keys is also joystick-like, detecting X/Y movement as well as downward pressure.
Who will like it: Tech-savvy woodwind players and avant-garde musicians looking for a truly unique means of expression. £3,995/$TBA | eigenlabs.com
FOCUSRITE OCTOPRE Mk. II DYNAMIC
What: Eight-channel mic preamp with compression on every channel.
Main features: Goes to 24-bit/96kHz. ADAT lightpipe and individual 1/4" analog outs. Each channel has its own compressor knob — and the compressors are analog!
Who will like it: For starters, anyone who needs to record drums in a project studio. This is about the most logical all-in-one pre we’ve ever seen. $799.99 list/approx. $700 street | focusrite.com
FXPANSION BFD ECO
What: Streamlined, version of the industryleading BFD virtual drums.
Main features: Five kicks, six snares, three hi-hats, 12 toms, and 11 cymbals. Fifteen built-in effects. Advanced groove and humanization features. Supports triggering from electronic kits such as Roland V-Drums.
Who will like it: Laptop-based musicians who want the BFD sound in a far more affordable and CPU-efficient package. $199 list/approx. $150 street | fxpansion.com
KORG SOUND ON SOUND RECORDER
What: Handheld stereo digital recorder with unlimited overdubbing.
Main features: Touchscreen. Records to MicroSD/HC cards. Built in tuners, effects, and time-stretching. Fifty internal rhythm patterns. Unlimited undo. Each overdub is saved to a separate 16- bit/44.1kHz BWF file, with time code so that when you dump into your DAW, all the tracks line up.
Why we like it: If your plane crashed on the Lost island, you could track an entire album, then mix it once you find a Dharma hatch with a Pro Tools system. $400 list/approx. $300 street | korg.com
KURZWEIL PC3 LE6
What: Full-on synth workstation.
Main features: Kurzweil’s semi-modular VAST architecture with 64-voice polyphony. Eight drum pads. Modeled virtual analog oscillators as well as tons of sample-based sounds. Modeled KB3 organ mode.
Why we like it: It’s the second coming of the K2000, with modern specs for modern times. $1,695 list/approx. $1,500 street | kurzweilmusicsystems.com
LINE 6 MIDI MOBILIZER
What: MIDI interface with included MIDI Memo Recorder app for iPhone and iPod Touch.
Main features: Record song data right into your iPhone, then email it as an SMF file. Memo app can also store program and parameter data for your keyboards, which you can load into rental or replacement gear so you have your treasured sounds.
Why we like it: MIDI info doesn’t take up a lot of space by today’s standards, so your iPhone could potentially replace a lot of flash cards and USB sticks. $TBA | line6.com
M-AUDIO OXYGEN SERIES
What: Finally, a revamp of the affordable but feature-packed MIDI controller that put M-Audio on the map as a maker of keyboards.
Main features: Eight assignable knobs. Improved keyboard action. Nine sliders and transport buttons on 49- and 61-key models.
Who will like it: Anyone without a lot of cash, who nonetheless doesn’t want their MIDI keyboard to scream “cheap.” 25 keys: $149.95 list/approx. $120 street; 49 keys: $189.95/approx. $150 street; 61 keys: $249.95/approx. $175 street | m-audio.com
MOOG TAURUS 3
What: Monster analog bass synth in oneoctave pedalboard form.
Main features: Two oscillators. MIDIcontrollable (including USB). Twelve banks of four presets each, plus 13th bank of classic factory sounds. Tap- or MIDI-syncable arpeggiator.
Why we like it: Sounds every bit as huge as vintage Taurus. Rugged volume and assignable “footwheels” take a kickin’ and keep on tickin’. Lets us live out our Geddy Lee fantasies. $1,995 | moogmusic.com
MOTU ETHNO 2
What: Major upgrade to MOTU’s globetrotting Ethno Instrument (reviewed Sept. ’07).
Main features: More-than-doubled sound library — now 21GB. New sounds from Asia, Africa, Europe, the Balkans, the British Isles, Latin America, Australia, and many other places. Improved keyswitching. Latest UVI sample engine supports 64-bit operation. Sounds are browseable by geographic location.
Who will like it: Film and TV composers. Electronic music producers looking for fresh sounds. Anyone schooled in world music. $395 | motu.com
PLATINUM SAMPLES JOE BARESSI EVIL DRUMS
What: Sound expansion pack for Toontrack Superior Drummer.
Main features: Six kits recorded by Joe Baressi, engineer to metal, punk, and heavy rock acts such as Tool, Queens of the Stone Age, and Rancid.
Why we like it: This was a killer expansion when it came out for BFD. Now, Toontrack users can get this sound without having to let a rock drummer in the house. $199 | platinumsamples.com
PRESONUS STUDIOLIVE 24.4.2
What: Digital mixer with tons of onboard effects and routing and multitrack FireWire audio interface.
Main features: Each of 24 channels has its own compressor, limiter, four-band semiparametric EQ, expander/gate, and highpass filter. You control all this stuff from the “fat channel” knob row. Tight integration with PreSonus Studio One recording software.
Who will like it: Project studio dwellers with tons of keyboards. Anyone who does live location recording on a budget. $3,999.95 list/approx. $3,400 street | presonus.com
What: Sound expansion for RD- 700GX stage piano.
Main features: Vastly upgrades the RD-700GX’s piano sounds with new “SuperNatural” sounds derived from Roland’s all-modeling V-Piano (reviewed Sept. ’09).
Who will like it: Anyone looking for a new lease on life for their RD-700GX. We’ve heard it and it kills. $349 list/approx. $300 street | rolandus.com
SM PRO AUDIO DI DOCK
What: iPod-dock-to-XLR audio interface.
Main features: Stereo XLR outs with ground lift switch on each channel. Separate volume knob for 1/8" headphone out. Works fine with iPhones in airplane mode.
Who will like it: Anyone ready to graduate from their iPhone or iPod flopping around on a 1/8"-to-RCA cable connected to the P.A. $229.99 list | smproaudio.com, U.S. dist. by mvproaudio.com
SOLID STATE LOGIC X-PATCH
What: Software-controlled analog patch bay.
Main features: 16 x 16-channel analog routing matrix. Ethernet connection to Mac or PC. MIDI for use with foot controllers.
Why we like it: Included software routes audio from your DAW to your favorite analog effects (compressors, etc.) as though they were plug-ins. $1,199 | solid-state-logic.com
SONIVOX/FABLE SOUNDS BROADWAY BIG BAND
What: Kontakt 4 Player edition of the leading high-end jazz, pop, show, and R&B brass library.
Main features: Over 140,000 samples devoted to contemporary — not orchestral — brass and woodwinds. Think Glenn Miller, Count Basie, and Tower of Power rather than John Williams. Uses Kontakt’s scripting power so you can manage performance articulations intuitively. Load instruments into Kontakt or use the included Player.
Who will like it: For a lot of composers, something has to be Kontakt-compatible to be usable, no matter how good it is. Now, this amazing brass instrument is. $2,495; crossgrade: $299 | sonivoxmi.com
What? Pro-grade studio synchronizer targeted at Nuendo users.
Main features: Four word clock outs for distribution. Supports MTC, LTC, VITC, RS-422, and a host of other timing standards for locking up with video and audio recorders new and old.
Who will like it: Anyone doing music for picture on Nuendo — but you can use it with other DAWs. $2,999 | steinberg.net
SYNTHOGY IVORY II
What: Longawaited update to the beloved software virtual piano.
Main features: Modeled sympathetic string resonance has been added — so have half-pedaling sustain, lid position, tuning tables, and pedal noise, to name just a few. And yes, there are more velocity layers, too.
Who will like it: The above features are the biggest customer requests. We also played it a lot at the show, and it’s more of everything we like about Ivory. Grand Pianos: $349; Italian Grand: $179; Uprights: $299; Upgrades from Ivory 1: $45–$89 | synthogy.com
What: Stereo line-level mixer in one rackspace.
Main features: Eight stereo channels on 1/4" balanced inputs, plus XLR mic input with its own trim knob. Separate aux knobs and buss for sending a monitor mix to your onstage speaker while main stereo mix goes to the P.A. You can assign main or aux mix to headphone outs. Ground lift kills hum.
Why we like it: It’s as perfect a mixer for big multi-synth rigs as we’ve ever seen. $549.99 list/approx. $400 street | tascam.com
TEENAGE ENGINEERING OPERATOR-1
What: Ultra-portable synth, sampler, beatbox, DAW controller, and four-track audio recorder.
Main features: Low-profile aluminum body. Virtual analog synth is onboard, as is step sequencer, drum sampler, and effects. Crisp, next-gen OLED screen is color-coded to match knobs, making firsttime use a breeze. “Keybuttons” are velocity sensitive.
Why we like it: Aside from undeniable geek-chic, it’s the most all-in-one production machine we’ve yet seen that’s both keyboard-centric and fits on an airplane tray table. $TBA | teenageengineering.com
What: Successor to Yamaha’s concert hall-ruling flagship grand piano, the CFIIIS.
Main features: Nine feet of totally handmade acoustic awesomeness, developed in collaboration with top pianists — no expense spared.
Why we like it: If you think Yamaha pianos are two-dimensionally bright, you haven’t played this. For depth, dynamics, and tonal complexity, it’ll take on any Steinway or Bösendorfer. $149,999 | yamaha.com
Some of the hottest new instruments to make their public debut at NAMM were covered in Keyboard’s January, February, and March 2010 New Gear articles. We’re eager like that — but we’d hate for you to think we snubbed ’em here, so here are brief recaps.
Cakewalk A-Pro Series MIDI controllers 25 keys: $299
49 keys: $349
61 keys: $399 (all list)
Casio Privia PX-830 Console Digital Piano $1,399
Korg Kaossilator Pro Touchpad looping synth $460 list/approx. $400 street
Muse Reaearch MuseBox Hardware host for soft synths $1,199 list
Nord Piano Digital stage piano $TBA
Novation Nocturn Keyboard MIDI controllers 25 keys: $329.95
49 keys: $379.95
Pro Tools Instrument
Expansion Pack Bundle of Structure, Strike, Transfuser,
Velvet, and Hybrid RTAS instruments $499 list
Roland VR-700 V-Combo organ/piano/EP gig keyboard $2,329 list/street $TBA
Sonivox Eighty-Eight Software virtual piano (Mac/PC) $199 list/approx. $150 street
Yamaha CP-1 Flagship digital stage piano $5,999 list/approx. $5,000 street
Yamaha CP-50 More affordable, portable version of CP-1 $2,199 list/approx. $1,700 street