NAMM Summer Session: Day One

So, I didn’t go to the state of the industry address, which is fine considering that I’m not in music retail.

Lots of great products out on the floor. Didn’t have a chance to look at everything I’m interested, but I did like what I saw.

  1. M-Audio M-Audio’s big thing at the show was the premier of Ableton Live 5. New features in version 5 include MP3 support (I think it does ogg and FLAC now…where’s AAC?) and automatic tempo matching…and it’s about time. Someone named Steve was demoing it at the booth, and when he announced that he does tech support some crazy Tim Burton meets Indian looking guy pointed at him and continuosly yelled “It’s you!! I talk to you!!” To which he replied “Yeah…that’s me.”

It was freaky.

Anyway, I grabbed a CD of the Live demo. With the direction that Live is going in it’s easy to understand why M-Audio stopped distributing Reason. I didn’t see the Props or Line 6 on the floor, but I’ll check the exhibitor list and go from there for tomorrow.

M-Audio also had the Black Box out, although I didn’t try it out since I’m not really a guitarist, it looked really fun. They had someone demoing it with a display behind him and also had setup maybe 3 guitars out in front for people to try it out. The Keystation Pro 88 was also out and ready to play on the show floor. I played Knives Out on it (and messed up a few times)…I think I got some people to watch me. It doesn’t really feel exactly like a piano, but it’s the closest I’ve ever seen in a MIDI controller. What I had not noticed before was just how fully featured it was for DAW integration. If you take a look above the pitch and modulation wheels, there are actually sequencer buttons for stop, rewind, play, forward, record, and maybe pause.

The Trigger Finger was behind glass, so I didn’t get to try it out. Maybe tomorrow. M-Audio has 4 or 5 presentations cycling all during the show, so I want to catch the “Producing and Remixing with M-Audio Products” one.

  1. Edirol Right next to the M-Audio booth was the Edirol booth. They had a bunch of cool MIDI controllers out. I’ve been eyeing their controllers since last fall, but since I got my Kawai K1 working again (I had the wrong AC Adapter) I haven’t had a need for a larger controller. Still, maybe I’ll toss out the K1 and get a nice new PCR-M80 for the sliders, knobs, and the feel of the keys. Not as nice as the Keystation, but probably much more affordable.

Back when I bought the Oxygen 8, I was looking for something small, portable, and easy to play. If Edirol’s PCR-M1 was available back then I would’ve picked it over the Oxygen 8. This – is – the CUTEST little MIDI controller I’ve ever seen! It’s just so tiny, yet it feels stronger than the Oxygen 8. Check out the pitch bend and modulation stuff…no wheel. The pitch bend is a rubber knob that fits your index finger. Move your finger a little bit, the pitch moves a little bit. To use modulation all you have to do is touch a pressure sensitive silver button. Push it hard, the modulation goes out of wack. Just a little, you get a little. Amazing…I don’t know if you’d really understand just how much more expressive this is than the wheels unless you try it. Plus, the lack of wheels just makes it so much smaller for transport.

Edirol also showed a strong line of audio interfaces. The one thing that separates them from the rest is USB2 support. Still, there are firewire solutions. I told a rep about my setup. “What would you recommend for a studio setup with a sound module, a microphone, and the ability to plug in a guitar?” This. The FA-66 has alot more than the M-Audio interfaces I’ve seen. It’ll record up to a 192khz sample rate over Firewire. It features a pair of RCA inputs on the back, and on the front features 2 Neutrik combo XLR and 1/4 inch jacks. Very nice, although my JV-1010 doesn’t have RCA outputs, but that’s why there’s Radio Shack. While I like how the FA-66 is compact, what also struck me was that there’s it also features a hardware limiter. If any band that my friends have ever recorded (I still think of those clippy Emotions recordings) used this, the recordings would sound much cleaner than they are now. The FA-66 will retail for $499, but I think I can get in on the show floor for $399. I’m not sure…the salesmen told me the $499 price for retail, but then added “today we’ve got it for $399.” I don’t know if he was telling me the price for retailers. Maybe tomorrow I’ll make sure…and maybe Sunday I’ll be plugging it in and selling a Firewire Audiophile on Ebay Monday.

Interestingly enough, Finale was sharing space with the Edirol booth. The Finale rep caught me while I was leaving. With a friendly “how are you doing today?” I was all of a sudden engaged in a discussion about Finale. “Have you ever used Finale before?” he asked me. “Not since college.” “Oh, so what do you do now?” “Well, today I’m with a stage lighting company.” “Oh -” Anyway, I guess that the day was slow for him since he pitched it to me anyway. We talked about the program, he went over the new features, yadda yadda. Finale 2006 now features the Garritan Personal Orchestra, which means never having to listen to butt ugly GM sounds again. Didn’t Sibelius do this with Native Instruments’ Kontakt like 2 versions ago? There are also video tutorials now, which would’ve helped my old music teacher in high school. Back then Finale had an uphill battle. Music and computers? Together? For education? Seemed like most music teachers back then didn’t know how to send e-mail, how do you expect them to write lessons and exams? I knew I was supposed to go to a seminar at 2. I asked him “what time is it?” “Oh, it’s about 20 minutes after 2.” “Thanks…gotta go, I was supposed to be over there 20 minutes ago.”

  1. NAMM
    Okay, time to remember what I’m really here for. I went to check out a seminar about connecting with customers. Alot of it was some really basic stuff, and it was catered to music retailers, but the point that it seemed to get to was that the little things matter. An anecdote about how the speaker accidentally knocked a bunch of paper displays off of a shelf only to be stepped over a staff member at Office Depot kind of reminded me about how Northern Music & Video let me try out a 2×2 MIDI interface for a week before buying. Other messages were things like “Be Positive,” “Monthly Training,” “Hire on Character, Train the Rest,” and how important a dress code is.

I’m glad I don’t work in retail.

  1. Numark What the fuck, Numark? You had all this really nice DJ equipment out at your booth, but you had NOTHING loaded into them! All I could do was look at LEDs, put on the headphones, and listen to the noise of the convention center. Yanni, John Tesh, Tori Amos…shit, put SOMETHING in them. I couldn’t even try out the iDJ because some dude from Sonicstate was taking pictures of it.

  2. Alesis I’ve never been big on anything Alesis. They were showing new synths and all that. One thing that did catch my eye were some mixers that look kind of look like Behringer mixers, although these had USB. I doubt that every channel is independent. It probably sends a stereo mixdown from the mixer to your computer. There are also Firewire models now. Those, I think, will do every channel. If that’s the case, maybe it’s a smart buy.

  3. Roland I finally got to see V-Drums in action. While some of the sounds are pretty much what are on the JV-1010, this is obviously much more expressive. I’m not sure exactly which model I saw, but it also featured built in fx (there was a kit with flange built-in). There was also a melody drum kit, which would play melodies along with your percussion. For example, a kick drum might trigger a bass part, but not the actually melody, which is apparently already programmed in. All other parts of the kit triggered some other parts. don’t think I can explain it very well. Watch the video on Roland’s site for more information.

I also tried out the RMP-3 Rhythm Coach.

What I liked alot about this is that you could set your tempo and practice quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, and triplets. The device will actually tell you if you’re drumming ahead or behind the beat. You can also do a sort of exam in which you set the Rhythm Coach to use a metronome for a certain number of bars, and then turn it off for a certain number of bars. 2 bars without a metronome is nothing, but once you start getting up around 8 you’ll have a bit of a challenge. It’ll give you a number score. A video for this product is also available. Makes me want to learn how to play the drums.

I don’t think I forgot anything. That’ll be all until tomorrow.