We've covered most of the big DJ-related gear from this year's NAMM show already – now Chris Lyth looks at some of 2020's hottest new studio hardware
Taking place in Anaheim, California every January, the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) show has long been the No 1 place that musical equipment manufacturers choose to spotlight new products, and 2020's show, which took place from 16 to 19 January, was no exception.
It’s certainly an exciting time for anyone interested in adding some cutting edge new products to their set-up. We've already covered some of the new tech that was seen at the show, but apart from the Akai MPC-One, so far that's mostly meant DJ gear: Pioneer DJ's DJM-V10, Numark's DJ2Go2 Touch, Rane's SEVENTY mixer and Denon DJ's Prime 2 controller and SC6000 media player.
So here, with hundreds of new products from guitars to home organs to PA equipment on display in Anaheim, I’ve curated the best of what was on offer at this year’s conference with the electronic producer in mind…
The rate at which Behringer continues to be “inspired” by analogue classics originally made by other companies shows no abatement. Arguments around the ethics of this aside, they are undeniably putting a lot of previously unavailable equipment into the lusty, sweating palms of ever grateful producers.
The RD-6 is essentially a Roland TR-606 with the addition of a clap from the Boss DR-110 (nice touch). It features the usual connectivity options: MIDI, USB, Mix Out, 3.5mm outputs for each voice and a Start/Stop trigger input. In a departure from the original, there’s a built-in distortion circuit with tone and drive controls, which I can see coming in handy for adding additional character. From what I’ve heard it sounds very good, and I’m keen to get my paws on one.
Eventide Spring Reverb
Eventide, along with Lexicon, makes some of the best sounding spatial effects in the business. But they're generally extremely expensive, so seeing this plug-in version of their Spring Reverb for £29 warrants me triggering an iDJ Tech Department bargain alert.
You can evaluate it for yourself by downloading the demo version: I’ve had a listen and it sounds superb! Spring reverbs are great for making synths, drums and vocals stand out in the mix, and there’s plenty of scope for creativity by tempo syncing it to your mix or by morphing between parameters using the ribbon strip.
Korg has hit the ground running in 2020 with a revamp of its classic Wavestation synth from the 90s. Given the resurgence of ambient music and laws recently passed stating that every DJ mix must start with a 15 minute beat-free intro, the decision seems somewhat timely.
The original Wavestation was an ambient producer’s dream and was both glorious and infuriating in equal measure. Glorious in the way you could generate multiple dense, evolving rhythms and textures and modulate between them. Infuriating with the amount of time it took to program; the insipid non-resonant filter was a real let-down, too. Thankfully Korg has re-imagined the concept and made the Wavestate a much more tactile instrument.
Sharing a similar design to the Minilogue, it gives hands-on control of all the usual parameters such as ADSR, LFO, FX and FILTER. The eight modulator matrix knobs are assignable to whatever parameters you designate, which makes me weep for the amount of lost hours I spent going in and out of a menu the size of a Rizla packet! The filter issue in the original units has also been comprehensively addressed by adding filters from the Polysix, MS-20 and various two- and four-pole filters. The Polysix filter as you may imagine is lush, warm and great for polyphonic sounds, while the MS-20 has wild, screaming resonance when pushed hard, which will come into its own for harder-sounding material.
A great deal of thought has clearly gone into making the process of sound design much more user-friendly, and the synth engine itself has had a reboot, too, allowing textures and loops to modulate more freely and organically than before. As a result, in terms of sound design, the diversity is vast and it covers ground from the lushest pads and strings to the hardest, gnarliest basses. It’s very early in the year, but it’s already going to take some beating.
For those that are unaware, SSL has made some of the most iconic mixing consoles in recording history: often imitated, seldom bettered. Since being acquired by a much bigger company, SSL has released a few seriously well-built, high-end products (such as the Fusion and the SiX mini-mixer) at previously unthinkable prices. Now they turn their attention to the audio interface market, and if the eye-watering technical specifications are to be believed, we have a genuine game-changer on our hands.
The two SSL mic preamps are obviously the first thing that draws the eye: only a few short years ago you could expect to pay £600+ for one mic preamp, and here you have two with a switchable 4K enhancement circuit. In addition there’s two headphone outs, MIDI, AKM 24-bit/192kHz AD/DA converters and a comprehensive software suite comprised of SSL native plug-ins, DAWs, samples, loops and virtual instruments – so for just £239 there’s really not much to complain about.
You know the old cliche: you wait years for an ARP 2600 clone, then two come along at once! At least, that's what happened at NAMM this year. Synth aficionados had barely drawn breath at the prospect of getting their digits on Korg’s re-issue of ARP’s 1970s behemoth [pictured], when utilitarian dreamweaver Behringer announced it would also be releasing a version, no doubt to Korg’s deep consternation.
The Korg version sold out almost immediately and another product run is expected, but news that Behringer’s version will undercut Korg will make for an interesting time in synth-land. Behringer has made some improvements to the original chips used in the 70s version, meaning that they will be less susceptible to drifting out of tune. It will also do away with the keyboard, speakers and suitcase of the original, and will be built as a rack synth. It’s been painstakingly reverse engineered by Rob Keeble at AMSynths and has more LEDs than a Christmas tree. I’m genuinely excited about this one: pricing and availability TBC…
Words: Chris Lyth Main pic: NAMM