NAMM 2013 thoughts
Ok so with NAMM in full swing I have been getting a lot of questions about what is the big show stopper. What is really grabbing attention? The truth is this years NAMM isn’t quite the intense show it was last year but there are still some real gems.
First up I would call to attention the MOOG SUB PHATTY. the Layout is gorgeous and the build quality feels great. It’s funny.. it seems a cheap moog is to the standards of an expensive synth by just about anyone else. the Knobs feel much better than the slim and lil phatty knobs (not as light/loose) and the body actually feels very rugged. The sound is instant Moog. I mean the second you start playing with it… just has that moog sound to it. I think it is aimed to get a lot of the traffic the mini brute from arturia has been stealing away. I have to say though the sound is much different from a mini brute… owning both makes sense to me. The filter sounds perfect and the mulitdrive is a very controllable overdrive crunch on the sound. I spent a good bit of time just playing with the filter, res and drive in different combinations and it just feels like this is the moog the little phatty should have been.
Next up the STYLOPHONE S2. Now this is one that really kinda came from left field but is now on my must buy list. The build quality and sound of this unit is just intense. It really feels like they took their time with this unit and built a very smart compact synth. what is crazy about this product is that yes it is a stylophone But they have amped it up to 11 by adding full control of both analog oscillators, 12 db filter, res, sub oscillators, 8 wave form lfo (that can go into audio range) and CV inputs allowing you to play this from your other synths. The BASS…. the bass on this thing is really something to behold. I couldn’t believe my ears when listening to this thing. I can’t wait to get one.
The SparkLe (they pronounce it Sparkle) was an interesting suprise that I honestly realy like. i found my self wanting this far more than the full sized spark controller. the build quality felt very nice and the layout just works very smartly. I wasn’t a huge fan of the previous spark… something about it just didn’t do it for me. This version has an interesting portable appeal and I think will fit into the workflow of someone who already has a desk filled with other controllers. same with the MINILAB which as a portable keyboard looks great. Then add in the fact that it works with ipad and has arturias great software and I think you have a winner.
The Mini MS-20,,, oh man… where to start with this…. I feel a bit let down by this one. I know what your thinking. “It’s an MS-20 whats there to think about? give it to me now!” well slow up there big guy…. let me give you the low down on it. I have to say the build quality feels beyond cheap. when I say this take it seriously… I don’t think the could have found a cheaper plastic to make the knobs out of. They really feel like if you squeezed em u could crack em in your hand. The sound also didn’t really impressing me a ton. It wasn’t horrible but I didn’t get the same thick sound I expected. the filter still sounded great but the oscillators just felt thin to me. lets hope it was just the headphones or something. But I was left feeling very underwhelmed.
the King Korg also was not a board I was really enjoying. The Valve crunch on it sounded nice but the actual synth engine did not sound very thick to me. I will say that the filter sounded excellent on it. the layout wasn’t really exciting me, but I’m going back and gonna give it another go… hopefully my mind changes on this.
The Akai MPC Fly is a product I have really been waiting for as a nice set of pads that would be something I could use on the go and be a slick case for my iPad was a really tempting prospect. Unfortunately I came away with the impression that I really didn’t want it. Why? Well for starters the case is pretty bulky. Taking the iPad from sleek to thickness levels of an 08 laptop. The Pads really were not very responsive at all. To me this is extremely important in a piece of portable gear because if your on a buss or sitting at a cafe and want to make a beat, you don’t want to be banging pads hard to get your sound. you wanna be able to just barely touch them so that your not making a lot of table banging sounds and pissing off everyone around you. I found that as I finger drummed on the unit It would miss ghost notes and light hi hat hits that even some of my older midi controllers would definitely have picked up. They claim the pad sensitivity is not finalized but I really had the impression that this was the unit they will be shipping. one saving grace is that it is indeed a lightening connector on the unit which is nice to see.
stay tuned for more. I wish the wifi here was better as to say it’s poor is an understatement.