January 19, 2012
NAMGLA, Day One...
by Chris Randall
Just got back to the RPV after the first day of NAMM. The best thing I saw today was the Schmidt Polysynth. While it is somewhat comical when you're sitting on your couch reading about it (and I laughed when I saw the Messe announcement, just like the rest of you) in real life it is as close to a work of art as a synthesizer can be in this day and age. Completely over the top? Sure. But you get a lot for your synthesizer dollar. Good thing, because it's a lot of dollars. Absolutely beautiful synth, though.
Its panel is a little overwhelming, honestly. But at the end of the day, it is a sophisticated synth with a lot of programability. Sonically, it wipes the floor with any other modern analog I've played. (No offense to my many friends who make modern analogs, but this thing swings for the fences, no expense spared, no corners cut.)
A lot of people here and on Twitter asked about the nord drum, so I asked for, and received, a full demo. They cut a lot of corners to keep the costs low on it, and it has some interesting design choices as a result. A single monophonic output is probably the most glaring oddity. No headphone out will probably disturb some people too. The way the nord rep explained it to me, this is for that rock band that has one pad to trigger the big 808 foot. (Think Korn.) In that context it is fine.
Sonically, it sounds very nord-ish. I've always thought that nord products had a particular boxy sound to them, sort of like every solo Greg Hawkes ever played all jammed in to one red box. The drum is right in line with that. If I had to pick one word to describe the sound of this box, it'd be "electro." The trigger inputs work incredibly well, but that's no surprise considering Clavia's situation with ddrum. Lots of good IP for drum triggering up in there. The salesman told me $250 street, but I got the impression that's not a final number.
I fiddled with the Minitaur briefly. It is exactly what it says on the tin: a cheap-ish way to get a big ol' Moog bass sound. Very limited, sonically. It essentially makes about 6 sounds total, all of which you've heard a bajillion times before. If you need that particular bass sound, here's yet another way to get it.
The Arturia Minibrute is about the size of an SH-101, maybe a touch smaller. It really reminds me of the Novation BassStation, sonically and features-wise. The keybed feels like ass on a platter, and it is about 8 keys short of playable, in my opinion. But there was a Roland rep at the Arturia booth laying down some serious stank on the thing, so it's certainly possible. Another one-trick pony. If that's the trick you need, you'll find it here.
I got a full demo of the Solaris from John Bowen and (shit, I'm sorry, dude, I forgot your name...). The Solaris is the logical progression of the Prophet VS and Wavestation. It takes those concepts and just extrapolates them out in to what a DSP-based synth can pull off in 2012. The panel is really well laid-out, and super playable. Some very crafty features internally as well, and the many mod routing possibilities, coupled with an extensive oscillator and filter library (and user samples, natch) gives it a really broad palette. I think this is going to be my next synth purchase.
That Alesis keytar everyone is crowing about is a complete piece of shit. It feels like a RockBand controller. About as cheaply constructed as they could get away with. Setting aside the fact that it's a keytar and thus pre-retarded (pretarded?), it's a shitty controller. Period.
iPad docks. iPad apps. iPad accessories. iPad. iPad. iPad. To quote Art Gillespie, Alesis/Numark/Akai went all Honey Badger on the iPad. So did everyone else. There's so much iPad-related gear at NAMM this year I don't even know where to start. So I won't.
Anyhow, that's my general take-away from today. My mobility is somewhat limited so I couldn't cover the ground I could last year. Tomorrow morning I plan to spend my time looking at guitar-related things, so if you have any guitar, bass, pedal, or amp requests, now's the time. And I'll field any and all questions about what I saw today until I fall asleep.