January 25, 2014

Another One Down... (NAMM Report 2014)

by Chris Randall

Another January, another winter NAMM. Thoughts, in no particular order:

1. Once again I'll state the obvious: Anaheim hates you if you're not there to go to Disneyland. I will again propose that NAMM move to the LA Convention Center, where at least if we have to put up with bad food and no parking, we can do it somewhere we don't have to drive two hours to get to.

2. The little synth pictured above. This is the Murmux Semi-Modular, a new product from Freaqbox, who are nominally guitar pedal people. Bog standard, mediocre silk-screening, a case that is way bigger than it has to be, and tweed, of all things. Somehow, that combo works. There is also a non-modular version called The Initiate, and one with a big ol' foot-pedal keyboard, if you're in to that sort of thing. There is zero shortage of simple analog desktops, and this is one of them, but the filter is to die for, and the big-ass knobs... PEW PEW PEW!!! No idea what the MSRP is, or availability. But me likey.

3. The Waldorf 2-Pole. Mono I/O, no MIDI, no USB, no runs, no hits, no errors. Another box that is way bigger than you'd think. It sounds farking awesome. $250-ish. Outstanding.

4. Bitwig Studio. I'm now running this jank. Haven't dove in to it in detail yet (i.e. made a track with it) but it shows promise early on. It's good Ableton has some competition now. All consumers benefit.

All in all, NAMM 2014 was exactly like NAMM 2013, only more so. A good time was had by all. Anything you see in the firehose of social and normal media that caught your eye?


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Feb.02.2014 @ 5:46 AM
Chris Randall
Clavia have a way bigger market for their stage products than they'd ever hope to have with a G3 or whatever. While we like that sort of thing, most people don't want to box-n-wire their sounds. They just want to dial up a B3 or Rhodes sound and play in their cover or church band.

While those of us out on the cutting edge prefer whacky new products that push the envelope, we are unfortunately a rather small market segment. A trip to NAMM would bring this home. The people with new ideas have 10x10 booths down in Hall E. Yamaha and Roland have their own halls. Clavia's booth is gigantic.


Feb.02.2014 @ 3:36 PM
I love and have owned most of the models at one point or another (currently sporting an original Nord Modular keyboard), and while I would like to see a new one I don't see it happening. I mean, the geeks that are into modular are mostly into Eurorack, it seems like a small fraction of an already relatively small (compared to average church key players) market to pick the modular fans that are willing to program on a computer. I just don't see Clavia making money on it. Would like to see them make a better Wave, based on the Lead 4 engine, which to my ears sounds pretty good...but I couldn't get into the Wave.

I think the Nord Modulars can sound really great, and possibly the best argument against them releasing a new one is the unfixed "future proof" architecture...as long as you have a computer hanging around that's compatible with the editor (currently keep an old XP machine FAT32 formatted to run the editor and manage files for my old samplers).

There's also that modular synth app for iPad. Anyone use that?

Feb.02.2014 @ 4:30 PM
the modular for ipad is very early stages imo and i don't think it has nearly the depth of sound something like the NM has. who knows what a couple years will bring though.. right now it doesn't seem at all appealing to me for every reason that one considers buying any kind of synth.. be it hardware or software.

i think clavia could be really successful if they just made the NM editor a software product. they were part of the way there w/the demo of the modular editor. if they could just finish that job.. flesh it out into standalone/VSTi/AU... even if you couldn't edit your patch when in VST mode other than knob twiddling.. it'd be fantastic.

a lot of people would buy a $199 nord modular in software form. especially if it was compatible w/all the existing patches on line. there are thousands of them.

it's a much more fun interface to patch in than any of the other software modulars imo.

Feb.02.2014 @ 9:06 PM
beauty pill
The thing about NAMM I find curious is the increasing presence of pro audio gear. I saw pictures of Daking and Chandler stuff, etc.

I guess it shows how the lines between AES and NAMM are dissolving. Interesting cultural development from the bird's eye view.

- c

Feb.03.2014 @ 11:45 AM
Don't even know why Clavia would need to make a software modular with all the other software modulars on the market.

(unless you specifically need compatibility with previous Clavia modulars, or there's some specific charm to the Clavia sound that I'm missing...)

Feb.03.2014 @ 2:56 PM
@nulldevice - there is particular charm to the sound but mostly it's the interface. there is no software modular that is as enjoyable, logical as the nord modular.

there's nothing that allows for add/remove modules and patch in the same way. reaktor is great but it's hardly any fun compared to the nord modular editor. NM editor is fast and there's no hidden structure/interface paradigm.. what you see is what you get. drop a module in the window.. patch it to something else.. that's it.

it's just better than every other software modular.

Feb.03.2014 @ 11:22 PM
Duke Fame
@nulldevice: I enjoy the insight of boobs (always wanted to say that) on this matter but for me personally the beauty of the NM was the ability to detach from a computer. In my case, I have a Micro Modular, which is a little hardware widget. Patch 1 can be a Minimoog bass patch for your midi keyboard, patch 2 can be a crazy Mutron clone for your guitar, patch 3 can be a vocoder for your mic/keyboard. No GD computer necessary once all the code is stored into the device.

All this in a little tabletop widget you can put on a pedalboard. Clavia nailed the concept software and hardware-wise and there is no reason to reinvent it. These came out in the late 90's and in 2014, no such device exists. There's a void there and it's a shame.

Feb.04.2014 @ 12:10 PM
Agreed, the best part of the Nord Modular was that it could function standalone once you did your programming on the computer. The problem with Clavia approaching this exclusively as a software product is that of course, piracy is a concern. The Nord Modular is IMHO the best software modular interface by leaps and bounds, you'd have to be a lifelong computer programmer/Unix junky to really appreciate Reaktor over the Nord. I suppose though what's to stop someone from using the software only demo that is available? The only limitations are that it requires an older computer, mono only, and doesn't save patches...correct? I say...program away...and sample it. Just like a modular, without the hardware.

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