The Donner D1 drum machine, revealed this weekend at NAMM, is an affordable beat box for the budget-conscious producer. A 12-voice, sample-based affair, it’s aimed at the entry-level market, and would pair nicely with Donner’s B1, a similarly priced analogue bass synthesizer.
Netherblade is a truly unique instrument: its huge touch-screen can swap between three layouts: frets, keys and beat pads, while the integrated XYZ pad enables the player to simultaneously modify 3 MIDI-controllable parameters while playing and bending notes in real-time.
Giulio Negrini Guitars Dissolution
This installation from Giulio Negrini Guitars was turning heads at the Boutique Guitar Showcase. It’s an impressive specimen, without a doubt, but we’re getting some seriously bad vibes from the three tarantula legs sticking out of its side. The plaque underneath reads: “Praising inception, devising a future. Perpetual alteration, the cadence of nature.” Eh?
Donner DDP-80 Plus
The latest addition to Donner’s considerable keyboard range, the DDP-80 Plus is an upgrade to the DDP-80, a stylish and moderately priced digital piano.
Donner Hush-I Headless Guitar
Donner’s Hush-I headless guitars are intended to be portable and ultra-light travel guitars for quiet practice and on-the-go playing. This one-off, mammoth version of the Hush-I might not fit so easily into a mobile setup, though. The Hulk called, he wants his guitar back…
NUXX have unveiled a formidable new multi-effects unit they’ve dubbed Trident. Promising guitarists almost everything they could ask for in a single unit, Trident’s packed with a built-in looper, 27 amp models (based on NUXX’s revamped TSAC-4K algorithm) and a considerable array of effects that includes delay, reverb, chorus, tremolo, phaser, compressor, filter and pitch-shifter.
Electro-Harmonix Lizard Queen
New from Electro-Harmonix and JHS Pedals we have the Lizard Queen, a fuzz pedal that’s designed to look, feel and sound like a missing link in Electro-Harmonix’s history: “The nano-sized pedal is the vintage EHX octave fuzz that never was but now is!” says the manufacturer.
Ernie Ball Music Man Kaizen
After generating significant buzz at NAMM 2022, Ernie Ball’s seven-string Tosin Abasi co-designed Kaizen guitar returns a year later in a six-string iteration, available in Chalk White, Apollo Black, Mint and Indigo Blue.
Expressive E Osmose
Expressive E’s MPE-compatible Osmose synth gets taken for a spin by T. Nava from Anderson .Paak’s band The Free Nationals.
Polyend Tracker Mini
Polyend’s Tracker Mini has to be one of the coolest things we’ve spotted at NAMM 2023. A cutesy, Gameboy-esque version of their Tracker sampler, it actually boasts better specs than its bigger brother, along with all-stereo sample playback, a built-in mic, USB audio and an onboard battery (the original used a battery pack). Polyend earn extra brownie points for the gnarly breakbeats, which make a welcome change from the omnipresent jazz fusion that tends to dominate at NAMM.
Embodme Erae Touch
It’s the 40th annniversary of MIDI this year at NAMM, and one of the brands pushing forward the technology’s evolution is Embodme. The Erae Touch, pictured here, is an MIDI 2.0 and MPE-compatible, touch-sensitive controller that can be fully customized to create unique interfaces for personalized MIDI control.
Back at the Audient booth, the EVO 16 and EVO SP8 sit underneath its iD24 interface. The 16 is EVO’s most powerful audio interface yet, and offers 24 ins and outs, eight stellar preamps and a slick new UI. The real draw, though, is the new Smartgain tech, which automatically sets gain levels across all inputs to make complex recording sessions quicker and easier.
Casio Casiotone CT-S1
Aesthetics are certainly a focus for Casio this year. This special edition of the brand’s Casiotone CT-S1 keyboard has been jazzed up by artist Romero Britto.
Casio’s PX-S7000 digital piano makes its NAMM debut today, and it’s looking mighty fine in a stylish mustard colourway. Billed as the best-looking Privia ever made, the keyboard plays and sounds as good as it looks, thanks to a redesigned keybed and a smart speaker system that can be fine-tuned to match the acoustic profile of its surroundings.
ASM Hydrasynth Explorer
ASM’s Hydrasynth Explorer may not be new, but it’s been expanded with a 2.0 firmware update that adds per-voice modulation, LFO quantisation and three new memory banks to an already feature-packed wavetable synth.
Yamaha CVP-909GP Clavinova
Yamaha’s flagship digital piano, the CVP-909GP brings together the aesthetics of a luxury grand piano with the kind of technological marvels you’ll find in their most advanced digital instruments. Load up score files and play along with the lights above the keyboard, or improvise and the built-in accompaniment will track the key you’re playing in, and jam along with you.
Rhodes’ booth gave us the opportunity to see how their plugin emulation of the MK8 stacked up against the real thing, pictured here in a rather winsome military green. Let’s face it, nothing’s going to top the genuine article (that’s why it costs $10k, folks) but the virtual instrument is a valiant effort, and more importantly, a way to get that lush Rhodes sound without remortgaging your home.
Whilst some trendy samplers (Chompi, we’re looking at you) imitate the look and feel of kids’ toys for hipster kudos, Blipblox goes the whole hog and actually designs one that’s made for kids to use. myTRACKS is a pleasingly plasticky 5-track sampler and drum machine that’ll have your 8-year-old dropping lo-fi hip-hop beats on Soundcloud in no time. After the ABCs, comes the MPC…
Sound Particles SkyDust
A world first this year at NAMM, as Sound Particles debuts SkyDust, the first ever spatial synthesizer plugin. Imagine eight oscillators, each independently panned in 360-degree immersive sound, sent flying around your head by a spatialized LFO, sequencer and envelope generator… trust us, it sounds phenomenal.
Endorphin.es Golden Master
Not content with debuting its first ever pedal design at NAMM, Endorphin.es has decided to reveal two at once. The Golden Master is based on the brand’s Eurorack module of the same name, a multiband dynamics processor that’s supposed to sit at the end of your signal chain and give the final mix a bit of sheen, polish and drive.
ESP Exhibition Limited Series Guitar
ESP’s Exhibiton Limited Series are supposed to be more than just guitars: they’re works of art. Lovingly constructed at the brand’s Custom Shop in Japan, these custom-designed and hand-built one-off wonders have been known to fetch well into five figures.
Bitwig Studio 5.0
The kind folks at Bitwig gave us a guided tour of the recently released 5.0 update to their increasingly awesome DAW Bitwig Studio. Bitwig was already the daddy of all things modulation, but 5.0 ups the ante by introducing five new MSEGs (multi-segment envelope generators) and giving users the ability to modulate track and project-level parameters.
Previously known for their modular gear, Endorphin.es makes a bold entrance into the pedal world with GHOST, a collaboration with YouTuber Andrew Huang. This multi-FX unit delivers reverb, delay, distortion and more, allowing the user to experiment with different routing configurations to fine-tune their sound.
Audient’s iD24 doubles down on the brand’s reputation for delivering studio-grade audio at prices within reach of the bedroom producer. Unveiled earlier this year, this $399 interface houses two of the same preamps as their $40,000 ASP8024-HE console and packs a JFET instrument input, multiple class-leading converters, and ADAT expandability inside to boot.
Soma Laboratories Terra
Soma Laboratories’ booth houses many weird and wonderful things, including the Terra, an unique analogue synth built into a block of wood and adorned with touch-capacitive buttons.
The new Hammond XK-4 is equipped with an all-new sound engine – the Modelled Tone Wheel 2 (MTW2) engine accurately reproduces the 91 tone wheels at the heart of all vintage Hammond organs, capturing the expressive imperfections that give vintage Hammonds their characterful sound.
Unveiled a few weeks ago, Pioneer’s beastly OPUS-QUAD is the brand’s first all-in-one system to feature standalone 4-deck playback. With a 10-inch touchscreen and sleek matte finish, it looks like something Batman might use for a house party.
Nord Stage 4
Announced in February, Nord’s Stage 4 has been revamped with a new control panel design, an improved keybed, expanded effects section, an updated synth engine and more, making it a bold contender for one of the best performance keyboards money can buy.
Sony MDR-MV1 headphones
Sony ushered us into a soundproofed booth to demo its new open-back MDR-MV1 headphones, aimed at spatial and immersive sound creators. After playing us a clip using a 360-degree immersive speaker array, we heard the same clip through the MDR-MV1s, which emulated the spatial sound through Sony’s 360 Reality Audio technology. The similarity was, dare we say it, a little bit mindblowing. Some might be sceptical of spatial audio, but after that demo, we’re convinced it’s here to stay.
SSL 500-series module
Today SSL previewed a new 500-series module, the B-Series 611B Dynamics Module. Based on the sound of SSL’s classic 4000 A and B series consoles, the module delivers responsive, “vibey” compression and expansion by emulating the topology of a bus compressor. With an onboard de-esser, auto-release and fixed ratio points, it’s said to be ideal for enhancing drum overheads or taming vocal transients.
No NAMM live blog is complete without an external shot of the convention center, so here you go. The concept of time is flexible at the NAMM Show – what is actually three days can feel like 50 years – so by close of play on Saturday, the kids shown here enjoying the NAMM sign will actually have aged more than half a lifetime and be approaching retirement.