The Best of NAMM: Beats, beats and more beats

By Andrew Rafter,

If you know your oscillators from your saw waves then you’ll probably know that last week NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) took place in California at the Anaheim Convention Center.

NAMM is the largest music product trade show in the world. It’s essentially CES for music, and this year was a record year for the organisation with 95,709 registered attendees and over 1,400 exhibitors.

We’re only going to cover a small percentage of what was on offer, from DAW (digital audio stations) to apps and synths to midi controllers.

BitWig

One of the main talking points of the show was a new DAW (digital audio station) Bitwig. It comes from some of the clever bods behind Ableton – and  the Berlin start-up is clearly very brave considering they’re setting up shop in the same town as goliaths like Native Instruments and their main rivals Ableton.

There’s no information on pricing, which would give us an idea on who they are looking to target. But, Bitwig’s main appeal is flexible editing tools and a super-fast workflow.

Included are features such as multi-track recording, clip automation, instruments and effects, time-stretching and VST support. They haven’t revealed too much yet – but you can sign up for a chance to beta test the new software later this year at Bigwig.com. Check out the video below for an introduction.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7V_t8GfH-v4

Akai MPC

One piece of hardware that caught our attention, and probably the attention of all the world’s music producers, was the new MPC Renaissance from hardware stalwarts Akai. This substantial, vintage-esque, piece studio equipment is designed for music producers and digital DJs and offers Akai’s class-leading drum pads and more rotary controls than a steam train.

The audio circuitry is the same that you would find in a Modern MPC, but the Renaissane comes with a special party piece: vintage mode. According to Akai the software is built in-house and will work with your preferred recording suite by running in VST, AU, or RTAS mode.

It also includes a 6GB sample library for reproducing some of the classic sounds of the MPC3000 and MPC60. On the hardware side, the Renaissance is the mother of all controllers with no expense spared — there’s plenty of room for 16 backlit MPC pads, 16 Q-Link controls, and a ton of I/O, including USB, MIDI, 1/4-inch stereo, and a dedicated turntable inputs.

The Renaissance will cost you though, with a street price is expected to be around £1,000.

But, if you can’t afford that sort of money – then have a look at MCP Fly. Built for the iPad 2, it comprises a 16-pad controller that comes in laptop-style case, which also houses your Apple tablet, and an app that enables you to sequence up to four tracks simultaneously.

MPC Fly

The concept seems pretty sound to us, though we’re keen to find out just how capable the MPC Fly is in practice.

Digital music store Beatport was at Namm and from what we saw they are getting into the hardware business. One product that caught our eye was their incredibly practical range of gigging cables.

BeatPort

While they don’t offer anything particularly new they did have couple of clever ideas. First off, their range of cables come colour-coded – something someone should have thought of ages ago. There’s no doubt these will be a god-sent for digital musicians and DJ’s, who are often struggling with low lighting levels in clubs when they’re trying to setup their equipment. Another clever touch was the use of hinged USB ports – meaning you can connect equipment securely into the smallest of spaces.