Everything old is new again. And everything new is everywhere – at least if we’re talking iPads and so on.
At Anaheim’s massive gathering of music gear, there were some definite themes. Photographing for CDM, James Grahame and Marsha Vdovin give us a look at the tools on the floor. James has stumbled upon various fascinating oddities, and of course the booth celebrating MIDI’s 30th anniversary. (We’ll be talking more about MIDI’s history and legacy in the coming weeks.) From top, the keyboard models that made the history first connection, and a Commodore 64 talking to an iPad. Synthtopia has a nice video of MMA’s Danielle showing off the vintage and the new; see below.
Meanwhile, back in 2013, Marsha takes an extended tour of some goodies from Focusrite and Novation, in particular.
I also asked James for some thoughts on what he saw. James is a great person to ask when it comes to the meeting of past, present, and future, as the engineer behind our own MeeBlip synth, and the founder of tech history-savvy blog Retro Thing.
And amidst this massive overload of new things, James does a nice job of summing up the central themes. He writes:
Several things struck me about this year’s show:
1. CV [analog control voltage] is popping up on mainstream controllers all over the place, like the new Akai MAX49. That could be a good thing for boutique analog synth manufacturers. [Ed.: Note that Akai did unveil this stuff last year, but I'd add that the public attention to CV has grown - and the fact that Akai is adding new MAX keyboards and showing them off suggests the CV selling point is working. Akai's just one example, too.]
2. The Frankentrend of incorporating iPads into stuff needs to stop. Now. The Akai iMPC and Behringer iX16 iPad mixer dock make me want to scream. By the time you dock your $500+ iPad with their plastic-y device, it becomes a somewhat expensive adventure into touch screen hell. [Ed.: Well, I'd say some pads on your iPad case do have some appeal. There's no way you want absolutely everything into a dock, though.]
3. Analog is alive and well. The DSI and Moog booths were hopping, as were several boutique manufacturers and the Big City and Analog Haven booths.
4. Monophonic analog synths are alive and well – half of the market has gone iPad crazy, the other half seems to be saving up for a new monosynth. Near as I can figure, there’s a time machine hidden somewhere in the depths of Hall E.
5. Predictions for NAMM 2014. The iPad-glued-to-a-mixer-control-surface-keyboard trend will grind to an awkward halt. [Ed.: Lightning port probably will help.] More CV. More tiny all-analog synths to take advantage of cv. Polyphonic analog synths from someone other than Dave Smith Instruments (would be nice to see a new analog filter chip to compete with DSI’s cache of Curtis chips). More knobs. More boutique hardware manufacturers as we see a continued resurgence of all things physical.
OH. And #6: Holy crap, MIDI still exists. 31 years old and it just won’t die. Kinda like Ethernet or a good old DB-9 serial port.
All That Glitters
I’ll wrap this up with a wonderful photo essay from Marsha – it sums up some of the experience of actually being at this show, in a glittery glow.