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.






  • Rob

    I think the reason midi and CV are still alive is probably related to the fact that the hardware does not become obsolete nearly as quickly as the latest computers. I would imagine that digital recorders could make a comeback too if they took advantage of some of the strengths of analog gear ie quality builds, no proprietary connections, and serviceability standards on the on a timescale of years or decades rather than just one or two.

  • bathyscaaf

    Why, with a few boutique exceptions, are we still not seeing any adoption of OSC?

    • Gwydion

      Maybe, on a practical note (if you’ll excuse the pun), it’s easier with a hardware box and limited display just to show a MIDI CC number and let the user memorise that e.g. CC29 is my filter 1 cut-off frequency. Rather than the far more useful OSC e.g. “/filter1/freq”. Maybe OSC is inherently more suited to equipment with text keyboards and bigger displays… just a thought…

      Of course, an OSC standard for synths could solve this… but then:


    • gwenhwyfaer

      You can parse MIDI on anything, and transmit / receive it on anything with a UART. Implementing the network stack required for OSC is a lot more complicated, and that’s before you start on OSC itself.

      In short, OSC scales up, which is nice – but MIDI scales down, which means it can go anywhere.

  • Samuele Cornell

    What about HD Midi ? I heard there was a private demonstration at NAMM.
    Maybe we’ll see it next year….

  • dj_mosquito

    i’m so happy to see #2 above. this was the second year that i wanted to vomit at how many devices have gone the iPad route.

  • Arne Van Petegem

    Why a Juno filter when clearly what we need is a Juno chorus πŸ˜‰

  • a

    The iConnect4+ and 2+ are, in my opinion, great and an exception to the ipad statement. Of course, they aren’t limited to only working with an iPad and that’s a large part of their appeal.

  • gwenhwyfaer

    “Holy crap, MIDI still exists. 31 years old and it just won’t die.” True, but a somewhat incongruous statement in an article that spends so much time talking about the resurgence of the interface “standard” MIDI was intended to replace…

  • IK Multimedia

    Glad to see our iRig MIDI as the modern MIDI interface for that iPad connected to the Commodore 64!

  • Chiranjeev Ghai
  • Keith Handy

    Totally want that SID box.