The 2008 NAMM Show wasn’t a great year for new synth and electronic music gear……but it was a good year.
We’ve already mentioned tons of great new gear that we saw at NAMM in the last couple of weeks, but, following in the footsteps of last year’s modular analog synthgasm, here are our picks for 2008′s most synthgasmic gear:
Future Retro XS Semi-modular Analog Synthesizer
We saw the XS in a sort of beta state last year, but this year the Future Retro XS is ready to play.
The XS is a semi-modular synth, with internally normalized routing. Plug it into a MIDI controller and it’s ready to play. Put in a patch cord, though, and you can do some mad science.
Designer Jered Flickinger (interview link) says the XS is designed to be used as either a rackmount or desktop instrument, and its compact size makes it an ideal modular synth for musicians on the go.
Arturia Analog Factory Experience Hybrid Synthesizer
Based on Analog Factory 2.0, a software instrument offering 3500 classic synthesizer sounds, Arturia’s Analog Factory Experience includes a 32-key MIDI keyboard that’s designed to make virtual analog synth-tweaking a no-brainer.
Spectrasonics Omnisphere Virtual Instrument
Spectrasonics previewed their new flagship virtual instrument Omnisphere, and kicked off what looks like it will be a massive hype campaign for a synth that’s not due until September.
While it is the most vaporous of the synths that made the list, it looks like it will definitely be synthgasmic.
Omnisphere combines a wide variety of hybrid realtime synthesis techniques, an epic library of ‘Psychoacoustic’ sounds, and some innovative features. The new instrument is the first to be based on Spectrasonics’ STEAM Engine, the company’s newly developed core technology.
And it sounds pretty wicked.
Roger Linn & Dave Smith’s LinnDrum II
Speaking of vaporous, Dave Smith was showing the LinnDrum II.
Last year, he was showing the Boomchik, a new drum machine that we called NAMM’s sexiest vaporware.
Well, the new drum machine is still a bit vaporous, the Boomchik is now the LinnDrum II, and Smith had a full scale model of it on hand.
And while it may be vaporware now, Smith has delivered some of the most exciting analog synths ever designed over the last few years, and we’ve got no doubt that when he and Roger Linn are done with it, the LinnDrum will be one of the coolest drum machines ever created.
Two models are planned: the all-digital LinnDrum II and the LinnDrum II Analog, which adds a 4-voice analog synth and 27 dual-function voicing knobs.
Prophet 8 Monster Synth
The most drool-worthy new synth at the show was probably Dave Smith’s Prophet ‘08 – an eight-voice synthesizer with a 100% analog signal path.
While the Prophet ’08’s overall sonic character will be familiar to anyone who knows Dave’s work from the ’70s and ’80s, its got massively improved modulation possibilities, starting with 4 LFO’s per voice.
MicroKorg Bizarro Edition
Nothing too innovative here, but the reversed-color keyboard is a funky throwback to old synths.
The Limited Edition microKORG is a portable synthesizer offering modeling synthesis, vocoding, real-time control, onboard effects and external audio processing.
Quantum Leap Forbidden Planet
EASTWEST previewed Quantum Leap Forbidden Planet, a virtual sample-based synth collection focusing on edgy sound design and controls that let you easily combine, morph, process and modulate the sounds.
Yeah – it’s another big sound library – but it’s got over 1000 presets and offers parallel programs using the unprocessed analog waves and all of the digital filters, modulators and FX.
If you like abstronica – this could be up your alley.
Livewire Modular Synthesizer
Nothing can beat a large format modular synth, but they were hard to find at this year’s NAMM show. In fact, most of the modular synth action seems to be happening in the smaller formats.
One of the most interesting new modular synths is Mike Brown’s Livewire line of Eurorack synth modules. I had a chance to talk with Mike in depth about his modules, and he’s doing some really interesting things.
He’s got some great new modules in the works, including an amazingly non-boring VCO. You can’t build a complete Livewire synth at this point – Mike is more interested in creating new modules designs that no one has ever though of before than in making a Livewire envelope generator.
Roland FR-2 Series V-Accordions
Finally – something out of left field.
While the most interesting gear seemed to come out of smaller manufacturers, Roland introduced the slightly out there FR-2 series V-Accordion.
The virtual accordion offers physical behavior modeling technology, providing the tone and characteristics of the world’s best accordions, plus MIDI so you can lay on so funky-ass bass while you play Lady of Spain.