The ‘iPad NAMM’


The 2011 NAMM Show was notable for a lot of things.

Attendance was back up, after dropping off for a couple of years. Vendors returned and lots of new companies attended. And there were a lot of interesting new gear introductions at the show.

But if the 2011 NAMM Show is remembered for one thing – it will probably be the sudden ubiquity of the Apple iPad.

ipad sampler

We even overheard one attendee calling the Show the ‘iPad NAMM’.

iPads were everywhere. Running samplers, running DJ apps and running recording software:

ipad recording software

There were iPad amplifiers:

ipad amplifier

Even iPad arcade games:

We’re not sure what the iPad arcade system was doing at NAMM – but it would be kind of cool to map those controls to your favorite music app.

There were multiple iPad music keyboards:

ipad music keyboard

And iPads being used as MIDI controllers:

ipad midi controller

Guitar companies were testing out interest in iPad amp modeling apps:

ipad guitar software

And others were hooking up foot controllers to the iPad:

ipad with foot controller

There were modern applications that recreated vintage synths:

Fairlight CMI synthesizer on iPad

And there were modern hardware recreations of vintage synths being used to control software recreations of vintage synths:

ipad korg ims-20 synthesizer

We know that many Synthtopia readers remain skeptical about the prospects for iPad music software.

At least at this year’s NAMM Show, the music industry does not appear to share your skepticism:

ipad music industry

What do you think of the idea of an ‘iPad NAMM’?

Does it make sense for gear manufacturers to be devoting this much attention to the iPad?

Images: synthesizers on Flickr

26 thoughts on “The ‘iPad NAMM’

  1. I think next year we'll see a whole raft of tablet-based instruments running on iOS as well as Android (providing Google gets its act together). Not sure that we'd need an entire show though…I think it'd be pretty boring; all those little screens everywhere and no "real" instruments with handcrafted wood etc etc.

  2. "And there were modern hardware recreations of vintage synths being used to control software recreations of vintage synths:"

    One more level of recursion and we'll be sucked into a vintage black hole.

  3. Why wait for next year when you can do it now with an iPad? For all you haters out there, don't knock it until you've tried it, Using the iPad as controller and giving an instrument easier access to more parameters is reason enough to get one, let alone the audio capability of the device.

  4. "the music industry does not appear to share our skepticism" because they know they can make a fast buck from all the consumers out there that want more and more but want to pay less and less. The solution, a piece of software, nothing special or original about it, just make it run on an iPad and the idiot consumers will lap it up 'oh the next big thing, gotta have it, forget quality, i just want more and more and more……' πŸ™‚

  5. It might be useful for minor remote wireless type operations and control. But don't expect precision and detail. It's like trying to play a first person shooter with a wii controller. It's cute, portable and is fun to play with. But for serious work, in real time that demands precision and detail, it will fail.

    There just isn't enough processor power, lacks precision touch and response and the ability to dial in fine tuning, QUICKLY. The screen area is limited and would be hard to convert a multi monitor system down to a few inches. Also removing the artist's tactile interface limits their creative extension. No matter how cute the sliders pixels look.

  6. In my initial post I was being generous and trying not to sound like a fanboy. I have an iPad and love it. I still think there's things my Newton does better but that's life. BTW Nanostudio by Blip Interactive is possibly the best REALLY portable (not on a laptop) synth studio out there.

  7. I feel this way about hardware synthesizers that rely on software, like that new Venom synth. I want synths that work the same way now that they will in 30 years. That said, I love playing with iPad apps. I just have those and a modular πŸ˜‰

  8. ghmetcalfe – my preferences run towards the traditional black steel synths with wood end panels and lots of knobs – but cheap multi-touch computers can do a lot of amazing things, too.

    Maybe someone could come up with some wood iPad end panels!

  9. There's no reason new tools & old tools can't play nice together. An iPad running Little MIDI Machine + your analog synths = instant berlin school sequencing, at a fraction of the cost of traditional step sequencers.

  10. Love my iPad too. For the price and ease of use its unmatched at the moment.

    I would not mind an entire show for it, with all the apps coming thick and fast it hard to see what's what. I hope that the Android tablets get the same love as that will drive them all onto better things.

  11. If anyone were to point me in the direction of an iPad app that is a capable live performance sampler with mappable keyboard zones (Similar to Abletons Sampler) I would buy an iPad in a second.

  12. Again, the most APPALLING thing of all is not the lack of cool music apps, or the the fact that the iPad is already proving itself to be a viable instrument and controller.


    MIDI implementation is hamfisted and shoddy. Most devs haven't even added MIDI send, ffs. And clock sync? Only MOLTEN provides clock sync.

    For once, just once, I'd like to see ANY digital music site start addressing this issue.

    How ironic that the MS-20 and iMS-20 is shown in a photo above. Korg has not implemented MIDI send nor clock sync. ffs. And, to date, the iElectribe is without any MIDI functionality at all. So there you have 2 potentially amazing apps that having adopted the most basic of items in order to turn them into serious tools.

    Complete fail.

    1. You are deluded about clock sync. So many apps provide clock in/out now. Lemur, Genome, Sunrizer, these are just 3 off the top of my head. I used to think the same as you when I was just searching “midi clock” in the app store, but I have since done some research. I have the computer sending my tap tempo to genome, which sends it to Moog mp-201, which routes to both cv gear and back to the computer(!), works just fine.

  13. ffs.

    Who gives a crap about new sampling apps and a new Fairlight app WHEN I CAN"T INTEGRATE THEM INTO ANYTHING I DO BECAUSE THE MIDI IMPLEMENTATION IS $HIT?

    But by all means, Synthtopia. Let's keep hearing about goofy new amps for the iPad instead of some honest to GOD reporting about MIDI.

  14. You can always choose NOT to update your iOS software and apps. My 300MHz G3 iBook still runs OS9 and ThonK! the same way now as it did 12 years ago.

  15. Needs a truly high quality d/a before I will ever consider this more than a toy. I suppose no one wants to be caught out when iPad 3 has digital out..

    1. JaylikeBird – those duplicate comments were the result of us choosing to use the IntenseDebate service, which ended up being super-buggy.

      I went back and deleted the duplicates in this thread.

  16. I got it- a higher end d/a with tube preamplification for iPad. A little 1″ thick shelf the iPad sits on, couple jacks in back for monitor/mains, few knobs on the front. And the crown– wood end panels!!!

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