Scott McGrath reflects on NAMM, and there's a hell of a lot to reflect on, so let's get started...
NAMM is long gone, but since it's the show where the music merchants are showing off what's coming later in the year, it's not too late to ask the Big Questions, such as: What are the big themes of NAMM 2013? What's our favorite gear? And, what are the highlights from the SonicState and Amped coverage?
Is mobile now yesterday?
I heard several commentators argue that there seemed to be less focus this year on mobile, and specifically tablet applications, iOS apps, and accessories. 2012 was a bit wall-to-wall with gadgety mobile goodness, but if there was less on display this year, I thought there was still some solid innovation to be had in this camp. Some of the most fun items from the show include desktop and portable amps, effects, and mobile music-making accessories.
For me, a few key products really stand out:
Eventide's boutique pedals are serious kit, and the new E9 takes it all virtual, bundling many of the algorithms in Eventide's excellent Space, ModFactor, PitchFactor, and TimeFactor.
These pedals are revered, having distilled Eventide's Harmonizer technology into (albeit impressively expensive) stompbox form factors. Now, the E9 becomes the virtual stompbox that combines the effects from several units into a sort of meta-stompbox that can be loaded up with effects from iOS devices. A cynical observer might note that this allows Eventide to resell its users the same effects they might already own as "in-app purchases."
But a less cynical observer should note that the ability to tweak the incredibly deep effects and store a set of working presets loaded in a very capable pedal...and just buy the effects that matter to you individually.
This pedal has a lot of promise, and a small footprint on the pedalboard. The iOS app allows for parameter tweaking that can then load these sounds into the physical stompbox.
More info on the new Eventide stompbox here.
Digitech also launched their virtual stompbox last year, the iStomp, which uses an iOS app to download virtual pedals. A new highlight is the pitch-mangling "Impossible Pedal," the pedal MC Escher would have designed with an assist from Adrian Belew. Looks like fun, a $20 add-on pedal for the iStomp: http://www.sonicstate.com/amped/2013/01/25/wnamm13-to-play-the-impossible-riff/
The Yamaha desktop amps were groundbreaking at last year's NAMM, and this year have matured into an entire product line. Check out the Yahama rep who demos both the Blues and Hi-Gain variants of these unique desktop amps for Rich Beech – man, that guy can really play! I have several friends who own a THR amp or are planning to buy one. They're pretty awesome:
This is some of the best video coverage Rich produced during this busy show. Did I mention...that guy really smokes in the THR10x video in particular?
The first item from NAMM that seemed like an obvious pickup for me: The IK Multimedia Bluetooth pedalboard looks brilliant. Hope the latency isn't too bad. IK also introduced its competitor to the Apogee Jam, the iRig HD, and introduced a product similar to the upcoming HD interface from Agile Partners, makers of Ampkit. Shootout anyone?
Also, IK is telling the world that it is planning to release its many apps, such as Amplitube, for the Android device platform later this year. Though I am pretty seriously aligned with the Apple ecosystem, I truly want to be open minded, and have a couple of Android devices and like them a lot. Music applications is one area where Android has great potential but has been struggling to keep up with the sophistication of apps from iOS.
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We sat down with Rob to discuss the creative process and what lead him to using a modular