One year I'll put the time and money into attending NAMM or Messe but this year once more I watch proceedings unfold through the perpetual feed-tubes of the interwebs. Hype has been huge around some products and carefully orchestrated to produce the appropriate feeding frenzy in gear-freaks the world over. So here, briefly, are my personal musings on the gear that has piqued my interest so far.
Moog Sub 37 Amos, as always, did a great job of walking us through the features on the new baby from Moog and I must say the video had me drooling a little. What a stunning looking synth and a great sound too although what else have we come to expect from Moog really. The feature set seemed particularly rich and well thought out and I actually like the idea of the 2 note paraphonic (a feature clarified in a superb piece on Facebook from Marc Doty, read it here and while you're there you should like his page as he shares much which is excellent: https://www.facebook.com/AutomaticGainsay/posts/589934551075953?stream_ref=10 ).
One thing I've noticed while reading comments around this feature on the Moog is the confusion surrounding it, especially in the lead-up teaser period before full details were available. I'm concerned that Moog may take a bit of negative backlash on this from the people who believed, however incorrectly, that the sub37 was going to be polyphonic or at worst paraphonic in the sense (again slightly misunderstanding the term) that all keys on the synth would sound. So this is a synth who's oscillators can be addressed separately if you desire, 2 notes at the same time but running through a single filter and VCA. My concern is that the "oh, so it's not polyphonic" comments will colour opinion and overshadow what is clearly a spectacular synth. Perhaps not, we shall see. What is clear is that musicians are waiting with increasing impatience for more companies to release polyphonic analog synthesizers.
Elektron Analog RYTM. Questionable name aside, this little box continues to build my desire for a piece of Elektron gear, hell all of Elektron's gear if I'm honest! A few musical friends who own Octatracks seemed concerned this new box would necessitate a switch but since the spec has become clear it seems this is angled as more of a machinedrum replacement and Octatrack owners can breathe easy. This does pose an interesting possibility for building the old classic Elektron "trinity" as it's become known – machinedrum, monomachine and octatrack – with Octatrack, Analog4 and Analog RYTM for much moar phat (sorry). Personally the option of only loading samples via usb and no live sampling isn't a concern but the combination of the analog sound generation coupled with sample playback with FX, parameter locks, Elektron's sequencers is highly attractive.
Roland Aira I've read conflicting reports over whether we could expect this much anticipated reveal at NAMM or at some other special event at a later date. Conspicuous by their absence it seems Anaheim will not see the launch of Roland's new mystery box(es). I'm still interested though, there is HUGE pressure on Roland to launch something analog and bring some of their classic beasts back to an eagerly waiting public. I feel like missing NAMM is a missed opportunity but I'm sure people will clamour for the info when it is finally revealed such is the hype around this maybe analog, maybe VA, maybe sampled maybe all 3 machine, maybe even machines, who knows.
Nord Lead A1 Finally moving away from analog gear to something more virtual and more red.
I usually stick with soft-synths for VA duties but the demise of a couple of older ones, unlikely to see updates, in my recent Mavericks upgrade has added more fuel to the desire for adding a piece of VA hardware to the studio. I know I could just hold off updating my OS but I like to stay current and it's only ever a matter of time before some other piece of software or hardware will force that OS update anyway. Back to Nord, I had a Nord Modular G2 a few years ago and really enjoyed it, Clavia (or Nord as we are encouraged to call them now) do make some quirky and well thought out gear. It's almost worth picking up an old Nord Lead 2nd hand just to get the amazing wooden pitch stick, I've never come across any other pitch modulation solution so fluid and naturally playable. The A1 seems a nice compromise of features to price and comes in significantly cheaper than the Lead 4 allowing more people to dip their toes into the world of Nord. Most importantly it sounds fantastic. Oh and it's red and everyone needs a red synth in their studio..
Would I buy it over picking up a 2nd hand older Lead model? I'm not sure but for many 2nd hand gear isn't worth the risk and the temptation of a factory warranty will put such thoughts out of the picture.
I'm not currently 100% clear on what the distinction is between the A1 and the 4 but Clavia are being careful to note that this is not the Lead 5, not a cut-down 4 but something "different". I'm not sure I'm clearly seeing that difference but perhaps this will become more clear with time or with a better look at the spec of the two synths. Either way I reckon the A1 will find homes in many studios when it's available. http://www.sonicstate.com/news/2014/01/22/namm-2014-nord-lead-a1-first-look/
That's all from me for today, I'm sure there are heaps of things I've missed but these are just the big announcements that really stuck out to me and got me excited. We shall see what the rest of the show brings.
Greg Cole is an electronic musician, budding writer, photographer, occasional reluctant IT geek and all round hippy. A life-long synth enthusiast he firmly believes that a good synth is a good synth whether analog or digital, software or hardware. He records music as Octopus Empire, claiming it is "genre-spanning", which is an excuse for not being able to settle on one particular style. He's also a firm believer in the effectiveness of a small studio setup, limitations and knowing your gear well and programming in preference to use of presets. His favourite colour is orange.