New Music Technology in 2013 (Moog, Ableton, Bitwig, Korg) Our Top 10 NAMM Picks

NAMM 2013 brought new developments in many areas of music production including iOS integration, MIDI controllers, analog and modular synths, audio interfaces and software design. Here we round up our top 10 conference favorites, including offerings from Bitwig, Korg, Moog, Dave Smith Instruments, Pittsburgh Modular, Stokyo, Jesse Dean Designs, Oyaide, Livid, Nektar, Ableton, and Arturia.

Bitwig Studio

Bitwig Studio was one of the standout items on display at NAMM this year. Hidden behind the Moog booth, the Bitwig area was a beehive of excitement over the working version of application being shown by the development team. Borrowing from sequencers of the past while adding their own new ideas to create a new take on the modern DAW, Bitwig was the talk of the show floor.

Korg MS-20 Mini

The Korg MS-20 Mini is the little brother of Korg’s classic MS-20 synth. While contained in a smaller chassis, the MS-20 Mini boasts the same internal architecture as the classic design. Korg replaced the original’s quarter-inch patch cable inputs with eighth-inch inputs, saving interface real estate while retaining all of the original routing capabilities.

Moog Sub Phatty

The Moog Sub Phatty was another show favorite, attracting artists like Deadmau5 and Stevie Wonder to the booth for a chance to hear the new synth. The Sub Phatty is smaller than most of the company’s previous synthesizers, however it lives up to its “Phatty” family name by providing a massive palette of sounds for the performer. Featuring Moog’s new “Multidrive” circuit as well as some unique oscillator mixing functions, the Sub Phatty was unlike most of the other synthesizers we saw.

DSI Prophet 12

The rumor mill was buzzing this year about what Dave Smith Instruments would bring to the show after their 2012 release of the Tempest analog drum machine. We were all delighted to find the Prophet 12, a formidable synthesis behemoth, featuring 12 independent voices, each voice containing four oscillators as well as many original effects devices, such as Girth and Hack. This was the showcase of the DSI booth, which also featured the now-favorite Tempest as well as their classic MoPho synth units.

Pittsburgh Modular Cell [48] System 1

One of the more esoteric devices at NAMM 2013, the Pittsburgh Modular Systems Cell [48] System 1 stuck out from the modular pack. A small brick-shaped module with extensive routing capabilities and an eight-step sequencer, the Cell [48] really stood out on the show floor. The Cell [48] System 1 is fully analog, and is capable of performing a variety of classic synth sounds without any cable patching.

Stokyo Customs + Oyaide + Jesse Graves

DJs at NAMM were buzzing about new custom options for their turntables. One standout was Jesse “Dean” Graves, who has created custom turntable designs for the likes of BT, Steve Aoki and Linkin Park. Stokyo featured all kinds of quirky DJ tools, devices and accessories including customized Serato vinyl, while Oyaide showed off their combo cabling systems, which have become a favorite in the DJ community.

Nektar P1 and P4 Panorama series

The Panorama series from Nektar were the controllers of choice at many NAMM booths this year. With pressure-sensitive pads, knobs and sliders in addition to a keyboard, the Nektar controllers have a fairly standard set of hardware controls, but it is the elegant color touchscreen that sets the Panorama series apart from the competition. The screen changes dynamically depending on what software you are using, featuring built-in integration with Propellerhead’s Reason platform and presets for a variety of other major music applications.

Livid Base

Livid Instruments’ booth in Hall E was a constant flurry of action and bass music. Situated in the middle of the ukulele section of NAMM, Livid was easy to find among their neighbors. Their new Base controller was a standout alternative to the many humdrum keyboard controllers that littered the NAMM halls. Featuring eight ribbon-style sliders and 32 pressure-sensitive pads, the Base was a refreshing change of pace from many of the other controller designs we saw.

Ableton Push

Ableton is entering the controller world in a big way in 2013 with their much-anticipated Push controller, which features 64 pads and touch-sensitive strips for modulation. The device is designed to work in conjunction with the upcoming Ableton Live 9 release, and is said to offer new approaches to composition and performance.

Arturia SparkLE

Arturia brought some new tools to the show this year, following up on their earlier MiniBrute. They introduced their new hybrid drum device, the SparkLE, which promises to integrate with software or to work as a standalone device. We also saw the new MiniLab, a controller featuring eight pads, 16 knobs and 25 keys which works seamlessly with Arturia’s Analog Laboratory software.