Lee Sherman has been covering the NAMM show from Anaheim,
CA all week. He's picked out his take on all the highlights of Winter
NAMM 2005. Enjoy — and now back to making music!

Best new software
Ableton Operator
FM Synthesis made simple at last.

Best new synth
Access Virus TI
Pointing the way forward in software/hardware integration, the new
Virus hardware can masquerade as a soft synth plug-in, all without
putting a strain on your computer's CPU.

Best new version of an old synth
Roland V-Synth XT
That rare sequel that surpasses the original, with improved patches and
new ways to modulate them. It includes the V-Synth's Elastic Audio
Synthesis engine, along with analog modeling, vocal modeling, and D-50
emulation. Roland's COSM effects are also on-board. The XT is equally
at home in a rack or sitting on a tabletop. The color touchscreen and
and edit knobs allow for the kind of real-time sound manipulation not
often seen in rack-mount synths.
Runner-up
Moog Minimoog Voyager Rack Mount Edition; shame they lost the touchscreen.

Most expensive new synth

(It's not what you think)
No, it's not the Korg OASYS. The Buchla 200E Modular System is a true analog beast that starts at around $20,000. At this price, VA software never sounded so good. (Ed: Yeah, but there ain't no emulated Buchla — might even be worth giving up the yacht for this one!)

Best effects box
M-Audio Black Box
Yes, even a techno-phobic guitarist can create digital music with
M-Audio's Black Box. The Black Box combines amp modeling, beat-synced
effects and drum tracks with a USB audio interface for computer-based
recording. It's the cheapest way to get your hands on Roger Linn's
AdrenaLinn DSP technology too, as M-Audio licensed it for use in the Black Box.

Worst industrial design
Alesis Fusion
Shocking really, given how gorgeous their other keyboards are. (Ed: May be ugly, but I'd rather have this than an Oasys, frankly. Much more compact, and nice physical modeling features. -PK)

Best MIDI controller
Korg Kontrol 49
Standing out in a crowded field, Korg's Kontrol 49 supersizes the Micro
Kontrol, with 49 full-size velocity-sensitive keys,  16
illuminated trigger pads, pitch and mod wheels,  a vector joystick
for simultaneous control of two separate parameters, and eight pairs of
assignable sliders and rotary encoders with individual color-coded
backlit LCD displays. It's a must-have for owners of Korg's Legacy
Collection and is also designed to work well with Propellerhead's
Reason 3.0 software.

Photos by Lee Sherman.

  • Guest

    Actually, the Buchla stuff is per module, like any modern modular. Thus, the starting price is the price of the cheapest module. That happens to be the Quad Dynamics Manager, at $700. A reasonable single row will set you back about $9K. The price of the system displayed at NAMM was $20,000, but you don't need to start there.

    I concur on the Alesis Fusion. It looks like some keyboard you'd buy out of the Sears catalog ("Now With Real Drum Beats!")

    Chris Randall
    Audio Damage, Inc. http://www.audiodamage.com

  • Guest

    Ouch. It gets worse. The modular shown in the picture is an Analog Systems modular, not the Buchla.

  • Guest

    >Best new software
    >Ableton Operator

    Very good, but clearly
    outweighed by Synful, and
    possibly by Kontakt2.

    >Best new synth
    >Access Virus TI

    The TI is vaporware at the
    moment.

    >Best effects box
    >M-Audio Black Box

    This is for guitarists, and
    nobody cares about them.

    >Worst industrial design
    >Alesis Fusion
    >(Ed: May be ugly, but I'd
    >rather have this than an
    >Oasys, frankly. Much more
    >compact, and nice physical
    >modeling features. -PK)

    Agree with both Lee and
    Peter.

    -Carl

  • Guest

    >Best MIDI controller
    >Korg Kontrol 49

    Oh, and I would put the
    Alesis Photon X49 above the
    Kontrol.

    -Carl

  • admin

    Joysticks give you more control, and the Korg has some nifty software. I'd like a Photon and a Kontrol, please, though.

    Comparing Kontakt to Operator? Apples to oranges. Also I think the category was 'new software' — Kontakt wins for best sequel. My awards will have to wait until next week, though.

    And absolutely no one cares about guitarists. đŸ˜‰

  • Wow. Who is writing this stuff? I feel the opinions are a little out of touch.

    This is a very conservative approach. Sad the Voyager lost the touch screen – huh? I am still crying about how bad the synth turned out to be (bang for buck wise).

    Best controller? OMFG was the Akai MPK not avail? Or is it not allowed again? It will be a while until anyone usurps the MPK (despite the fact that Akai did not implement NRPN correctly – see my site…)

    Sorry, I guess I am a little bit more informed on gear and have a progressive attitude.