Here are all our picks of the top releases announced at the 2009 NAMM show in Anaheim; I’ll continue to update these over the coming days. (And welcome, Engadget readers!)

I’ve grouped these rather inaccurately in arbitrary headings I made up.

For the latest updates, you can follow cdmblogs on Twitter. (At least until Burger King offers you a free Whopper – or Hungry Jack for our Autralian friends – to unfriend us. I won’t take it personally.)

NAMM highlights

Don’t miss:

Thanks to everyone for the tips and feedback!

Here’s a quick look at everything else we covered. It’s not the whole NAMM show – it’s the stuff that most caught our interest.

Laptop musicians and groove creation

Ableton Live 8 makes this live and studio music tool more popular by adding a load of highly-requested features, including stage-ready live loop recording and groove extraction. (Don’t forget the Vocoder.) Now, if we could just figure out the upgrade pricing.

Max for Live lets Ableton Live users write their own instrument, effect, sequencer, and control devices for Live using the visual programming environment Max. And it really is all of Max, even including video and 3D graphics capabilities, inside Live.

Akai’s APC40 isn’t the first controller for Ableton Live, but it’s the first to involve a collaboration with Ableton, and it packs control of more different parts of the Live software into one box than before. That includes triggering clips, controlling instrument and effects devices, and mixing. You can customize it with Max for Live and get interactive control of the program; see videos and hardware shots for more.

Native Instruments’ Maschine is a hardware controller and software sequencer and beat sampler that promises a computer-based but mouse-free drum machine. You can use it to make your computer into a beat workstation, or add it as a plug-in to an existing tool of choice (like Live).

(See additional Q&A on Maschine and APC)

MOTU’s bpm is also a sample-based drum machine, but whereas Maschine emphasizes hardware control, bpm is a descendent of MOTU’s software sampling line. Selling points: import existing sample libraries, create Euclidian polyrhythms. (But we can’t help notice some significant resemblance to fxpansion’s GURU.)

DAWs and DSP

Cubase 5 is a huge release, with new vocal editing, performance, beat mashing, scoring and sample articulation management, and other enhancements. Steinberg also has a free iPhone/iPod touch controller app. Whether this is greater than the sum of its parts is up for debate – and debate readers do.

DSP in your laptop: the UAD-2 SOLO/Laptop adds Universal Audio’s DSP platform – plus a bundle of included effects – to your laptop’s ExpressCard slot. That means boutique effects, emulations, and mastering tools are now mobile on a PC or MacBook Pro. $499 – not too bad.

Soft synths and controller keyboards

CDM’s soft synth round-up covers the new software synth goodies. There are some big sequels: Arturia minimoog V 2.0 and Brass 2.0, the analog + acoustic + electric bass Trilian followup to Spectrasonic’s Trilogy, and impOSCar 2. Plus Waldorf has brought their hardware synths to software form (Largo), and fxpansion has a quartet of retro-meets-futuristic synths called D.CAM.

Automap 3 Pro from Novation adds a heads-up display and more flexible parameter assignment to the company’s dynamic controller software. That should make it easier than before for Novation keyboards and controllers to automatically control your software. Bad news: the “Pro” means it’s no longer free. A beta is available.

ReMOTE keyboards and Automap now have a rival, too: M-Audio’s Axiom Pro and HyperTransport. These keyboards have more controls than the Novation and ASCII keyboard shortcuts – but unfortunately, they leave out some key hosts for now, like Ableton Live. Pro Tools, of course, is supported.

Geeksters, nerdsters

Roland’s AX-Synth revives the popular keytar design, adding an internal sound engine. The politically correct term is “shoulder keyboard.”

MOTU’s Volta is an upcoming software plug-in that interfaces Macs with analog synthesizers and effects that use Control Voltage instead of digital signals. That allows easier control and calibration of everything from new boutique modular synths to the Moogerfooger effects pedal.

Speaking of control voltage, the Moog Etherwave Plus adds CV outs to their fantastic Theremin – you get separate CV for each hand, making the Etherwave a controller as well as an instrument. Meanwhile, Moog also announces that the Old School edition of the Minimoog Voyager (the Voyager with wooden styling, no MIDI, and no preset memory) will be discontinued after 200 more units. That’s okay – the Voyager is just fine with MIDI.

Plogue’s Chipsounds software sound pack emulates the idiosyncrasies and even faults of digital sound chips from devices like the Atari 2600, NES. and Commodore 64, as well as some of the compositional techniques used by chip music artists.


IK Multimedia offers AmpliTube Fender and Stealth Pedal. AmpliTube Fender is simply a bundle of official, Fender-approved guitar amp and effect emulations. (We don’t care about the Fender license, but the sound is likely to be nice.) Stealth Pedal is a controller and audio interface in a USB wah pedal.

Coming up

Watch for ”If Open Source had a NAMM” soon.

We’re also rounding up coverage from elsewhere. Got favorite picks? Send them our way.

  • art

    more for Geeksters, nerdsters:

  • Personally I think Live 8 is among the coolest things showed this year. Not so much because of the major changes, but more so in the small workflow things. I'm very excited to try it out to see if it is as good as I hope.

  • Gustavo

    What about the Beat Kangz Beat Thang?!?!? 😉

    Despite the crude marketing, and tacky "urban" design, if it exists and manages to ship, it will be a very capable hardware option for EDM artists.

    Seems NAMM this year really focused on beat-box products, and Akai, the originator of the MPC, comes out with a flagship product aimed squarely at laptop musicians.

    Mostly, I'm excited by the possibilities for control and visual feedback for DIY controllers that must be available in Live 8 – once someone reverse-engineers the APC protocol! 🙂

  • Kechuan

    No cubase 5 !?
    Definitely looks like it has some good tools for groove creation.

  • spinner

    Funny that out of all the hosts, Cubase is the only one that has specific vocal tools.
    Think smaller companies like Fxpansion has got it down tho when they incorporate third party manufactures straight into their own product rather then trying to come up with a solution themself.
    Logics pitch correction plug "shudder"……..

  • Let's not forget Spectrasonics Trillian!

  • Word Gustavo. Beat Thang should definitely be on the list for creative marketing and design, even if the aesthetic isn't in line with our typical music-geek stylings. BTW it does exist and all efforts are being made to ship on time.

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  • I'm excited about the collaboration between hardware and software manufacturers! Software obviously leave hardware in the dust as far as power, but the ease of use has gone out the window…especially for hip hop. It takes twenty clicks to chop up a sample in Logic (still my fav)! Banging on some pads and hearin' some big drums slappin' is where it's at. I'm praying that this trend continues… keep up the great blogging CDM! Thanks

  • Suffice to say there's more from NAMM still to cover — this isn't a complete list! (I'll just keep the running log here.)

    Cubase 5 – well, Cubase users, curious what for you is the biggest feature here? (I thought the VST Expressions thing was interesting for composers, though it seems to require that you work in their score editor.) I've never spent so much time in Cubase, so it always feels a bit like trying to pick up the local news in a foreign city – not sure what's most relevant. But it is a significant release.

    I think it's also very cool that Steinberg did their own iPhone app.

    There's actually quite a lot of soft synth news – the Waldorf, fxpansion's Synth Squad, and Trillian all look brilliant. There's also the new Arturia.

    Automap 3, definitely.

    Virus TI2 looks interesting.

    And I love the Beat Thang. Late to the party on that one, but I'll try to find something to say. (I wish I had a Roger Linn piece to compare, but I do believe we'll finally see it in 09.)

  • velocipede

    Not exactly new news, but the new AKAI EWI USB looks like a nice, inexpensive piece of kit for wannabe wind players like myself.

    After watching the Imposcar 2 demo on, I do think that it will be one that could be worth the upgrade. I am biased, though, by talking to the very proud and enthusiastic developers.

    Portable digital recorders abound and keep getting better. The innovation award, though, perhaps goes to Zoom for their Q3, which will have a built-in VGA video recorder. So, now instead of grainy videos with shitty sound quality on youtube, users can post grainy videos with decent sound quality. The Q3 is supposed to be ready in Q4. Zoom is also working on an 8-track built-in recorder/mixer/USB2 interface. Would they be the first to combine all these functions in one device?

    I also saw (and heard) an awesome hand-built synth at the Haaken Continuum booth. I'll try to send a picture later.

    John Bowen Synth hopes to ship soon, but did not want to commit to dates.

    Dave Smith and Roger Linn are still working on the Linn Drum II. The Mopho is said to be selling well, so maybe that gives DSI the financial space to focus on what sounds like a quite complex project. Sonic State also has an interesting interview with them.

    The Moog CV theremin controller seems great if you have an analog synth. One of their demos had a Moog guitarist leaning into it to modulate the filter.

    Not officially a NAMM announcement, but I spoke with Jim Coker about Numerology 2 and future Numerology plans. This really is a fantastic program in if you are into sequencing (especially if you like to randomize bits).

    Also spoke with Urs Heckman briefly. He was there to get (another) EM award, but his new Uhbik effect suite (on sale now) sounds pretty good in the limited amount of time I've had with it.

    At the end of the day, I think Ableton created the most buzz with their trio of major announcements (8, Max and MPC) and related developments.

    By the way, the basement had a lot of empty spaces this year. Last year, it seemed to be filled almost wall-to-wall, but there were many gaps, a large lounge area and an opening in the center large enough for a dance floor (not that there was one). Some of the vendors had moved up stairs obviously, but clearly some decided NAMM was not worth it this year. People said Thursday was slow, but Saturday was just as crazy as usual.

  • @gustavo: i don't think that you have to reverse engineer anything, looking at the max for live stuff they actually seem to encourage everyone to go crazy with hardware integration… something max/msp was always known for to a great extend… for me personally ableton really nailed it this year…

  • @gustavo / binary punk: There's not really an "APC protocol," but there are two kinds of messages that I believe are exclusive to the APC and Live:
    1. clip status messages (loaded / playing / recording *per clip*)
    2. navigation from device to device, MIDI overdub, and a couple of other commands

    — at least that's my current guess. I've been told by Ableton that these are not exposed to other hardware. But I also know the APC is a MIDI-only device. That means you should be able to just listen in on the system exclusive messages between the two gadgets and add the same features to other devices. I'm hoping that's the case, because I think this could be quite nice for DIY users.

    None of this has anything to do with Max for Live — in fact, with M4L you can do quite a lot *more* that the APC can't do, and you can do it with any hardware you want (including DIY hardware, even hardware that connects via serial or wireless or OSC or whatever you want, without ever touching MIDI)

    But that does require an M4L license — which means there will be half a year or so after Live 8 comes out that you wouldn't be able to do it. 😉

  • There's even more: i guess the matrix buttons blink while being triggered but not being started yet due to the quantization and also information about the matrix-focus of the button matrix (red frame in the session) and the zoom level gets transmitted.
    And yes, it is midi only and i'm pretty sure there will be some kind of voodoo going on on the driver level or who knows to make sure only the akai can make use of those features…

  • I didn't get as many pictures as I would have liked, but here are some good controller shots, and the Akai closeups

  • Beat Kangz rocks, why because black artist have been buying it's tool from non black company's, those companies see this as crossing the line, what black electronic company, who machine is make to make white boyz/girlz more funky. donot forget more white people but urban music that blacks people but we make it better.

    For you geeks wake the funk up.
    I love this site but overlooking this product.
    Make me wonder are you racist or getting paid to show products that are really crap.

  • sorry the clean version, sorry for the 2nd posting.

    Beat Kangz rocks, why because black artist have been buying it’s beat machines from non black company’s. Some companies could see this as crossing the line, but it is not Akia and Roland has made a sh-t load of cash of the house and hip hop and always market their machines as the real urban maker.

    What black electronic company, who machine is to make white boyz/girlz more funky! Do not forget more white people buy urban music then black people do.

    I love this site but overlooking this product.
    Make me wonder are you racist or getting paid to show products that are really crap.

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