You kneed KNAMM knobs. The Metasonix Wretch – photo (CC-BY-SA) Brandon Daniel. I sure hope we can look forward to Metasonix at NAMM – stuff that makes me love NAMM from someone who doesn’t.

Trade shows aren’t what they used to be. For those of us who love music technology and the spirit of invention, it’s a good thing – why shouldn’t people be coming up with ideas year round? Why not spread them in places other than the gray, fluorescent glow of a big trade show floor open only to the industry?

On the other hand, there’s something to be said for those moments when an entire industry can come together face-to-face. And perhaps with that in mind, NAMM next week in January is gearing up to what looks like a very big week for new toys and tools, even as some vendors – notably a number of the bigger software makers – take a pass.

We’ll be in Anaheim for NAMM at the end of next week, and there are very good reasons to be excited about the trip. Some of the news, indeed, we’ll have in advance of the show, and in some cases can even publish it. Possibly triggered by leaks, we saw a big announcement from Moog last week as well as the first of three from Akai.

Here are 10 reasons to be “stoked,” in California parlance, for what’s happening in music tech this January:

1. Casio back in the synthesizer business. Matrixsynth gets some great scoops and research on this one, aided by ComputerMusicGuide. Whatever Casio’s reputation, the’ve produced some of our all-time favorite synths — particularly those in the CZ line. Sure, some of these twee, adorable low-end models may have become the butt of hipster jokes, but make no mistake: phase distortion is genius. So, that makes it intriguing just what Casio is teasing for NAMM. Will this be just another entry in a crowded entry-level synth market already well covered by the likes of Korg, Novation, and recently even Avid? Or can Casio channel some of the greatness of its history into something genuinely new and different?

2. Teenage Engineering. I’m in regular touch with TE, and I have no idea what this video is about, but I know the Teenage guys always come up with something fun to look at – thanks to some serious industrial design chops and imagination, and a business small enough to get from idea to prototype quickly. Synthtopia takes notice; DE:BUG predicts a designer synth; I’m imagining an accessory.

3. Moog. We already know Moog is in with a new monosynth called the Minitaur, at just US$679. The design is traditional, but the sound and playability look top-notch. With the accessible pricing – even with the cat out of the bag (the bull out of the … pen?) – this could be a show highlight. And given the popularity of Animoog, I wouldn’t put another surprise or two past the North Carolina company. Oh yeah, and since it’ll be hard to play with the Moog but easier to get a feel for the Akai controller and software, this is tied for me with seeing the other big announcement last week in person – the Akai Revolution.

4. Universal Audio: DSP vendor UA has been on a bit of a roll lately, and I expect something big from them. Stay tuned.

5. Line 6 tells us they’re launching something major at the show. No clue what it is, but this vendor has been exploding into markets from guitars to iOS, so stay tuned; they’re atop the visit list.

6. KORG has been especially adept at giving users what they want, from the inexpensive, accessible-analog Monotrons to ground-breaking mobile apps for iOS and even Nintendo DS, and some major, crowd-pleasing hardware. NAMM is a big show for all of the big three from Japan – Yamaha, KORG, and Roland – and of the three of them, KORG are the ones that I hear people buzzing about already. (You hear that, Roland and Yamaha? Them’s fightin’ words… we’ll be visiting you, too…)

7. The Basement. Once the dominion of only hard-core synth geeks, the blogiverse has made some of the odder, boutique creations and analog labors-of-love more interesting to average electronic musicians than the splashy booths and bigger names. From French Eowave to local modules, I know there are some very nice folks showing up I’m eager to meet. I even hear MeeBlip designer James Grahame may be lurking around Disneyland…

8. Parties … off-campus. There are always some good parties around the NAMM area, but it’s getting into Los Angeles and away from Anaheim that has appeal for me. We’ll be teaming up with local live performance collective Interface LA for a Very Controllerist Party at downtown LA’s Bootleg Theater, with Mike Slott headlining and unique performance rigs from Moldover, Rich DDT, and Nonagon, and some great crews from both SF and LA. Stay tuned for details on that. I also hear Droid Behavior will have one of their legendary loft parties going for Wham Bam … maybe I should just stay awake until my early-Saturday flight back to Berlin.

Dear colleagues from Germany, Sweden, the UK, and so on – also escaping as I am temporarily the Northern European climate – let us together descend upon IHOP and make it, truly, an International House of Pancakes. In fact, if you want CDM coverage, just schedule your press conference *before* the floor opens Wed, Thurs, or Fri at IHOP. Just so long as I don’t get syrup on my smartphone, I’ll liveblog it. Photo (CC-BY-SA) The Impulsive Buy, who also offers beautiful still life of Mello Yello. U.S.A.!

9. Waffle House and IHOP. Oh, yeah.

10. Surprises. I expect enormous displays from Yamaha and Roland in particular. But I can usually keep up with bigger players from a distance. NAMM is a time when I typically get surprised by vendors who I didn’t know were coming up with products – and get to see them face-to-face. And that’s why walking the show floor in person can truly be a pleasure. So, if you’re afraid we might not find your booth, please do get in touch and don’t be shy. Time is short, and stuff slips through the cracks, but we might be able to find a story about what you’re doing.

See also MusicRadar’s take on what to watch, which also looks forward to guitar announcements and some celebrity appearances.

I could go on and complain about Anaheim, the inability to hear on the show floor, the poor conditions for doing any reporting, the fact that “live” coverage is a joke thanks to dreadful wifi networks, and so on. But there are just too many reasons I think we’ll enjoy this year’s coverage. I’ll get stuff up as quickly as possible this week, and then we’re back to our usual coverage of tech and music the following week.

  • Luke

    Just forr reference there are HUGE threads on a few synth forums about how Plan B ripped off many customers and workers. They have not been a company for a few years. Althought some modules are again being made by SKinny Puppy.

    • peterkirn

      Ah, sorry, bad choice of photos. Let me … adjust.

    • peterkirn

      Metasonix. There, that's much better. πŸ˜‰

      • metasonix. very good choice. 

  • markLouis

    "guitar announcements" — For about a year now TC Electronic has had their PolyTune pedal, where you plug a standard guitar into it and it sorts out the signal into individual strings so that you can strum and tune your guitar all six strings at once. Yet nobody has announced a guitar-to-midi device that lets you plug in a standard guitar with standard pickups and have it parse the signal to individual strings polyphonically for real. Seems the time is right for this. Lots of standard guitars in the world, lots of people who don't want to install a Roland pickup that senses individual strings. Please-oh-please let this be one of the announcements.

    • peterkirn

      TC is on my radar, for sure.

    • dbell

      "Yet nobody has announced a guitar-to-midi device that lets you plug in a standard guitar with standard pickups and have it parse the signal to individual strings polyphonically for real. Seems the time is right for this. Lots of standard guitars in the world"

      I agree with this statement more than I can convey, but I am not sure if it will ever be possible; how would you parse the strings given that the same note can be played several places on the neck and the incredible amount of cross modulation? It seems like you'd have to take a lot of physical things (like string gauge and  body resonance) into account (and then filter OUT) that would vary from guitar to guitar. I think the answer is going to be a different pickup (the standard divided has way too much crosstalk to really do much). I'm not intending to hijack this thread, but I've done a fair amount of research on this and if you want to know what I've figured out get in touch. If you DO want to go the divided pickup route I'd be happy to send you an eagle PCB layout that will give you polyphonic outs from a GK (as well as converting between 13 pin and 24 pin). You have to be able to solder and figure out your own preamp choices, you're basically re-building and eliminating the circuit in the GK.

  • Loads of new Eurorack by the likes of Pittsburgh Modular, WDM, Syntech, LZX, but the most eagerly awaited modules will probably be the Make Noise Oscillator (yay!) and Echophon (basically +pitchdelay&nbsp ; in a Eurorack module)

  • ginorobair

    Even better than iHOP or Wafflehouse…In-N-Out Burger is staking some territory.

    • ro8ox

      this is got to be the best news

    • In-N-Out Burger is a definite must!!

  • Me, I'm bringing sandwiches from home πŸ˜‰
    We (Livid) are showing with Mode Machines at E1009. We'll be previewing some eurorack MIDI+analog things that we've been working on, the CNTRL:R that ships next month, and all our other controllers and DIY parts. I will also stand in the acoustic center of all the electric guitars and attempt an air guitar performance mimicking all the simultaneous shredding.

  • Roger

    MatrixSynth has a semi complete picture of the Casio, as well as the name. Just looks like another entry in the long parade of uneditable boring “performance synths”. If so its a wasted opportunity. Still intrigued by the teenage tray and Line 6 though.

  • IHOP and Wafflehouse for chicken and waffles? Naw, it's all about Roscoe's if you are in LA.

    • peterkirn

      Very, very true — and see my earlier complaint about being in Anaheim and not LA. πŸ˜‰

  • mrbiggs

    It looks like Teenage Engineering will be announcing Teevee Dinners.

  • percy

    I hope Mr. Linn makes an appearance with Tempest's sister.

  • loopstationzebra

    Looking forward to CDM again declaring Teenage Engineering's new release an utter masterpiece based on a shameless and unethical close relationship, lol.  The amount of shilling going on last time was astounding.


    • peterkirn

      WTF? "Shameless and unethical close relationship" — because I visited their studios to see what they were doing? Or because I liked something you didn't?

    • kid versus chemical

      Wtf are you babbling about dude?

      I will never get the weird reactions from people regarding Teenage Engineering, it's simply astounding.  I think it goes beyond price or aesthetics and is just simply weird.

    • kid versus chemical

      My comment was @loopstationzebra, not Peter btw

  • peterkirn

    Heh, yes, that's all I can figure. Now, that'd be nice.

  • dbell

    You don't have to be a personal friend of Kirn's (I'm not) or a friend of TE (never met them) to know that the design of that synth was inspired, perfectly timed and deserved the coverage it got on ALL the major synth sites. If you can't get excited over the OP1's design regardless of what you think of it feature-wise, I:  1. feel sorry for the lack of joy in you, and 2. wonder why you're reading a blog is genuinely passionate about that sort of thing, a passion you seem to have confused with advertising.

  • whiv

    Hilarious call on iHop — it's become a tradition for my crew to go every day for breakfast.

  • Devin

    Not to be a dick, but IHOP and Waffle House both serve factory farmed meat that is essentially miserable, often tortured animals plugged full of antibiotics. Also, I love my expensive OP-1 and my cheap Launchpad equally, for different reasons.

    • peterkirn

      We're not seriously advocating IHOP, just … for the record.

      Anaheim's options immediately in the vicinity are a wee bit limited. Speaking of unsustainable meat, this is the convention that right now (I'm not making this up) is taking preorder tickets for In 'n Out burgers — at $7 a pop. πŸ˜‰

      • When I'm done wandering the weird and wonderful basement, I'll be occupying a booth @ IHOP for the duration. πŸ˜‰

        • peterkirn

          Yes, and disclosure here, folks – unlike me, James doesn't kill living animals and eat them.

    • Brian

      I am a vegetarian. If you want to make a difference, vote with your pocketbook.

  • Downpressor

    @Devin “not to be a dick”

    Somehow whenever someone starts out a comment like that, it is inevitable that they will in fact be a dick about whatever the matter at hand is.

  • Ignore Loopstationzebra chaps. He’s a famous mega-troll.

    No Ableton this year then. How on EARTH am I ever going to finish a tune without Live 9? πŸ˜‰

  • Dumeril Seven

    As a marketing guy who does a lot of tradeshows, I feel qualified to answer the question, "why shouldn’t people be coming up with ideas year round? " Answer: The same answer as always, money! Of course ideas and products are developed year-round, but they get launched (i.e. unveiled to the public and press) at the major trade shows. Why? Because marketing launches are very important, very expensive, and you (usually) only get one shot at them for a particular product, so you have to make sure you do them right. The goal of a launch is to create awareness and buzz about the product in order to prime the pump for demand. A product will receive the most attention when its new so maximizing that attention in order to jump-start sales is critical. Trade shows are a good vehicle because you have all the press, analysts, and industry influencers in one place, so can cost-effectively show off your new products to these people a trade show. They're the ones who, if they like your product, will create buzz. You can also use a tradeshow to launch multiple products and be even more cost-effective. The downside of launching at tradeshows is that there are hundreds of other companies launching at the same time competing for attention, but that's still usually better than the alternative of trying to communicate individually with as many industry influencers as possible, when they're spread to the wind and are even less inclined to pay attention.

  • It will be nice to see Casio back in the synth biz. I still regret selling my CZ-101 and put a low ball bid on them on ebay from time to time. I used my VZ-8 on my recent album and it was good to mix those PD timbres with more analog type sounds. I really, really wish they would create a modern replacement for the AZ-1, the best of it's kind of keyboard and way better than those stupid Roland AX-Synth things. 

    • markLouis

      For my birthday/Christmas I bought myself a Casio wk-7500 (I got the 61 key version, the ctk-7000). This is a very fun device. It cost 1/3 what my Yamaha keyboard cost but it runs on 6 D batteries. It's a complicated gadget and some of the sounds/transitions are less smooth than they could be, but it is fun and capable and you can carry it anywhere. I like Casio a lot and, other than a major guitar/midi announcement, I'm looking forward to the new Casio more than anything.

  • bathyscaaf

    Peter, Did you switch to a new commenting system?  I'm on Chrome and:
    The reply indicator arrows point down initially, but no replies are shown (I have to "close" and re-open the thread to see replies) and accidentally mousing over a registered "IntentenseDebate" user's icon is pretty annoying.

    • peterkirn

      Yeah, the template *mostly* works … I think that may be a template issue. Investigating.

      It's nearly right. πŸ˜‰ Heh… (aren't you glad I don't engineer bridges?)

      I expect to have all of our template woes fixed early this year. Working through them one at a time.

      • Martin Wheeler

        Just in case it helps, I have the same problem here ( needing to close and re-open the arrows)  on an iPad 2.
        Funnily enough it seemed to be working normally this morning ???

    • peterkirn

      But yeah, I'd say the intensedebate system works well; it's just getting their features to play nice when embedded here, you know?

  • nick

    Not that the 1980s Casio Pro gear was bad, evidence above people still enjoy it but I'd think their classic consumer gear was more memorable in terms of bending and design (Teenage Engineering's upscale revamp). Also the general net rumor that after selling an all time record number of CZ products in terms of synths sold Casio deemed it not a success… though the only hard evidence is dropping their pro line and the VZ synths not gaining the attention of the earlier CZ, FZ and even RZ lines. Anyway I am curious about their strategy. One would guess they would have done more an OP-1 competitor than something that looks studio bound.

    • Lee Faulkner

      Oh Casio … I still have a CZ1000 wrapped up in a closet …

      And my FX-1 blew all my Akai sampler colleagues away back in the day. An LCD waveform display, non destructive editing of wave data, 8 stage envelopes, after touch on the keyboard, 16 bit, 2 MEG RAM  (lol) 8 individually addressable outputs … and an HD Floppy drive ….. $5 per disk. Ouch.

      It would be great to see them put out something as groundbreaking …. though I  can't imagine what ground is left to break

  • Damon kirby

    Teenage engineering! Yes! Korg! Yes! Casio! Maybe( hopeful)! Β It looks like a good start to the year! Oto machines released Der Oto (8bit synth) for the Biscuit…that’s how it’s done son!!!! I’m jealous of the said “inappropriate relationship” with T.E, I always thought those were the best relationships to have ;)…heres to another year of disgusting, unabashed, and shameful gear lust!!! (Thank you C.D.M for contributing to my ever Β decreasing contact with other humans πŸ™‚ cheers!!!

  • Sounds like it's going to be a very interesting show.  Really wish I could make it out there this year, but it does not look to be in the cards. Sweep a filter or two for me while you're there.

    And… on the subject of food.  Found really great Thai place out there a couple of years ago called Thai Nakorn.  Not in walking distance but definitely worth the ride.  Some of the best Thai food I've ever had and very reasonable.  One night we stuffed eight people for under $100.  

    I would have eaten there every night if I could have talked the rest of the Moog folks into it.

  • Tim

    Another thing that might be interesting comes from a small Berlin company called KOMA Elektronik… They made these cool looking pedals, but now also have a sort of IR controller for modular synths, which they will present at NAMM…

  • Karl

    As my inbox was flooded with "Special Discounts" from Ableton and Native Instruments over the last weeks, I predict updates to their portfolios, too.

  • Ableton Live 9