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.
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.