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.