Like a World’s Fair of all the invention in music technology, the big trade shows still gather many of the latest creations from around the globe. And while the NAMM show in California is big, Musikmesse is bigger: spanning some 11 halls (together with a live lighting and event show called Pro Light+Sound), it’s the biggest on Earth. Having covered NAMM for German publication DE:BUG, I’m thrilled to get to do the reverse and highlight the best of Messe for California-based Keyboard Magazine.

Musikmesse 2012 Gear Report [Keyboard Magazine]

Instead of trying to cover absolutely everything, this is the stuff I found especially significant – and I got the luxury of giving into my personal bias toward things with keys on them. Some of the highlights:

  • RME getting 36 channels, 24-bit, 192 kHz audio … on a computer and on your iPad. (Also, thanks to RME for the delicious beer.)
  • Mode Machines’ wonderful German x0xb0x, SID drum machine, and other treats.
  • More accurate modeled pianos, including the epic ALPHA with its full-sized hammer action inside. (No, not what keyboard makers usually call hammer action – like, the whole hammer.)
  • Roland’s clever mechanism for using your iPhone to record and jam along with their instruments, wirelessly. (See my hands-on video, below).

And, of course, there’s lots of gear to look at. It wasn’t new to Messe, but if my ethics circuitry were to short-circuit and I decided to hide something under a coat, I sure do love that Buchla modular and touch plate, for all its quirky strangeness. In fact, apologies to the folks at Moog, but I have to recount this story. Evidently a couple of Moog reps went over to the Buchla display to try out the new modular, and came back frustrated about the touchplate and the lack of a conventional keyboard. (Believe me, they’re not wrong: these can keep you from making useful sound if you don’t have a lot of time.) Now, I cut my teeth in analog on two modulars side by side, an original Buchla and Moog setup. I was charmed by the reenactment of the controversy over Buchla – its unconventional input, its creatively-worded labels, and its different approach to patching. I talked to others with the same split reaction, not just Moog. It’s all the more topical after my passing mention of a giant sphere triggered a minor flame war in comments. (And don’t get me wrong: as I said before, I love keyboards, and still favor them over other means of input.)

I always loved both the Buchla and Moog for their differences, and the fact that these philosophical difference survive decades later gives some hope for the longevity of what we do – sometimes even the longevity of our peculiarities.

Let me know what your favorite finds were from Messe, even if you were watching online. (In all honesty, your odds may be better than if you get lost on the giant show floors!)