Carrying on from last month’s look at NAMM 2017, we never got to discuss some of the things going on in the keyboard and synth world, so this month I thought it prudent that we have a bit of a retrospective glance at what was turning heads at this year’s trade show. There were all sorts of interesting things unveiled, and some reminders of classics and recent models that just won’t go away.
THE BIG UNVEIL
The teaser campaign for Behringer’s DeepMind 12 synthesiser last year was perhaps one of the longest and most drawn out we’ve ever seen; it was almost revealed one knob and fader at a time. I can remember Behringer catalogues from 15 years back that had the suggestion that a real entry into the keyboard and synth market was on the cards and now it has finally come to light. Those who visited the Music Group’s booth at NAMM will notice how most of the floor space was dedicated to the DeepMind 12, with plenty of them set up for all to try. That said, it was still tough to get a few minutes alone with one, as everyone passing by had to see what it was all about.
And what it’s all about is everything we loved about synths back in the day, brought forward into a modern shell. It does look a lot like a modernised Roland Juno, and in many ways it sounds like that too, but there’s a lot more going on with it. Take into account the growing repertoire of brands that the Music Group has under its wings and you’ll see how designs like TC Electronic delays and Klark Teknik EQs are included for an even bigger sound with Midas engineering behind the scenes.
There were of, course, all manner of weird and wonderful synthesisers on show. One that caught my attention was the prototype Vox Continental keyboard, alongside some prototype AC amps made in the UK. Not readily known for their work in the keyboard market, it will be interesting to see if anything comes of this big red keyboard.
There were untold numbers of modular synth companies showing new devices, modules, cases and complete systems. These were a tweaker’s dream with patch cable and control knobs all over the place. With the Eurorack system becoming more popular, it was great to see the release of new modules from companies like Intellijel and Pittsburgh Audio. But for lovers of Eurorack systems, I think Waldorf had the best release of the year with their new KB37 Eurorack keyboard. It brings a Eurorack system into a keyboard housing, allowing you to mix and match to build the synth that suits you with the ease of a keyboard, mod wheel, bend and other functions. This unit is going to make Eurorack systems far more manageable for a greater user group and is really one to watch out for over the next few years.
TAKING BACK ANALOGUE
With their continued push into reinventing analogue synths all over again, there were a number of delights on show from Korg. Notably, the full sized ARP Odyssey looked and felt so much tougher than their previously released compact edition. But it wasn’t all about upscaling, as the Monologue seemed to be less popular than the newly released Minilogue analogue synth. It’s now available in a range of colours and has much of what’s under the hood of its bigger counterpart, but in a more compact casing and with a simplified workflow. Whilst some brands are pushing further with digital and iOS systems, Korg is proving that analogue still has a very important place in today’s synth market.
What started with a pocket sized ribbon synth in the Monotron a number of years back has seen a full blown analogue revival from the designers at Korg and has had many other manufacturers follow suit. So there was little surprise that the Moog booth was getting plenty of attention too. But at Moog this year it was more about remembering the pioneers and looking to future inspiration that saw them attracting attention with queues of people lining up to try their luck at winning a prize and sharing in synthesiser history.