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Anaheim, Calif. – For kids making the trek to Anaheim, Disneyland and everything it offers may well be the thing dreams are made of.

But, for musicians and DJs of all stripes, the call of Anaheim each January is the Winter NAMM Show—the world’s largest trade-focused music-gear show—and what you find there is not just what dreams are made of, but what careers and hobbies of millions depend on.

This past Jan. 21-24, DJ Times attended Winter NAMM—and working the show as a journalist feels a lot like clam-digging. On the surface, you find aisle after aisle of the usual stuff, but if you dig a bit, you might stumble upon a juicy morsel or two, or even upon the Next Big Thing. I’m not sure I necessarily found any Next Big Things this year, but there’s still a lot of goodies in the pipeline for DJs and producers that are (or soon will be) at your local music retailer. For me, some of the highlights include:

  • Denon DJ MCX8000. DJ controllers are increasingly aiming to free the DJ from the laptop computer to one extent or another, and Denon DJ’s new MCX8000 takes it to a new level. While functioning as a fully capable Serato controller with a laptop attached, you can move crates and content to USB devices, and disconnect the laptop completely while still maintaining visual interface with the whole experience via two on-board displays. Or, go hybrid, freely moving between Serato content, USB content, or off-board CDJs or turntables with four channels of flexibility. Expected availability is Spring 2016.
  • Ultimate Ears Pro. I reviewed UE’s custom-fitted in-ear monitors (IEMs) for DJ Times awhile back, but the company has been working to broaden the availability of custom IEMs while eliminating the cost and hassle of having molds taken by an audiologist. Previewed last year, the company is moving ahead with an exclusive 3D scanning solution and certification program, enabling music retailers to sell the products, while scanning customer’s ears in the field, in lieu of audiologist molding. The custom-made monitors offer the same custom fit and great sound without the hassle. Rolling out this year.
  • Dave Smith Instruments OB-6. On the heels of last year’s successful Prophet-6 analog synthesizer, Dave Smith has partnered with friend and fellow synth legend Tom Oberheim to create the new OB-6 analog synth. Built on the foundation of the Prophet-6, the OB-6 follows similar goals to a slightly different end result: The recreation of the classic Oberheim SEM sound. With the same size, weight and key count of the Prophet-6, but with new sound modules and model-specific controls, aficionados can revisit a whole new take on its specific flavor of classic analog sound. Available in March.

    OB-6: Synth legends team up.
    OB-6: Synth legends team up.
  • Zoom ARQ Aero RhythmTrak. Zoom was showing its new ARQ, which is, candidly, a bit hard to describe. It’s a drum machine, MIDI controller, and sequencer with an unusual twist; the device has an 11-inch diameter tubular ring that detaches from a base in which it normally snaps into. The ring is a controller with accelerometers that allow its movement to be tracked and converted to MIDI control messages. In addition, the ring is illuminated with dozens of RGB LEDs to show drum patterns or other visual feedback, and they also act as buttons to program or control capabilities. I give Zoom credit for some serious out-of-the-box thinking on this one; targeted to be in-store in April.
  • ROLI Seaboard RISE. Another example of out-of-the-box design thinking comes from ROLI. Last year the company was showing its Seaboard GRAND, and they built on that base with the RISE. Offered in 25- and 49-key models, the aim of these MIDI keyboard controllers is to improve expression options. The soft, squishy keys provide five different touch controls: pressing down, sideways movement, sliding up and down, and lift. Solidly constructed and truly innovative in design, it’ll be interesting to see where musicians take this new spin on the classic keyboard. Both models are shipping now.
  • ADJ Airstream DMX Bridge. Running XLR cables everywhere for total lighting control may be a thing of the past thanks to ADJ’s new solution. The Airstream DMX Bridge creates a private WiFi network that allows you to integrate a sophisticated iPad app with ADJ’s own so-called “WiFLY” compatible lighting fixtures for complete, app-driven creative control. The app takes ease of use to a new level, letting DJs program movement patterns with a fingertip, while delivering very fine-grained configuration options. Conventional wired DMX fixtures can be controlled as well through the unit’s on-board XLR connector. Available now.

    Airstream DMX Bridge: ADJ lighting control.
    Airstream DMX Bridge: ADJ lighting control.
  • Apple’s Music Software Refreshes. While Apple wasn’t exhibiting at NAMM, DJ Times did have a chance to sit down with Apple’s music software team during the show to see what the company has been up to. New is Music Memos, an iOS app designed to quickly record musical ideas that can then be leveraged in GarageBand (on iOS or OS X), or in Logic Pro (on OS X). While tailored for sketching musical ideas with guitar or keyboard with chord and tempo detection, it can be used in a number of different ways. Updates to GarageBand for iOS bring loop-based composition to the product along with new plugin support, while Logic updates bring new synth and drum programming capabilities, along with myriad other improvements. Available now.

We also had a look at some great new music learning tools, updates to DJ controllers and decks, updates to music plug-ins, new softsynths, updated PA options for mobile jocks, new mics, new lighting options for DJs, and much more—all of which should make for a busy year of product reviews for me and the rest of the DJ Times team. So, stay tuned for all the details in the months ahead.

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