Anaheim, Calif. – Another January, another Winter NAMM Show moved to the done pile. As usual, I attended NAMM with DJ Times editor Jim Tremayne, meeting with vendors across the DJ and production spectrum over three of the show’s four days.
Held this past Jan. 25-28 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Orange County, Calif., Winter NAMM ’18 drew over 115,085 registrants (manufacturers, distributors, retailers and performers) and featured nearly 2,000 exhibiting companies, according to organizers. Of course, there were plenty of products debuted for the club and mobile DJs and for anyone who produces music.
As was the case at the 2017 event, I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that we’re currently between major innovation cycles with music technology — as is frankly the case with technology more broadly. Most of the new “stuff” on display could generally be considered incremental improvements over what’s on the market already, but that’s certainly not to say that a lot of it wasn’t pretty interesting and compelling indeed.
So, what over the three days caught my attention?
- Perhaps the one thing I saw that did make me think I was seeing the future came from an unlikely vendor: Survios. The company makes gaming software for the emerging VR (virtual reality) market, and it showed an early version of Electronauts VR, a virtual-reality music-making application. While targeted to gamers and music fans, I actually did wonder if I wasn’t witnessing an entirely new method of control that could eventually be applied to DJing, or more conventional music making workflows. More likely, it’s something big-name producing DJs could use to engage fans and enable them to remix tracks or enable other virtual interactions. It was, in any case, pretty cool.
- In terms of more immediately applicable innovation, Audionamix showed Xtrax Stems, a new software application that can take virtually any song as a source, and deliver three stems: the vocal, the beats, and “the rest.” Now compatible with Native Instruments’ Stems file format, the software allows remixers and DJs to easily split apart source tracks for manipulation during a performance. While the software runs locally, the actual work is offloaded to the cloud where it’s easy for Audionamix to continue to roll out improvements to their algorithms. The demoed results were pretty impressive; look for a full review soon.
- Ableton conducted private briefings and presentations on its upcoming Live 10 DAW software (due out by the time you read this). With tons of new sound content, Max 4 Live now integrated into the application, a new wavetable synth, and myriad improvements throughout, Live fans will have few reasons not to upgrade to this new version. Again, look for a full review here soon.
- A small company called Sensel demoed an interesting new control surface. It consists of a flat, metal base, onto which rubberized overlays are magnetically adhered. The overlays feature molded, multi-colored elements that the user can interact with, from conventional keyboards to multi-function controllers, all driven with touch sensitivity. With MIDI compatibility, the use cases are varied, and span various potential DJ and music creation workflows. I’m intrigued by the one-size-fits-all, modular potential of it.
- Audio-Technica has re-entered the DJ space with a new vinyl turntable, the AT-LP1240-USB XP. At least in my eyes, it’s more like some sort of military tank that happens to play records; its heft certainly makes it feel like one, in any case. Along with the turntable, A-T has introduced a couple of sharp DJ headphones and DJ phono cartridges as well.
- Native Instruments talked about its new Sounds.com subscription service. It’s rather like Spotify for samples and loops — with the exception that the material you download is yours to use within the licensing terms in perpetuity, whether you remain a subscriber or not. But to provide an incentive to stay, NI has made it remarkably easy to find new material, and it will be providing cloud storage for existing material as well.
- Rane, an inMusic brand, showed its new Twelve tonearm-less turntables and Seventy-Two mixer at NAMM. The mixer sports a touchscreen for enhanced configuration and control, while the turntables allow precise feel and control without worrying about tonearms, cartridges or media wear. Announced back at DJ Expo this past year, the goods are just about ready to ship. The company is putting finishing touches on firmware as we speak. Look for a review of both very soon.
- Germany’s Reloop, distributed stateside by American Music & Sound, showed its new controller, Touch, which pairs with Virtual DJ software. With a color touchscreen and an interesting layout, along with a design tailored specifically for Virtual DJ, it’ll be of interest to DJs looking for a turnkey solution at a decent price point.
- Speaking of controllers, Pioneer DJ showed its new DDJ-1000. While a one-piece, rekordbox-based controller, it has the equivalent of a high-end Pioneer DJ mixer on-board, along with control capabilities that borrow heavily from Pioneer’s legendary CDJ series. The net result is a pretty impressive controller that reaches for the high end of the market with its capabilities and pricing. I hope to bring you a review of this one soon as well.
- Avid showed off the latest iteration of its popular DAW, Pro Tools. With retroactive MIDI capture, MIDI editing improvements, and improvements to make it easier to get started and to work and collaborate, Pro Tools aficionados will find lots of reasons to upgrade.
- RCF showed a number of new speaker products of interest to mobile DJs, but what caught my eye was the EVOX J8 woofer + satellite system. With a similar footprint and specs to the original EVOX, this new series sports a composite cabinet with a lower weight and better portability — at a more attractive price point.
As noted above, I and my colleagues here at DJ Times will be bringing you more information and hands-on reviews of many of these new products over the course of the next few months. Until then, it’s hard to believe it’s already time to pack up the suitcase, and head back home — my brain still spinning with all the new ideas for making and performing music.