Anaheim, Calif. – This past weekend (Jan. 24-27), DJ Times set out on its annual new-gear quest by hitting the Winter NAMM exhibit floor of the Anaheim Convention Center. Along with editor Jim Tremayne, I join a crowd of registered NAMM attendees that swelled to more than 115,000, according to show organizers. Amid a showfloor that displayed every kind of product sold in an M.I. retail store – musical instruments, pro-audio systems, lighting gear, etc. – we were there to see new product debuts that might impact the DJ industry.
I recall coming away from the 2018 show with the sense that “we’re currently between major innovation cycles with music technology,” to quote myself from last year’s retrospective, and my reaction this year was somewhat more dramatic: The show didn’t offer too much more for DJs that was particularly revolutionary or innovative. Lots of imitative, “me-too” products – column-array PA systems come to mind – but nothing truly earth-shattering or fully mind-expanding.
That doesn’t mean these past few days were completely devoid of interest. On the contrary, we did find some extremely useful new products for club jocks, mobile entertainers and home-studio hounds. So here are my show picks – a dozen hot products that, in my mind, stood out from the rest:
- Germany’s Native Instruments kept its recent momentum going, showing off both its new Traktor DJ 2 — an entry-level version of its flagship DJ software, coming soon to iPad, as well as Macs and Windows PCs. The recently released Traktor Kontrol S2 controller works not only with the new Traktor Pro 3, but it works with all flavors of Traktor DJ 2, including the iPad version. The Berlin-based company also showed affordable new digital computer audio interfaces, and a nifty portable MIDI keyboard called the M32, among other things.
- Denon DJ, an inMusic brand, made waves with its new Prime 4 all-in-one DJ controller. To say that the Cumberland, R.I.-based company explored the notion of a DJ controller on steroids would probably be an understatement. I’m pretty sure it hits every logical DJ use case, and none of it requires a computer. For your music library, the unit even includes a 2.5-inch hard-disk drive bay, along with a large multi-touch display. It’s sort of like the Denon DJ MCX8000 controller, an X1800 Prime mixer, and a pair of SC5000 media players mashed together into something greater than the sum of its parts. Look for the full review soon in DJ Times.
- Battery-powered PAs seem to be a thing these days, with Adam Hall Group’s LD Systems showing the Maui 5 Go, and Canada’s Yorkville Sound showing the EXM Mobile 12. The two offerings carve out different niches, but the idea of having decent-sounding satellite PA speakers for mobile gigs without the need for power cables does have a certain appeal, as proximity to power outlets no longer needs to dictate speaker placement.
- Roland Corporation talked up the integration of its hardware units, such as the TR8-S drum synth, with Serato DJ. The L.A.-based company’s higher-end DJ controllers uniquely have integrated drum machines, allowing unique performance capabilities, and now they’re bringing that ability to DJs who prefer other control methods, such as DVS.
- At NAMM, the Baton Rouge, La.-based PreSonus threw some muscle behind the adoption of USB-C with its new Studio USB-C series of audio interfaces. Virtually identical to its existing Studio series, apart from the support for the latest connectivity standard, they come with pretty attractive price points, and are ready to work with the latest-generation MacBook Pros, iMacs, and indeed any computer sporting USB-C ports.
- Germany’s Bitwig showed Bitwig 3, its latest iteration of the DAW platform, coming later this year. The big news? An integrated modular-synth construction set. Similar in some ways to Native Instruments’ Reaktor or Cycling ’74’s Max, it offers some advantages by being integrated into the DAW itself, and brings some unique sound design capabilities to the fore. We’ll do a closer look soon.
- On the accessories front, San Gabriel, Calif.-based Odyssey Innovative Designs debuted its DJ Z Stand, a portable, easy-to-set-up workstation for mobile DJs. It provides a ton of workspace with a multi-tier design, and folds down into a compact roller-case form factor. Supporting up to 200 pounds of gear and with great space for signage, this stand feels like a must-have accessory for mobile jocks.
- Finally… I’ve often worn high-fidelity, volume-reducing earplugs under my cans when DJing in loud environments like clubs. When the headphones go to my neck, it’s always seemed like a smart step for hearing protection. The problem? They haven’t fit well under headphones. No longer. Belgium’s Loop was showing Earplugs for Music. Designed primarily for club- and concert-goers, they have a unique, low-profile flush design, and are super-comfortable alone — or under the DJ cans — and provide 20 dB of reduction in sound level.
So, interesting things to be sure, and many of the vendors we spoke with hinted at some exciting things coming during 2019. I’m anxious to see how the balance of evolution vs. revolution plays out between now and Winter NAMM 2020. See you next year, Anaheim.