every year i can’t wait for winter namm to see all the new toys that come out. this year was no exception until products started getting announced. for the first time i’m struggling to be excited. i’ve seen it coming, but the infiltration of the iOS into music hardware has reached critical mass. its understandable why so many companies are headed this way. instantly you can add a touchscreen interface to your device without having to write an os to support it, and likely even more importantly, having to manufacture it and hold inventory hoping the market buys it all. its a huge win from their point of view, but i can’t help but see this as a huge loss for us the consumers
its quite troubling though that so many are putting all their bets on apple; a company who is starting to wane from the professional market more and more each year and shifting its focus to consumers. just ask bunim/murray when it comes to video production. additionally arstechnica has a great write up on the topic, though its not all doom and gloom. from my perspective apple has a pretty good track record of EOL’ing things a little earlier than it should (the current march towards ending cdrom/dvd drives in machines), backtracking on former support statements (support for older hardware), and failing to deliver as promised (core midi and audio support in OS X).
now these could be debated, and to a degree some are more anecdotal to my own experience using macs for 20+ years. however i can’t help but think that by buying in to iOS, all these new devices that require one to operate are essentially disposable. think about how quickly after the iPad came out that the iPad 2 was released. what happens when the iPad 3 is released? what happens when the form factor changes and it can no longer dock with these new devices requiring one?
then there are iOS updates, which have moved to being over the air (OTA). what was the last OS X update that didn’t break a wide range of hardware on its initial release? most software manufactures advice against updating to the latest release when it first comes out. what happens when on your way to a gig your iPad gets an OTA and it renders your gear unusable? granted their updates aren’t super frequent, but it still is a risk you don’t have when using non-iOS gear. then there’s the notifications. there you are on stage jamming out and you get an email/twitter/facebook/whatever notification and it ends up on the house PA system. frankly i can’t wait to see all the problems that surface as a result of the marriage between disposable consumer electronics and professional gear. maybe the point is to get that “reoccurring” revenue for their hardware just like apple does.
all this aside, the biggest loss i see for us professionals is the stability. i have never had any of my hardware synths, samplers, effects processors, etc crash on me. some people have experienced it, but those cases are few and far between, and are usually more to do with overheating or power supplies dying.
there are a few new items shown at namm this year that are worth mentioning though:
Arturia’s MiniBrute : the MiniBrute is hands down the best thing released at this year’s namm. 100% fully analog synth. the approach to additive synthesis is great, not to mention the cv out with built in midi to cv converter, audio in that routes through the filter section, and a price tag of $499?!?!? yeah hands down this is just awesome. starts shipping in april (more info)
Nord Drum : it should probably come as no surprise that the virtual analog nord drum makes the list. just love the sounds coming from it, super easy interface, and a mono out makes it a perfect addition to any acoustic or midi drum kit. starts shipping in february for $499(more info)
Smithson Martin KS-1974 : this is the direction i wish all the hardware manufactures went instead of getting into bed with iOS. while not only an absolutely gorgeous piece of gear, you aren’t tied to their hardware. that’s right, you can get the software only for $499 instead of paying $2500 for the hardware. please don’t take that as a slam against the hardware as i’d pick it up in a heart beat if i didn’t already have a touchscreen as big or bigger. that said, i’ll be downloading the beta later today to play with it. (more info)
Livid’s MIDI Omni Modules : livid makes some nice hardware controllers as well as provides the parts for those looking to roll their own custom set ups. personally i’m partial to novation due to automap. now, there’s this rabbit hole known as modulars, and this is why i find these modules interesting. part of my reason of staying away from getting into modulars is that rabbit hole, but also not having a controller built into it. looks like livid might be about to cost me a lot of money. we’ll see though once details are up on their site. for now, we’ve only got the info dj tech tools received. (more info)