Highlights From NAMM 2012
In my first blog on my new website, I want to share some of the cool musical instruments, software and pro audio products that I saw at the most recent NAMM show. NAMM is always a busy and somewhat crazy 4 days. It is a chance for music manufacturers, musicians, and fans to all come together at the Anaheim Convention Center in what seems like the ”largest music store on earth.”
But first, I want to congratulate my friend Steve Vai on receiving the prestigious Les Paul award this year. Steve is one of the best guitarists and musicians I have ever had the pleasure of working with and the award is well-deserved. Well done Steve…
I’m going to break down what I saw at NAMM in 6 main categories: Keyboards, Guitars, Pro Audio, Microphones, Software and FX pedals.
Without a doubt the coolest keyboard/workstation I saw at the show was the Korg Kronos. In terms of sounds, keyboard action, user-friendly interface, power, flexibility and built-in FX the KRONOS sets the bar in keyboard workstations. I will definitely be using a Kronos 73-key onstage as soon as I can wrangle one for myself.
KORG SV-1 (Black Limited Edition)
The Gigging Keyboardist’s Dream Machine!
I loved the SV-1 when it first came out a couple years ago, but now with this reverse keyboard color scheme limited edition model, it’s dead sexy. It reminds me of the old Vox Continental organ from the 60′s. Is that an Animals song I hear playing in the background?
The Korg SV-1 73 is the gigging piano you’ve been wanting. Inside, you’ve got the most in-demand keyboard sounds ever found on a single instrument – we’re talking decades of essential analog and digital legends, plus all the modern mainstays. The SV-1 73 also has Korg’s finest weighted keyboard, so you can play with expression. To fine tune your sound, just steer your tone using the hands-on knobs on the front panel. Amp models, effects, and a hot vintage look take this Korg SV-1 73 over the top.
Muse Research Receptor 2+ Pro Max
“Receptor has changed the way I make live music. If you play keyboards, you want a Receptor.” - Brett Tuggle (Keyboards), Fleetwood Mac
It’s always exciting to stop by the Muse Research booth and catch up with my friend Bryan Lanser. I was excited to see a new OS 2.0 release for my Receptor 2+ Pro Max. The new operating system features an incredibly simple user interface and the introduction of SoundFinder for organizing and navigating presets. In a nutshell, Receptor lets me use all of my cool “virtual instrument” plug-ins live onstage. That’s because Receptor is the computer with it’s own 64 bit CPU and hard drive. Essentially, it’s the hardware, software, sampler and FX processor all in one 3 rack space unit. What! In my home studio I hook up a VGA monitor to the Receptor and viola, all the libraries, presets and editing functions come up on the big screen. Too cool…
Whether I’m on tour with Fleetwood Mac or in the studio doing a session, my Receptor 2+ Pro Max is always with me at my gig.
Having had some hands-on experience with Novation’s SL MK2 series MIDI controller, I was pleasantly surprised to see their new USB/MIDI controlled keyboard called the Impulse. It features a precision keyboard, full DAW/plug-in control surface, Automap 4 control software, multi-function drum pads and large LCD display. This thing is tough and ready for the road. I’m taking one out on my next tour.
Infinite Response VAX 77 Portable Keyboard
OK, finally a full-size portable folding keyboard! Yes that’s right… a “folding keyboard.” For all you keyboard playing road warriors the VAX 77 weighs in at about 32 lbs, folds in half, and with an optional flight case, travels as standard luggage. It doesn’t have any internal sounds but as a controller it plays like a dream and armed with this keyboard and a laptop, you’re ready to play a gig anywhere with no huffing and puffing.
QSC K10 Active Loudspeakers
Finally! Active speakers that don’t sound “mushy” when I crank the low end. I was so impressed after “A/B”-ing every brand out there that I immediatly jumped on a pair of K10′s as my main keyboard monitors. I chose the K10′s based on sound, features, ruggedness and portability. The K12′s obviously push a little more bottom, but the K10′s are a little easier for me to handle around town while still giving me enough volume to keep up with the guitars onstage. These babies are 1000 watts of pure joy. I’ll never tour without my K10′s…
Did I mention the XLR mic input in the back? Great for having your own vocal “hot spot” right next to you. Go get a pair for yourself. You won’t be sorry.
TheGigEasy Mount for IPad
It’s the little things like TheGigEasy that make your world so much more convenient when doing gigs. No more lugging around a music stand with a backlight again. I’ve put all of my music charts and lyrics on my iPad as PDF files and “I’m never going back again…” With the optional AirTurn, a wireless pedal board (it’s Bluetooth enabled), page turning is hands-free.
The Taylor booth was hopping as usual this year. There was a good mix of live entertainment and products to keep any acoustic guitar player enthralled.
I’ve long been a Taylor acoustic fan never going on tour without my trusty 814ce’s so I expected the acoustic line to be top notch but I was pleasantly surprised by Taylor’s newer line of electric solid body guitars. Taylor offers some very versatile pick up configurations and all the solid bodys were very nice to play and have a build quality that exudes Taylor’s high standard for consistency, sound and aesthetics. Thank you Bob Taylor!
Fender Road Worn 60′s Stratocaster
The Road Worn series Strats and Tele’s prove you don’t have to spend a lot on a vintage guitar to get all the benefits and cool factor. These babies look and play great. Don’t let the price or the fact they’re made in Mexico fool you. These are some great guitars!
Voyage-Air Travel Guitar
This company makes an acoustic and an electric “folding” travel guitar. Finally a travel guitar that looks, plays, feels and sounds like a real guitar because they ARE “real” guitars. I’m getting an acoustic for the tour bus and an electric for my “in town” gigs and fly dates. They’re made here in the US and you definately need to check them out.
Gibson/Tronical Firebird X (Robot Guitar)
For the past few years at NAMM whenever I visited the Gibson booth I have been drawn to a guitar that has been in development for several years. It’s a robot guitar called Firebird X (formerly known as Dark Fire), the brainchild of German guitarist/engineer Chris Adams. I’m happy to report that the Firebird X is up and functioning like a champ. It performs feats that we could only dream of back in the day. It auto tunes your guitar and has a gambit of guitar tunings stored in presets with the ability to store your own custom tunings. The guitar also features mind-blowing built in fx. Where was this guitar when I was on tour with Jimmy Page?
Tronical is also making a tuning system for acoustic guitars which I am very excited about. Can’t wait to put a set of their proprietary tuners on one of my Taylor 814′s. Chris showed me how simple they were to install, by just replacing the original tuning pegs.
UA Apollo Audio Interface
If I could have walked out of NAMM with just one piece of pro audio gear it would have been Universal Audio’s Apollo:
Apollo is a high-resolution professional audio interface with superior sound quality and Realtime UAD Processing onboard. It features built-in UAD-2 DSP Acceleration, which allows Apollo to track, mix, and master with UA’s full library of award-winning UAD-2 Powered Plug-Ins with nearly instant sub-2ms latency. Apollo connects to the computer via FireWire 800, and also has Thunderbolt connectivity via the Thunderbolt Option Card.
Apollo has 8 total analog inputs — 4 digitally controlled analog mic preamps, 8 balanced line inputs, and 2 front-panel JFET DIs. It has 14 total analog outputs – 8 balanced line outs, 2 digitally-controlled analog monitor outs, and 2 dedicated stereo headphone outs. In terms of digital I/O, Apollo has 8 channels of ADAT S/MUX, 2 channels of S/PDIF, and Word Clock I/O with an input.
Apollo ships with the Analog Classics Plug-In Bundle. You will also have access to fully functioning 14-day demos for all UAD Powered Plug-Ins.
Sign me up!
API 1608 console
Here it is… the best sounding little recording console on the planet! My son Matt Tuggle is the proud owner of this console and I definitely have it on my wish list along with a lunchbox of 512 mic pre’s. Check it out…
Building on API’s rich heritage of extremely high quality recording consoles, they introduced the new Model 1608, a full featured small format recording console based on the vintage API 1604 console, which has held its demand and value for over three decades. The 1608 gives all of the advantages of the 1604 Vintage Consoles while adding new, modern features valuable to today’s engineers, producers and musicians.
- 16 Input Channels each with Mic Pre and Equalizer
- Accepts API 500 Series Equalizers
- 8 Main Buses
- 8 Auxiliary Buses
- 1 Stereo Bus
- 8 Echo Returns with main and stereo bus assign
- Full Center Section Control
- Analogue Metering
- 5.1 Center Section Monitoring
- Comprehensive Rear Patch Connections
- The 1608 is built to the same exacting API build standards as our Vision consoles, Legacy consoles, and modular products.
- The standard fit of a 1608 Console is:
- 16 548B Inputs with Mic/Line and Direct Output
- 12 550A Equalizers
- 4 560 Equalizers
- 8 Echo Returns
- 1 Complete Center Facilities Section
- 16 Manual Faders
- 1 Stereo Fader
PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2 Digital Mixing Console
Huge bang for the buck! The 24-channel StudioLive 24.4.2 blurs the line between analog and digital, while packing a staggering amount of functionality into an easy-to-use digital mixing platform. Take this potent all-in-one machine to the gig and use its built-in effects and the PreSonus-exclusive “Fat Channel” to manage your sound. Want to record the show? Just plug the StudioLive 24.4.2 in to any FireWire-equipped computer, and you’re ready to go. The StudioLive 24.4.2 even simplifies the recording process, thanks to its included Capture software for dependable live sound recording and included Studio One Artist DAW software for polishing and producing your tracks after you’ve recorded them! This mixer does it all.
Genelec 8030A Studio Monitors
Genelec has long been one of the industry’s highest rated studio monitors. I’ve always loved the way my keyboards sound coming back through a pair of Genelec powered speakers. I was really happy to see them showing their new 8030A bi-amplified monitors that would be perfect for a small studio/workstation or remote studio setup. These things are small but mighty!
There are so many microphone companies now it’s almost too much for the mind to process. I have learned that just like guitars, basses, keyboards, drums or any other musical instrument, microphones all have their own unique personality and voice, and can either be transparent and don’t add any color to the sound source, or not transparent at all and add a definite color and character to the sound. The more I see, hear, and learn about microphones the more I want to build a huge mic locker and fill it up with all the makes and models of mics past and present.
I stopped by the Pearlman Microphones booth and was pleased to meet and chat with Dave Pearlman, the owner of the company, and was surprised to learn that David was the pedal steel player for Dan Folgerberg’s band Foolsgold, who I was a huge fan of. Today I’m a huge fan of his microphone line. Check it out…
The Pearlman TM 1 Microphone was designed by and is hand made by Dave Pearlman of Rotund Rascal Recording Studio. It is a high quality microphone made for professional studio use but priced for the home recordist. Many studios using digital recording (Pro Tools, etc.) need a front end system to warm up their recordings. This mic is for you!
This is NOT an assembly line microphone; each unit is hand-wired, point to point, and voltage tuned for maximum performance. The microphones were originally built to fill the need for more high quality tube microphones and are now in demand by everyone who has heard them. If you’re looking for a tube microphone with characteristics similar to the venerable Neumann U47 but at a tenth of the cost, then you will love this mic.
Marshall Electronics, MXL Microphones
Another mic caught my eye at the show this year. As I was walking by the MXL microphone booth I noticed they had a mic hooked up to an Apple iPad with GarageBand for iPad up and running. I recently got an iPad2 and am loving it and always looking for ways to use it as a musical scketch pad. Enter MXL’s Tempo USB condenser microphone. The Tempo is the perfect on-the-go mic for my iPad providing crisp, clean CD-quality recordings that capture my musical moments while traveling on tour or just hanging out at home with my iPad. This is a must have if you own an iPad.
MXL has gained a lot of credibility over the past several years and I am anxious to try out their LSC-1 handheld condenser mic as an alternative to my Sure Beta SM 58 for live shows.
Other noteworthy microphones I liked at the show:
- Miktek CV4 tube condenser, C7 FET condenser & C5 pencil condenser models
- Miktek PM10 and PM11 (drums)
KEL mics are designed to sound different, yet full and musical. From balanced and unhyped, to thick and meaty, they actually provide a useful contrast to mics you probably already have.
- HM7U (classic K47-type capsule)
- The Song Sparrow (open top end)
- HM2D (worlds only condenser designed to sound like a high-quality diaphragm)
- HM3C (flat and natural sounding)
- HM-1x (room and drum overhead mic)
Avid Pro Tools 10
Pro Tools is by all means the industry standard in digital recording. Every recording project I have done in the last 20 years (including Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, and Lindsey Buckingham) have all used Pro Tools to record and edit. Who misses tape? OK, don’t throw things at me… but I can’t imagine recording without it. There are many imitators but only one Pro Tools. Just sayin’.
Since Avid introduced version 9 and the ability to use other manufacturers’ hardware, the game has changed. Version 10 steps it up with even more features and a rock solid interface. I’m definitely hooked….
AVID Eleven Rack
The AVID booth was abuzz this year and I just happend to catch Artist Relations Manager Anthony Gordon holding a Q&A with producer Noah “40″ Shebib which provided some enlightening insight into how Noah worked with Pro Tools in the studio. Along with Pro Tools 10, AVID was also showing all three of their new HD interfaces (HD I/O, HD Omni, and HD MADI) as well as the new line of MBox interfaces. The sound quality of all of the new hardware is quite impressive.
As a guitar player, though, I took another hard look at AVID’s Eleven Rack. Although not a “new” product, to me it’s still the best “no brainer” guitar recording audio interface out there. The realism of the amp models is just stunning, and that means I can spend more time recording my guitar parts and less time setting up different mics and guitar amps. There are just so many useful sounds in this thing. There is even an Eleven Rack “Expansion Pack” to add even more sounds and tonal options like bass amp models and studio-quality vocal effects.
As I mentioned above, we have long used Pro Tools to record and edit music with Fleetwood Mac. Most recently, Lindsey Buckingham’s “Songs From The Small Machine” (the latest live DVD from the Seeds We Sow tour) was mixed entirely in Pro Tools at Lindsey’s home studio.
IZotope Nectar Complete Vocal Suite
“Every time I bring up Nectar I am amazed at how fast I can get a great vocal sound. Tweaking a preset that already rocks is so fast and so gratifying. This is a must have piece of software for vocals.” - Brett Tuggle
I meant every word. Nectar is a complete set of 11 vocal production effects combined in one plug-in that’s designed to give you immediate results. Built-in “styles” get the grunt work out of the way so you can focus on the creative finishing touches. Features include automatic pitch correction, manual note editor, breath control, gate, compressors, saturation, EQ, de-esser, doubler, limiter, reverb, delay and tons of built-in Style presets. Nectar enables you to quickly get the 60s Motown sound, the early 90s grunge rock sound, a radio-ready podcasting sound, a subtle jazz vocal or a modern pop sound — everything from delicate improvements to highly-produced robotic pitch effects.
“If you’re looking for a DAW that does it all, look no further than MOTU’s DP8. MOTU’s hardware is also top notch; I use several different MOTU audio and MIDI interfaces in the studio and for live performance. Their build quality is extremely solid and reliable. I never do a tour without MOTU.” – Brett Tuggle
One of my favorite demos to catch every year at NAMM is by Dave Roberts of MOTU. Dave explains the latest MOTU software and hardware with detail and enthusiasm. This year, MOTU debuted the latest release of their award-winning audio/MIDI software DP8 (which now works with Windows). DP has long been my personal favorite audio workstation software for studio and live touring because of its elegant and seemless way of working with both audio and MIDI together. DP is also hands down the best DAW if you’re doing film or TV. It has come a long way since I first used the original “Performer” software to write the song “Just Like Paradise” with David Lee Roth back in the early days of sequencing.
Digital Performer® lets you record, edit, arrange, mix, process and master audio and MIDI tracks side by side for songwriting, studio production, live performance, film and television sound tracks, audio post production, surround mixing and other professional audio production tasks.
Guitar/Bass/Keyboard FX pedals
I know it may sound like a pitch but honestly, I never do any gig anywhere with out my MEGAWAH by Gig-FX. It’s the only stereo wah out there that I know of and it sounds killer and is built like a tank. I also use the Chopper for some amazing effects and the new stereo delay pedal is nothing short of spectacular. You don’t have to throw your old favorite delay pedal away, just add this delay to your rig for those moments when you want to create a sonic delay scape that will leave the audience mesmerized. I also really like the VOD overdrive pedal. The all analog circuitry is warm and pleasant sounding. It’s an extremely versatile pedal and I love the eq’s sound and flexibility. Check out the entire Gig-FX line at Gig-FX.
Well NAMM-sters, see you next year and remember there is no “talent” button on any piece of gear. As musicians, we get inspired by playing a great sounding instrument and with today’s technologies and powerful DAW’s we are able to create, record and edit music like never before… but remember: it really comes down to the song and the performance. Keep playing…
Love to all,
gear, keyboards, namm, reviews, software