Continuing with the NAMM 2017 theme that this issue has obviously taken, it wouldn’t be a home studio discussion at the start of the year without looking at some of the new and exciting products that were on show in Anaheim. There were plenty of amazing toys on show this year for those of you with a love for expensive, vintage-styled microphone preamps and valve compressors. I could have filled a studio with all the gear that I couldn’t afford and generally needed to wipe the drool from my chin at the end of each day. But, aside from the delights of equipment that is possibly unrealistic for my actual needs, there was plenty to see that would be of use and most importantly, within budget.
I think the first product that I have to mention was probably one of the worst kept secrets of this year’s show, with dealers already taking possession of stock before the announcement on Thursday morning. But, it was also one of the more noteworthy ones as Universal Audio unveiled the latest three additions to their Apollo range with the blackface Apollo Twin Mk II. This desktop interface brings UA’s Apollo range all in line with up to date preamps and conversion and allows it to integrate fully with the already available blackface Apollo rack units that have proven the quality of the new preamps. What this means is that those of you running larger rack systems can bring the Twin into the mix for smaller projects, yet still have it operate as a desktop controller and extra inputs in your bigger sessions. For home users looking for an interface upgrade, the new Apollo Twin offers Solo, Duo or Quad core options for UAD plugin processing in real-time in both the recording and mixing stages of creating your masterpiece.
THE TEENS DO IT AGAIN
The guys at Teenage Engineering certainly attracted a lot of attention this year with only a very small offering. But, as with all their products, size rarely matters; it’s about the cool factor, along with form and function. The release of the new OP-Z had a few people asking where the product was, as this miniature unit is about half the size of their ever popular OP-1 synthesiser, yet it boasts far more power and flexibility. This 16 track sequencer and synth engine has been labelled the ‘dream machine’ from a company that loves Helvetica and refuses to use capital letters in press releases, or websites or product sheets. For those of us that got a look in early, it is everything that a Teenage Engineering device promises and more. It is small, it does look like a toy, it won’t make you feel tough, but it does sound amazing. So, this is one to be on the lookout for later in the year, with this early showing really just a tease. A September release for the OP-Z has been announced at this point, so you’ll just have to make do with the Pocket Operators or try to find an OP-1 for sale in the meantime.
AKAI KEEP AT IT
It has been around 20 years since I first laid hands on an Akai MPC, and although revolutionary, the S1000 was too heavy to take anywhere and too painful to sequence. A lot has happened in those twenty years and Akai have grown the MPC range from strength to strength, moving into the computer audio world with their legendary product to give it even more power and control than the earlier models could ever have. So, it was great to see two new MPC models on show this year with the MPC Live and MPC X both turning a few heads. These units are a throwback to the MPCs of old, returning to a fully functioning standalone unit that no longer requires a computer to act as an engine. Akai did something that many manufacturers couldn’t deliver this year at NAMM and gave us freedom from our computers. Of course, you can still harness the power of your computer DAW and plugins with the MPC standalone models, but to be able to create, product and perform with these without a reliance on a hard drive and operating system in a laptop is going to be a great pleasure for many users.
Of course, these are but just a few of the great new releases on show this year. Presonus were showcasing their new Faderport 8 controller, Roland had a room of new toys and even Steinberg were not left out with a range of plug-in updates. I could fill the magazine several times over writing about the cool new products that we saw. So, unfortunately you’ll have to keep your eye on your local music stores for the new products as they begin to hit the shelves throughout the year.