The annual National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Show is one of the world’s largest showcases of new music gear from manufacturers around the world, taking in every facet of playing, performing and recording. NAMM itself was founded in 1901, originally to give America’s piano manufacturers a united voice; it now represents around 15,000 global manufacturers.
This year’s NAMM – held in Anaheim, California – showcased the usual broad sweep of introspection and innovation. In a world where bedroom producers can become international megastars, every instrument, no matter how humble, comes freighted with untapped potential. Here’s what caught our ears this year.
Our pick of musical innovations at 2024 NAMM Show
Yamaha Seqtrak Music Production Studio
Expect to see this delightful little device surface in multiple creative studios and set-ups. Stealing a march on Teenage Engineering’s minimal, retro style, the new Yamaha Seqtrak was the surprise of the show, an all-in-one ‘Music Production Studio’ that combines a drum machine, synth engine, sampling and sequencing in a compact, stylish brick, complete with onboard batteries, speaker and microphone. Newcomers to Yamaha’s approach will have a learning curve, and it helps to have the app at hand for a more visually-led approach to getting down ideas.
Korg KR-11 Drum Machine
Another compact, easily pocketable device, Korg’s KR-11 is a simple, no-nonsense drum machine, a modern metronome for musicians to use as a practice tool. The addition of a full set of performance pads makes this slightly different from the norm, and you can also edit and create your own patterns. An optional foot pedal can start and stop the beat, while the overall aesthetic is in line with Korg’s range of compact, affordable synths.
Taylor Circa 74 Amplifier
Taylor’s Circa 74 is a new vocal and acoustic guitar amplifier with a richly crafted mahogany case, leather handle and wooden stand, as well as sufficient power (150 watts) for small gigs. Although it has a vintage feel, with controls that are stripped back to the bare minimum, there’s also onboard Bluetooth so you can stream backing tracks.
Redshift 6 by Supercritical Synthesizers
Supercritical Synthesizers announced its Redshift 6 at NAMM, a new analogue synthesizer with a distinct visual look and six independent voices. Combining rich analogue filters with digital effects and signal processing, the Redshift 6 is a flexible tool for generating a vast spectrum of sound. Shipping is expected to start in summer 2024.
Suzuki Omnichord OM-108
It’s 70 years since Suzuki Musical Instruments was founded and 43 years since it released its first Omnichord. This weird hybrid of traditional form factor with schlocky 1980s synth and drum sounds and brown colourway has become a cult classic, not least for its belated success in the hands of contemporary musicians, most notably Damon Albarn.
To celebrate seven decades, the Japanese company is relaunching the instrument, adding it to an eclectic product line-up that includes harmonicas, melodions and traditional Japanese instruments. The Omnichord’s innovation was the ‘strumplate’, an expressive surface that allows non-musicians to trigger preset chords via an array of buttons. MIDI out, new sounds and new chords will be added to the original feature set.
Suzuki Omnichord OM-108, more information at Suzuki-Music.co.jp
VOX APC-1 Travel Guitar
Another example of modern tech shoehorned into a retro form, the VOX APC-1 is a new travel guitar from the iconic manufacturer with its roots in 1950s rock’n’roll culture in South London. Now part of Korg, VOX has doubled down on the 1950s and 1960s aesthetic that made its name in both amplification and guitars. The new APC-1 draws visual inspiration from classic VOX designs like the ‘Teardrop’ and the Phantom, as well as incorporating onboard effects (as seen on the Phantom), a speaker and even a drum machine.
Korg Handytraxx Play
The Korg Handytraxx Play is a feature-rich portable record player, one of a cavalcade of new products from the Japanese manufacturer and its subsidiaries. The Handytraxx Play is intended as a quick and dirty way of getting sounds from vinyl into a sampler, with support for 78rpm records, onboard loop and scratch functions, delay and filter. It’s only a prototype for now, and draws heavily on the original Vestax Handy Trax player, a cult object for DJs.
Zoom Essential Series Handy Recorders
Zoom has rejigged its hugely popular range of ‘H’-series handheld multitrack recorders. The key innovation is the introduction of 32-bit float recording, which effectively takes care of big changes in audio levels by vastly expanding the dynamic range of the signal it can capture. Deployed correctly, it means you’ll never encounter distortion (clipping) or unusable audio – everything can be fixed in post-production. For field recordings, concerts and interviews on the go, the H4 Essential (along with the new H1 Essential and H6 Essential) vastly expands your options.
Korg microKORG2 Synthesizer
Finally, another new product from Korg. The new microKORG 2 is an update of the all-time favourite microKORG, introduced in 2002 and still a strong seller today. Combining a synth engine with Vocoder effects, it’s proved popular with everyone from the Prodigy to Tame Impala and LCD Soundsystem. The most notable enhancement is a 2.8-inch colour screen, along with a looper, more effects and much more flexibility.
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Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.
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