Marcos Milos ​FEATURE, ​TECH + TOOLS

Our top 12 NAMM 2014 selections

1: Arturia Beatstep

Is it a step-sequencer, is it a drumpad, is it a performance controller? It’s all of this and much more. With USB, MIDI, and CV & gate outputs you can use it to control all of your new and old gear alike. A truly modular device that’s compact and doesn’t cost an arm and leg – we’re sold. Price: $129.

  • MIDI controller Mode – RED LED MODE
  • Step Sequencer mode – BLUE LED MODE
  • 16 velocity and pressure sensitive pads
  • 16 encoders
  • 16 MIDI Controller presets
  • 16 Sequence presets
  • Works with MIDI Control Center Editor
  • Internal and External clocking
  • CV outputs
  • USB I/O
  • MIDI output
  • iPAD compatibility (using camera connection kit)
  • Transports can send MIDI CC or MMC
  • Kensington Lock
  • Standalone MIDI or CV operation when powered via standard USB power adaptor
  • USB Class compliant (no drivers)

2: Numark NS7ii

Finally, someone’s delivered a DJ controller with a motorized platter that isn’t just a gimmick. It’s a complete 4 channel mixer enclosed in metal and designed to work with the latest version of Serato. The Numark NS7ii also features 16 MPC drum pads plus an iZotope sound effects engine to enable a more live performance aspect to your playing and a heap-load of other features. One of the neatest features added though are the touch enabled EQ knobs, allowing for instant EQ kill response. Price: $1499.

  • 7-inch motorized turntables with ultra-high-resolution MIDI (3600 ticks per rotation)
  • 4-channel mixer and 24-bit audio interface built in
  • 16 multi-color MPC® pads from Akai Professional
  • Capacitive touch-sensitive filter, EQ, and effects knobs
  • Genuine vinyl discs and real felt slipmats for unmatched tactile control
  • The most intuitive and seamless control for Serato DJ available
  • Connect and mix CD players, turntables, MP3 players, or any other external source
  • Mixer can operate standalone, with or without your computer
  • High- and low-torque turntable settings
  • Comprehensive Loop, Sample, Slicer, and Hot Cue controls
  • Strip Search virtual needle-drop technology
  • Serato DJ software included
  • Curve-adjustable CP-Pro crossfader
  • Dedicated iZotope® effects controls

3: iZotope Break Tweaker

This new software from iZotope may as well be a DAW within a DAW with the sheer power behind it. Built with the assistance of famed producer Brian Transeau (BT) iZotope Break Tweaker contains three modules: the sequencer, generator, and a microedit engine. Combined this software enables you to lay down full melodies with ease and then tweak to your heart’s desire – Break Tweaker is a true instrument.   Price: $199.

  • Manipulate audio at a molecular level: Reinvent any beat by controlling pitch, rhythm, and texture at the finest resolution on the market.
  • Free yourself from traditional drum grids: Create complex polyrhythmic beats with unique isorhythm and playback speed settings.
  • Experiment with stunning content: Explore presets, drum samples, and wavetables designed by today’s top musicians and DJs, including BT.
  • Craft the perfect drum sound: Blend drum samples with robust synthesis features to generate compelling hybrid sounds.
  • Take control of your beats: Easily trigger and sequence complex patterns and samples using any MIDI controller.

4: Elektron Analog Rytm

This is not your uncle’s drum machine, well besides the fact the drums are fully analogue. The step sequencer also allows sampling over your programmed beats making the Elektron Analog Rytm a one-stop-shop.  Price: $1549. 

Elektron Analog Rytm

  • 8 drum voices, each with: Specialized analog percussion sound generator. Sample playback. Analog multimode filter. Analog distortion.
  • 12 velocity & pressure sensitive pads
  • Analog master compressor & distortion
  • Reverb & Delay send FX
  • World class Elektron step sequencer
  • Chromatic, Performance, and Scene modes
  • Performance oriented beat control
  • Individual voice outputs

5: M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro

We own a couple original versions of this controller released a staggering 5 years ago so seeing M-Audio go back and renovate the original was exciting to say the least. With full RGB lit pads and a newly added step-sequencer this model is a definite upgrade over the original. A massive library of samples rounds out the feature set and also brings the price skyward to near twice the original Trigger Finger’s MSRP – perhaps the only thing holding it back. Price: $399.

  • Includes the M-Audio Arsenal; 8+ GB of instruments, one-shots, loops & more
  • Built-in step sequencer for building jaw-dropping grooves
  • 16 ultra-responsive pads with illuminated RGB feedback
  • Customizable, backlit controls with instant automapping
  • High-resolution display lets you focus on the music, not the computer
  • Slimline design travels from studio to stage with ease
  • Detachable, 3-position rugged metal stand for angled use
  • Extensive expression controls; pitch bend, modulation & more
  • USB-MIDI connection to a Mac or PC
  • Arsenal includes Hybrid 3 High Definition Synth by AIR Music Tech
  • 16 custom drum kits from Black Anomaly (Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown)

6: Studio Electronics Boomstar SE80

A new dual filter Boomstar synthesizer containing legendary Yamaha CS80 filters. The sound is so fat I think I may have heard the whimper of a TB-303. Just listen below for convincing. Price: TBA (~$1000).

  • Discrete sound generation
  • Dual Oscillator with Sine, Triangle, Saw and Square Waveform (with pulsewidth modulation)
  • Envelope 1 filter with ADSR pots
  • Envelope 2 with ADSR pots.  Invert envelope switch and LFO gate trigger
  • XMod Oscillator to select modulation and pulse width of oscillator 1 by modulating oscilattor 2’s mod depth
  • LFO rate pot with MIDI sync. Sine, Triangle, Saw Up, Saw Down, Square, Offset Square 1 & 2, and Random and Slew Waveforms.
  • Amplifier with Overdrive
  • Additional Master Tune Pot, Bend Range Pot, Glide Time ot. Dynamics to Filter Frequency Pot
  • Mixer, Oscillator 1 & 2 level pots, Ring Mod level pot, Noise Level pot, Feedback pot
  • CV in, Gate in, Filter Freq Mod In, Oscillator out, External Signal In
  • For more Boomstar specifications read here.

7: Softube Console 1

Equalizing or mixing your final work is a tedious process during track production and the folks over at Softube have given us the answer producer’s everywhere have been waiting for with the Console 1. Software at heart accompanied with a compact, dedicated controller this product aims to ease your woes within any DAW when it comes to mixing your sounds to their fullest. Price: $999.

  • Next generation mixer
  • Tightly integrated hardware/software system
  • World class analog channel modeling
  • Hands-on control and intuitive workflow
  • Use with any major DAW
  • Parametric equalizer, compressor, gate, transient shaper, high/low cut filters and analog console distortion
  • Customize the channel by adding any Softube equalizer or dynamics plug-in.

8: Rob Papen Blue-II Crossfusion Synthesizer

Rob Papen is a name that resonates with producers worldwide for this sound designer in 2005 delivered a virtual instrument that combined FM and subtractive synthesis while adding phase distortion and wave shaping into one tight package with the original Blue. Price: $99.

Rob Papen Blue II Crossfusion Synthesizer
Rob gave it the apt name of ‘Crossfusion Synthesis’ and low and behold 9 years later Blue-II is leaps and bounds beyond any virtual synthesizer available today. At its heart are six oscillators and two filters with 27 filter types. Add in an extravagant range of modulation, arpeggiation and processing options one could spend years drawing out all the sounds this software is capable of. New to Blue-II from its predecessor and borrowed from Blade is the ability to modify the sound on the fly with XY pads to add a more life-like and human response to sounds performed on the fly. Watch more below and witness the true beauty of this software synth.

9: Freaqbox Murmur Pedalsynth

An analogue monophonic bass synth you control with your feet, what more can you ask for! It even sounds raunchy. Price: $2600.

  • Full Analog Vintage Monophonic Synthesizer
  • Fat bass sounds
  • 2 Voltage Controlled (VC) oscillators with suboctaveSaw and Square wave with 4 octaves control
  • 4-Pole Resonant VC Low Pass Filter
  • Triangle wave LFO modulation
  • 4 step modulator
  • VC Amp
  • 2 Envelopes – 1 for the Amp & 1 for the Filter
  • 1 foot controlled keyboard octave
  • Completely Handmade

10: Electro-Voice ETX10 Loudspeaker

Electro-Voice went ahead and blew away the competition with the introduction of their new ETX range of loudspeakers. Comparing the QSC K10 with the new ETX10 they are a real run for their money with twice the wattage of the ever-popular QSC K Series. These certainly give QSC a real run for their money in terms of raw power and decibel output. The ETX series feature twice the wattage and the 10″ model’s maximum 134 dB peak SPL is 4 decibels (133%) louder than the equivalent K10. We do wonder though why it’s only outfitted with a 1.25″ tweeter for all that power and why they decided on titanium, which we believe puts out a harsher sound than other materials. Price: TBA.

Electro Voice ETX 10

  • 10-inch LF SMX woofer
  • 1.25-inch HF titanium compression driver
  • 2000 W Class-D power amplifier with integrated FIR-Drive DSP
  • 134 dB peak SPL

11: BitWig

BitWig is no longer vaporware with a solid March 26th, 2014 release date. Certainly a new DAW for the masses, some say it’s an Ableton clone and we disagree, instead it builds upon the best features of past and present digital audio workstations to increase workflow productivity in unique ways. We look forward to the continued development of this software. Price: $399.

  • Cross-platform DAW (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)
  • Intuitive non-linear sequencing for the studio and beyond
  • Full multi-core and multi-processor support
  • VST 2.4 support with built-in 32/64-bit bridging and plug-in crash protection
  • Proprietary time-stretching technology
  • Multi-display support for up to 3 displays
  • Tabbed document interface for multiple projects open at once with drag-and-drop between them
  • Over 50 included devices, including conventional Instruments (Polysynth, FM-4, Organ,
    Sampler and analog-style Drum Modules) and FX (Delays, Equalizers, Compressors), as well as Container devices (to build parallel instrument or effect chains), Note FX, and Modulator devices (additional controllers like LFOs and step sequencers for modulating any other device).
  • Unified Modulation System: Use Macro Controls, Note Expressions, LFOs, and Envelope Followers to modulate any device parameter, including nested internal devices and even VST plug-ins
  • Advanced layered editing
  • Note and Audio expressions, including per-note Micro-Pitch Control
  • Dynamic Object Inspector: Select multiple notes or events and edit them together with the interactive parameter histogram, easily adding variations as you go
  • Automatic sample slicing to both Sampler or Drum Machine
  • Multiple audio events per clip: Automatically cut up samples and rearrange them on the fly in the Detail Editor
  • Dedicated Device Panel Mappings with color-coded knobs and buttons for an overview at a glance
  • Support for various MIDI controllers out of the box
  • Sound Content: Over one thousand presets and sounds, 3 GB of factory content:
    Drum Machines (808, 909… Percussion), Acoustic Drums, multi-sampled instruments like Wurlitzer,
    Rhodes, Vibraphone, Marimba, Acoustic and Electric Bass, Sampled Drum and Instrument loops,
    Various Sound FX, and additional partner content
  • Open Controller API: Create and customize functionality for virtually any MIDI controller, including scripting access to nearly every feature of BITWIG STUDIO

Future features planned

  • LAN multi-user jamming
  • Multi-user production sessions
  • Native modular back-end system

12: Nektar Panorama P4 & P6

Nektar produce high quality USB midi controllers for unprecedented prices. Their new collaboration with BitWig shows tight DAW integration with this controller through the 3.5″ LCD means less fiddling with the monitor and more playing with your music. It’s also fully set up to work with Reason and Cubase so set-up in most professional audio application is a cinch. Price: TBA.

Nektar Panorama P4 and P6 - Bitwig

There you have it: believe we missed anything vital? Then don’t hesitate to Tweet at us or comment via our Facebook.