After literally years of anticipation, the return of NAMM did not disappoint. Here’s our rundown of the ten most important takeaways from this year’s spellbinding comeback
That’s NAMM 2022 then. The music technology, instrument manufacturer and retailer’s most central trade show firmament has, at long last, returned as an in-person show. Across the four days, countless astounding innovations sat among age-old designs, as a plethora of new speakers, instruments, software, synths and more took their first steps, and made a traditionally debut splash at NAMM.
Here then, are our immediate takeaways following the show, with an eye on the most impressive new gear, as well as a broader eye on NAMM’s heroic return itself…
10: Navigating the show was easier than ever…
Thanks to NAMM Show+. This new app addition enabled in-person attendees to organise their time at the show more effectively, while external viewers could also officially join in from afar. NAMM Show+ changed the game in a number of ways, with the ability to communicate directly with the exhibiting brands, reschedule meetings on the fly, check in on newly launched product details and expand your social network (via the app’s AI matchmaking algorithm), it gave an augmented experience for NAMM-goers.
9: Saturday night’s alright (for bestowing awards)
NAMM TEC Awards
The 37th TEC Awards were held on Saturday, hosted by the ever-hilarious Fred Armisen. Genelec, PreSonus and Universal Audio were the big winners, scooping two awards apiece for an assortment of kit. Namely, the GLM V4.0, and Immersive Experience Center, the ATOM SQ and Electronics Sphere and UAFX Golden Reverberator and LUNA respectively. Other worthy gong recipients included Austrian Audio, bagging the award for Headphone/Earpiece Technology for their acclaimed Hi-X65. Neve scooped a worthy honour in the Large Format Console Technology department for their modern spin on a legend, the 8424 desk. Other plaudits went to the likes of software titans iZotope, receiving the honour for best Signal Processing Software for their top tier audio editing workstation RX 8, while in the monitoring department, EVE Audio’s SC4070 took home the award for Best Loudspeaker. Read more about the TEC Awards 2022 winners here.
Also, the She Rocks Awards marked its tenth anniversary by honouring the likes of Manley Laboratories President EveAnna Manley, the singer songwriter Meredith Brooks and six-time Grammy-winning legend Dionne Warwick. Meanwhile, over at the Top 100 Dealers Awards, the likes of Anderson’s, All County Music, Amro and Zeswitz Music were recognised for their exemplary work in helping the industry recover after the pandemic.
8: The future waits for nobody…
While we might have been patiently waiting for the chance to get back to roaming the stands and discovering the innovations of tomorrow in-person for the last couple of years, many of the industry’s forward-thinkers haven’t been resting on their laurels. At NAMM 2022, several products made us giddy for where the ’20s might lead us. Namely…
Eventide MISHA – A game changing interval-based Eurorack instrument and sequencer that creates music in a wholly original way.
Joué Music Instruments Play – Attending NAMM for the first time, Joué presented their future-proof Play and Play Pro modular instrument, designed to teach people the intricacies of music making via an expressive MIDI controller. Read more here
Artiphon Orba 2 – The tiny handheld music generating hub allows users to play pretty much any instrument conceivable, all within the palm of the hand. Orba 2’s four modes sport dozens of instrument presets.
iZotope Neutron 4 and Music Production Suite V5 – Combining two of its most advanced mixing tools into one superb package, the AI-powered Neutron 4 allows for smart mix interrogation, while Music Production Suite V5 presents a smorgasbord of creative effects, audio manipulation and intelligent balancing aids. Quite the duo.
Playtime Engineering Blipbox SK2 – A child-friendly synth you say? Don’t be deceived by its Toymaster-esque design, the Blipbox SK2 is a densely packed sound designer and synth that will undoubtedly provide many a musical youngster to begin their journey into synthesis. With a 5×5 grid of pads, MIDI support, multiple oscillator schemes and wavetables up the wazoo.
7: The guitar industry exemplified ‘transformation and tradition’ more than anyone
With a stellar array of guitars on show this year, it was abundantly clear was that while certain guitar builders were keen to mark anniversaries, accentuate their legacies and re-mould the classics, on a sonic level, there was much to be excited about, rethinking the types of sounds our axes are now able to explore…
Guild Surfliner – Guild’s brand new Surfliner model is visually stunning yet budget-conscious. Drawing from the style of classic Guild models of the 1960s and ‘70s. The pickups however, are an entirely 2022 affair, with its Rocker Pickup switching system providing up to seven pickup combinations.
Martin 2.5 Millionth Guitar – One of the world’s most respect guitar makers, Martin presented the 2.5 Millionth guitar that it has ever made. This gorgeous work of art, sported 436 diamonds, a palladium pick-guard and a hand engraved map of New York City. It’s an absolutely astonishing work of art, and will live in Martin’s bespoke museum in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.
Dreadbox Treminator and Raindrops – The former synth manufacturers have switched back to their original passion of making vivid and expressive guitar pedals, with Treminator and Raindrops brining a fresh spin on tremolo and stereo delay.
Aviate Multiverse – You can’t move for multiverses in 2022, and Aviate Audio have also got in on the act, with the Multiverse inviting users to craft their own realities of sound, and save them as new presets within the pedal. A linked app allows you to purchase pro-built presets, too.
Universal Audio Woodrow, Ruby and Dream – UA are the MVPs when it comes to software modelling, and now they’ve packed the distinctive mechanical oomph of vintage tube amps into three small stompboxes. With mobile app control and customisation bridging the old and the new.
6: Live sound is booming once again
It’s not just the show itself that’s back in force. Across the world, live music has returned to our venues – from stadiums to village halls, arenas to bars. With that revitalisation has come the demand for increasingly efficient live sound and monitoring solutions, some of which we saw at NAMM. The Loudspeaker System Showcase provided a round robin insight (or ‘insound’) into how the latest crop of speakers fared in a large environment. More specifically, speakers at the show such as the Eastern Acoustic Works AC6 column loudspeaker wowed many with its portability, while still delivering on frequency response. So too, did the ART 9 from RCF, which improved on the legendary build quality of the ART series with a host of modern bells and whistles, as well as an advanced waveguide. For those needing improved in-ear monitoring solutions, the 3000 series from Audio Technica proved enticing for those needing stable, uninterrupted connections and astounding room noise rejection.
5: Home studio kit is now indistinguishable from pro
The quality bar for the types of pro quality kit consumers can now purchase for their home and project studios has been continually rising over the last ten years. At NAMM 2022 the wares of some of the industry’s most trusted manufacturers wowed us with a combination of peerless sound, build quality, innovation and ease of use. Here’s a few of our fave picks of a verdant field…
AMS Neve 88M – Packing fully fledged console sound into a tiny desktop interface, Neve’s 10 in/10 out 88M gives you the same mic preamp as the famed 88RS, as well as transformer-coupled inputs.
Audient iD44 MK II – A studio classic for years, Audient’s second iteration of their beloved iD44 contains a a digital Audio Loopback feature to record playback from multiple sources, not to mention a 9dB increase in its frequency capturing capabilities.
Austrian Audio OC16 – Growing in stature over the last few years, Austrian Audio’s OC16 brings solid, high-end performance to a budget-priced microphone. Using their patented Open Acoustic Technology, this new cardioid large-diaphragm condenser looks set to be a new studio workhorse.
Focusrite Vocaster Range – Podcasting has exploded over the last decade, so it’s no surprise that more pro audio heavyweights are getting in on the act. Focusrite’s small Vocaster Range is suited for those needing to record their conversations as efficiently as possible, with slick Auto Gain and Voice Enhancement features.
4: Conventional keys will never die
Among the multitudes of weird and wonderful modular synths, patch bays and newfangled MPE devices, conventional keyboard synths (and keyboard-based MIDI controllers) show no signs of being supplanted any time soon. This year’s crop of new keyboards stemmed from those that blend next-level ideas with those that favour simplicity and immediacy. Some of the best were:
Gamechanger Audio Motor Synth MK II – Motor Synth – the crowdfunded electro-mechanical desktop synth – has been hotly anticipated for a while now, and this second pass at the design bolsters its moving motorised oscillators with MIDI and CV support.
Novation Launchkey 88 MIDI – Novation’s biggest entry in their Launchkey range, this 88-note heavyweight sports a sumptuous-feeling keybed, as well as built-in arpeggiator and new Scale mode
Melbourne Instruments Nina – A newcomer to the fierce world of synth design, Melbourne Instruments’ inaugural instrument is an impressive 12-voice analogue polysynth that allows users to morph between triangular and sawtooth waves, as well as futuristic encoders.
Casio CT-S1FH – More of a stylistic upgrade to Casio’s keyboard warrior, the gorgeous design of the CT-S1FH was added by artist Romero Britto, who freshens up the design of the 61-key MIDI keyboard with a vibrant application of colour.
3: Speakers are getting louder and more precise
A whole range of new monitors were loudly making their presence heard this year. Though volume and impact remain as important factors as ever, precision, ease of use and functionality are not being compromised. Focal’s ST6 upgrades the company’s Solo and Twin monitor series, with brand new drivers and 1.5mm Beryllium inverted dome tweeters for an optimised and dynamic sound. On the smaller end of the scale the Auratone 5C Super Active Sound Cube cements a studio legend with a modern age upgrade to make the tiny box speakers now Active as opposed to Passive. Fluid Audio rolled out their Image 2. These studio monitors are designed for near and midfield use, and effectively present two monitors in one, suited for both mixing and mastering purposes. The mighty Augspurger were present this year too, and we finally got chance to check out their recently launched immersive-sound producing MinimaX MX-65. This Atmos-ready design grants 70 x 110 degree dispersion for astoundingly accurate aural response On the more wider aural picture front, PMC’s twin cabinet, full-range PMC8-2XBD offers a staggering 6dB of bass headroom and class-D amplifiers.
2: Nothing beats face-to-face interaction with the industry
The Great Outdoors
From casual booth-hopping, dashing from business meeting-to-meeting, enjoying the traditional breakfast of champions (or a few post-show bevvies), attending one of NAMM’s numerous educational seminars and learning from the collectively thousands of years of experience on offer, NAMM 2022 has reaffirmed our belief that while virtual conferencing has it’s place, to truly soak into a show like NAMM, getting into the heady social flow of the real-life tradeshow is unparalleled.
1: NAMM’s future looks promising
With NAMM 2023 set to take place between April 13-15th next year, and the 2024 show returning to its traditional January slot, it seems like NAMM’s immediate future is secured. As NAMM CEO Joe Lamond told us recently, NAMM belongs in the first month of the year. “It was aligned with a time of renewal” Joe told us, “Coming out of the Christmas holidays and looking ahead to a new year. This show belongs in January and it will return there.” While many might debate the importance of in-person shows in comparison to the immediacy of virtual experiences, the addition of NAMM Show+ to this year’s proceedings furthers NAMM’s ever-shifting evolution, adapting to change while still keeping the heart and spirit of the show intact.
All photos from NAMM.com or via respective company’s press releases
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