NAMM 2017: The Best Hi-Tec Gear

New gear from Roland, Akai, Teenage Engineering and Arturia

The MI industry’s annual jamboree has given musicians a raft of new gear to get excited over. NAMM 2017 has seen strong offerings from all of the big boys, and has given an interesting glimpse into the growth of new musical demographics.

Where previously being a musician meant years of practice, training and learning, now we are seeing products aimed specifically at getting non-musicians playing. As well as that, many brands now recognise the growth of a new type of consumer; the online content creator. So as well as the usual mix of traditional instruments and equipment, there is a clear growth in the types of gear aimed at vloggers, podcasters and other digital content creators.

Roland has led the way with this charge. Its new ‘GO’ range includes products designed to help video makers capture audio, and to provide non-musicians with straightforward, intuitive ways to compose their own tracks.

Roland GO:Mixer

Roland GO Series

The Roland GO:Mixer is a product that could have a big impact outside of the company’s traditional musician base. It is a tiny, hockey puck sized mixer designed to be connected to a smartphone or tablet, and it allows the user to connect up to five different audio sources and mix them properly at source. With it, you can connect instruments, microphones and other external sound sources and use that audio to bring your videos to life. Best of all, the GO:Mixer is entirely powered from your smartphone or tablet so doesn’t require an external power supply or batteries.

The ‘pick up and play’ ethos continues with two other new Roland products seen at NAMM 2017; the GO:Keys and GO:Piano. Both are geared entirely around helping the non-musician or novice create amazing tracks of their own from scratch. The GO:Keys works by guiding users through a process of building up music by looping, and comes complete with 500 pro-quality sounds built in. The Go:Piano offers a scaled down experience which will help learners access that premium quality Roland experience and help them develop their playing through in-built practice features. Both items have Bluetooth capability, enabling them to control external sound sources like smartphone or tablet applications too, meaning they’re perfect for anyone looking to develop a portable recording studio.

Akai MPC X

New Akai MPCs

Akai’s MPC range of samplers and controllers are hugely respected in electronic and hip-hop circles. It continues this lineage with the introduction of two new products, the MPC Live and MPC X. The Akai MPC Live is a portable studio-in-a-box, allowing users to load it up with their favourite samples and edit, mix and produce tracks without needing to be hooked up to a computer. The famous MPC pads are correct and present, giving players the tools to slice and dice their beats to their heart’s content. It’s big brother, the Akai MPC X, is the flagship new product in the MPC range, and brings advanced features like a 10″ touchscreen, extended connectivity options and more onboard control over your audio.

Arturia MatrixBrute

Arturia MatrixBrute

We’ll round off this hi-tech summary with a look at one of the more fearsome looking devices to come out of NAMM 2017. The Arturia MatrixBrute looks as if it has been ripped straight from the control board of the USCSS Nostromo. Arturia are pretty proud of it too, calling it a “massive sonic beast” on its website. Indeed, if you’re an analog synth fan, you will surely be impressed by its three Brute oscillators, its Steiner-Parker filter and its selection of in-built analog effects. Intense!

Teenage Engineering PO32

Teenage Engineering PO32

Almost two years ago Teenage Engineering launched the bonkers looking Pocket Operator synth range. These low-cost, minimal synths proved a huge hit for the Swedish company, and they’ve extended the range this year by adding in the new PO32 models. The striking visual aesthetic remains the same, but there are some neat tricks available to users like pattern transfer between the PO32 and an accompanying desktop application, and the ability to sync up to 64 of them together using an in-built microphone – no Bluetooth in sight!