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2007 Winter NAMM ReportThe Show of Shows

February 20, 2007
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From January 18 to 21, 2007, the city of Anaheim opened its doors to the wild and crazy musicians, gear manufacturers, software developers, music-store buyers, media, and assorted flotsam and jetsam that make up the exhibitors and attendees of the Winter NAMM Show. NAMM is the largest trade show in Orange County, California, and it's the most important show EM attends each year. For us, this is the Show of Shows.

Although we discovered no major new trends or revolutionary developments, we saw plenty of continuing development in interesting directions. USB and FireWire ports are becoming ubiquitous; it seems like almost every new hardware product that could be used with a computer has one or the other. Not coincidentally, an ever-increasing number of hardware products can be controlled—in some cases must be controlled—using a software plug-in. The long-term trend toward native processing for plug-ins continues, as does the move toward sound libraries becoming soft instruments with the addition of a sample player.

Trends aside, we saw a whole lot of very cool stuff. We covered this year's NAMM show in greater depth than ever before, producing daily Podcasts and working cooperatively with our colleagues at Mix and Remix magazine to produce videos and a show blog . But even with all that on-the-spot coverage, we saw so many cool products that we're still overflowing with information, and we just gotta share it with you because we're that kind of folks. So here goes....

The Gear

ADK launched two new microphones. The A-6 ($250) is a handmade Class A condenser mic with upgraded electronics from ADK's Vienna and Hamburg models. It has a transformer output and is recommended for recording vocals or any acoustic instrument. Based on the same electronics, the S-7 ($300) is a transformerless model with a balanced output stage. It has abundant headroom and is suitable for high-SPL applications. A 2-way pad lets you tailor its dynamic response, and a 2-way highpass filter lets you tailor its bass response. Pricing and availability haven't been announced.

At the Alesis booth, there was plenty of buzz about Master Control ($799 MAP), a combination FireWire control surface/audio interface/digital mixer that offers motorized faders, assignable knobs and buttons, transport controls, MIDI I/O, support for 192 kHz sampling rates, S/PDIF and Lightpipe digital inputs; talkback and cue features, and more. Alesis expects the Master Control to ship in June.

The big news at A.R.T. was the TubeFire 8 ($649), an 8-channel FireWire interface that will sport eight XLR-1/4-inch combo inputs, balanced 1/4-inch TRS outputs, and the same Class A tube preamps that are in A.R.T.'s MPA Gold preamp. A headphone/speaker output will also be included. The TubeFire 8 is due to ship in May.

Arturia announced its first foray into hardware with Origin ($2,999), slated for release next September. Origin is modular in design, featuring hardware versions of modules from Arturia's popular line of software emulations of classic synths such as the Moog Modular, ARP 2600, Prophet 5 and VS, and CS 80V. Two TigerSHARC DSP processors from Analog Devices give Origin sufficient computing power to handle Arturia's True Analog Emulation (TAE) modeling technology while layering as many as four discrete patches with 32-note polyphony each. With accompanying software, you can even use Origin as an AU or VST (Mac/Win) plug-in. Arturia also announced the next software synth in its line of classic emulations. The Jupiter-8V ($249), due for release in June, re-creates the Roland Jupiter-8 of the early 1980s. Loaded with more than 400 presets, the Jupiter-8V incorporates a bevy of effects along with beefed up modulation options not found on the original. Like all Arturia soft synths, the Jupiter-8V runs standalone or as a plug-in under Mac OS X and Windows.

Avant Electronics showed the Powered MixCubes ($349/pr), an active version of the company's miniature reference monitors. Single units of the Powered MixCube ($199 each) are available for surround-monitoring systems. The Avantone CK-40 is a transformerless stereo FET mic ($499) with 1.25-inch diaphragms, Class A electronics, three patterns for each capsule (cardioid, figure-8, and omni), a -10 dB pad, and an 80 Hz rolloff switch. The Avantone CU-2 USB mic ($199) is cardioid only and has a 1.25-inch diaphragm, a -10 dB pad, and an 80 Hz rolloff. The mics are due in June and will ship with a shockmount and a wooden case.

Blue Microphones unveiled the Woodpecker ($1,299), an active ribbon mic with Class A discrete electronics and an aluminum, pressure-gradient ribbon transducer. The mic requires +48V phantom power, has a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz and a dynamic range of 114 dB, and can handle up to 136 dB SPL. In addition, Blue announced that all of its Ball microphones are now available at a minimum advertised price (MAP) of $99.

Boss presented the fruits of its new collaboration with Fender: two new stompboxes that emulate vintage Fender amplifiers. The FDR-1 packs the punch of a '65 Deluxe Reverb into an effects pedal that has the same controls as the legendary guitar amp. The FBM-1 delivers the tone and controls of a '59 Fender Bassman amp, a classic as popular with guitarists as with bass players. Both pedals furnish an additional gain control for use onstage or in the studio. They're the first of the new Legend Series pedals, a line of products based on acclaimed gear of the past. Each is expected to ship in March and retail for $235.50 ($149 street).

Clavia DMI introduced the Nord C3, a bright-red dual-manual combo organ that models three of the most influential keyboards ever played: the Hammond B-3, Vox Continental, and Farfisa Compact Deluxe. By modeling the dynamic characteristics of tonewheels and transistors, the 33-pound Nord C3 faithfully re-creates the experience of playing the original vintage instruments, while improving on their ease of use and ability to precisely recall sounds. Features include 122 waterfall keys, rotary-speaker simulation, an 11-pin Leslie connector, separate tonewheel and transistor organ outputs, and 20 digital drawbars with LED segments to indicate position. The C3 is slated to ship to the U.S. in April and retail for $3,600.

Digidesign unveiled a new RTAS sampler called Structure. Developed by Digi's Advanced Instrument Research Group (the folks who brought you Hybrid, Xpand, and Strike), Structure features include playback from RAM or through disk streaming; up to 24-bit, 192 kHz audio; and support for SampleCell, Kontakt 2, and EXS24 samples. Digidesign also announced a collaboration with EastWest to provide content for Structure. No specific date was given for Structure's release, but it will go into a public-beta phase soon. Digi also announced Reel Tape Suite ($495), a group of analog-tape emulation plug-ins for RTAS, TDM, and AudioSuite. Reel Tape Saturation, one of the plug-ins in the suite, will be offered separately for $295.

Two standout products from Edirol were the portable, affordable M-10DX ($449) and M-16DX ($799) digital mixers, which are expected to ship in April. They feature built-in DSP effects, scene recall, a backlit LCD with graphic spectrum analysis, and dedicated knobs on each channel for level, pan, and 3-band EQ. They support 24-bit, 96 kHz audio and can automatically compensate for room acoustics. The M-10DX gives you two mic preamps with phantom power, a switchable high-impedance input, and a dedicated suite of mastering tools. Battery power enhances its portability. The M-16DX comprises two units—a mix controller and a separate rack-mountable I/O module—and gives you more effects, 16-band graphic EQ, stereo S/PDIF I/O, and twice as many mic preamps and high-impedance inputs. Additionally, its USB 2.0 port lets you use the M-16DX as an 18-in, 2-out audio interface.

Since its acquisition by Creative Labs, E-mu 's software has only been available for Windows PCs, so it came as a surprise when the company announced that it is releasing Mac OS X drivers for its 0404 and 0202 USB audio interfaces. The company also will release Windows Vista drivers for all of its digital audio systems and Xboard controllers.

Eventide revealed that it's putting some of its renowned effects into stompboxes. The TimeFactor ($499) delay pedal, due to arrive in March, includes two independent 3-second delays, as well as 10 different delay effects (stereo or dual mono) including digital delay, tape echo, multitap, and reverse; a 12-second looping function; guitar and line-level I/O; and more. The ModFactor ($499) is due out later in the year and will include a range of Eventide stereo and mono modulation effects, such as phaser, flanger, chorus vibrato, ring mod, and mod filter.

Fender and Roland have joined forces on the VG Stratocaster, an American Series Strat with internal electronics that can model an assortment of guitars at the turn of a knob. Choose from 37 guitar models, from humbucking and Telecaster to 12-string and acoustic. Another knob instantly calls up five alternate tunings. Except for its Roland GK bridge pickup, LED, and two additional knobs, the VG Stratocaster looks and plays just like a classic Strat. In Normal mode, its three single-coil pickups bypass the VG circuit for a straight Strat sound. The VG Stratocaster will retail for under $2,500 and will ship before the end of 2007.

Fishman Transducers will release six Aura Acoustic Imaging pedals ($310 each). The six pedals correspond to the various acoustic guitar body types: dreadnought, concert, orchestra, jumbo, nylon, and 12-string. Choose the pedal that matches your guitar size, plug in your pickup-equipped acoustic guitar, and you'll have access to 16 different models (or "Images," as Fishman calls them), of various acoustic guitar types.

Flame , the "MIDI Talking Synth," is a small, desktop instrument that marries two SpeakJet voice chips with a sequencer, filter, and effects. A pair of onboard joysticks control vocal sounds and frequency, and the device can sync to MIDI. Looping, tremolo, and randomizing functions are also available. Flame is distributed in the U.S. by Analogue Haven .

Future Retro Synthesizers demonstrated an updated version of its XS semi-modular, monophonic analog synthesizer. The XS includes MIDI I/O, CV and gate I/O, two VCOs, a 2-pole multimode filter, and dedicated outputs for both oscillators, a suboscillator, and noise. The instrument can also be used as a MIDI-to-CV/gate converter for controlling other analog synths.

FXpansion has redesigned its EM Editors' Choice Award-winning BFD drum sampler from the ground up. BFD 2 ($TBA) sports a completely new look and feel that puts the essentials under your fingertips while giving you nearly instant access to its more arcane features. Beyond its redesign, BFD 2 comes with several stunning new sampled-drum libraries and a host of top-quality effects including modeled EQ and compression. Its collection of engineering presets has been expanded to cover a wide range of professional styles. FXpansion also announced an upcoming bundle of three analog-modeled synths, the D-CAM Synth Collection ($TBA). Strobe is a single-oscillator synth designed for vintage bass and lead sounds. Amber uses divider circuitry, a rarity in soft synths, to emulate classic string machines. Cypher, a three-oscillator synth capable of audio-rate frequency and pulse-width modulation, promises to be just the thing "when too much isn't enough." BFD 2 and the D-CAM Synth Collection are slated for release in the second quarter of 2007.

Garritan Orchestral Libraries showed two new sampler libraries: the Gofriller Solo Cello ($199) and the Steinway Model D ($TBA). The latter is a joint venture with Steinway & Sons. The Gofriller should be available soon, with the Steinway to follow later in the year. The Gofriller Solo Cello employs the same Sonic Morphing technology pioneered in the Garritan Stradivari Solo Violin. It uses the Kontakt 2 sample player, which runs standalone as well as in all major plug-in formats on the Mac and PC. Garritan's Steinway Model D is intended to be a top-of-the-line sampled piano. For the recording sessions, Steinway & Sons provided a newly voiced and regulated Steinway Model D concert grand, one of its top technicians, and the renowned Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. The Steinway sampled piano will be one of the first instruments to use Garritan's new drag-and-drop software-instrument technology.

IK Multimedia took its amp- and effects-modeling technology forward into the past with its Amplitube 2 Jimi Hendrix Edition ($249, Mac/Win) software. The software provides you with four amp models, seven cabinet models, nine stompbox models, four rack effects models, all based on classic gear used by Hendrix. It will run as a VST, RTAS, or AU plug-in, and as a standalone unit. The software will also be available as a bundle with IK's Stealth Plug, a guitar-to-USB cable for $299. Amplitube 2 Jimi Hendrix Edition is due to ship within the next two months.

Much of the fuss at Korg was about the M3, a new keyboard synthesizer workstation with many features of the flagship OASYS distilled into a less costly, chip-based system. The M3 has 120-note polyphony, 256 of waveform ROM, a new synthesis engine based on the OASYS's HD-1, user sampling, second-generation KARMA, eight simultaneous effects, a 16-track MIDI sequencer, plug-in editor control, and a color touchscreen that doubles as an x-y pad. The keyboard on the 61- and 73-note models is a new design by Korg, and the largest model has the same keyboard as the OASYS 88. The M3's control panel separates from the keyboard, allowing you to use it as a freestanding synth module. An optional expansion board gives the M3 a 24-note, 4-part multitimbral Radias sound engine, and a FireWire option adds audio and MIDI on a single cable. Pricing hasn't been announced, but delivery is expected to begin in June. (Associate editor Geary Yelton described his visit to Korg's headquarters in Japan and his sneak peek at the M3 and other new Korg products in his December 13 and 14 entries to our editorial blog, The Bus.)

Also from Korg, the battery-powered Mini-KP Dynamic Effect Processor is the newest, smallest, and least expensive KAOSS Pad. Its x-y touchpad lets you continuously adjust numerous parameters at the same time by tapping and rubbing it with your fingertips. The Mini-KP comes with 100 onboard programs derived from the KP-3, ranging from essentials like reverb and delay to unique effects like a pitch shifter that captures and repeats audio input. It also inherits KP-3 features such as FX Release, Pad Hold, and Effects Depth. The pocket-size device is expected to ship in March with a retail price of $250.

Korg's Legacy Collection, Analog Edition 2007, will be available in March for $299. (Discounted updates and upgrades will be available.) In addition to the previous edition's MS-20, Polysix, Legacy Cell, and MDE-X effects plug-ins, the new edition features a software version of the classic Mono/Poly synthesizer. Released in 1981, the original Mono/Poly had four oscillators and four-way synchro and cross modulation between them. The software version gives you 159 modulation sources, 35 mod destinations, two integrated multi-effects, 16-voice unison, 256 designer sounds, and up to 128-note polyphony.

Lexicon debuted two new rack-mount reverb units, the MX300 ($399.95 MAP) and MX500 ($499.95). Both are programmed via plug-ins (Mac/Win VST, AU), like the other processors in the MX line. The MX300 is a USB-based, 2-in, 2-out unit with 16 reverb algorithms and XLR, 1/4-inch, and S/PDIF I/O. The 4-in, 4-out MX500 streams audio to your computer using FireWire, can support audio up to 96 kHz, provides 4-channel surround algorithms, and offers XLR and S/PDIF I/O. The MX300 should be out in February and the MX500 in March.

Line 6 showed two new pedalboard-style modeling processors, one for guitar and the other for bass. The Floor Pod Plus ($299 MAP) features the amp and cabinet models from Pod 2.0, as well as 24 editable effects, an expression pedal, a CD/MP3 input, and more. Line 6 also unveiled the Bass Floor Pod ($199.99 MAP), which sports five amp models, a synth-bass model, a wah/volume pedal, and the ability to connect to an amp or directly to a P.A. or recording system. Both units are due out sometime in March.

Livewire demonstrated prototypes of three new analog-synth modules. The Audio Frequency Generator (AFG) is a complex VCO with a blinding amount of outputs. The Xmod Controller is a 4-channel cross-modulation module that connects two AFGs with ribbon cable, so you won't need as many patch cords in the front. Livewire also introduced the Audio Compositor, an 8-channel waveform mixer with bipolar controls.

M-Audio announced the GForce Virtual String Machine. This soft instrument is loaded with sounds from string synthesizers of the '70s, including sounds made popular by the likes of Pink Floyd, Jean Michel Jarre, Thomas Dolby, and Goldfrapp. With more than 500 presets, Virtual String Machine emulates over a dozen instruments, including the ARP Omni II, Elka Rhapsody, Freeman String Synthesizer, and Moog Polymoog. The plug-in and standalone instrument lets you layer any two sample sets and add vintage-style phaser and ensemble effects. It's expected soon at a retail price of $149.95.

Mackie released Tracktion 3, the latest version of its cross-platform digital-audio sequencing software. New features include time stretching and pitch shifting, a loop browser, and support of Acid, REX, and Apple Loops. Even with its new features, Tracktion 3 maintains the "all-in-one-window" approach of the previous versions. The program is available in two bundles: the Ultimate Bundle ($319.99) comes with an array of third-part instrument plug-ins and 5 GB of content; the Project Bundle ($129.99) features less-powerful third-party instruments and a smaller sound set. Both bundles include training videos.

Also from Mackie is the next generation of Control Pro studio control surfaces. Its communications protocol allows it to exceed the limitations of the previous generation's MIDI mapping, resulting in faster, deeper, more intuitive control of mixing and plug-in parameters and improved visual feedback. The Control Pro Universal ($1,549.99) is the top of the line, with 9 touch-sensitive, motor-controlled faders; 8 V-Pot rotary encoders; transport controls; and more than 50 assignable buttons. The Control Extender Pro ($899.99) provides an additional 8 channels, and the Control C4's ($1,299.99) 32 V-Pots are most suitable for controlling software instruments and plug-ins. All models will be available in April.

Marshall Electronics added two USB mics to its line: the USB.007 ($219.95) stereo microphone and the USB.008 ($199.95) large diaphragm condenser. The USB.007 uses a stacked pair of the same 0.79-inch capsules used in the 990 and USB.006, but permanently positioned in an x/y pattern. The USB.008 has a 1-inch capsule. Both mics include a selectable attenuation switch and should be available in April, 2007. The company also showed the USB Mic Mate ($59), an XLR-to-USB converter that lets you plug any microphone directly into your USB port.

Going were no company has gone before, Metasonix introduced the TM-7 Scrotum Smasher ($499), a guitar preamp and line-level processor that includes three vacuum tubes in series. You can select either the second or third tube as your output, as well as switch in a feedback circuit that makes things even noisier. Besides the mono I/O, the TM-7 has a CV input for an expression pedal. Even on a noisy NAMM show floor, this module could be heard loud and clear, and it rocked when processing a drum machine.

The latest addition to the Moog Music Moogerfooger line of effects modules is the MF-107 FreqBox, a distinctive audio-controlled oscillator. Instead of modifying the sound of an audio source, you use that source—which could be a synth, guitar, human voice, or whatever—to modulate the FreqBox's sound, which varies from fuzz-like distortion to harmonic sweeps to timbral morphing. The FreqBox will be available before summer for $359. Also on hand were several examples of the Minimoog Voyager Select Series, which allows you to pick any combination of eight wooden cabinets and five backlight options. Inspired by the Electric Blue Edition, selections include Fire, Jade, Lunar, and Solar, with cabinet finishes such as maple, walnut, black, and whitewash. All models of the Minimoog Voyager Select Series are available now for $3,395.

Percussa Audio Cubes made their NAMM debut in Hall E. Each battery-powered, USB-programmable cube has four sensors that interact with the sensors of the other cubes. For the booth demo, the color-coded cubes fired off sampled beats in Ableton Live based on their relationship to each other. However, a greater degree of interactivity is possible when the cubes are used within a programming environment such as Max/MSP. Although the Audio Cubes are not yet available in the States, they are definitely worth watching for.

Plan B showed a full complement of its analog synth modules. Up-and-comers include the Model 27 VC Digital Delay, the Model 16 Spectral Multiplexer, and a more compact version of the Milton Venti sequencer.

PSP Audioware has upgraded its Vintage Warmer multiband-compressor plug-in and has converted the Mac version to Universal Binary. Vintage Warmer 2 ($149, $49 upgrade) uses PSP's proprietary Fat Authentication Technique double-sampled processing. New features include optional brickwall limiting, fast or relaxed release-multiplier ranges, and extended band-saturation levels. The VST version supports 64-bit streaming, and preset management is now platform independent.

One big surprise was the return of Rhodes , minus its previous association with Fender Musical Instruments. Three Rhodes Mark 7 electric pianos were on display and getting plenty of attention. With traditional features such as real wooden keys, a wooden keybed, and the same electromechanical sound production as previous models, the Mark 7 has pitch bend, USB connectivity, XLR outputs, a choice of finishes, and a ventilated humidity system that's supposed to minimize tine breakage. Passive, active, and active MIDI-equipped configurations will be available in 61-, 73-, and 88-note versions. New amplified speakers and a redesigned pedal assembly for past and future Rhodes pianos are also in the works. Rhodes expects availability around the end of 2007, with prices beginning at about $2,000.

The news at the Roger Nichols Digital booth was that Uniquel-izer LE ($69, Mac/Win), the company's powerful but inexpensive EQ plug in is now shipping. Uniquel-izer LE may be the smaller sibling to the company's Uniquel-izer plug-in, but it's still quite powerful, allowing you to have up to seven filters in each instantiation, including parametric, low and high shelf, and lowpass and highpass. It runs in VST, AU, and RTAS formats.

Another big Roland announcement for guitarists was the VG-99 V-Guitar System ($1,399 list, due in May), which models dozens of guitars, amps, and effects. Because it has two signal paths, you can simultaneously play two virtual guitars added to your actual guitar sound, either blending or switching between them. The VG-99's onboard guitar-to-MIDI converter lets you play synths and samplers with your guitar and record tracks into a sequencer. You can summon user-defined tunings, and a new Freeze feature lets you sustain notes or chords indefinitely. The VG-99 features dual D Beams, a ribbon controller, USB connectivity, a S/PDIF output, and XLR and 1/4-inch outputs.

Roland also unveiled its new flagship synthesizer, the V-Synth GT. This top-of-the-line instrument has a dual-core V-Synth engine that offers multiple synthesis techniques. It blends features from the V-Synth XT module, such as Vocal Designer and VariPhrase technology, with new capabilities such as Sound Shaper II for faster programming and Articulative Phrase synthesis, which emulates the changing behavior of instruments as they're being played. Available in May and retailing for $3,299, the V-Synth GT also has a 61-note keyboard, a color touch screen, USB connectivity, and user sampling.

Rubber Chicken Software has ventured into the world of file browsers. Kontakt Assistant ($69.95) is a Mac and Windows utility that promises all the features you wanted but didn't get in the Native Instruments Kontakt 2 browser. You can use Kontakt Assistant's floating window as your browser to load instruments directly into Kontakt. You can assign keywords to instruments and Multis to organize them by category. A sample browser shows you all Kontakt instruments that reference a sample, and you can use it to fix or change sample references. With the Script and Modulator librarians, you can organize and exchange your favorite scripts and modulation schemes.

Samson showed the G-Track ($199), due for May release, which adds a 2-channel audio interface to a USB mic. You can send two channels of external audio through it or send one external channel with the mic signal. The G-Track has a stereo instrument/line input with a gain control and a stereo headphone output for low-latency monitoring. Also announced was the VR88 ($TBA), a passive ribbon mic that comes with a shockmount and aluminum case.

SE Electronics debuted the Instrument Reflexion Filter ($199), which is about a third the size of the 2007 EM Editor's Choice award-winning Reflexion Filter and is made from a different configuration of materials.

From SM Pro Audio comes The Mic Thing ($249), a portable acoustic panel designed to reduce the effect of room acoustics on a microphone. The unit can be mounted on most mic stands (as well as drum and speaker stands) and can be stacked with another unit to create a larger baffle. Its side panels bend inward to allow you to configure its shape for the needs of your session. Look for it to ship in March.

The first new plug-in for Solid State Logic's Duende is Drumstrip ($299), a channel strip designed for use with percussive sounds. Drumstrip includes a transient shaper with an inversion button, high- and low-frequency enhancers, the SSL Listen Mic Compressor, and an interesting gate design that offers independent open and close threshold controls. Look for it in mid-February.

Sound Toys and Sony announced that their plug-ins will support the Audio Units format. SoundToys will be releasing its 2007 EM Editor's Choice award-winning Native Effects bundle ($495) in AU format when it releases version 3 of the bundle in late February. The release will also include Universal Binary support, as well as new features. Meanwhile, several of Sony's renowned Oxford plug-ins—EQ, Dynamics, and Limiter—have already started shipping in AU format, and the rest of the line should be available soon.

Keyboard maker Studiologic showed its new VMK-161Org, a 61-note, semiweighted, waterfall-action keyboard from Fatar, designed specifically for organ players. It has all the same functions as the VMK-161Plus, including Velocity and Aftertouch, a pitch-bend and modulation joystick, and 30 preset locations, as well as eight knobs, eight buttons, eight sliders, and three pedal inputs, all assignable. It also comes with templates for popular organ software. The VMK-161Org's price and ship date haven't been announced.

TC Electronic is reissuing three vintage effects stompboxes as part of the new Classic Pedal Series. The pedals, which originally were released in the 1970s, include the Booster+Distortion, the Sustain+Parametric Equalizer (a compressor and EQ), and the TC XII Phaser. All three will retail for $395 and should be shipping by the time you read this.

Terratec Producer demonstrated the Area 61, an expandable keyboard controller that accepts DSP expansion boards hosting different synthesis engines. The Area 61 was also designed as a controller for software instruments and functions as an USB 2.0 audio/MIDI interface that handles 24-bit, 96 kHz audio. Ten rotary encoders are surrounded by LEDs, and 61 Velocity-sensitive keys have separate Aftertouch zones for the right and left hands. Initially, two optional boards will be available for the Area 61: Komplexer DSP (price and availability tba), which is a hardware version of the Komplexer VST soft synth, and Wave Xtable (available now for $249 retail), a 128-note GM- and XG-compatible expansion board with more than 128 onboard sounds.

Also from Terratec Producer , the Axon 50 USB guitar-to-MIDI controller is a scaled-down sibling to the Axon 100 Mk II, with one important addition: a USB connection with four virtual MIDI ports. The Axon 50 doesn't have an internal sound generator, but it can control four software instruments at the same time. It includes Kontakt Player with a selection of 128 sounds, along with editing software for the Mac and PC. The Axon 50 is expected to ship by April for $549 MAP.

Ultimate Sound Bank shared its vision of the future with its Beat Inc. high-definition virtual beatbox. Featuring sound-shaping tools, an integrated waveform editor, an arsenal of effects, and a drag-and-drop step sequencer, Beat Inc. was designed to be an ideal companion for pad controllers. Its all-new content provides more than 16 GB of 16- and 24-bit sounds, with sampling rates as high as 192 kHz. Beat Inc. will be available for Windows and Mac OS X; exactly when and for how much was not announced. Ultimate Sound Bank also announced its IRCAM Solo Instruments (price and delivery tba), produced in collaboration with IRCAM's research department. It features traditional instruments such as strings, brass, and woodwinds played using unusual performance techniques. With expressive keyswitches, presets run the gamut from Multiphonic and Hit-on-Body to Buzz and Crushed.

Universal Audio announced the UAD-Xpander, an ExpressCard-based DSP system designed for laptops. You plug an ExpressCard into your laptop's card slot, and the card connects to an external unit that provides the processing for UAD-1 plug ins. Three UAD-Xpander bundles will be offered, each with the same hardware and initial set of 14 plug-ins, but with a differing amount of credit for purchasing additional plugs. The Xpander Xpress ($999) gives you a $500 voucher, the Xpander Xpert ($1,399) a $1,000 voucher, and the Xpander Xtreme ($2,199) entitles you to the complete UAD-1 plug-in collection.

Appasionata Strings, from Vienna Symphonic Library , just began shipping in Standard Library ($595)and Extended Library ($535) versions. Specializing in lush and fiery timbres performed by large string ensembles—20 violins, 14 violas, 12 cellos, and 10 double basses—this virtual instrument should be useful for diverse musical styles ranging from passionate ballads to cinematic soundtracks. The samples in Appasionata Strings offer a broad palette of expressive articulations and legato performances with different intensities of vibrato.

Big Fish Audio has spun off a software company called Vir2 Instruments , makers of Acoustic Legends HD. At NAMM, Vir2 demonstrated its next two products, VI.One and syntAX. VI.One (Mac/Win, $399.95) encompasses samples of more than 2,000 instruments, drum kits, and effects designed to be musically usable for a broad range of musical genres. Its nineteen major instrument categories range from basses, organs, and guitars to drum loops, synths, and ethnic instruments. SyntAX (Mac/Win, $199.95) is a virtual instrument dedicated to sampled synthesizers. At its core are more than 2,000 patches created by an international team of sound designers. SyntAX features the exclusive scatterFX engine, which gives you control over rhythmic stuttering, pattern-based arpeggiations, and more. VI.One and syntAX are both powered by Kontakt Player 2 and will be available by spring.

Waldorf Electronics , distributed by QTec, unveiled three new products, two of which were under glass. Stromberg is a keyboard synth that promises analog modeling, wavetable synthesis, and sample playback, with several filter types, effects, and USB connectivity. Blofeld is a tabletop modeling synth that is expected to load and play Micro Q sounds. The Zarenbourg, a keyboard that physically models five classic electric pianos, was working and sounded great. It offers onboard speakers, as well as tremolo and time-based effects.

In the M-Audio booth, Way Out Ware showed KikAxxe ($69.95), a software synth that adds a number of useful features to an emulation of the venerable ARP Axxe. The instrument includes a 16-step sequencer that can be used with the synth and with a set of drum samples (think TR-505). Five drum kits are available—acoustic and electronic—and each of the seven drum slots has its own beat-synched filter. A virtual tape echo with one second of delay is also provided. Perfect for drum and bass work, KikAxxe is due for release in mid-March.

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