At this year’s NAMM show, barely a year after Tsutomu Katoh’s passing (Korg founder and chairman), his company presented a few new products. Korg Inc., a company once started by this man and his fellow companion and visionary friend, Tadashi Osanai, is the almost 50 year-old consumer electronic instrument corporation (founded 1963) that has introduced a series of revolutionary technologies while maintaining and satisfying a strong customer base in the entire world.
While many hardcore fans believe this was the worst NAMM in history, others believed that it was hands down the best show. In my opinion, it seemed that something is utterly wrong in the development of new innovative products in these companies. Maybe did the economy make the R&D in the companies to dry out, or perhaps they are working on major product releases for 2013. The product trend seemed to be either some kind of instrument tuner, or reverse keys (read below), or some tiny black box. And this was seen across most major companies this year. Roland seemed to be following the same path with pianos and pedals. I believe guitarists and engineers were the happiest. Their categories had a blessed year with many new product lines.
Other interesting products that impressed were Nord C2D, Arturia MINIBrute (website), Waldorf Pulse 2 and Moog Minitaur. I would rather like to avoid this, but the Casio XW-P1 and XV-G1 performance synthesizers were pretty cool by the looks. Kind of low-cost budget, like always. A Casio rep officially said “it is the first professional synthesizer in 20 years – a whole new beginning for Casio in professional synthesis”. He also noted the sound as “fat”, and was excited about the step synthesizer (!). The XV-G1 is told to have 19 seconds of sample looping memory. I am not sure how they were thinking, really. I didn’t realize that Casio is still living in the toy bubble.
Korg Monotribe 2
At NAMM 2012 in Anaheim, CA, Korg introduced yet a follow of the -mono, -micro and -nano equipment that has been introduced the past few years with the Korg Monotribe Analog Drums & Synthesizer Analog Ribbon Station (basically a re-invented Electribe and Groovebox) with enhanced sequencer and synthesizer features such as increased synth resolution, drum roll feature, Gate Time Hold feature and adjustable active sequencer steps. This is the 2.0 system upgrade. Pretty exciting and promising!
Using classic analog components (VCO, VCF, EG, LFO), the Monotribe brings back the vintage sound of the analog synthesizer. In addition to the analog synthesizer voice, the Monotribe provides a three-part rhythm section (bass drum, snare, and hi-hat) powered by discrete analog circuitry. These sounds were key elements in a generation of analog beat making and are still in demand today. Monotribe incorporates the popular Electribe step-key interface, with a dedicated button for each of eight steps. This allows real-time, hands-on step editing of drum parts as well as any synth part sequence played on the ribbon keyboard.
SV-1 Stage Vintage Piano
New body, old soul. One of the coolest additions to their catalogue has in my opinion been the revamped SV-1 Vintage Piano that comes in two models; the SV-1-73 Black and SV-1-88 Black Stage Vintage Piano. 73-key piano includes both a Japanese and a German Grand Piano sound, plus 34 additional piano, sounds. The core technology is based on KORG RX (Real eXperience) with an authentic and full-range expression and dynamic sampling. The four plus one great features of the SV-1, citing a Sweetwater product specialist: accurate sampling, accurate effects, accurate amps and finally style… and a real tube (see picture below). Yes, a real tube resides inside the SV-1!
The piano will also be released in a special edition model with reversed keys. Below is a statement from the Korg UK website:
Stage Vintage Piano (Available May 2012)
Limited Edition; bold and curvaceous, with an impressive red body and a retro reverse keyboard!
The rich, red body and reverse-colored keys instantly calls to mind the image of the dream combo organs of the 1960s. Packed with the retro sounds that defined an era and remain in demand today, the SV-1 Reverse Key is sure to complete any keyboard set-up, while captivating the ears and eyes of the audience. Only 500 pieces of each model are available in this strictly Limited Edition.
Reverse colored keys has been seen before on the Korg Poly-800 from 1983-84, but has also been an aesthetic feature on competing synthesizers such as the Swedish Nord with the Nord Lead Anniversary Model Limited Edition.
Oasys vs. Kronos
There is also an ongoing battle between the Oasys vs. Kronos, where both are having great capabilities in which the Open Architecture Synthesis Studio has been incorporated, although the Kronos will most likely be the “future” for their advanced music workstations. An assumption is that the KORG engineers are in the making of the Kronos upgrade, possibly ready for launch next year. While the Oasys still has great potential, several factors tip the scale towards the Kronos as their flagship model. The core technology boils down to an Atom Dual Core (Kronos) vs. Pentium 4 2.8 GHz (Oasys), SSD vs. HDD, 12 GB of sound samples vs. 1 GB. The Kronos also has a higher sequencing resolution, and the whole machine has half the power consumption of the Oasys.
Bits & Bops
There were a few other releases that I am not going to cover. The MicroArranger is one of the arrangers that was announced. The AW2G Clip-On Guitar Tuner is another one. The header photo is a Nektar Panorama P4 by the Californian company Nektar Technology. The P4 is a MIDI controller for the music production software Reason and has a few neat features such as motorized fader and a custom designed communication protocol for interaction with the DAW.
The next music tradeshow will be Musikmesse which is held in Frankfurt, Germany on 21-24 March.