As I suspected might be the case, this year’s Winter NAMM show turned out to be mainly evolutionary rather than revolutionary — lots of things that already exist but given a bit of an update. It never ceases to amaze me that so many microphone companies manage to survive alongside each other or how many new audio interfaces and studio monitors turn up at each show.
As expected, you have to look to the software world to see the most creative departures from the mainstream: Zynaptiq maintain their lead as the masters of weirdness with Wormhole, their latest sound-twisting plug-in, which I’m aching to try just as soon as the production version becomes available. McDSP are also adding a new twist to delay with their EC300 plug-in, which uses convolution processing to ‘flavour’ the delay repeats, offering some useful creative options.
As has become traditional at NAMM over the past three or four years, Apple have taken us into a darkened room and shown us the most recent updates to both GarageBand and Logic Pro X. As the upgrades to these programs are both significant and free, Apple have to score as perhaps offering the best bargains of the show. UA also showed us a new Apollo Twin, which looked frighteningly seductive, while Line 6 announced that a software version of their flagship Helix guitar processor would become available in the near future.
Of all the product categories though, the one that shows the least sign of letting up is the software emulation of classic studio hardware. This has always struck me as rather an odd market sector, as the vast majority of these plug-ins sell to home studio owners who have never even seen the original hardware, let alone used it for long enough to gain any meaningful experience of it. I’ll readily admit that I’ve never used a Fairchild limiter in a session, and that I’ve never owned a real Pultec EQ. If the available tools do the job in a musically viable fashion, then I’m happy whether they happen to be good emulations, inaccurate emulations, or completely new incarnations of whatever it is I need to use. If I’m doing some DIY furniture repair, I don’t look for a replica hammer of exactly the type Thomas Chippendale once used — I just pick up the nearest hammer that looks appropriate to the job in hand. But that’s just me, I guess.
Anyhow, suffice it to say that there was no shortage of new products to check out — certainly more than enough to keep us busy with reviews over the next few months. As always we’ll try to pick the most relevant and most interesting ones, and if we do happen to come across anything that establishes a new paradigm, we’ll make sure it gets the coverage it deserves.