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The Thrill Of The New

Around this time of year I often get asked what I expect to see at the Winter NAMM show. It may come as no surprise that I expect to see more hardware and software designed to sound ‘just like they did back in the day’, more microphones making claims of superiority and, of course, more audio interfaces. All of these things are important, as are new monitors, monitor controllers, control surfaces and so on, but what I’d really like to see, from a personal perspective, is something that allows me to do something I couldn’t do last year. If a product can inspire me to look at music creation from a new angle, then I’m all for it. Of course everybody has a different wish list of things that they’d like to see, just as everybody makes different music, but I think most of us like to discover something that draws a new line in the proverbial sand.

Paul White in his studio, 2017.On the software front, I love what Zynaptiq have done with plug-ins such as Adaptiverb and Wormhole, as they take sound processing in a genuinely new direction, so I’ll be intrigued to see what they do next. iZotope have also done wonders with their affordable audio restoration software, and as the world’s most rubbish keyboard player, I’m still amazed by Jam Origin’s MIDI Guitar software, as it gives me back effective control over my virtual instruments and synths without needing a special guitar or pickup. Then there’s that sleeping giant, Spectrasonics. They don’t shower us with new products very often but when they do, it is usually something huge.

Shifting to the world of hardware, I always wonder what Electro-Harmonix will come up with next, as their somewhat unorthodox approach to guitar pedals has already managed to blur the lines between mere effects and guitar synthesis. I’m also expecting a review sample of the Plus Pedal, a new name to me, but the idea is that you have a piano-style sustain pedal that works with guitars — intriguing, certainly. And I really would like to hear that somebody has picked up Sonar, as it would be a huge shame to see it abandoned following Gibson’s decision to drop it.

Specific products I’d like to see, purely for selfish reasons, include a really solid DAW transport controller that includes a jog/shuttle wheel — something a bit like the transport section of a Mackie Control, but without the faders, would do nicely. And now that DSP is getting cheaper and more powerful, I’d like to see some hardware pedals based on spectral manipulation and resynthesis — essentially hardware playing catch-up with software. But most of all I’d like to be surprised by something that previously I never dreamed existed or could exist — a bit like the first time I encountered Auto-Tune, Melodyne DNA or CEDAR’s Retouch. Many companies claim their new product is a ‘game changer’, but what I’d like to see at this year’s NAMM show is something that really is.