We'll take the lot...
NAMM 2016: From being the exclusive preserve of boutique manufacturers just a few years ago, new hardware synths have come to dominate the hi-tech landscape at the Winter NAMM Show, with all manner of manufacturers scrambling to take advantage of their renewed popularity.
Last week's show gave us the new instruments we were expecting, plus a few others that seemed to come out of nowhere. The good news is that, however much money you have to spend and whether you're seeking portability or maximum power, there's going to be a new synth that'll tickle your fancy this year.
We'll deal with modular offerings elsewhere, but here are the most promising-looking self-contained synths we encountered at NAMM 2016.
If you were looking for a synth with the wow factor at NAMM 2016, the MatrixBrute was most certainly it.
There's nothing outrageous about its analogue architecture, but the pad-based 16x16 modulation matrix is another thing entirely (this can also be used as a step sequencer).
Who knows at this stage if this thing will turn out to be a hit or a glorious act of folly, but it's certainly got people talking.
Dave Smith Instruments OB-6
Once friendly rivals, now collaborators, Dave Smith and Tom Oberheim's was the romantic synth story of the show.
The 6-voice OB-6 shares some features with DSI's Prophet-6, but the two designers have come up with an analogue synth that promises the tone of Oberheim's classic SEM in an instrument that offers stability and plenty of contemporary features, too.
More than just a throwback, this could be a synth you'll be using well into the future.
Korg Volca FM
We wondered if Yamaha might release an all-new DX synth at NAMM, but as it turned out, it was Korg that unveiled an instrument in the vein of the company's classic FM synths.
It looks like a cracker, too: coming in the familiar Volca form factor, this FM instrument sounds and looks the part, while offering some intuitive performance features. Its announcement came as a pretty big surprise, but what a pleasant one it is.
While retro-inspired synths continue to capture the imaginations of many musicians, Yamaha is looking forward with its latest all-rounder, which builds on the success of the Motif range.
That's not to say that there are no nods to the past, though: the Montage's sounds are generated by a combination of AWM2, Yamaha's tried and tested waveform-based subtractive synth engine, and FM-X, which can be considered to be a next-gen version of FM.
Expect to see this one on stages and in pro studios around the world.
Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators
More pocket-sized synths from TE, and once again they look like calculators without cases.
We're very much on a retro tip here: The PO-20 arcade has a chiptune vibe, the PO-24 office is a noise percussion drum machine, and the PO-28 robot features 8-bit synth engines for creating melodies and lead lines.
Don't expect sonic sophistication, then, but once again, we expect the POs to offer a whole lot of fun for not very much money.
OK, we all knew you how good this one was before we even stepped on the plane to Anaheim, but it still qualifies as a star of the show.
It's a 4-voice analogue polysynth that sounds great, feels great and comes at a cracking price. And that, we'd say, is a winning combination.
Zoom ARQ Aero RhythmTrak
Is this a synth? Well, yeah, but the ARQ is also a drum machine, sequencer, looper and MIDI controller.
Defying convention, the device comprises a Base Station (which generates the sounds) and removable Bluetooth Ring Controller.
Whether or not this makes for a winning combination remains to be seen, but Zoom has got our attention.
Teenage Engineering OP-Z
A new retro-looking electronic instrument that does audio and video synthesis but doesn't have a display? That's the kind of product that could only come from Teenage Engineering.
Also known as 'the little monster', the OP-Z is a 16-track multitimbral synth that offers fully sequencable parameter locks, step sequencing and per-step modifiers. Oh, and it supports Bluetooth MIDI as well.