NAMM 2023 live report: rolling news from the world's biggest music-making gear show
All the hot new guitars, synths, drums and other products as they're announced
NAMM 2023: Slotting into the distinctly unfamiliar month of April - but the very familiar surroundings of the Anaheim Convention Center in California - the 2023 NAMM Show is here, and it's promising to be... well, what exactly?
With many of the big players staying away - Fender, Gibson, PRS and Roland to name just a few - there was a danger that NAMM 2023 could have been distinctly lacking in the joys of spring, but it's looking like fears that we were approaching 'damp squib' territory were unfounded.
The good news is that there is plenty of new product to talk about - read all about all of it over on our NAMM 2023 hub page - and as the show kicks off for real, there's bound to be more to come.
And the even better news is that, whatever guitar, music tech and drum truffles turn up on the show floor, our hound on the ground will be there to sniff them out. Back in the UK, we'll be offering our own 'sideways' commentary on events, too.
You can expect this live blog to be updated from now and throughout the weekend as we start to get a glimpse of the good stuff, so keep it 'right here', as they say.
No NAMM live blog is complete without an external shot of the convention center, so here you go. The concept of time is flexible at the NAMM Show - what is actually three days can feel like 50 years - so by close of play on Saturday, the kids shown here enjoying the NAMM sign will actually have aged more than half a lifetime and be approaching retirement.
SSL 500-series module
Today SSL previewed a new 500-series module, the B-Series 611B Dynamics Module. Based on the sound of SSL’s classic 4000 A and B series consoles, the module delivers responsive, “vibey” compression and expansion by emulating the topology of a bus compressor. With an onboard de-esser, auto-release and fixed ratio points, it’s said to be ideal for enhancing drum overheads or taming vocal transients.
Sony MDR-MV1 headphones
Sony ushered us into a soundproofed booth to demo its new open-back MDR-MV1 headphones, aimed at spatial and immersive sound creators. After playing us a clip using a 360-degree immersive speaker array, we heard the same clip through the MDR-MV1s, which emulated the spatial sound through Sony’s 360 Reality Audio technology. The similarity was, dare we say it, a little bit mindblowing. Some might be sceptical of spatial audio, but after that demo, we’re convinced it’s here to stay.
Nord Stage 4
Announced in February, Nord’s Stage 4 has been revamped with a new control panel design, an improved keybed, expanded effects section, an updated synth engine and more, making it a bold contender for one of the best performance keyboards money can buy.
Unveiled a few weeks ago, Pioneer’s beastly OPUS-QUAD is the brand’s first all-in-one system to feature standalone 4-deck playback. With a 10-inch touchscreen and sleek matte finish, it looks like something Batman might use for a house party.
The new Hammond XK-4 is equipped with an all-new sound engine - the Modelled Tone Wheel 2 (MTW2) engine accurately reproduces the 91 tone wheels at the heart of all vintage Hammond organs, capturing the expressive imperfections that give vintage Hammonds their characterful sound.
Soma Laboratories Terra
Soma Laboratories’ booth houses many weird and wonderful things, including the Terra, an unique analogue synth built into a block of wood and adorned with touch-capacitive buttons.
Audient's iD24 doubles down on the brand's reputation for delivering studio-grade audio at prices within reach of the bedroom producer. Unveiled earlier this year, this $399 interface houses two of the same preamps as their $40,000 ASP8024-HE console and packs a JFET instrument input, multiple class-leading converters, and ADAT expandability inside to boot.
Previously known for their modular gear, Endorphin.es makes a bold entrance into the pedal world with GHOST, a collaboration with YouTuber Andrew Huang. This multi-FX unit delivers reverb, delay, distortion and more, allowing the user to experiment with different routing configurations to fine-tune their sound.
Bitwig Studio 5.0
The kind folks at Bitwig gave us a guided tour of the recently released 5.0 update to their increasingly awesome DAW Bitwig Studio. Bitwig was already the daddy of all things modulation, but 5.0 ups the ante by introducing five new MSEGs (multi-segment envelope generators) and giving users the ability to modulate track and project-level parameters.
ESP Exhibition Limited Series Guitar
ESP's Exhibiton Limited Series are supposed to be more than just guitars: they're works of art. Lovingly constructed at the brand's Custom Shop in Japan, these custom-designed and hand-built one-off wonders have been known to fetch well into five figures.
Endorphin.es Golden Master
Not content with debuting its first ever pedal design at NAMM, Endorphin.es has decided to reveal two at once. The Golden Master is based on the brand's Eurorack module of the same name, a multiband dynamics processor that's supposed to sit at the end of your signal chain and give the final mix a bit of sheen, polish and drive.
Sound Particles SkyDust
A world first this year at NAMM, as Sound Particles debuts SkyDust, the first ever spatial synthesizer plugin. Imagine eight oscillators, each independently panned in 360-degree immersive sound, sent flying around your head by a spatialized LFO, sequencer and envelope generator... trust us, it sounds phenomenal.
Whilst some trendy samplers (Chompi, we're looking at you) imitate the look and feel of kids' toys for hipster kudos, Blipblox goes the whole hog and actually designs one that's made for kids to use. myTRACKS is a pleasingly plasticky 5-track sampler and drum machine that'll have your 8-year-old dropping lo-fi hip-hop beats on Soundcloud in no time. After the ABCs, comes the MPC...
Rhodes' booth gave us the opportunity to see how their plugin emulation of the MK8 stacked up against the real thing, pictured here in a rather winsome military green. Let's face it, nothing's going to top the genuine article (that's why it costs $10k, folks) but the virtual instrument is a valiant effort, and more importantly, a way to get that lush Rhodes sound without remortgaging your home.
Yamaha CVP-909GP Clavinova
Yamaha's flagship digital piano, the CVP-909GP brings together the aesthetics of a luxury grand piano with the kind of technological marvels you'll find in their most advanced digital instruments. Load up score files and play along with the lights above the keyboard, or improvise and the built-in accompaniment will track the key you're playing in, and jam along with you.
ASM Hydrasynth Explorer
ASM’s Hydrasynth Explorer may not be new, but it’s been expanded with a 2.0 firmware update that adds per-voice modulation, LFO quantisation and three new memory banks to an already feature-packed wavetable synth.
Casio’s PX-S7000 digital piano makes its NAMM debut today, and it's looking mighty fine in a stylish mustard colourway. Billed as the best-looking Privia ever made, the keyboard plays and sounds as good as it looks, thanks to a redesigned keybed and a smart speaker system that can be fine-tuned to match the acoustic profile of its surroundings.
Casio Casiotone CT-S1
Aesthetics are certainly a focus for Casio this year. This special edition of the brand's Casiotone CT-S1 keyboard has been jazzed up by artist Romero Britto.
Back at the Audient booth, the EVO 16 and EVO SP8 sit underneath its iD24 interface. The 16 is EVO's most powerful audio interface yet, and offers 24 ins and outs, eight stellar preamps and a slick new UI. The real draw, though, is the new Smartgain tech, which automatically sets gain levels across all inputs to make complex recording sessions quicker and easier.
Embodme Erae Touch
It's the 40th annniversary of MIDI this year at NAMM, and one of the brands pushing forward the technology's evolution is Embodme. The Erae Touch, pictured here, is an MIDI 2.0 and MPE-compatible, touch-sensitive controller that can be fully customized to create unique interfaces for personalized MIDI control.
Polyend Tracker Mini
Polyend's Tracker Mini has to be one of the coolest things we've spotted at NAMM 2023. A cutesy, Gameboy-esque version of their Tracker sampler, it actually boasts better specs than its bigger brother, along with all-stereo sample playback, a built-in mic, USB audio and an onboard battery (the original used a battery pack). Polyend earn extra brownie points for the gnarly breakbeats, which make a welcome change from the omnipresent jazz fusion that tends to dominate at NAMM.
Expressive E Osmose
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Expressive E's MPE-compatible Osmose synth gets taken for a spin by T. Nava from Anderson .Paak's band The Free Nationals.
Ernie Ball Music Man Kaizen
After generating significant buzz at NAMM 2022, Ernie Ball’s seven-string Tosin Abasi co-designed Kaizen guitar returns a year later in a six-string iteration, available in Chalk White, Apollo Black, Mint and Indigo Blue.
Electro-Harmonix Lizard Queen
New from Electro-Harmonix and JHS Pedals we have the Lizard Queen, a fuzz pedal that's designed to look, feel and sound like a missing link in Electro-Harmonix's history: "The nano-sized pedal is the vintage EHX octave fuzz that never was but now is!" says the manufacturer.
NUXX have unveiled a formidable new multi-effects unit they've dubbed Trident. Promising guitarists almost everything they could ask for in a single unit, Trident's packed with a built-in looper, 27 amp models (based on NUXX's revamped TSAC-4K algorithm) and a considerable array of effects that includes delay, reverb, chorus, tremolo, phaser, compressor, filter and pitch-shifter.
Donner Hush-I Headless Guitar
Donner's Hush-I headless guitars are intended to be portable and ultra-light travel guitars for quiet practice and on-the-go playing. This one-off, mammoth version of the Hush-I might not fit so easily into a mobile setup, though. The Hulk called, he wants his guitar back...
Donner DDP-80 Plus
The latest addition to Donner's considerable keyboard range, the DDP-80 Plus is an upgrade to the DDP-80, a stylish and moderately priced digital piano.
Giulio Negrini Guitars Dissolution
This installation from Giulio Negrini Guitars was turning heads at the Boutique Guitar Showcase. It's an impressive specimen, without a doubt, but we're getting some seriously bad vibes from the three tarantula legs sticking out of its side. The plaque underneath reads: "Praising inception, devising a future. Perpetual alteration, the cadence of nature." Eh?
Netherblade is a truly unique instrument: its huge touch-screen can swap between three layouts: frets, keys and beat pads, while the integrated XYZ pad enables the player to simultaneously modify 3 MIDI-controllable parameters while playing and bending notes in real-time.
The Donner D1 drum machine, revealed this weekend at NAMM, is an affordable beat box for the budget-conscious producer. A 12-voice, sample-based affair, it's aimed at the entry-level market, and would pair nicely with Donner's B1, a similarly priced analogue bass synthesizer.
Modbap revealed their latest Eurorack module this weekend, Meridian. I'ts a dual multimode filter array module that gives synthesists an impressive amount of filtering options: the user can choose between four filter types (ladder, OTA, comb and vocal formant) and filter modes such as low pass, high pass, band pass and notch. There's a drive effect, too, for extra crunch.
The MIDI Association's booth plays host to several reissues of classic hardware, including the Prophet-5, Moog Model D and the Rossum SP-1200, pictured here, a faithful recreation of the iconic E-mu SP-1200 drum machine.
ESP Exhibition Limited Series
ESP's Exhibition Limited series are a cut above the competition: featuring elements like the brand's most sought-after wood stocks, special wood processing, experimental painting techniques and unique, hand-crafted hardware, they're put together by master luthiers in ESP's Custom Shop. Here's a whole wall of them.
beyerdynamic M Series Microphones
beyerdynamic's M Series microphones are iconic pieces of kit that have been used on recordings of everyone from Hendrix to Zeppelin. They've received a facelift this year, and all seven upgraded mics were on display at the brand's booth, sporting a sleek new aesthetic.
Fender were a limited presence at this year's event: they didn't bring any guitars, but what they did bring was their new hybrid amp/Bluetooth speaker, the RIFF. Packing 60 watts of power, the unit's black grille cloth hides six custom-tuned drivers: this could make for a decent practice amp that can usefully double as a portable boombox.
Melbourne Instruments NINA
Unveiled at NAMM 2022, NINA is a 12-voice analogue polysynth with a twist: those knobs you're looking at are motorized and can move by themselves, completely independently. Some might call it a gimmick, but we think it's mighty useful quirk that could make designing patches on the NINA a little more intuitive.
Yamaha's newly announced, flagship FG9 dreadnought looks gorgeous, but you wouldn't know it. For reasons that escape this reporter, the lighting in Yamaha's wing of the Anaheim Convention Centre provides less visibility than most Medieval dungeons.
You'll have to take our word for it, then: with a minimalist design inspired by Japanese aesthetics, an Adirondack spruce top, an ebony fingerboard and bridge and a choice of African Mahogany or Indian Rosewood for the back and sides, this lovingly crafted premium acoustic looks the part, and sounds it too.
Ibanez Signature Guitars
Ibanez's signature guitar drop this year features models for six of its most iconic artists. Here we have Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Paul Stanley's signature guitars.
On display at Pioneer's booth we have the DJM-A9, a new flagship club mixer that's intended to supersede the DJM-900NXS2, the industry standard for nightclubs and venues across the globe. The 4-channel A9 has been significantly revamped, with improved sound quality, expanded I/O, upgraded FX and a new screen. The layout's been tweaked for usability, too: there's now more space around the EQ knobs to prevent mid-set mishaps.
Pioneer's DDJ-FLX10 makes its NAMM debut after being announced just a few weeks ago. This 4-channel DJ controller hooks up to your laptop to be used with rekordbox and Serato DJ Pro, and can be used with Serato's Stems function to separate any track into individual stems so that drums, instruments and vocals can be chopped up, looped and remixed on the fly.
Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave
Unveiled at NAMM 2022, Groove Synthesis' 3rd Wave is still looking fresh a year later. The 3rd Wave is a wavetable synth that's clearly indebted to the PPG Wave, taking inspiration from both the aesthetics and functionality of that bright blue '80s classic.
However, this isn't just a retro revival, as the 3rd Wave builds on the legacy of the PPG by expanding its capabilities and envisioning what PPG might have come up with, had they designed a synth for the 21st-century musician.
1V/Oct The Centre
The Centre from 1V/Oct started life as a Eurorack module, but has been reimagined as a standalone semi-modular synth just in time for NAMM, bolstered by the addition of a MIDI interface and stereo output.
A digital wavetable synth inspired by Serum, The Centre offers plenty of options for sound-shaping (ring mod, wavefolding, physical modelling and tons of modulation possibilities) and it can handle sample playback and Euclidean sequencing too.
Dingwall Guitars Rio Dream
Dingwall Guitars and John Taylor of Duran Duran have teamed up for a signature bass guitar that comes with all manner of high-end details and a Cranberry Pearl finish inspired by the cover of Rio.
The appropriately named Rio Dream is a four-string bass with a Novax fanned-fret design, on which its 24 banjo frets are angled across a multi-scale neck.
T-Rex Effects Binson Echorec
Danish effects aficionados T-Rex Effects have resurrected the Binson Echorec, the legendary mechanical delay unit heard on - among many other classic recordings - Bonham's reference-quality drum sound from When The Levee Breaks.
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Likely inspired by the Suzuki Omnichord, the Instachord is a strummable chord generator: choose from a library of chords, assign a few to the instrument's buttons and even those who aren't musically inclined will be able to start playing chord sequences easily.
Chapman Guitars Chris Robertson ML3
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This is Chris Robertson of Black Stone Cherry's signature Chapman, a semi-hollow ML3 with an alder body, rosewood fingerboard and maple top and neck, finished in an alluring white that's set off nicely by the gold hardware.
4ms Looping Delay and Sampler
Two new Eurorack modules from 4ms at NAMM, both of which can be purchased pre-built or as DIY kits for at-home tinkering. Sampler does what it says on the tin: it comes loaded with hundreds of samples, but you can of course add your own to the microSD card, before adjusting pitch, length and start position or reversing the sample.
Looping Delay is a clock-synced delay module with all the usual parameters, including a feedback knob that goes up to 110%, which we assume will sound pretty gnarly.
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