Nu Design's Alpha Sphere
Producer Sessions Live London
Producer Sessions Live Round 1 in London took place on 7 and 8 September, teaming lectures from top producers with all the latest gear from all the big names.
Hosted by Computer Music, Future Music and, of course, MusicRadar, it took place at the SAE Institute in London. And don't forget that we do it all again in Manchester on the 28 and 29 September, so don't miss out.
Stars and gear!
Stars including Steve Mac, Stonebridge, James Hockley, Kirk Degiorgio, Stefano Ritteri, Nu:Tone and synth legend Rob Papen showed off their studio skills in the lecture rooms, while the rest of the building was packed with gear and demonstrators ready to show it off and answer questions.
In the Korg room the UK was treated to the first public airing of the amazing new Volca analogue beats, bass and synth machines. Special props to the deep bottom end on the kick of the Beats, and searing highs coming from the finely tweaked filter on the Bass. For £119 each they're hard to resist.
As was the MS-20 'blackboard' training unit that Korg brought along. This super-rare example of the MS-20 features a giant version of the famous control panel and even a small built-in amp and speaker. It was originally used to teach synthesis in schools, and examples - such as the top condition unit brought along by Korg UK - are incredibly hard to find.
Software gurus FXpansion gave demos of its excellent D-Cam Synth Squad package and sneak previews of its eagerly awaited BFD3. This features an all-new library and stunning minimal 'blueprint' look - the rendered/photographic style of old has been replaced with a new sleek white and outline-based representation that better shows every element of your kit and its associated mics as you build it.
Pioneer chose Producer Sessions Live to show off its new DJ-SP1 controller (with pads and knobs for Serato DJs), alongside a new take on the classic DJM-900, the SRT model featuring a Serato-ready soundcard for instant integration.
Special mention goes to its awesome new XDJ-R1, which delivers pro features such as CD decks, Rekordbox compatiblity and music playback via USB stick in an all-in-one deck. There's even a place for your iPhone or iPad for quick track selection via the Remotebox app. Awesome.
In the huge Source Distribution booth the usual suspects - such as Moog and Universal Audio - showed off their full ranges of products, but it was PreSonus which took the opportunity to show off an exclusive, with its Sceptre monitors appearing in 8-inch and 4-inch forms. Both pack a unique DSP process that's delivered by a Linux-based PC inside each monitor, packing the processor from an Android tablet. "You could play Angry Birds on this monitor," we were told, incredibly.
All we know for certain is that both - in particular the larger 8s - sound fantastic, with the combo of the DSP taming the large reflective demo room, and the focussed concentric tweeter-on-bass driver mounting delivering great bass, clarity and ear-flapping levels.
Yamaha brought its entire line-up of Motif and 01 digital mixing gear, and took over the event with its own impromptu sessions throughout the day from Yamaha endorsee Erb N Dub. He showed off the company's latest gear in a series of improvised jams.
Meanwhile, Sample Magic had special offers galore on its massive range of sample collections and a demos studio ready for anyone wanting to browse its wares. Plus, there was the first airing of its amazingly useful (and simple) A/B Mix plugin. Insert it on your master channel and equip it with up to nine audio tracks that can be dialled through in an instant for quick and easy in-DAW comparison. You can even loop up sections of the tracks to focus in on a bass sound or specific percussion section that you're aiming to ape.
Novation had a trio of surprises in the shape of its brand new Launch Key Mini, Launch Pad Mini and Launch Control.
The Launch Key Mini teams mini keys with pads and controls in a package that's tiny and portable, yet chunky, strong and ready for pro use. The new Control's main feature is its bank of rotaries and, it's the perfect partner for the new Launchpad Mini, a smaller, lighter but otherwise feature-for-feature identical retake on the popular Launchpad.
All three work great with Ableton Live out of the box (and come complete with Live Intro), and can quickly be set up to tweak any parameter in any DAW. And - as is the trend - all three can powered by your iPad; just the thing for adding physical controls to your favourite apps, including, of course, Novation's own hugely successful Lauchpad app, with the much-requested ability to add your own samples coming soon via an update.
In the nu:desine room the company's AlphaSphere turned more than a few heads, being a controller that's as versatile and inspiring as it is eye catching.
This spherical collection of pressure sensitive-pads can do everything from drum triggering, clip launching and note entry. You can also use it for mixing, with the amount of pressure you flex the pads by being assignable to levels, sends, synth settings or any other of your DAW's virtual controls.
Ableton pulled out all the stops, creating its own classroom that was lined with Ableton branding and packaging, plus iMacs sporting the latest Live 9 and Push controllers apiece. The Ableton team were there to guide show-goers through the creative process of making music with Live and Push, or simply on hand to answer questions should the step-by-step video lessons on every computer (covering everything from making a beat to making a mix) stimulate discussion.
All in all it was a great couple of days, and we do it all again in Manchester's SSR School of Sound Recording on 28 and 29 September. Visit www.producersessionslive.com for the full line up of producers and exhibitors and book your tickets!