New ways to get hands-on
As such, a MIDI controller (or two) and an audio interface remain must-buys. You might think that you're pretty much set in that department but, as ever, there are plenty of manufacturers out there who are seeking to tempt you with new and improved models.
Here are some of the NAMM 2015 controllers and interfaces that we're most looking forward to getting our hands on this year.
Novation Launchpad Pro
Having helped to popularise the concept of the pad-based Ableton Live controller with the original Launchpad, Novation is seeking to take things to the next level with the Pro version.
RGB LED feedback velocity- and pressure-sensitive pads are part of the deal now, and this certainly feels like a more 'deluxe' model than its predecessor, with a particular emphasis on performance.
Whether it can be a serious (yet more affordable) rival to Ableton's own Push controller remains to be seen.
Akai Advance series
Akai is attempting to unify your plugin collection with its new Advance series. This comes with a software 'shell' (the Virtual Instrument Player, into which your plugins are loaded) which, in turn, integrates with the keyboard.
The concept is similar to that explored by Native Instruments with its Komplete Kontrol S-Series - the theoretical difference here is that all third-party plugins are covered.
First impressions are favourable: we were able to stack up to eight third-party plugins and control each's parameters using the controller's eight rotaries without even looking up at the monitor, and there wasn't a CPU glitch in sight.
Arturia BeatStep Pro
Its standalone step sequencing potential has been grabbing the headlines, but it shouldn't be forgotten that Arturia's souped-up BeatStep is a MIDI controller, too.
As such, this could be a useful, multi-purpose device if you're running a hybrid setup and want something that can play a role both in your studio and on stage.
M-Audio Code Series
M-Audio's name is synonymous with MIDI controller keyboards, so it comes as no great surprise to discover that it has a new range of them on the way.
With its Mondrian-esque design, the new Code Series is certainly striking and, as is often the case, there are 25-, 49- and 61-note models.
We get the feeling that you'll either love or hate the Code Series' look, but these keyboards certainly appear to offer plenty of bang for your buck.
Roland Aira MX-1
Primarily designed as a mixing hub for your Aira devices and other gear, the MX-1 can also serve as an interface and control surface for your DAW.
It's worth reiterating that it's not a step sequencer (though the built-in effects can be sequenced) but, like Arturia's BeatStep, we reckon the MX-1 will find fans among musicians who want something that can help them out both in the studio and on stage.
Keith McMillen K-Mix
Another product that has multiple uses, the K-Mix can serve as a USB audio interface with µPre preamps, a programmable mixer with flexible routing options and per-channel DSP, and a DAW control surface.
This being a Keith McMillen product, it probably won't surprise you to learn that the faders and rotaries are of the touch variety - in fact, we're told that the K-Mix has no moving parts whatsoever. This should aid durability, but we'll find out what kind of impact that has on tactility when the K-Mix is released in the Spring.
Nektar Impact LX88
Downsized studio gear might be all the rage but, for some of us, an 88-note keyboard controller with faders, buttons, knobs and pads is a great thing to have about the place.
That's what you get with Nektar's Impact LX88, which also promises auto-mapping of controls to your DAW. It might not be super-sexy, but this could be a great keyboard players' controller.
Perhaps the most heavily-trailed audio interface in history, Arturia's AudioFuse certainly packs a serious amount of I/O into its compact case.
There are also numerous control features and - most excitingly of all - a two-tone leather topper that sits on the AudioFuse when you're not using it. Stylish.
M-Audio Deltabolt 1212
M-Audio is getting into the Thunderbolt game with the Deltabolt, a 12-channel audio interface that the company claims makes the most of its super-fast connection.
32-bit/192kHz operation and enhanced sound quality are claims made on the Deltabolt's behalf - we'll find out whether or not they stack up when the interface is released in the third quarter of 2015
Focsurite Clarett range
Also 'going Thunderbolt' is Focusrite, which is boasting sub-1ms latency levels on its new Clarett range of audio interfaces.
This includes the Clarett 2Pre (10-in/4-out), 4Pre (18-in/8-out), 8Pre (18-in/20-out) and the heavyweight 8Pre X (26-in/28-out). All models offer ADAT expansion to add eight more input channels, 24-bit/192kHz performance, detailed metering and MIDI connectivity.
Roland Super UA
Supporting both 1-bit DSD and 32-bit PCM playback, Super UA is Roland's new "audiophile-grade" audio interface.
Offering 4-in/4-out operation on XLR and 1/4-inch jacks, it promises low-latency performance and sports a multi-function knob with an LED surround.
The main unit is accompanied by an I/O module; this can be detached and left in your studio when you hit the road, leaving you with just a portable 2-in/2-out interface.