It's been a while since we last blogged as there's been plenty of technical behind the scenes changes here at Future Publishing - not least of which has been the launch of our new MusicRadar.com site: the new home of Future Music online.
The new Future Music blog on Music Radar is on the way (work faster you technical dogs!) but until then we're back on the faithful FM slot to bring you the latest news on the latest issue.
And the big news of issue 198 has to be the NAMM show.
NAMM isn't just a great excuse to get out of the freezing cold UK rain and swan around Orange County in a T-shirt and shades. It's also the place where the big names unveil their big new gear and the world's music mags descend in the search for big news. And covering the show for Future Music – if you can plug it in, we want to know about it – I had to do more than my share of legwork.
First thing a hi-tech journalist needs for a NAMM report is a pair of comfortable shoes – the show is *vast* taking twenty minutes just to walk from one end to the other. The next thing you need is an encyclopaedic gear knowledge and an eagle eye for 'II's or 'SX's added to the back of familiar looking casings. Yes, seems the theme for Winter NAMM 2008 was evolution rather than revolution with many staples undergoing minor tweaks to stay ahead of the pack. We went in search of incredible new standards in synthesis and recording and came away with a bulging bag of new gear but very little in the way of genuine innovation.
The big names were perhaps those playing it safest. Yamaha chose NAMM to unveil a new Pocketrak 2G micro recorder for example. Excited yet? Meanwhile Korg showed off their M3-powered Pa2Xpro workstation and Pa500 songwriting station. Both great products but both based around bringing established technology to new music makers. Roland were the closest to 'new' with their new Fantom G and new mid-range V-Tour V-Drums. And special mention to their entirely kick-ass new V-Accordians. They can recreate the sound of any accordian. Don't laugh. They sell stacks of the things.
The most remarkable synth we saw was Access's Virus TI Snow – a stunning new mini Virus that packs in a surprising amount of original Virus power into a tiny, sexy white 'n' walnut case. Special mention to it's brilliant Atomiser program which allowed Warp artist Richard Devine – resident on the Access stand throughout the show – to mangle his iTunes collection live before our ears. If I had a dollar for everytime someone came up and asked me "What IS that?!?!"…
Similarly sexy are Euphonix impossibly sleek MC Mix and MC Control consoles. We'll save the full jaw-drop for our massive NAMM report coming up in the next issue of FM, suffice to say that you don't know that you want one yet… but you will.
Meanwhile we were delighted to lay our hands on the eagerly awaited (ie, long overdue) Arturia Origin Keyboard synth. This sizey number sports a cool flip up, laptop style control surface and screen but – major disappointment – was only at the show in static prototype form. Likewise Dave Smith Instruments LinnDrum. It looks gorgeous, it's lights flashed and it's pads and buttons depressed and turned but unfortunately Mister Innards was sadly absent. Dave Smith was on hand to appologise and hint that Frankfurt's Music Messe in March might be a good place to see it in action. Good job his Prophet 08 rack was up and running and sounding fabulous then.
On the softer side the world of virtual synths was more than ably supported by Spectrasonic's Omnisphere which achieved the holy grail of managing to sound unlike anything else at the show by delicately morphing real acoustic sound to form unidentifiable new tones that can quickly be made to do anything from polite twinkling to taking the top of your head clean off. Likewise EastWest's Forbidden Planet which we fully expect to provide the soundtrack to every sci-fi/horror movie for 2009. A perfect partner to their similarly Bruckheimer-friendly SD2 percussion plug-in we reckon.
Native Instruments Kore Player might not be the brand new übersynth we now routinely expect from the Berlin powerhouse but the fact that they're giving it away free instantly makes us like it. And – speaking of bargains – the Novation Nocturne controller, laden with the Automap power of their costly SL keyboards, is your irresistible route into tactile software control for just £69.
We could talk about seeing Stevie Wonder on the Rhodes stand or the length of the queue to see Slash but we'll save that for that bulging issue of Future Music, issue 198, on sale 15th Feb.