It was a rocky start. Well, not initially. I’d made arrangements to stay with friends that lived in Dana Point (about 30 miles away from Anaheim), so that I could commute for the three days that I was scheduled to visit and cover the 2014 Winter NAMM Show.
Things started promisingly enough with a solid breakfast, some strong coffee, and a relatively gridlock-free trip, but quickly took an ugly turn onto Katella Ave. Although the NAMM website clearly stated that two parking lots would be available, attendees like myself who had arrived early enough to avoid long lines were turned away from the first location (which was now for Disneyland guests only), toward the second one where the long lines definitely were.
Also protracted was the wait to pick up a badge, but at least that was somewhat expected. Unexpected was the name on my badge, which was Yuri. This was followed by 17 straight consonants, the first two of which were “z” and “c.” Fortunately ol’ Yuri was actually standing right there next to me, shaking his paperwork in the agent’s face like he was from the bank. Apparently, he wanted them to know he was definitely NOT Swedish. Like, at all.
Anyway, I finally walked into the show about an hour after my arrival. Now, I’m a patient man. Got to be in my line. But, damn! This was not the first or even the twentieth time the event has been hosted here. Disorganization and confusion appeared to reign supreme. Fortunately, this grump-inducing opening was the only real bummer in an otherwise fun and productive few days…
Things seemed to brighten up almost immediately, when I laid my eyes, ears and hands on the AlphaSphere (www.alphasphere.com). With its striking “Death-Star”-like appearance and 48 soft pads with responsive LED lighting, it beckons you to “come hither.” It’s a MIDI controller that is compatible with any software and it’s just plain fun as hell to play! The customizable notational layouts make for an endless variety of fresh modal approaches to trigger any sounds, loops or textures you choose.
Ukuleles seem to be ubiquitous in recent years, with more and more manufacturers offering models of increasingly higher (and some lower) quality. However, one company did throw a new spin into this crowded field. Loog guitars (www.loogguitars.com) has a line of three-stringed guitars, aimed at providing children and beginners with a quicker, easier path to the fun part of making music. Along with their three acoustic models, they were also introducing the Electric Loog into their product line.
The Kaminari Swinger ’69 electric guitar (www.kamanari-guitars.com) is a new design with a vintage history. It’s sleekly unique body shape and arrow-shaped headstock belong to a Fender model that was never introduced in their catalogs. With the help of alumni Fender guitar builder Kenny Sugai, Kaminari is releasing alder body, maple-necked replicas of this guitar exclusively in a beautiful “desert sand” shade, with vintage style hardware and electronics. The added pinstripe option is just plain sexy and I totally want one!
Video and audio for video were huge points of focus at this year’s show and mobile video upstart GoPro (www.gopro.com) was leading the charge. The Hero3+ Black Edition/Music Bundle is an all-in-one solution, providing a camera, several different mounts, quick release buckles, a three-way pivot arm, Wi-Fi, an app, and other professional-grade editing software and more, allowing bands and other artists to capture, edit, and promote their own video content, whether captured onstage, outdoors, or in the studio.
MXL Mics (www.mxlmics.com) were not to be outdone, introducing the MM-VE001 Mobile Media Videographer’s Essentials Kit. It comes with a gun-style mount that holds your mobile phone steady for recording video, two cold shoe mounts for optional accessories and a multi-directional ball head that facilitates camera positioning at any angle. It also includes a shotgun mic and real-time audio monitoring.
As video content from mobile devices like the iPhone and Android becomes more prevalent. So, too, will the demand for higher quality audio. German microphone company Lewitt (www.lewitt-audio.com) took a giant step forward by introducing the DGT 650 Microphone. Presented as an “all-in-one-home recording solution,” it’s equally comfortable in mobile applications or the studio. It boasts “best-in-class” sound quality (Lewitt makes nice mics), an illuminated user interface, an onboard lithium battery, an analog preamp, and four user modes: Stereo Mode wherein the mic’s two transducers record in an x/y configuration, Cardiod Mode for speech or singing, Singer/Songwriter Mode for simultaneous vocal and instrument recording, and a Stereo Line-in Mode for recording from a mixer or other line source. Most incredibly, this mic has a USB cable that when connected to your computer, appears as a dedicated audio interface. Coooool.
There’s always a ton of stuff and never enough space to cover it all. As always, you can expect a closer look at these and other products through the coming months. I will no doubt return to NAMM with all forgiven next year. I just hope I can park closer!
Sven-Erik Seaholm is an award-winning independent producer, singer, songwriter, and music journalist. www.kaspro.com