For a variety of reasons, far fewer modular manufacturers chose to exhibit at NAMM this year. This meant it was possible to spend more time playing, talking about, and listening to the gear that was at the show. Here is a summary of what I saw, with a focus on interesting developments and stories:
I tried to see every module manufacturer I could find at NAMM that had new products, and I think I came pretty close…but I’m sure I missed a few. (My apologies.) Here are the last four I had a chance to chat with and take pictures of.
The 5U or “Moog Unit” (MU) modular format does not get much representation at NAMM, with Moog, Moon Modular and STG Soundlabs being the usual stalwarts. Moog skipped NAMM this year, but an unexpected source – Noise Engineering – stepped into the breech with three new 5U modules – as well as a few new Eurorack ones too, of course. I should also note that Buchla returned to the show floor, recently being bought by Foxtone Music – many have applauded this move as putting it in the hands of someone who truly cares about their history and synthesis in general, rather than just making a profit.
It’s nice to see sound source ideas beyond our beloved sawtooth and square waves become more common in the modular world. In the next two installments I’m going to focus on a pair of these trends: plucked sounds and granular synthesis. Other mini-trends include the Eurorack world going Goth, and further proliferation of CEM3340-based VCOs.
Today’s installment is a study in extremes, going from exceptionally clean digital designs to purposely noisy and distorted analog ones, ending with a nice new envelope generator plus upcoming dual VCO. I also editorialize about “tone.”