My Top 3 WANT Synth Products at NAMM 2014

Here are the top three products that I’ve discovered at NAMM 2014 to be definite purchases in 2014. By no means are they the top 3 products at NAMM 2014, but for me they align with my interests perfectly. Note that NAMM isn’t over yet and there still may be some additional gems to be announced. I wanted to do a top 5 list, but I really could only find three products that I realistically would actually buy. I think all three products I chose will fit into my studio and live rig nicely. They will also integrate very well with the Analog experience that I particularly enjoy.

First up is the mighty MOOG Sub 37.

Moog Sub 37
Moog Sub 37

Yes, I already have the Sub Phatty and absolutely love it. It may be a tiny bit redundant having the Sub 37, but there are a lot of reasons to upgrade to this beauty. It’s a 20 minute video, but check it out if you haven’t about the MOOG Sub 37. The price above all else is what’s fantastic though. MOOGS are expensive in general, and I find the Sub 37 for all you get will be at a pretty affordable MOOG analog synth.

Moog Sub 37 Preview from Sonic State.

Next up is the Arturia Beat Step.

Arturia Beat Step
Arturia Beat Step

This to me is one of the products where you scratch your head and wonder why none of the other big companies like Roland, Korg, Yamaha, Akai, etc. came up with this idea. The Arturia Beat Step controller is perfect to me. With USB Out, MIDI Out, CV Out, it’s a no brainer. It has a step sequencer, pads, knobs that send controller data ( hopefully sysex as well ). It’s built pretty well it looks like and will just be absolutely essential in the studio and on stage, especially if you’re an analog synth buff. Ok, I might be gushing a little with this product, but it’s definitely a “Gotta have one” product.

Arturia Beat Step from Sonic State

My third top product is the beautiful RK-100S in red.

Korg RK-100S Keytar
Korg RK-100S Keytar

I’m a big keytar fan. I think the Korg RK-100S is going to be great. I have a red RK100 and it’s one of the best controllers I’ve played. I’m originally a Gibson Les Paul slinging guitar player so the weight doesn’t bother me at all with the original RK100. In fact it’s lighter than a Les Paul it seems to me. The mini keys do seem to be a possible problem with the RK-100S but we’ll see. I’m not a big fan of mini keys and when you’re moving on stage, a bit more real estate with the keys is important to me. You have to take your eye off the ball a lot on stage so to speak.

I also have the Yamaha KX5 and the mini keys drive me nuts for the reason I stated above. In performance mode it’s too easy to look away and hit the wrong “mini” key…laugh. I also actually think the KX5 feels heavier than the RK100 as well but I think that’s because of the different size and weight balance. The KX5 is much much smaller too. I actually like a ketar about the size of a guitar. Not too giant looking like some of the Rolands but not too dinky like the Yamaha’s. Korg seems the closest to making it look and feel similar to a guitar. This kind of balances out the group a bit if that matters to anyone. It does to me a little. Having the keytar made from wood like the original is a HUGE plus. The creaky plastic keytars just don’t feel as good, but again I’m coming from a guitar player perspective I suppose.

The RK-100S with the ribbon controllers, tap tempo, vocoder, internal sounds, arp, etc. looks to be a possible winner and a big competitor to the Roland AX Synth. I think it’s going to be half the price as the Roland AX synth. Perhaps that might reduce the price on the Roland.

Korg RK-100S Keytar from Korg

Finally, there are other products that have peaked my interest such as the Roland AIRA products, Nord Lead A1, and a few of the Analog drum machines, but nothing that has sparked my “must buy” interest as the products mentioned above. I will say that I don’t believe anyone has hit a home run with the drum machine yet. Perhaps Roland might with their very secretive AIRA products, but I just haven’t seen anything that great. I think a lot of companies are trying to figure out the drum machine such as whether it should be analog, have sample import, etc. At home here I primarily use my trusty Yamaha RX5, Roland R5 mkii / R70, and an MPC. I sometimes use the Electribe ESX-1 which is good too. I would love to have a TR-808 and perhaps that’s why my initial interest is with the AIRA products from Roland. We’ll see what happens there.

Any disappointments??? Yes, for me there is one big disappointment and I can sum it up in one word….ROLAND. If you look at the big three in Japan, Yamaha is doing well with it’s solid Motif line and recent releases from a year ago. Korg is doing VERY well too it seems with it’s analog releases. Roland just makes me continue to buy their old analog gear and nothing new. I don’t get the Roland AIRA secretive hype. I’ve worked for several all Japanese companies in Japan over the past 20 years and I can say from my experience that this means Roland is possibly not ready and perhaps a bit not sure. I can just picture what must be going on their staff meetings…laugh. Been there and I do hope I’m wrong. I want a TR-808/TR-909!

Anyways, enjoy the rest of NAMM 2014. It’ll be exciting to see how NAMM finishes.

5 thoughts on “My Top 3 WANT Synth Products at NAMM 2014

  1. Nigel

    Couldn’t agree with you more about Roland. I am the NAMM show and the new Aira Drum machine is nowhere to be seen…… Big disappointment

    1. Hello Nigel. I was a little excited about the Roland FA-06, but when I found out it had no multi-sampling capabilities, I was a bit disappointed. I think triggering samples in general is pretty basic and common these days, but it’s the multi-sampling that is not always there and in some cases can be improved on with newer models. The mid range synths such as the Yamaha MOXF and Korg Krome have multi-sampling capabilities if correct. Yet, the Roland FA-06 takes a step back. The Integra sounds are nice, but perhaps just buyng the Intergra module would be better…grin.

      The AIRA is a teaser that may backfire with Roland if they’re not careful. I think people are excited but that hysteria may turn to negative criticism of Roland should the product not hold up to the hype. I have never been to NAMM, but I like the open concept better than a bunch of private booths such as what Roland apparently has set up. Perhaps Roland thinks it would be worse not have any announcements rather than a teaser campaign. Not sure, but it will be interesting.

      Perhaps the saving grace might be that I so far don’t see any fantastic win all drum machines yet. I think there is one from Elektron, Alesis, and another from Spark, but none seem to be garnering much praise at the moment. Plus any new drum machine that comes out seems to be either compared to the old TR-808 or the new Tempest. The time might be right for a new groove box or drum machine, but who will win out I’m not sure.

      You are at NAMM so maybe there is more or less than meets the eye on the forums I’m reading about drum machines there.

      Thanks for the comment. – Jim

  2. Roy

    Hey Jim are you actually attending NAMM? That’s quite a flight if you actually are here. I just got back from the show. Lot’s of good stuff. I think it’s one of the better NAMM shows in a while when it comes to keyboards and software. I also like the Beatstep and Korg keytar. I’m an 80’s kid so Korg bringing out that keytar brought a smile to my face. And the Beatstep is pretty sweet too, built pretty solid and at the price they told me it’s a no-brainer! I myself would replace the Sub 37 with the Prophet 12 desktop – I just love how it sounds and it’s built pretty good too. I was ready to walk out with it – lol. As far as drum machines go, the new Elektron drum machine looks pretty nice. That and the Tempest are my favorite modern drum machines.

    1. Hello Roy,

      Unfortunately, no I’m not at NAMM although my article probably sounds like it…laugh. The buzz this year about NAMM and what is being announced does seem to suggest it’s a decent show this year. I have heard reports about the Prophet 12 recently but haven’t seen a photo or read anything about it yet. I also didn’t know it was a desktop. Lately I’ve been really digging the sound of the Prophet 5 listening to some old Patrick Cowley who used extensively the Prophet 5 if correct.

      Perhaps that Prophet 12 might get me closer to the 5. There is no way I’ll likely own a Prophet 5 as they are quite expensive to say the least. Indeed there is much talk about the Elektron RYTM, but at the same time it seems the promos seem to be leaving many underwhelmed I’m curious if you heard anything good out of it yet.

      The Tempest is catching on which is nice to hear although a drawback I’m learning is that it doesn’t take samples which surprisingly seems to be what these newer models including the Alesis have.

      It will be interesting if any additional surprises pop up over the weekend. I think we’re at the midway point at the time of this blog post.

      One day I hope to check out a NAMM show. That would be great.

      Thanks for the comments. – Jim

      Patrick Cowley & Sylvester MENERGY – Amazing for 1981.

    2. I see the Prophet 12 desktop module has been announced already. Geez, not sure why I hadn’t picked up on that….laugh. So many keyboards I suppose one or two are bound to slip by me. Thanks for the info and I’ll check it out.

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