Yesssss! After a two years of forced stop, the Namm Show is back with an emotionally charged summer version, presenting us a hopeful 2022 edition.
It is not hard to admit that we felt butterflies in our stomachs from the moment we boarded our KLM Amsterdam-Los Angeles flight. Seeing so many colleagues and professionals from the music and entertainment industry, that for two very long years has lived in the shadows and total uncertainty, filled our hearts.
Arriving in the always sunny Anaheim, buoyed by that crisp breeze typical of Southern California, given to us by our beloved Pacific Ocean, we immediately catapulted to the Convention Center for a very first press conference where a few selected products were presented amidst the growing enthusiasm of journalists and industry insiders who were finally realizing that the Show had “restart again.”
To us personally, unconditional MI lovers and serial collectors of vintage instruments, the thing that impressed us the most during this preview was being able to admire up close the reissue of the Fender Rhodes. The MK8 repurposes the celebrated electric piano with a 75 years Edition model, in a stylish, elegant and terribly cool total black version.
After a few greetings in the lobby of a Hilton that seems to be standing still in time and a quick drink at the Marriot, appreciating America’s undeniable ability to provide entertainment, especially when it comes to Rock’n’Roll, we abandon ourselves exhausted but happy in the arms of Morpheus, having the distinct feeling that the three-day show will be very intense.
And so it is, right from the first day of the fair, an initial parade with marching bands and majorettes, as if to say: Guys, are you ready for this?! Yes we are! We have been waiting for this moment for two years!
We swoop into the Pro Audio pavilion, perhaps out of romance, perhaps because we have an immediate need to say hello to friendly faces and see again companies we hold close to our hearts.
RCF‘s booth stands out in the middle of a hall that honestly does not hide the absence of many players, and we stop for a few ritual photos of the new products and a chat, just on the eve of the inauguration of the RCF Arena, which, with the Luciano Ligabue concert, finally opens the doors of this ambitious all-Italian project! Harman mounting JBL‘s latest Line Array right at the booth seems almost ready to perform a great little concert for the first shy patrons of the morning. db Technologies and FBT confirm a great presence of Italianness in the audio world even overseas, and this makes us gasp and swells our chests with pride.
Goingo down the escalators we dive into the Studio Gear section and the atmosphere really seems to be heating up, even in terms of attendance. Lots and lots of space for microphones, with brand new models increasingly cut to the podcast world as well, analog-flavored consoles always at the forefront and lots of outboards. We were struck by Millennia‘s new preamp and channel strip models HV-3C and STT-I.
We spent most of the day listening to studio monitors, being first pampered by the French mastery of Focal, demonstrating truly impressive near and midfield models and then being enraptured by the experience given to us by PMC in their immersive demo room that sounds divine.
It is clear that this is the trend for other top players as well, to use Atmos technology making the listener have the most exciting experiences possible, and the brands that are increasingly venturing into installations, products and software that dialogue and reason with this technology are many.
We experienced a listening experience that is difficult to explain in words just inside the cockpit of a Tesla Model X that (along with other top notch vehicles located in different areas of the trade show) plays on a Dolby system Elton John’s “Rocket Man” as we have never heard it, especially sitting in an automobile. The vocals envelop us and the instruments reveal themselves to our attentive ears at unexpected moments, leaving us truly speechless.
We spend the next two days of the show moving through the halls and among the beautiful live events on the outdoor stages (the Yamaha stage, reigns supreme).
We are impressed by how many new plug-ins and digital products are presented at this edition of Namm and the countless clinics on mixing and use of tools that are presented at the booths of the various brands, as well as by the various speeches by great producers of new and old school.
Antares offers continuous demos of its products with artists and producers demonstrating the use of the very latest features of the various Auto Tune plug ins and the brand new EQ, being presented here along with a tool that simulates and/or adapts to an infinite variety of microphones.
Also very interesting were the Q&As offered at the Enginears booth, with music business icons telling their stories and responding to a large audience of young producers and fans.
In the pavilion dedicated to Djing, Pioneer‘s booth stands out, presenting its very latest products, including the notoriouss CDJ 3000, which have become a true mirage in this period, because almost impossible to purchase worldwide, due to the well-known production delays caused by the pandemic.
Innovative and ingenious is the partnership with the all-American company TRIBE that proposes a software and an application capable of simulating through the use of a display a virtual DJ Set, that can comunicate with all Pioneer’s top-of-the-line products, as well as organizing your music with RekordBox and performing with your personal avatar in virtual rooms together with other DJs connected from different parts of the world, or being able to do real educational sessions in live stream, making us really understand how the metaverse is increasingly around the corner.
Definitely worth mentioning is Technics’ 50th anniversary, which offers reissues of its most iconic turntables in very interesting custom and consumer solutions, confirming it as the leader in the DJ turntable industry.
We were able to admire so many innovative ideas in the area dedicated to start-ups, and here the thing that certainly struck us most was to see how much the eclecticism of certain young entrepreneurs with futuristic ideas always goes fishing in the “analog past”.
Worthy of note are the new products from PlayTronica, which offers sequencers designed almost in the form of a toy but usable with great intuitiveness and full of truly exceptional features when handled with creativity by those who turn knobs and program music looking to the past but with their hands in the future.
We had to work hard to find the space reserved for the world of Lighting because, with the exception of GLP, who presented their products in a sober but material-rich booth, the absence of big players was quite noticeable. It is known that Namm has never been the trade show dedicated to lighting, although in recent years the attendance of brands had increased considerably.
We then wandered through the halls of MI, excited, bewildered and reeling from the usual frenzy of drummers rehearsing cymbals and kick drums at full blast (in the truest sense of the word) or guitarists engaging in solos that “Van Hallen just shunned” … to which, frankly, we had become somewhat disaccustomed.
What a blow to the heart when we saw Mellotron’s booth reintroducing revamped editions of their iconic product that made history in psychedelic rock and beyond, with a new look and a rebrand that winks at the past but with a really super catchy design.
Lots of absentees and perhaps little renewal for the usual well-known brands such as Ibanez or Rickenbacker that seem to have re-packaged the same stands as in recent years, with Steve Vai included in the packaging (haters don’t go wild please…just saying!!!).
Instead, with joy, we also discover new realities, especially with regard to amplifiers and pedals. Noteworthy is the extraordinary work done by an all-Italian company that produces incredible handcrafted pedals: Dophix. The sound is rough, very defined and really powerful, giving harmonic nuances to the efx that make us jump on the stool.
The last night arrives and as usual we cross the threshold of the Hilton to proceed to the second floor to attend the night of the TEC Awards.
Rupert Neve racks up the (well-deserved) awards winning in the Large Format Console Technology category with the 8424, in the Computer Audio Hardware category with the MBC: Dual Path A-D Converter & Limiter, and in Signal Processing Hardware with the 5254 Dual Diode Bridge Compressor, while the beautiful Telefunken TF11 FET wins in the Microphones/Recordings category.
The Propohet 5/10 wins as Musical Instrument Hardware, Hollywood Orchestra Opus Edition by EastWest Sound taking the award for best software.
Of note is Audient’s achievement, which wins in the Microphone Preamplifiers category with the iD4 MKII.
Impossible not to notice the huge absence of companies not even picking up the award, and we are a little saddened to learn that even the winner of the Les Paul Innovation Award: Carol Kaye, iconic bassist who signed international hits for artists such as the Beach Boys; Glen Campbell; Ray Charles; Joe Cocker; Dean Martin; Elvis Presley; Lou Rawls; the Righteous Brothers; Simon and Garfunkel; Frank Sinatra; Nancy Sinatra; Sonny and Cher; Barbara Streisand; and Frank Zappa for over 40 years, is not in the room.
In our last TEC Awards at Namm (2020) we had been lucky enough to see the queen Joni Mitchell, who, though elderly and a bit worn out, had listened to extraordinary musicians like Herbie Hancock and Steve Lukather play her greatest hits, while in previous years giants like Peter Frampton, Sting, Slash etc.etc. had taken the stage to receive this honor, so let’s face it: we’ve gotten used to it perhaps all too well! But the evening comes to a fitting end and we can say as always that we were satisfied and happy to have participated in this great event.
In summary, the Namm show 2022 will certainly not be remembered as the most well-attended edition in history, nor as the most sparkeling edition ever, but we are sure it will be remembered as an exciting restart, as a beautiful test drive to warm up the engines before the grand prix, as a moment of gathering that was missing in our industry that is definitely made up of loudspeakers, electric guitars, consoles, small lights and condenser microphones but also and above all by wonderful people. We are Back!!!!
Light Sound Journal editorial staff