NAMMbulating 2012
NAMM Convention January 2012, Anaheim, CA
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"See anything cool?"

Yes. This.

I've heard nothing but good things about UAD processing, and this Apollo looks promising. Do I need it? No, not really. But look...8 analog I/O, all the digital I/O I'd ever need, 4 mic preamps, firewire, Thunderbolt ready, those amazing UAD plugins that never require updating. And wow, it'd offload some of the processing from the CPU!

And did I mention the UAD plugins that never require updating?

I could get the UAD Manley Massive Passive. Sure, it can probably process only a few at a time, but hey...Neve, Studer, Manley, Lexicon, Ampex, SSL...comes with LA-2A and 1176 compressors and Pultec EQP-1A.

This device can use the UAD plugin processing for tracking or mixing with a variety of DAWs, including Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Cubase, Live, and more.

So it's US$2500 list price for the quad version, with the Thunderbolt I/O option card costing extra, probably US$500, but this is a guess, and it should ship April 2012, if I recall correctly.

I've got an Apogee Rosetta 800 and a Presonus Firestudio, which I basically use just as the "thalamus" of my Blueberry Buddha Recording Studio's DAW setup. So like I say, I don't really need the Apollo. But it sure looks great....maybe if I sell the....


NAMMbulating is me walking around NAMM. It is not meant to be comprehensive. This is simply me having fun, meeting friends, looking at gadgets, and learning a few things.

Oh, yeah, the other thing I saw that looked cool included the Electro-Harmonix Ravish Sitar. It's amazing, and not just for sitar/drone sounds. The sound generators are apparently related to the HOG pedal. Really super creative and fun. I tried to buy one but they didn't have NAMM specials.

This is a Dewanatron. I like his description on his website, so I'm gonna let Brian Dewan describe it for you:

Now that manufactured instruments that are mass produced have long outnumbered hand made instruments, the latter have been classified as folk instruments. The purpose of this is to elevate the status of mass produced objects above that of the folk object, which is generally considered to be of inferior quality. Of course folk instruments, being unstandardized, have a freedom of range in form, character, choice of materials and quality of workmanship that mass produced objects can only dream about.

These prototype synthesizers are made in the tradition of historical folk instruments, created solely for the use of its maker and need not be housed in a refined console suitable for the school, church or parlor. Folk synthesizers are as at home in the hovel or moldy basement as they are in a museum of valued folk artifacts that used to belong in barns or sheds.

I went to NAMM with Chris, who is part of The Mercury Seven, our recording project in which we record Enoesque ambient and Can-like sort of music.

For whatever reason, we stayed for several of Avid's Pro Tools presentations, including this one with Tony Maserati, in which he mentioned his method of multi-band compression, involving duplicating a track, using filters to split the EQs, and then compressing each track differently. Useful and practical.

Two of the presentations also described some of Pro Tools 10's new features, including disk caching to create more responsiveness in playback and recording by storing the session in RAM, AAX plugins, 32-bit floating point file formats, clip-based gain, and more. I don't know how much longer we will need to wait for track freezing, but one can always hope.

Pro Tools seems to have a certain energy about them now. They seem determined to catch up and create something cool to use, and they're largely succeeding. I also discovered that it can take as many as 150 tracks to create really generic music. But it'd be in perfect time, no doubt.

The next day, we sat in on Dave Pensado's presentation, which was regrettably not interesting or worthwhile at all.


Shouldn't a group called The Mercury Seven have some recording equipment called "Apollo"? Dammit, still thinking about the UAD thing.

We ran into Elson near Analog Haven, who would later show up at the Keyboard Corner dinner. Conversations near Analog Haven are fun, involving talking over WHEEREERRRRREEEEEEEOOOOOAAAAAAAA and BZHH. BZHZZZH. BZZHH. ZZ. ZZHHH. ZZZHHHHAAAOOOWWW. ZZT. ZBZT.


Elson and Chris.

No worries, this isn't the work of vandals. No, this is from Voyage Air Guitars, who design a guitar that folds up for travel, allowing you to stow it in the overhead compartment if flying or just dealing with it easier. This is one of those ideas in which you think, "Why didn't someone come up with this before?" And those are so often the best ideas.

Another view of the Voyage Air Travel Guitar. Was easy to fold away or set up. Strings of course stay on. The guitar sounded fine. Apparently Paul McCartney's guitarist, Brian Ray, uses one, and therefore, you should too.

Occasionally, Chris likes to duck out and surprise everyone by dressing like Slipknot. He's funny that way.

Chris with Dave at Wave Distribution, who distribute some of the coolest gear that you would want in your studio, be it Distressors, Cloudlifter, the UBK Fatso from Kush Audio, or some new monitors called the Pelonis Sound and Acoustics Model 42, which seem to have created quite a buzz. And little wonder...they sounded great, even on the noisy NAMM floor, and had a physicality and very wide sweet spot. It must be pretty easy to sell this stuff. You just turn it on, show people, and they think, "Damn, this is so unbelievably cool!" :D

We'd see Dave later at the dinner also. I didn't take photos of the dinner. I'm sorry I didn't. I mistakenly left the Leica in the car and got lazy and never went back out to retrieve it. This group of people are really cool people, super friendly and talented and interesting. Major props to Dan and Mike for their generosity, and Dave for putting it all together.

Byron, who was also at the Keyboard Corner dinner, demonstrates the Presonus Studio One. I'm not sure if he mentioned the Lakers in his presentation. If not, he should work that in. I'm just trying to help.

Keyboards! Nord CE-20 with drawbars sounded good. They also had some new Nord drum machine, a virtual analog drum synthesizer (not shown - ha, too bad!).


Arturia unveiled its Mini Brute analog monophonic synthesizer for US$500 list (although its website says US$549), which was fun and, well, quite analog-like, easily obtaining a number of different sounds. The sliders to the left enable the player to not only select diffent oscillators (Sub, Sawtooth, Square, Triangle, White Noise, Audio In), but allow for various blending rather than discrete choices. Cool. It also features what Arturia calls Brute Factor, allowing you to saturate the sound and create additional harmonics, some of which could be rather aggressive if you chose. I was told that it'll ship in April 2012, and that's what their website currently says as well.

Monophonic synthesizer
100% Analog Audio Signal Path
Steiner-Parker Multimode Filter (LP, BP, HP and Notch)
Voltage Controlled Oscillator with Sub-Osc
Oscillator Mixer (Sub, Sawtooth, Square, Triangle, White Noise, Audio In)
LFO1 with 6 waveforms and bi-polar modulation destinations
LFO2 with 3 vibrato modes
Brute Factor™ delivering saturation and rich harmonics
Ultrasaw generating shimmering sawtooth waveforms
Metalizer bringing extreme triangle harmonics
Two ADSR Envelope Generators
25 note Keyboard with Aftertouch
Rugged Aluminium Enclosure
External Analog Audio Input
CV In/Out controls: Pitch, Gate, Filter, Amp
MIDI In/Out with 5-Pin DIN connectors
1/4” Audio Output and 1/4” Headphone Output
Gate Source Selection: Audio Input, Hold, Keyboard
4 Modes of Arpeggiation
4 Octave Range Control
6 Time Divisions
Swing Control

Seems like a cool keyboard for a fair price. But does it have these psychedelic colors? You'll hafta Google and find out.

Dennis, a drummer who has drummed on several The Mercury Seven songs, joined us NAMMbulating. NAMMbulating works up quite an appetite, so we hit Udupi Palace, which offers up delicious South Indian food such as massala dosas, in Artesia. I've traveled to India five times so far, and am crazy about the country, including its food. South Indian food is quite a bit different from the food in most Indian restaurants in the U.S., which typically serve North Indian food.

Had a great time. Also met but didn't take a photo of: Gus, Ryan and Anji, Rae and Alex, Geoff, Mitch. Never saw Phil, Craig, Jeff, or GearMike, unfortunately.


Camera was my tiny little Leica compact. Much less weight. But why black and white? I'm still overwhelmed by NAMM and need to take out some of the stimuli.

Ken's photos of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as photos of Peru, Burma, India, Morocco, China, Thailand, Ghana, Ecuador, and elsewhere, have appeared in many books, magazines, websites, and galleries.  Visit the Ken Lee Photography Website. Some of Ken's select photos may be purchased through his Imagekind Store.

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NAMMbulating 2012 - NAMM Show, Anaheim, CA
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