We braved the massive crowds from Hall A all the way to the depths of Hall E to bring you NAMM 2015’s Best Of The Rest for DJ’s and producers alike. Four days simply aren’t enough to cover all the excellent gear and technology on display at this year’s show, but we did our best to search high and low for interesting bits to include in this roundup. Check it out below.
The Best Of The Rest
Denon DJ DS1 Serato DJ Interface
DVS fans rejoice! Getting into Serato DJ’s digital vinyl system doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg now, thanks to this tiny interface from Denon called the DS1. With this, you can use practically any mixer / media player / turntable combination with Serato DJ and use control vinyl / timecode CDs, opening the DVS floodgates.
DJ-Tech Thudrumble TRX Mixer
This DJ Q-Bert approved battle mixer is one of the latest additions to DJ-Tech’s growing line of two-channel hardware mixers. Aimed at scratch DJs, it’s got a black chrome plate and fader controls that resemble those found on the classic Vestax 07 Pro mixers from the mid-2000s.
Mackie Freeplay PA
Mackie debuted a portable Bluetooth-enabled speaker that can run up to 10 hours per battery charge. It’s got 8″ woofers onboard, a four-channel digital mixer that you can control via your iOS device using a free app, and even comes with onboard digital effects. Great for DJing wherever you go, and you can even connect a microphone and some synths to it.
Arturia debuted its first audio interface that brings premium features, professional studio sound, and robust build quality at a price geared towards home studios and bedroom producers. It’s got two switchable microphone / line inputs for recording audio into your digital audio workstation, and has two headphone and two stereo monitor outputs for listening to your music on a variety of playback devices. It’s also built like a tank, so this is ready to go wherever your next production takes you.
Korg Little Bits Synth Kit
DIY fanatic? Why not build your own synthesiser? Korg debuted one such package, letting you create your very own analogue synth without the need to solder anything, making it perfect for folks like me with poor soldering skills (I have equally poor penmanship). A great introduction to how a multi-oscillator synthesiser works, too!
Samson Conspiracy Midi Controller
Looking like a cross between the Novation Launchpad and a Livid DS-1, the Conspiracy from Samson gives you fader, knob, touchpad, and gridpad control over any software that supports Midi. Of course, the first DAW you’ll think of when seeing this is Ableton Live, but you can readily map this with other apps, or even with DJ software like Traktor Pro 2.
Chauvet DJ Gig Bar IRC
If you’re looking for an all-inclusive mobile lighting solution to start out with, look no further: Chauvet’s brilliant package includes everything you need to get up and running with your own lighting rig. It comes with two PAR LEDs, two LED Kintas, a strobe, and finally a laser light for effects. It all packs in neatly in its own bag, making set-up and strike down a simple affair. If you’re thinking of getting some lights, this pack’s a no brainer, folks!
If you’re tired of having to always settle for cocktail tables and very low desks at mobile gigs, Grundorf has just the product for you. Not only does the company sell properly raised DJ tables, but it also pairs them with neat looking facades to give your DJ set-up a more professional screened look at your next wedding or corporate function.
Spotted this quirky-looking portable speaker that you can plug in your DJ controller to, as well as some microphones, synths, and other line level devices. I didn’t get a chance to hear how it sounds like, but it definitely reminds me of all those cassette boomboxes from the 1980s with a bit more kitsch.
Smithson Martin Emulator Elite
The touchscreen interface of Emulator Elite was on full display at this year’s NAMM, showing just how impressive the Minority Report-esque DJ console really is. Aside from the custom touchscreen, the Emulator Elite comes in its own carry case complete with a top of the line i7 Mac Mini, MOTU audio interface, and HD projector, allowing you to set everything up in under a minute, and pack everything in in that same amount of time.
Elektron Analog Keys
The undeniably cool Elektron Analog Keys hardware synth brings true analogue synth sound in a 37-key configuration, along with the company’s signature grey knobs and buttons for tweaking parameters in real time. It’s got arpeggiators for creating the basslines and synth leads prevalent in electronic music, and having a sequencer onboard means you can create an entire production on just this unit alone. Had a play with it on the last day of NAMM, and it was the most fun I’ve had on a hardware synth in quite a while!
Reloop RMX Innofader
The Innofader comes to Reloops RMX series of mixers via this drop-in crossfader replacement. Like all Innofaders, it’s a non-contact fader with cut-in and cut-out points that you can calibrate to an extremely fine detail, allowing for rapid cuts with a minimum of fader movement. A must if you’re a scratch DJ invested in Reloop’s hardware mixers.
What’s not to like about Decksavers for protecting your DJ gear? They’re high quality, almost indestructible (they were demoing how tough a Decksaver is by jumping on it and stomping it on the NAMM Show floor!), and fairly inexpensive compared to other protection solutions. They’ve included Korg’s Volca and Aira series of hardware synths, as well as sizes for the Pioneer XDJ-1000 and Livid DS-1 Midi controller.
I’ve always been curious as to how these “acoustic filters” work, and I got the to find out first hand when I visited Doppler Labs’ NAMM booth. Instead of just blocking out sound like a normal earplug does, DUBS act more like earbuds that let low frequencies pass through while blocking out high frequencies more aggressively, leading to a more natural “volume lowering” sound instead of the usual muffled sound you get when you buy earplugs from your local hardware store. I was given a pair for me to use, and I tried them out while attending the Serato CV party where scratch legends Shortkut and D-Styles did a few routines. They sounded great, and my ears weren’t left ringing the day after!
One DJ Software
The latest version of One DJ was on demo at the company’s stand, and it allows you to run VST plug-ins inside of the app, meaning you now have access to an entire universe of effects for use during your mix sessions. The app’s revolutionary timeline approach to DJing is still at the core of the entire experience, and we believe that having the ability to use third party plug-ins only increases the creative possibilities available to users.
Wi Pro Audio Matrix
Spotted on the show floor was a digital wireless solution that lets DJs broadcast sound coming from the output of their mixers to up to 50 receivers in a 200 feet radius. While we don’t see this being used by hobbyists and casual DJs, it could be the perfect, high-fidelity solution for mobile soundsystems and club installations looking to declutter their audio set-up while ensuring clean sound throughout their chain.
Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator
Incredibly tiny and totally cool, the brilliant guys at Teenage Engineering have come up with a series of synthesisers that are as small as a pack of cards. There are three different types of synths here: Rhythm is a drum machine sequencer, Sub is a bass synth, and Factory is a lead synth with an arpeggiator, and all can be housed in performance case that makes them look like cute little calculators. I want them all!
Akai Advance Keyboard Series
Akai recently launched their Advance Keyboard Series, and we got a chance to try them out at the NAMM Show floor. What I really liked about it were the pads and knobs above the keybed, as well as the onboard display that shows you data streaming from the included VIP software suite. Can shape up to be a strong contender to Native Instruments’ Kontrol-S Series of keyboards, if only they can pack in as much synthesis, effects, and audio processing power as Komplete 10.
In-ear monitors for DJs haven’t quite taken off just yet, mainly because most DJs find using headphones easier during a gig and, more often than not, less expensive to purchase. The M6 Pro monitors from MEElectronics has the chance to change all that, not only because are they well-built and simple to wear, but coming in at just under US$50, they’re cheap enough to make skeptics give in-ears a go before arriving at their own conclusions. They sound great too, with a slight boost in the lows and highs that complement electronic dance music.
At the Philips stand were the A5-Pro headphones that Armin Van Buuren himself had a hand in creating. They’re large, over-the-ear cans that have excellent leather padding in the ears and headband, and I’ve got to say they’re the most comfortable pair of DJ headphones I’ve worn in a while! They’re a bit heavy, but not too heavy to make you wish you didn’t wear them around your neck when you aren’t mixing. They sound great, and are easily in the top tier of DJ headphones that were on demo at NAMM.
Pioneer DJ HRM-7 Headphones
Meant for studio use (the new HDJ2000Mk2’s are for DJing), the HRM-7 Headphones are built for comfort and aim to deliver a flatter response than a pair of DJ cans, giving producers a more accurate representation of the music that they’re making.
Denon HP2000 Headphones
The new pair of phones from Denon are around-the-ear types that feature improved isolation for monitoring in a noisy DJ booth, extended bass response, and a reinforced headband with ear cups that swivel, allowing you to listen using the “one ear and your shoulder” approach. There’s a detachable cable that you can attach to either the left or right cup, and also comes with a 1/4″ jack adapter.
One of the largest (and busiest!) booths at NAMM this year was for Blue’s brand new MoFi headphones. What sets this apart from other cans is that it’s got its own built-in headphone amplifier whose sole purpose is to improve the sound coming out of your source, whether it’s a smartphone or a stereo hi-fi system. Think of them as “active headphones” in the way that you’ve got active monitor speakers in your DJ studio. The headband is also adjustable through a tension dial, allowing it to adapt to virtually any head shape for a perfect fit. These sound absolutely fantastic, quite possibly the best pair of prosumer headphones I’ve heard all week long.
What else did we miss? Did you spot something that would be of interest to our community? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to know!