Is bigger really better? Maybe not, if the latest NAMM 2022 is any indication. I spent the better part of a day at the show in Anaheim, so I thought I’d report a little of what I saw. If you think that the timing for the show is off, you’re completely right. Usually NAMM is held in late January, but because of covid restrictions, the association thought it best to hold off until June this year. There’s a lot of good and bad in that decision.
Good And Bad
First the good. The show was a lot smaller – I’d say about 70% of what it usually is. That was actually fantastic as it felt crowded, without the normal intensity of a Winter NAMM show. There were fewer exhibitors (more on that in a second), but that allowed for a more compact show where the aisles were wider and there was more space between the booths.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, I spoke with said they loved it this way, but we all know this may be a one-off and we’ll be back to normal if not next year (it’s in April instead of January 2023) then the year after. It just felt like a larger AES show.
Also on the plus side, there was virtually no traffic going from LA to Anaheim on a Saturday morning, not that much in town, and plenty of inexpensive parking available.
Now for the bad. Most of the larger manufacturers that are usually tentpoles for NAMM didn’t show. That included Gibson, Fender, Roland, Marshall, UA, and many others. Many European companies weren’t there because being in Southern California is a nice holiday in January, not so much in June.
In a way, they weren’t missed as there was still plenty to see, but I realized at about 4PM that I had seen everything and decided to bail. That would have never happened at a normal NAMM.
There was no downstairs Hall E, no exhibits in the Marriott, and lots of floor space taken up by meeting booths. Still, it didn’t seem empty or lacking of exhibitors as there was still plenty to see.
All in all, I’d love for every show to be more like NAMM 2022 in the future.
I try not to make booth appointments at NAMM because I like to look at the larger trends in the industry rather than individual pieces of gear (unless something catches my eye).
Small vs Big – There are smaller and smaller versions of virtually everything this days. Keyboards, guitars, amplifiers, microphones, controllers, interfaces – the list goes on and on. Of course, there’s also the full-size versions of those pieces, but not much in the middle. Can’t say if that’s a positive or a negative.
AI Is Here – There was a lot of software that seemed to use artificial intelligence more as a buzzword than anything. In many cases it didn’t seem to add anything useful, since direct user interaction was actually preferable to a force in the cloud doing it for you.
In-Ears Are Hot – Every few years there’s a product category that gets hot and existing manufacturers jump on board and new manufacturers jump in. Think about it – synthesizers, computer interfaces, monitor controllers, headphones, turntables and DJ gear, the list goes on. I’d have to say that the latest hot category is in-ear monitors. They were everywhere at the show.
Consolidation – With the founders of many older gear company cashing out, we’re now seeing more and more companies being acquired by investment groups. There’s rumor of another roll-up coming soon, but there have been plenty in the past already. The Auditonix group comes to mind, which owns SSL, Allen & Heath, Digico, Calrec, Klang Technologies, Sound Devices and Group 1. Music Tribe is another consolidator. I hate to say it, but soon we may be dealing with 5 or 6 major companies that supply all our gear.
These Caught My Eye
I didn’t see as much as usual that jumped out, but there were a few things.
If you’re a Rhoades piano fan, the new Rhoades company released their spot-on new version of the instrument. What’s cool is that this one has all the cool effects built-in that you used to use pedals for.
Normally I don’t get excited by mic clones but when other mic manufacturers tell you how good a competitor is, you know it’s special. Heiserman U-47s and ELAM 251s are already winning shootouts against the real thing in tests by engineering golden hears, and appearing on big hits. They’re not that expensive either.
Eurorack stuff doesn’t do much for me because I came up on ARP 2500 and 2600’s so it’s all just a rehash. I did think that this was the first thing that really made sense though. It’s a keyboard with a Eurorack built in so you can mix and match your modules. Don’t know why anyone didn’t think of this before.
Finally, this is just an oddity, but it’s one of the very first Mellotrons, complete with wood case with built-in speakers, and two different sets of tapes. Very cool.
That’s it for NAMM 2022. It was brief but it was fun.