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Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
#3025524 01/24/20 04:37 PM
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Hello everyone. This NAMM Show was a bit of a working vacation for me, and kind of an outlier: having left RECORDING right after last year's show, I no longer had a completely frenetic schedule of meetings, and because the show was where we had the discussions that led to the creation of the Music Lab, I was temporarily off the small-studio-gear beat.

As a result, what follows are the items that hit all my personal hot buttons as a music maker, as opposed to an editor, reviewer, and small-studio guy. Yes, they're all over the map, but as anyone can tell you, so am I. wink


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
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Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025528 01/24/20 04:50 PM
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I think I have finally figured out your secret, which you allude to in your signature. You and dB are twins. grin cool


A reason why I collect old keyboards is that I feel partly responsible for doing it, responsible for preserving history and being a custodian for these things
Plus, old gear has a story. I like that.
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
davedoerfler #3025531 01/24/20 04:53 PM
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Originally Posted by davedoerfler
I think I have finally figured out your secret, which you allude to in your signature. You and dB are twins. grin cool

Brothers from Another Mother, to be sure. It's too bad you didn't get to see us do The Dance Of The Old Jews (a trade show tradition going back at least 10 years)....


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
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Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
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Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025539 01/24/20 05:06 PM
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too bad, indeed. Next time. thu


A reason why I collect old keyboards is that I feel partly responsible for doing it, responsible for preserving history and being a custodian for these things
Plus, old gear has a story. I like that.
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025574 01/24/20 07:26 PM
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OK, being the sort of person that I am, I'm going to open with the silly stuff.

First off, a couple of items in the "actually this is pretty cool" department -- a fully digital reed-based harmonica controller from Lekholm Instruments:

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]

And for folks like my older brother, who would walk around holding a stack of harmonicas to be able to play in different keys, there's this nifty gizmo from Seydel, makers of fine harmonicas:

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]

Then we have this booth for a Chinese company that's trying to cash in on the look and feel of an established European brand. It's not quite as funny as MICKLE was, but:

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]

And finally, I have seen this poster at NAMM for over a decade. I am still utterly unsure of what it means... I think it's at a booth for a guitar strap company or something? Anyway:

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
Wordsmith - Musician - Tech Freak - Amiable Zany
Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025575 01/24/20 07:31 PM
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Craig already talked a little bit about the Lumatone in his NAMM thread, but I wanted to post this photo of a different keyboard layout than the multi-colored one that had everyone ooohing and ahhhing. What makes this interesting is that if you look closely, you can see it's the redundant-row whole-tone layout pioneered by Paul von Jankó in the 1880s. This gives a nice look at just how intricate your design of layouts and microtonal options can be with this very cool keyboard. (Extra points for walking into the booth and mentioning George Secor and the Motorola Scalatron. grin )

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
Wordsmith - Musician - Tech Freak - Amiable Zany
Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025578 01/24/20 07:39 PM
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Lippold Haken has been building the Continuum line of multitouch expressive instruments for years. They're not cheap, but the wonderfully expressive hardware combines with the high-res touch response capabilities of the EaganMatrix synth engine to produce some pretty damn amazing results. Up until now, one thing that users found quite daunting (besides the price) was the bulk: the Continuum is a big and very heavy beast that works best with its own bespoke stand, and even the half-size version is a big hunk of metal.

The ContinuuMini was a disappointment to folks who wanted a cheap and small Continuum, because its touch sensor was far simpler and more primitive than the big one's... so a lot of folks were intrigued to see this prototype of the new Slim Continuum line. These sport a much thinner and lighter design while still feeling great, and add some useful touches like a tiny display and an encoder for quicker navigation. Are they a lot cheaper? Heh heh heh ha ha ha HA HA HA HA no.

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
Wordsmith - Musician - Tech Freak - Amiable Zany
Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025580 01/24/20 07:49 PM
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Another worthwhile controller making a debut at NAMM was the Neova from French firm Enhancia, whose profile got a huge bump from the announcement that its products would be distributed and sold in partnership with some little Japanese mom-and-pop called Roland.

The Neova is a ring you wear while playing keys. You set it on a little stand/receiver that sits on your keyboard, that has four buttons to select various play modes. It senses hand tilt, movement from side to side and back and forth, and shaking motions.

At first glance, you'd think that this was a modern variant on the old D-Beam controllers that were all the rage on Roland gear for a while, but that's not the best way to use it. Think of it instead as a way to add "partial MPE" functionality to any keyboard -- you play your conventional keyboard as if it was an MPE device and the Neova turns your gestures into data that affect your sound. For example, if your keyboard's keys don't offer wiggle for side to side bends, just play a note or five and then shake your hand back and forth as you hold the notes. The Neova adds vibrato.

Kind of a cool concept, and very well implemented, but I want to see how much it ends up costing. Still.... multi-expression for anyone? Nice thought!

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
Wordsmith - Musician - Tech Freak - Amiable Zany
Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025582 01/24/20 08:21 PM
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For our friends in the Keyboard Corner, a few of my picks from the show...

The Korg Wavestate is close to my heart because it's largely the brainchild of my dear friend Dan Phillips of Korg R&D. Dan is the younger brother of Glenn Phillips (of Toad The Wet Sprocket, etc.) and a very talented songwriter and producer in his own right. Digital synthesis is his passion... he was one of the masterminds behind the OASYS... and the Wavestate brings all the yummy goodness of the old Wavestations back, adds a great new UI and lots of intricate under-the-hood granular stuff for people to mess with, and presents it in an attractive, portable, affordable package... but alas, with a velocity-only keyboard that I have no room for and will never use. I loved being a beta tester for the platform using more expressive controllers, and I am holding out hope for a keyboardless desktop version some day.

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]

Arturia has released the Keystep Pro, which is primarily the multi-lane sequencer brain from the Beatstep Pro (and a ton of connectivity) married to a 37-note velocity/pressure mini keyboard that's of typical great Arturia build quality. It's an interesting beastie and one that I plan to investigate in detail; I had a Beatstep Pro that I literally never used and eventually sold, but the keyboard-based interface might click better with my brain...

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]

The new Sequential Pro3 is a monophonic/paraphonic synth, available in the conventional chassis build shown here or in a deluxe version with wood endcheeks and a tiltable panel for a bit more dosh. It's a nice-sounding synth and has a good selection of left-hand controls (always a plus for me), but I don't know if it will end up sitting well with me over time... I really thought I'd love the Pro2 and it left me flat. I did enjoy the fact that my tour was guided by a young engineer named Justin Labrecque, the son of industry stalwart (and dear old friend) Denis Labrecque of E-mu and Analog Devices fame. Denis was largely responsible for AD's part in the SHARC-based UAD platform, and it's fun to see his son following in his vodder's bootshtaps, as Inspector Kemp would say.

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]

And last but not least: the ARP 2600 as re-released by Korg, with an all-authentic audio path and a few extras like MIDI and a little sequencer hidden in the keyboard controller unit. My understanding is that they didn't make many of these, don't plan on making more, and they were completely sold out by the end of the show. I have a very spotty history with the 2600; it featured heavily in one of the best albums I've ever done, but it was the property of one of the few musicians I've ever been forced to completely cut ties with for personal reasons. Still, it's a pretty build, and if Korg is happy with how many they got out the door at four grand a pop, they can't complain too loudly when the Barp comes out in 2026 or whenever Uli gets around to it...

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
Wordsmith - Musician - Tech Freak - Amiable Zany
Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025590 01/24/20 08:47 PM
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Keytars are my Kryptonite. I've been using them for nearly 40 years, and I love them... not because they're cool to look at or dance with (see my KC thread about that) but because they pack a lot of control power into a very small space when they're done right. Having a keytar slung around your neck while you're behind your keyboard stack means you always have one more control source close to hand, no matter which way you're facing.

Over the years, I've owned at least five of them (off the top of my head: Moog Liberation, Yamaha SHS-10 and KX5, Roland AXIS, and Alesis Vortex 2) and worked with many others, and I've developed some pretty exacting standards for ergonomics and power per weight. It always astounds me at how otherwise sensible manufacturers seem to totally lose their marbles when they build keytars! Flashy but completely impractical body shapes? Left hand controls designed to look different than anybody else's even if they're impossible to use? Ridiculous feature sets and back-breaking weight? Come ON, people.

Alesis still makes the Vortex 2, which is not at all bad for the money aside from its pitch bender/ribbon/button arrangement being slightly awkward, and its body being designed to fall over and break if you set it on the floor rather than on a stand. Roland has the AX-Edge, which at least is full-featured but has atrocious left-hand ergonomics, can't be set down without falling, has the ugliest design like ever (unless you count the Zen Riffer, which only a metal fan or Jordan Rudess could love), and weighs a metric fuckton. (That's a metric fuckton rather than an Imperial fuckton... 1000 fuckkilograms vs. 2000 fuckpounds.) And let's not even get started on the newest Korg RK, which demonstrates that company's 30-year-plus expertise at designing keytars that offer nothing yet are ALSO a pain to play...

So, with all of this utter crap being offered in the keytar world, it was kind of stunning to run across an unsung hero of sorts tucked away in the back of the Yamaha booth. The new SHS-500 Sonogenic is actually a kickass little keytar!

Aside from its keys not being pressure-sensitive, it ticks all the boxes: plenty of good left-hand controls (with only slightly awkward ergonomics, see the inset) with MIDI output on nearly all of them, USB or Bluetooth MIDI, a lightweight and attractive yet sturdy build quality, and a really well thought out set of internal sounds with a surprising amount of flexible control in real time. Apparently it also has a built-in jam-along function, but I didn't even test that... I was too thrilled to just see someone getting it right for once. I do wish the Japanese version with the built-in Vocaloid was available in the States, but this will do nicely. I might pick one up just for grins!

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]

They even have a smaller and lighter model, the Sonogenic SHS-300, which is effectively an updated SHS-10 that is easy and fun to use and has slightly better ergonomics than the 500 (although fewer controls, see the inset)...

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]

Last edited by Dr Mike Metlay; 01/24/20 11:31 PM.

Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
Wordsmith - Musician - Tech Freak - Amiable Zany
Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025595 01/24/20 08:58 PM
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The new Novation Launchpad Pro mk3 is worth a mention, as an upgrade to the original LP Pro that was a mainstay of my rig for years. With this new model, Novation has now stabilized the Launch lineup in a very sensible way:

- The Launchpad Mini mk3 with no dynamic sensitivity but very small size, suitable for highly portable jamming with clip launching apps like Ableton Live or Novation's Launchpad for iOS
- The Launchpad X, which adds RGB velocity/pressure pads that feel GREAT and a nicely streamlined feature set, turning the original big clip launcher into a very playable instrument
- The Launchpad Pro mk3 that starts with the X and adds a lot of Live-centric control features, nifty built-in sequencer, and the ability to work as a standalone MIDI controller (with TRS-to-DIN In and two Outs)

Now all they need to do is dump the previous generation Launchpad entirely and update the once-glorious but now incredibly dated Launch Control XL...

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
Wordsmith - Musician - Tech Freak - Amiable Zany
Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025597 01/24/20 09:06 PM
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In the realm of crazy little companies making crazy little gizmos that do crazy little (and not so little) things:

Quicco Sound is a Japanese firm that markets a line of tiny but incredibly useful Bluetooth MIDI adapters. I love them to pieces; they're competitive in price to the Yamaha stuff, come in a variety of form factors, and are sold by a team that basically speaks NO ENGLISH AT ALL which makes visiting their booth an adventure in Google Translate. If you don't have an mi.1 laying around in your drawer for emergencies, you should.

By the way, if you're wondering why they make a two-port In/Out Bluetooth transceiver and a one-port MIDI Out transmitter but not a one-port MIDI In receiver, you now know which port can provide sufficient current to run one of these dongles. grin

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
Wordsmith - Musician - Tech Freak - Amiable Zany
Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025599 01/24/20 09:13 PM
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Here are a couple of last year's monstrously powerful guitar pedals that had everyone saying "Why the heck would I want to put this on the ground and step on it when it's much more useful sitting on my desktop where I can reach it?", now modified into versions that do just that.

These boxes are both insanely flexible and deep, and will probably find their way into a lot of rigs for players who are willing to dedicate the headspace to learning how to get the most out of them. Shown below are the MOD Devices MOD Duo X and the forthcoming Empress Effects ZOIA Euroburo.

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]
[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
Wordsmith - Musician - Tech Freak - Amiable Zany
Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025601 01/24/20 09:18 PM
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The Artiphon Orba isn't a toy, I was pleasantly surprised to discover. It's a fully-kitted-out MPE controller with built-in sounds and a surprisingly intuitive interface for building up beats or for controlling external virtual instruments. Each of the wedge-shaped pads is fully MPE compatible (although some dimensions haven't been implemented just yet) and the whole thing responds to being tilted, moved, shaken, even slapped on the side. In the course of a two-minute demo that turned into a half hour, I went from being a disinterested skeptic to a real fan, and I can't wait to see the final results. Big ups to Mike Butera at Artiphon and his team; now I understand why they've been too busy to do many firmware updates on the INSTRUMENT 1. grin

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
Wordsmith - Musician - Tech Freak - Amiable Zany
Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025603 01/24/20 09:21 PM
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Someone should tell Roger Linn that there's a company slapping his name on stuff... look at these two big clunky things I found in somebody's booth! Can you believe it? The NERVE of some people...!

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
Wordsmith - Musician - Tech Freak - Amiable Zany
Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025606 01/24/20 09:45 PM
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Okay, this next one's kind of odd, but I really hope that people pay attention to it, because it's important. If you've never heard of Gamechanger Audio before, pay attention. If you HAVE, and you're a keyboard player, REALLY pay attention.

Gamechanger is a group of half-mad genius designers in Latvia who come up with utterly bizarre and unique devices to do shit that's not only completely bent but sounds amazing. They called themselves "Gamechanger Audio" because they promised themselves they'd never release a product that was a me-too, ever. That's incredibly ambitious, but so far they've lived up to it, with distortion devices based on plasma arcs, a synthesizer that uses spinning motors for oscillators, and a spring reverb pedal that uses optical sensors rather than transducers to extract resonances.

However, my personal fave among their products is the Plus Pedal. It's an effects box that uses a finely tuned granular looping system to literally allow you to sustain any sound dynamically as it's being played. In effect, it puts a piano's damper pedal on ANY sound source. This device is IMO light-years beyond any other "freeze" pedal in terms of sound and playability, but what makes it really special is the pedal itself, which is probably more than 2/3 the cost of the box. It's a solid brass damper pedal like you'd find on a high-end acoustic grand piano, with an impeccable spring loaded feel to it that's just a delight to use... you can pull off piano stunts like half-pedaling with it, all playing with audio in real time. If you've never tried one, you should.

Anyhoo, at the show, Gamechanger was showing a couple of prototypes of new "utility" pedal designs, just to get feedback from folks. This is their Universal Sustain Pedal, which provides both stepped and continuous outputs that can be independently set for polarity, all married to that lovely Plus Pedal damper. If you've ever wished that your synth could have this kind of pedal feel, or that you could do stuff like half-pedaling on a synth that supported it without having to use a rocker expression pedal or an expensive yet cheap-feeling dedicated standalone for your particular make of synth, you're going to want to tell the Gamechanger folks that you'd defo buy one of these if they made it. I plan to.

Oh, and in the first two pictures, you'll see a glimpse of a pedal that looks like a Bigsby tailpiece that you step on. They didn't have a lot to say about that one... yet....

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
Wordsmith - Musician - Tech Freak - Amiable Zany
Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025609 01/24/20 09:59 PM
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Most people know me as an electronic musician, but I actually started out playing bass in a blues band years before I built my first studio. I was never that great at it, but I do love stringed instruments even now, and especially when they use new technology to serve truly musical results (or at least not get in their way). Strandberg guitars, Dingwall and Lightwave basses, Ulrich Teuffel's and Steve Klein's revolutionary designs, the beloved Parker Fly, and the many insane yet gorgeous fifths-tuned mandolin/guitars that came out of Maestro Alex Gregory's lawsuit-littered rampage across the music industry in the 1990s...

At the Media Preview the day before the show opened, my attention was caught by a brand-new guitar from those ol' folks at Martin, the SC-13E acoustic/electric. This is what you get when a group of dedicated engineers let their imaginations loose without being restricted by a couple centuries of tradition. The guitar itself plays and sounds like a dream, both acoustically and electrically thanks to the built-in Fishman pickups. Its neck uses a new design that makes it easy to adjust and even shim for different string actions without a lot of fuss or the need for fancy tools, and it even has a tiny backlit LCD tuner hidden inside the soundhole so you can unobtrusively tune up at a moment's notice. It's just a beautiful design, and I hope Martin sells a bunch of them.

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
Wordsmith - Musician - Tech Freak - Amiable Zany
Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025619 01/24/20 10:34 PM
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Because of my recent work on the book PEDAL CRUSH, I got to spend a lot of time in Hall D, chatting with the many makers of guitar pedals featured in that book. There are some amazingly kind, sweet people there, encouraging one another in a very competitive world and lifting everyone up.

Special shout outs to Steve Bragg and the wonderful crew at Empress Effects for the ZOIA and all the other cool pedals they've put out there, Joseph Vella and the wonderful nutcases at Electro-Faustus for their over the top noise machines, Henry Widjaja and the gang from Jakarta's amazing GFI System (makers of the Specular Reverb, one of the best algorithmic reverb pedals on the planet and a total bargain), and especially Matthew Farrow of Alexander Pedals who donates a portion of every sale to charity in honor of the brother he lost to cancer as a child... which is awesome, because his pedals are fantastic and worth the money anyway.

But for the photographic part of this post, I need to call out one guy in particular -- David Rainger of Rainger FX, who manages to create pedals that are not only tonally unique but also miniature works of art. Check out the Drone Rainger, which is a delay with added drones in it... if you look inside the pedal through the window, you'll see that the PC board is laid out like a city, with the components as buildings! And the Dr. Freakenstein Chop Fuzz has a gigantic knife switch to turn it on and off, and a glowing eye display that stares at you while you play. (I think it was the Electro-Faustus guys who had similar little eye displays at their booth, not yet mounted on pedals but in full color with animated blinking. They noted that now shoegaze could have pedals that gaze back...)

At the bottom, the Minibar Liquid Analyzer. It's a fuzz that uses a cup full of liquid to alter the light of its optocell and thereby change the character of the tone. You basically tune your sound by blending cocktails in the cup and then screwing down the lid to keep it from leaking! He had everything from nail polish remover and Jagermeister to Jack Daniels and Coke (separately or together, no rocks), and the tonal variations were surprising and very musical. Check it out!

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]

Last edited by Dr Mike Metlay; 01/24/20 11:37 PM.

Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
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Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
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Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025622 01/24/20 10:53 PM
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One of the really fun things to do at NAMM is to get away from the famous and well-known makers, and from the almost as famous boutique guys, and wander into the dark and gloomy aisles where the manufacturers of endless knockoff instruments reside, sitting looking bored at their tables until some buyer from an obscure store chain wanders in to do shady dealings with them and keep their doors open for another year. Everything from guitar amps (SMARVO, BABY!) to wind and string instruments to guitars and PA gear... and the infamous booth of Hangzhou Worlde Digital Piano Co. ("Reach Your Demand In The First Look"!), makers of pianos and MIDI controllers that bear a disturbing resemblance to stuff we see and use every day.

But there is no one at NAMM, and I mean NO ONE, like Maker Hart.

This Taiwanese company makes a variety of mixers, interfaces, and sensors for everything from home listening to Arduino-based kit builders... all inexpensive and all unlike anything you've seen before. The Just Mixer series of portable mixers features incredibly small form factors, analog networking of a sort not seen anywhere else (possibly with good reason), feature sets attuned to everything from home DJing of dual turntables to field recording... and where else are you going to get a pocket USB mixer/interface whose front panel has a screened graphic of a scantily-clad female fox spirit smiling at you and showing her cleavage? Demand creates supply!

But the real winner at this show were Maker Hart's homemade "instruments". There was a surprisingly usable MIDI controller in the size and shape of a ukulele, with touch-sensitive fretboard and strum area and a neck that folded backward to make it into a portable little brick, but what got me this time was their prototype violin. Resistive tape "strings", rubber ribs that are bowed by a hunk of clear plastic... it was amazing, in the sense that the scene at the beginning of Swordfish when the bomb vest goes off is amazing.

A short video of me trying to play it is here, and for those of you with weaker stomachs, you can just look at the photo:

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
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Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025625 01/24/20 11:17 PM
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And last but not least, the answer to the question: "Dr. Mike, of all the cool stuff at the show that you saw, did you see anything that made you drop money right then and there?"

Yeps. I almost never spend money on the show floor, but one demo stopped me dead in my tracks and had me pulling out my credit card... and it had nothing to do with keyboards or electronic music.

The Gizmotron 2.0 is a re-release of the original Gizmotron from the 1970s, a device whose history is shrouded in infamy. Originally developed by the 10CC folks and played by Lol Creme on albums like 801's Listen Now, the prototype Gizmo barely worked, and the production Gizmotron never really did. Plagued by mechanical and manufacturing difficulties, it swallowed a huge amount of money that was needed to keep Musitronics (tasked with developing it by parent company ARP) afloat, and ended up sinking the company. (Mike Beigel of Mu-Tron, the inventor of the Mu-Tron III and Bi-Phase and all those other cool early boxes, wanted to get into this new thing called "digital signal processing" instead, but nobody listened to him...)

Still, the idea was impressive. A motor that hunched over the bridge of a guitar, running little spinning discs that could be pressed down against each string to make it vibrate -- a mechanical bowing device that stood in sharp contrast to electromagnetic solutions like the Heet EBow and its many descendants and imitators. It never worked, but think of the possibilities!

Well, fast forward to decades later, with a whole lot of advancements in materials technology, machining, and power generation, and you have the Gizmotron 2.0. It mounts to any guitar or bass without defacing the finish, is very easy to set up and adjust, can run off any USB phone charger gaff taped to your guitar strap, and by God it WORKS. I mean, yow, does it work. It took me three minutes of playing the Bass Gizmotron on a J-Bass to be completely sold. As an ambient musician, I lean toward texture rather than virtuoso picking when I play my beloved Schecter A-5X ("Betty"), my constant companion for nearly 20 years now. Lately she's been languishing as my attention has wandered to MPE and alternative controllers, but I think the Gizmotron is going to put her back front and center in a big way.

When I described Betty's tuning to Aaron Kipness at the booth, he agreed that using all bass wheels might not work as well as a mix of bass and guitar, since Betty's range goes from a wound .074 to a plain .011, so he helped me get set up with some materials to experiment, and that's what I'll probably be doing this weekend if I get a moment.

In the meantime, enjoy the thread, and feel free to ask me about anything here (or not here, that I didn't mention).

mike

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
Wordsmith - Musician - Tech Freak - Amiable Zany
Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025643 01/25/20 01:00 AM
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Outstanding thread, thanks heaps for putting this together!!


The trouble with doing the job correctly first time, is no-one will ever know just how difficult it was.
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025658 01/25/20 07:42 AM
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What miden said, this was brilliant. Thanks Mike!

Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025686 01/25/20 02:37 PM
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Simply Awesome. Thank you!!

Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025719 01/25/20 05:12 PM
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A completely off topic question Mike. As a nuclear physicist where's my Mr. Fusion? For those that don't know, that's the small, portable power cell that puts out a gazillion watts that you plug into your flying car, your house, your boat, your anti-grav backpack and anything else you need power for. All the great syfy authors convinced us we would have that by 1990. What happened bro?


Hammond SK1, Kurzweil PC3, Korg Pa3x, Roland FA06, Band in a Box, Real Band, Studio One, too much stuff...
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025741 01/25/20 06:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Dr Mike Metlay
And last but not least, the answer to the question: "Dr. Mike, of all the cool stuff at the show that you saw, did you see anything that made you drop money right then and there?"

Yeps. I almost never spend money on the show floor, but one demo stopped me dead in my tracks and had me pulling out my credit card... and it had nothing to do with keyboards or electronic music.

The Gizmotron 2.0 is a re-release of the original Gizmotron from the 1970s, a device whose history is shrouded in infamy. Originally developed by the 10CC folks and played by Lol Creme on albums like 801's Listen Now, the prototype Gizmo barely worked, and the production Gizmotron never really did. Plagued by mechanical and manufacturing difficulties, it swallowed a huge amount of money that was needed to keep Musitronics (tasked with developing it by parent company ARP) afloat, and ended up sinking the company. (Mike Beigel of Mu-Tron, the inventor of the Mu-Tron III and Bi-Phase and all those other cool early boxes, wanted to get into this new thing called "digital signal processing" instead, but nobody listened to him...)

Still, the idea was impressive. A motor that hunched over the bridge of a guitar, running little spinning discs that could be pressed down against each string to make it vibrate -- a mechanical bowing device that stood in sharp contrast to electromagnetic solutions like the Heet EBow and its many descendants and imitators. It never worked, but think of the possibilities!

Well, fast forward to decades later, with a whole lot of advancements in materials technology, machining, and power generation, and you have the Gizmotron 2.0. It mounts to any guitar or bass without defacing the finish, is very easy to set up and adjust, can run off any USB phone charger gaff taped to your guitar strap, and by God it WORKS. I mean, yow, does it work. It took me three minutes of playing the Bass Gizmotron on a J-Bass to be completely sold. As an ambient musician, I lean toward texture rather than virtuoso picking when I play my beloved Schecter A-5X ("Betty"), my constant companion for nearly 20 years now. Lately she's been languishing as my attention has wandered to MPE and alternative controllers, but I think the Gizmotron is going to put her back front and center in a big way.

When I described Betty's tuning to Aaron Kipness at the booth, he agreed that using all bass wheels might not work as well as a mix of bass and guitar, since Betty's range goes from a wound .074 to a plain .011, so he helped me get set up with some materials to experiment, and that's what I'll probably be doing this weekend if I get a moment.

In the meantime, enjoy the thread, and feel free to ask me about anything here (or not here, that I didn't mention).

mike

[Linked Image from dl.dropboxusercontent.com]



Decades ago, there was a Gizmotron sitting in the bargain bin at a local music store. I don't remember what they were asking for it. Pre internet but the spin was not good on them and I passed.

I recently converted one of my PJ basses (Pajama Bass?) to fretless and tuned to BEAD for home studio use. A Gizmotron on that would be amazing! The installaion video looks a bit "fiddley" but I am up to the challenge.
Thanks for covering this oddity!!!!!

Last edited by KuruPrionz; 01/25/20 07:01 PM.

There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3025939 01/26/20 10:59 PM
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Great stuff Mike!


Rich Formidoni
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Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Jazzmammal #3026038 01/27/20 06:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Jazzmammal
A completely off topic question Mike. As a nuclear physicist where's my Mr. Fusion? For those that don't know, that's the small, portable power cell that puts out a gazillion watts that you plug into your flying car, your house, your boat, your anti-grav backpack and anything else you need power for. All the great syfy authors convinced us we would have that by 1990. What happened bro?

Don't ask me, brah. I was in nuclear structure physics research, not anything practical. I have enough nightmares just from the things I saw at Oak Ridge during the years I spent there to even think about that shit any more... remind me to tell y'all about the colonies of mutant wasps...


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
Wordsmith - Musician - Tech Freak - Amiable Zany
Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
KuruPrionz #3026039 01/27/20 06:53 AM
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Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
Decades ago, there was a Gizmotron sitting in the bargain bin at a local music store. I don't remember what they were asking for it. Pre internet but the spin was not good on them and I passed.

I recently converted one of my PJ basses (Pajama Bass?) to fretless and tuned to BEAD for home studio use. A Gizmotron on that would be amazing! The installaion video looks a bit "fiddley" but I am up to the challenge.
Thanks for covering this oddity!!!!!

I haven't had a chance to do it on Betty yet, alas. First, I have to finish installing a new SSD in my new studio computer, a 2014-era Mac mini... a process that involves many tears of blood and rage, but thank heavens no soldering or conductive paste.

Please keep us posted on the process if you do it, I'd love to see and hear your results!

mike




Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
Wordsmith - Musician - Tech Freak - Amiable Zany
Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.
Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3026131 01/27/20 05:28 PM
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Apparently one of the main things that sank the Gizmotron was wear, not an inherent flaw in the concept itself. I'll be very interested to hear how it works with bass.

Once in the pre-Ebow days, I used a vibrator (yes, that kind) on the guitar strings. Not the easiest playing technique in the world, but a definite crowd-pleaser. smile

Re: Dr. Mike at NAMM 2020: After The Dust Settles...
Dr Mike Metlay #3026136 01/27/20 05:37 PM
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Question: You showed some REALLY cool synths...were most of them shipping, or production prototypes?
Comment: I think the various threads here prove that NAMM is simply too big for one person to take it all in, because there's hardly any overlap. Next year, I think we'll need to get one person per hall doing the coverage...hmm 7 people...let's do it!

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