The NAMM Show 2024
Article by Angie Kibiloski
Music Makers Unite
On January 25th-28th, The NAMM Show 2024 took over the Anaheim Convention Center for its annual exhibition of everything related to music making. Spanning 5 interior halls of the convention center, and sprawling out to encompass multiple outdoor stages, NAMM brought together a plethora of traditional instruments, both acoustic and electric, digital music production hardware and software, innovative hybrid instruments and devices, stage production tech, live performances, educational sessions, and more. I attended 2 days out of 4, and had a very enjoyable time gawking at all the cool guitars for myself, and discovering some pretty cool tech for my readers. Here’s a brief look at 7 of those cool tech products that I found.
For Your Streaming Needs
Streaming content is such a popular activity nowadays, whether it’s a hobby or a career choice, and there’s lots of products on the market to help you do that. I found 3 at The NAMM Show that I’m interested in talking about, including the iRig Stream Mic USB from IK Multimedia. I’m a fan of IK Multimedia, I’ve positively reviewed their products in the past, so of course I’m always drawn to their newest offerings, but bias aside, this cardioid condenser mic with a built-in stereo audio interface is a pretty great, more accessible version of their previously released iRig Stream Mic Pro model.
The iRig Stream Mic USB eliminates background noise, provides adjustable gain and high-pass filters for crisp, detailed sounds, and offers multi-source volume adjustments on the mic body for an even mix prior to recording, all while connecting directly to your PC/Mac through USB-C. The on-board audio interface allows you to connect other audio devices directly to the mic, like media players, digital instruments, and soundboards, and have the ability to monitor and mix multiple audio inputs from a single control setup. The mic also has a loopback feature, to further help you mix in pre-recorded audio from your computer to your stream or recording file, for easy sound effects or background music management. There’s a lot more to say about this cool and compact mic, but I’m hoping to get an iRig Stream Mic USB in for a full review, so I’ll save the rest for later.
Every streamer needs a good set of headphones, and gaming streamers need a set with a little more functionality than straightforward music-centric headphones. The Maxwell Wireless Gaming Headset from Audeze isn’t their latest product on the market, and since it really bumps up the base for the ultimate gaming configuration, you may want to look at Audeze‘s MM Series if you’re looking for a more true-to-studio music listening experience. However, the Maxwell ticks all the boxes any gamer would want, whether they stream games just between friends or broadcast those streams online. At a reasonable $299, it’s accessible for gamers of any level as well.
The Maxwell has an impressive 80-hour battery life, with a quick charging feature that generates 20 hours of playtime in 20 minutes. It has super low-latency, imperative for in-the-moment communication during cooperative gaming. The 90mm planar magnetic drivers deliver high-resolution audio for powerful bass and spatial sound precision, and their Xbox configured version offers a Dolby Atmos license for further immersive spatial customization. For two-way communication, both the on-board beamforming 5-mic array and detachable Shure boom mic offer AI-powered background noise reduction, so your teammates always hear you clearly. In addition to the great internals, the Maxwell is comfortable for hours of use, with a spring steel headband, soft suspension strap, and contoured memory foam dual-chamber earcups that provide impressive passive noise reduction.
You’ll need a way to easily and centrally control all of your streaming devices, and the MainStream from Mackie would be perfect. It’s a complete streaming and capture interface with programmable action buttons and individual input volume and mixing dials. Through multiple USB, HDMI, and analog connection ports, take control of your camera, live game capture, mic, headphones, and music source all from a single location, streamlining your process and your desktop. Switch camera angles, trigger sound effects, mix and adjust volumes across input sources, and flip through multiple video inputs to transition from screen share to game console to studio cam and back.
Everything can be controlled directly on the MainStream panel, but you can also download the optional free Matrix software, featuring added functionality and controls. Open up access to 6 virtual inputs on top of your hardware devices, like Discord and Spotify, fed through the app to your MainStream. Add real-time vocal effects to your mic, enable even more mixing options across your audio sources, and have a larger selection of 24 programmable virtual sample pads in addition to the 6 multi-purpose action pads housed directly on the device panel. This software combined with the MainStream will make creating and controlling a dynamic stream efficient and easy, especially at the comfortable price of $299 for the hardware.
More Than Just Guitars
As I may have mentioned, though I’m only a hobbyist string plucker myself, I love guitars. When guitars meet innovative tech, and perhaps hide unexpected functions inside, I’m extra interested. I want to highlight 2 such guitars from the convention that are more than meets the eye. The 1st is from Jamstik, a company you’ve probably seen me talk about in CES articles in the past, who’ve been making MIDI guitars for several years. The newest additions to their MIDI controller guitar line are the Jamstik Standard ($1,099.99) and Jamstik Deluxe ($1,499.00), both of which look like regular, full electric guitars, unlike some of their previous scaled-down or truncated models.
Both new models feature 24-frets with glow-in-the-dark fret markers, a 25.5″ scale length, locking tuners, KD bridge and neck pickups, and both wired and wireless connection options for use with a variety of hardware and mobile devices. The differences lie with the type of wood and finishes used for the bodies, and the metal used for the hardware, but all internal technical functionality is the same between the Jamstik Deluxe and Jamstik Standard. You can use these MIDI guitars with the Jamstik Creator program for PC/Mac, which can be run as a stand-alone application or as a DAW plugin. This is where you’ll configure your Jamstik settings, assign sound packs and effects to your guitar, and edit your recorded audio. There’s also a Jamstik Control mobile app that shares some of the main program’s settings functions for on-the-go adjustments while away from your computer.
The 2nd innovative guitar I want to present is the HITar, a guitar that seems like a standard acoustic instrument, but doubles as a digital percussive device as well. Created by Andrea Martelloni for his PhD in AI, it’s still in the prototype phase and in search of additional funding. You won’t be able to buy one until at least 2025, but it caught my attention and I really wanted to share. It also caught the attention of the MIDI Association last year, and won an award for Best Hardware Prototype at the MIDI Innovation Awards 2023.
Inside the body are a number of sensors that detect not only when and how hard you hit the guitar with your hand, and where on the guitar body you touch, but can differentiate between which part of your hand is coming in contact as well. The AI within the sensor software interprets this percussive input into expressive output, with no 2 hits sounding exactly alike, for a more human-generated vibe. The accompanying app allows you to assign any sounds you want to your hits, not just drum types, but cinematic sound effects or other instruments as well. The HITar will be produced as both full smart guitars and smart pickups to augment standard acoustic guitars, but not until 2025. In the meantime, take a look at this video to see it in action from its creator.
Beyond the Expected
It wouldn’t be The NAMM Show without some instruments that shake up your expectations. The 1st I want to feature is the PocketPiano, a full 7-octave electric piano that can be divided into 7 magnetic modules, both for easy transportation and versatile playing. The modules fit in a compact carrying case, and when you’re setting up at a gig, you can attach all of them for a full keyboard, or only the octaves you’ll need for that set, so you don’t need to lug a cumbersome full-length keyboard around if your material for the show only requires a 3-octave range. Their magnetic connection points make assembly and disassembly quick and easy too. When you have your perfect module arrangement, connect directly to your computer, headphones, speakers, or amp via 3.5 mm cable, or your mobile device via Bluetooth.
PocketPiano functions as a stand-alone professional electric piano by default, using the integrated Ivory II virtual instrument sound bank from Synthology‘s original recordings of an American Steinway D Concert Grand, apparently the go-to for professionals worldwide. It can also function as a MIDI controller if you want versatile sounds beyond a concert piano, and controls for this use can be accessed via mobile app or computer. Finally, you can adjust the key sensitivity for your style of playing, across 12 levels between pianissimo to fortissimo. You’ll get the perfect play for every unique concert, and wow your audience when you start breaking your PocketPiano up into pieces too.
The next wild instrument I found is the Resonant Garden from Folktek, and it’s almost defying classification for me. It’s comprised of 3 “altar” sections, elaborate and interactive circuit boards with both electronic and tactile inputs, which combine with and affect each other to produce anything from simple beats to elaborate soundscapes. The glowing inlays within the metal turtle faceplates, the metal strings sprouting from the resonant nodes, and the wooden box it’s all housed in create an impression of something both futuristic and retro at the same time.
Each of the “altars” has a mic preamp and 4 of the metal sprouting strings for acoustic input. Use your hands or a small bow to pluck, rub, tap, or otherwise interact with these strings to create sounds. Then, cycle through a variety of on-board digital effects with the touch-sensitive hexagons on the turtle plates, and adjust them with the nearby knobs. Each of the 3 sections has different effects that can be layered on top of one another when you chain the sections together. Some of these effects include long delay, shimmering reverb, distortion filter, stutter glitch, time stretch, and pitch shift. There’s more technical stuff you can learn about the Resonant Garden on Folktek‘s website, along with other device offerings from them. I probably won’t be getting this pricier device in for review, but it was definitely one of the cooler things I got to briefly play with at the show.
Outro for Now
That concludes my brief look at 7 cool products from The NAMM Show 2024. If any sound interesting, please do follow the links and visit their respective websites for more in-depth info, and full reviews may be coming here for the 3 streaming devices in the future. There’s so much more at this expo that just doesn’t fall within my coverage, from handmade, limited edition guitars made by boutique master crafters, to the latest in arena stagecraft lighting design, to professional mixing and mastering boards for recording studios. Just about anything music makers of all kinds could need can be found within this convention. For my personal enjoyment, I do love exploring the show floor and seeing all of it, regardless of whether it’s techie or within my realm of experience, and I look forward to doing it again next year.