NAMM 2021: The best synths and music tech gear releases this year

Believe In Music Week, the virtual replacement for NAMM 2021 is underway – here are the synths and studio gear that's coming out of the online show.

NAMM 2021: January is normally a month reserved for an insane number of gear launches. Last year, we visited Anaheim in California to check out all the latest and greatest synths, plug-ins, studio hardware and more from big brands and boutique makers. However, the Winter NAMM Show in 2021 is a little different.

Has NAMM 2021 been cancelled?

In short, yes. While the physical trade show in Anaheim is not proceeding, due to pandemic safety concerns, there is a virtual alternative.

Believe In Music Week goes some way to replacing the traditional trade show. The online event, running from 18-22 January 2021, hosts an interactive marketplace for product launches. Believe In Music Week is also broadcasting hours of educational content from the pros, and artist performances on BelieveInMusic.tv.

Will there be new gear launches this month (January 2021)?

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You can count on it. Although there’s less of a focal point than the regular NAMM show, many brands are still planning product releases. In fact, we’ve seen a slew of them in recent days.

This list will be updated regularly as new products are announced.

New synths and hardware instruments for 2021

Korg ARP 2600 M

Arturia

  • MicroFreak V3 is a firmware upgrade that puts three new Noise Engineering oscillator modes into the tiny digital synth.

Behringer

  • Behringer’s 2600 gets a makeover in the Blue Marvin and Gray Meanie editions, which also includes a mechanical spring reverb and other new features.

Hammond

  • The Hammond SK Pro sees the legendary organ maker blend piano, organ and monosynth with their latest instrument.

IK Multimedia

  • The UNO Synth Pro and UNO Synth Pro Desktop are paraphonic evolutions of the original UNO Synth with new filters, a 64-step sequencer and more.

Korg

  • After selling out of the ARP 2600 FS almost immediately, Korg has returned with the smaller ARP 2600 M, a faithful recreation of one of the most lusted after monosynth ever.
  • Modwave is a reinvention of 1985’s DW-8000 synth which combined wavetable synthesis with analogue filters. The rebirthed instrument adds Kaoss Physics and Motion Sequencing.
  • The MiniKorg 700FS is a revival of the company’s first monophonic synth, bringing modern touches to make it a better fit for modern studios. Ideal for thick bass and leads.

    Korg drumlogue
    Image: Korg
  • Korg has teased a prototype of the Drumlogue, an analogue-digital hybrid drum machine. Information is scarce at this time.
  • Korg Gadget VR is a forthcoming virtual reality studio with an immersive interface and the ability to “pick up” instruments. Beyond the first-look video, details are minimal.
  • Wavestate SE is a 61-key version of the popular Wavestate – which we awarded a 9/10 rating – but with aftertouch and optimised programming.

Kurzweil

  • Kurzweil’s K2700 is a new instrument powered by an updated version of its VAST (Variable-Architecture Synthesis Technology) synthesis engine.

Moog

Roland

  • The Roland Verselab MV-1 merges an 808-style sequencer, a 4×4 pad grid, and ZEN-Core sounds in this unique groovebox for beatmakers.

ROLI

  • ROLI has updated its LUMI keyboard to offer pitch-bend on a per-note basis.

Sequential

Sensel

  • Sensel’s Express MPE pack comprises 40 preset for MPE-enabled software, touted as a masterclass for MPE newcomers.

Spitfire Audio

  • British virtual instrument maker Spitfire Audio has unveiled a unique velocity-focused instrument library in collaboration with Samuel Sim, Contemporary Drama Toolkit.

Yamaha

  • The YC73 and YC88 expand Yamaha’s range of impressive stage keyboards with piano, organ and FM synth sounds.

New studio equipment for 2021

Imperative Audio PVB
Image: Imperative Audio via YouTube

Alesis

  • Three new MIDI controllers have been announced in the Q Series MKII from Alesis, with a focus on lightweight designs and authentic key action.

Ashdown

  • Bass amp stalwart Ashdown has entered the studio monitor market with the NF-1 and NF-2 speakers based on unported BBC designs.

Audient

  • The British audio interface maker has announced iD4 and iD14 MkII interfaces with better converters for increased dynamic range, USB 3.0 bus power and dual headphone outs.
  • The EVO Start Recording Bundle combines the beginner-friendly EVO 4 interface with a large-diaphragm mic and headphones to get beginners recording.

Black Lion Audio

  • Revolution 2×2 is the pro audio modder’s first audio interface, sporting two analogue ins and outs, and promising class-leading signal-to-noise performance.

Decksaver

  • Vital but unglamorous, the new releases from Decksaver include spill-proof covers for the KeyStep Pro, CDJ-3000, the Sequential Pro, Elektron’s Digitone Keys and more.

Gibson

  • The new Gibson app uses AR to teach you guitar, with play-along tabs for licensed music from popular artists such as Billie Eilish, The Beatles and Foo Fighters.

Imperative Audio

  • Portable Vocal Booth is a lightweight, easy-to-deploy recording space with retractable feet to take it from vocal booth to guitar amp iso box.

Mackie

  • Mackie revives its Onyx line of analogue mixers, featuring USB multitrack recording and onboard DSP effects.

Output and Barefoot Sound

  • Virtual instrument maker Output has teamed up with Barefoot Sound to develop Frontier, a nearfield speaker with a coaxial design and front bass port.

Pioneer DJ

  • The DJ brand has unveiled the DJM-S7, adopting a variety of features from its older sibling, the DJM-S11.

PLAYdifferently 

    • Richie Hawtin, Allen & Heath and PLAYdifferently have announced the all-analogue MODEL 1.4 four-channel DJ mixer, which comes four years after it’s six-channel predecessor.

Radial

  • Producers with pedals might want to check out Radial’s EXTC-SA guitar effects interface that lets you repurpose stereo stompbox effects in your mixes.
  • Radial’s JX42 V2 and JX44 V2 allow seamless changes between up to four instruments without signal colouration or undesirable pops.

SOUL

  • SOUL is a new audio development language that could revolutionise music and audio application development.

SychroArts

  • VocAlign Ultra is a more user-friendly version of the widely trusted vocal alignment tool. Ideal for stacked vocals, this plug-in lets you specify how in tune and time your doubles and BVs are to a lead vocal.
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