Best Of NAMM 2022: Gear Highlights & Our Top Picks

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  • NAMM 2022 sees a return to the show hall
  • Find out our top picks for the best new products unveiled at the event

It’s about NAMM time! After a few chaotic years and one pandemic, the biggest musical instrument and gear manufacturer trade show makes a triumphant return to southern California.

We’ll be rounding up our top picks as the show unfolds, so check back throughout the next couple of days as we add to this list.

Here are our top picks of NAMM ’22:

  1. JackTrip Labs Virtual Studio
  2. Apogee Soft Limit
  3. Artiphon Orba 2
  4. Imperial Electrical Zeppelin
  5. Fluid Audio Image 2 Studio Monitors
  6. Audient ID44 mkII
  7. Polyend Play
  8. Melbourne Instruments Nina
  9. BluGuitar Amp X
  10. Cre8audio West Pest

JackTrip Labs Virtual Studio

As digital audio technology evolves, the necessity for remote collaboration tools has never been hotter. With Virtual Studio, JackTrip Labs introduces a remote collaboration tool that is almost latency-free!

Perfect for remote sessions, Virtual Studio is ideal for bands, solo artists working with a backing band, teachers, and students. Even orchestras can use it, as it allows up to a staggering 480 musicians to perform, rehearse, or record together at once. You can even live stream and add effects.

It’s also cross-platform, running on Windows, Mac, and Linux. So no matter what type of system anyone is running, worldwide collaboration is just a click away!

There are six pricing tiers ranging from free to a Concert Hall plan. They’re priced based on how many users are in the session starting at $10 for the Basic plan and $250 for the Concert Hall subscription.

Visit the Virtual Studio website to learn more.

Apogee Soft Limit

As the manufacturer of some of the best converters in the digital audio world, Apogee’s renowned analog tape emulation is now available for the first time as a plugin. It makes your signal warmer and fuller by adding harmonics – just like in the analog tape days.

Since 1991 they have been refining the limiter that comes standard in their A-D converters. Soft Limit tames the transients of your signal, increasing perceived loudness while controlling peaks. You can push the Drive control to get a thicker signal that never ventures into “harsh” territory.

Soft Limit is available for free. Download it from the Apogee website.

Artiphon Orba 2

You’ve never seen a synthesizer like this. The redesigned sound engine features electronic synths and acoustic instruments. You get samples for guitars, pianos, strings, and so much more.

Operation is easy and intuitive. You just slide your finger across the surface, giving you the ability to blend sounds for a limitless combo. You can even create your own samples and novel instruments. The only limit is your imagination.

There is a built-in looper function that writes to the device. You get four modes to work with – Lead, Chord, Bass, and Drums. It has a quantize feature for perfect timing and an increased storage capacity for recording up to 128 bars.

It has an on board speaker but can also be plugged in to an external sound source. All of this fits inside the palm of your hand!

Orba 2 is available for purchase for only $149.99.

Imperial Electrical Zeppelin

Owner of Red Witch Pedals and boutique effects master Ben Fulton hit it out of the park with this homage to one of the most legendary rock bands in history.

In the Zeppelin you get all of the tonal glory of the Echoplex preamp circuit driving a Marshall Plexi. It reacts very well to the articulation and dynamics of your playing. Put the sound of a guitar god on your pedalboard in this compact and unique effect.

Zeppelin is available for $229.

Fluid Audio Image 2 Studio Monitors

These monitors are tailored for near-field and mid-field positioning. Running on the most current digital signal processing (DSP) technology and Class-D amplification the Image 2 studio monitors provide fantastic frequency response, sound imaging, and field depth.

They are a 2-in-1 style of monitor. Perfect for tracking, mixing, and mastering their coolest feature is “Mixcube Mode”. This helps you perfect the midrange and low end that can be so tricky. It’s especially helps when it comes to making your mixes translate across playback devices that don’t have good bass response in the first place, like smartphones, tablets, and laptop speakers.

Fluid Audio’s proprietary AMT tweeter ensures accurate transient response and detail. Aluminum cone drivers help to reduce the different types of distortion that can occur with coil displacement. Two 8” woofers and individually powered bass 225W drivers stabilize the cabinets and extend the frequency range, which goes from 28Hz to 30kHz!

It can be mounted on the side or suspended from the ceiling. And the monitors accept a number of connections types including XLR, TRS, AES/EBU, SPDIF, or USB.

Each monitor costs $1,899, but the Image 2 is the real deal. They start shipping in September.

Audient ID44 mkII

Source: Audient.com

The ID series is one of the best line of desktop interfaces around. The second generation improves on the analog-digital conversion, adding 9dB of headroom.

Audio Loop-back lets you record audio from multiple sources, like a computer and the microphones in the room, simultaneously. This is tremendously useful in a variety of applications like podcasting, social media content creation, even remote recording sessions.

It can now support three headphones for monitoring and the all-metal enclosure has a new dark gray finish. It still has four Console mic preamps, fantastic D-A converters, I/O expandability, and small footprint.

As a four channel interface it is versatile, expandable, and very affordable at just $699.

Polyend Play

Part 64 step sequencer, sampler, and groovebox, Play is a highly versatile, all-in-one music creation machine. It comes loaded with an insane 3,000 samples and 35 kits so you can immediately hit the ground running. Eight audio tracks and eight polyphonic MIDI tracks are available for recording the sounds you explore that you navigate via the high definition LCD screen.

Each track has a number of parameters that can be altered individually to your liking including length, speed, and swing. This gives you a lot of creative liberty to experiment with different timings, meters, and rhythms.

A host of pads, control knobs, and buttons give you almost limitless control over your sounds. It uses non-destructive editing and with the on-board effects, you can process your tracks however you’d like without having to export or bounce anything to a different system.

Play starts shipping in July and costs $799.

Vega Trem VT1 Ultratrem

Source: Vegatrem.com

Have you ever wanted the tuning stability and the ability to do the crazy guitar histrionics you can with a floating tremolo system but didn’t want to risk damaging your guitar’s body? Retrofitting a floating trem is risky, to say the least. And if you have an expensive, high end, or vintage guitar? Forget it.

This is where the Ultratrem comes in. This floating tremolo mechanism fits into the route found on guitars with a standard tremolo system. This means you get all of the dive bombs, vibrato, and pitch shifting guitar acrobatics that would normally only be possible with something like a Floyd Rose. No additional routing required.

Learn more about it at Vega Trem’s website.

Melbourne Instruments Nina

Motorized knobs are nothing new to the synth world. But with Nina, this troublesome technology has finally become fully-realized. Nina is an analog synth that offers 12 voices with variable shape triangle oscillators.

Analog oscillators allow for selection between triangle and sawtooth waveforms. The modulation matrix is complex, but provides quite a number of sounds. Expanding the sound possibilities even further is a number of digital effects.

But perhaps the most interesting feature are the motorized knobs. As you change patches, the control knobs change in real time. You can create your own samples, and if you’re feeling frisky can even hack the software control. This means you can unlock any sounds your imagination can create.

Learn more about the Nina at Melbourne Instruments’ website.

BluGuitar Amp X

Amp X is a 100W programmable guitar amp that’s been in development for a number of years. Labeled as “neural analog”, this 100W amp-in-a-pedal offers a few significant differences.

Headroom can scale, meaning you can run different types of power amp emulations. Even though it’s a digital amp, the signal flow remains analog from input to output. There are two different editing views that let you dial it in to your exact preferences whether you’re on the stage or in the studio.

The most unique feature comes in the company’s proprietary neural analog design. It lets you edit and save settings at a component level. This means that instead of opening an amp and changing out components, you can now do it in the digital realm.

It doesn’t just apply to amps, as all effects and speaker simulations can be changed to user preference. New sounds can be crowd-sourced via what the company calls BluegPRINTs.

It’s not quite finished yet, but it what has been revealed to the world is really intriguing.

Cre8audio West Pest

Source: Cre8Audio

The West Pest is a semi-modular synth created in partnership with Pittsburgh Modular. It’s derived from Pittsburgh’s Voltage Research Lab Synth. Eight individual blocks include a dynamics controller, wave contour, oscillator, LFO, multi-mod, MIDI to CV, sequencer, and button keyboard.

It can manipulate waveforms in unique and inspiring ways. The analog oscillator offers sine, saw, and triangle waveforms. You can modulate and contour the waveform selection as well as shape the resonance.

There isn’t a filter section, but the wave folder/shaper circuit forces you to rethink how you tailor the frequency.

Discover all of the intricacies of this west coast-style modular synth at the Cre8audio website.

More to come!