The NAMM Music Software Surprise

by David Battino

I'm back from America's largest musical instrument and software trade show, where the big software surprise was...the Pause button.

There were no major updates from Apple (Logic/GarageBand) or MOTU (Digital Performer). Ableton (Live), Digidesign (Pro Tools), Steinberg (Cubase), and Sony (Acid) were showing revs they released last year. Cycling ’74 had an unmanned kiosk. And Spectrasonics, a NAMM fixture for its powerful demos, stayed home.

NAMM 2007 Propellerheads

No new Reason, but Propellerheads did play sounds from its upcoming Thor "polysonic synth."

Of course, there were still acres of cool new music gear to fondle, and I'll be sharing my favorites over on the O'Reilly Digital Media blog. But when I asked several developers privately about the dearth of new DAW software, they all said they'd been struggling with porting their code to Intel Macs. (The Windows developers, of course, have their own challenges with Vista, although Cakewalk did score a hit by announcing Sonar would be Vista-compatible this month.)

By all accounts, music software performance on Intel Macs is much improved; several musicians said their MacBook Pros outran even quad G5s. But as one programmer told me, "Everyone used a lot of workarounds to make things run in OS X, and those don't work anymore on the Intel chips." He predicted that within the next year or two, we'd see some major advancements.

Personally, I hope those advancements are in usability. At the annual Grammy Soundtable, it was striking how many of the top producers on the panel used multiple parallel DAWs to make their music. More than a decade after Opcode merged MIDI and digital audio in a single program, we're still searching for the best flow.


2007-01-24 11:38:28
Can you brief us more on the types of instruments that were exhibited at the show? Were there traditional/classical pieces such the Oud on display?
2007-01-27 15:08:55
just got an intel macbook and still trying to make pro tools, m-audio, several a/d conv., etc. work together the way they should, even with new drivers, updates,etc. i'm starting to feel like i did when i 1st got into this 30 years ago......
David Battino
2007-01-27 15:56:03
@peeblog: Not only ouds, there was every type of instrument you can imagine (and many wacky new ones) at the show. The NAMM site offers a downloadable directory; my focus was music technology.
David Battino
2007-01-27 16:24:19
@lodowngitpicker: I've been pursuing compatibility by minimizing the number of programs I use. At Macworld, Ableton Live guru Francis Preve told me he uses no third-party plug-ins in Live. I haven't gone that far, but I have made Disabled Plug-in folders to quarantine the plugs I don't use often. That also makes host programs launch faster.