One of the great things about being a sales engineer at Sweetwater is the huge amount of information we have at our fingertips. But even better than that is the kind of early "insider information" we can only get firsthand at trade shows like AES, NSCA and,of course, NAMM. Every year Sweetwater takes a bus full of sales engineers to investigate the offerings from all of the industry's leading innovators. Summer NAMM takes place in July and, up until last year at least, typically took a back seat to the yearly all-out bash in Anaheim called Winter NAMM. All that's changed and the Summer show held this year in Nashville had plenty of cool stuff to get all musicians everywhere totally excited (including Bassoon players, who are traditionally the most reserved in the business as I'm sure you've noticed). I've done my best here to hit some of the highlights.

Kurzweil was showing off their K2500 in style with Jordan Rudess demonstrating the amazing power of this hot new instrument by playing two of his latest compositions written and performed completely on the K2500. We also got a sneak preview of the keyboard versions of the 2500 which should be available around the holidays. They are the best-playing and best-looking keyboards yet from the wizards Kurzweil (and maybe anyone else for that matter).

Korg left everyone virtually speechless with two new keyboards with the apocalyptic names Trinity and Prophecy . These two keyboards were ably showing off Korg's new Sound Modeling technology which was the highlight of the show for many of the attendees (I won't name names...). Trinity has a touch-sensitive screen for easy setup and programming, not to mention a remarkable sound set and impressive processing capabilities. The keyboard gives you real-time control over your performance with innovative features like "the log" which is a combination pitch and mod wheel in the shape of a cylinder (or log) that must be experienced to be believed. Prophecy is a monophonic synthesizer that gives you the classic sounds you crave, as well as sounds that have never been heard before, all produced by Korg's exclusive new Sound Modeling technology. And as if that's not enough, Prophecy will actually be available as an expansion board for the Trinity! Talk about thinking ahead.

Alesis announced that the Monitor Two , their critically acclaimed mid-field monitor, is finally available to the bass-starved masses. And yes, we ordered plenty, so by the time you read this they'll be available! The company also showed their new QS6 Synthesizer, DM5 Drum Module and the Midiverb4

E-mu Systems , a company that is well-known world wide for its great-sounding samplers, unveiled DARWIN , a surprisingly affordable hard disk-based digital multitrack system. DARWIN features 8-track digital audio recording with the ability to easily add any as three more units for recording capabilities of up to 32 tracks. This unit has special features that make it very easy to interface with and expand your tape-based system. But the biggest news of all may be that DARWIN is going to be available at the shockingly low price of just $3195.

Industry giant Roland was dazzling IBM laptop lovers with their newest product for today's musician on the go: it's the SCP-55 Sound Canvas which includes a sound engine, MIDI interface and a hard disk recording interface all on a tiny PCMCIA card. This is going to give laptop users a complete studio in a portable notebook computer format. Roland also released two new expansion boards for their JV series instruments, Super Sound Set and Keyboards of the '60s and '70s, as well as rackmount versions of their popular JV series expansion boards, the XP-10 GS Synthesizer and G-800 Arranger Workstation! Of course, they continued to awe everyone with their VG-8 V-Guitar System, XP-50 Workstation and their new DM-800 Hard Disk Multitrack Recorder (check out page 2 for more on these last two items).

Eventide constantly had a group of guitar players packed into their booth drooling over the new GTR4000 . It's based on the company's very powerful DSP4000 architecture and gives guitarists unprecedented tonal control, as well as some absolutely fantastic factory presets from many of the hottest guitar players in the music biz.

The Mackie Designs crew from Woodinville, Washington gave a sneak preview of their Universal Console Automation , coming soon for automation-deprived studio owners everywhere. Greg Mackie has never been one to have a "me too" product. They are looking to redefine what console automation should be and how it should sound — or more accurately, not sound. We'll keep you posted as the official release date approaches.

Sony proudly displayed the newest member of the affordable DTC series of DAT recorders, the DTC-A8 (hey, could we have just a few more model numbers to keep track of?). This machine incorporates Sony's new Super Bit Map technology for unrivaled clarity and accuracy in this price range. By the time you read this, they should be arriving at Sweetwater. (Editor's note: see page 7)

The dynamics experts at Aphex were showing a new tube compressor based on the extremely successful design of the Aphex 651 Expressor. Finally, a great-sounding, even warmer compressor that is really affordable.

SEK'D (hey, we're not really sure how to pronounce it either), an audio software company from Germany, was demonstrating their new flexible Windows-based studio software called Samplitude. This powerhouse program gives you up to 16 tracks of digital audio (dependent on available processor power) and integration with Windows-based sequencers such as Cakewalk Pro at the amazing price of just $399. This looks to be very exciting.

Of course, space prevents us from covering everything at the show here, but for more information on these particular products and the many others we just didn't have space to cover, be sure to contact your Sweetwater sales engineer today.

— Kevin Behr