Kids in a candy store, we were.
For the masses of musicians, vendors, and media that embarked on a journey through the halls of the Anaheim Convention Center between January 13-16, it was a feat if you couldn't find at least one item around every corner that left you drooling. It's a commonplace reaction when making the winter pilgrimage to the National Association Of Music Merchants (NAMM). This year the mood was amplified by the fact that there were 90,112 registered attendees a three percent increase and a historic record for NAMM. With the dismal economy acting as a dark cloud upon the last few years' conferences, the turnout at NAMM 2011 seemed to act as an indicator that the coming year should be a much more lucrative one for the music business.
The 1,417 exhibitors offered everything from the latest in digitally enhanced instrumentation to vintage classics, with 815,000 square feet of exhibitor space that was essentially used up in full. One could write an epic novel that goes on forever about every little item displayed, so we decided to pare it down to a few hot items for 2011. These represent some of the best new items that are hot off the assembly line (or in some cases from the hands of a craftsperson) and are headed to a retailer near youor at the very least via the trusty Internet.
UG.TV had cameras on hand at NAMM 2011 and we'll be posting a variety of videos from the event in the coming weeks. So stay tuned for interviews, demos of the Gibson Firebird X and the Roland GR-55, and much, much more.
Gibson Firebird X
Gibson displayed plenty of its vintage guitars that continue to lure devoted followers, but at NAMM 2011 the company also debuted its forward-thinking Firebird X. Along with being able to tune itself, the guitar offers over 2,000 pickup combinations via analog technology while also featuring two tog-pots that allow you to switch between processed and unprocessed effects. The third tog-pot blends acoustic sounds from the Piezo pickup along with the electric pickups, or you can also opt for an acoustic-only sound. To check out the lengthy list of specs available with the Firebird X, check out Gibson.com.
Ibanez RG Premium Guitar Line
Ibanez offered quite a few impressive new items at this year's NAMM, with the RG Premium Series being one of the standouts. It's touted as being crafted with extreme precision and features high-end specs such as the Edge-Zero bridge with ZPS3Fe for easier tuning, DiMarzio ibz pickups, and a Wizard neck for comfort and playability. Although the general RG Series has been around for many years, the Premium line combines sleek craftsmanship with affordability.
There were plenty of new items at NAMM that took advantage of the digital revolution, but 65Amps embraces past eras' sounds that seem to be eternal, particularly classic British rock. One of their latest amps is the Empire, which is four years in the making and delivers three distinct tones: a cleaner tone modeled after the early 60s; a fatter, classic rock sound of '68 and '72; and a beefed up 80s sound with higher gain. The 22-watt amp features a Master Volume that allows for versatile volume control, whether you're practicing in the bedroom or jamming onstage.
Rather than focusing on simply one particular model of Schoen guitars, we recommend you explore the highly inventive variety offered. After all, each instrument is handmade by luthier Kurt Schoen, who uses the wood from items like cigar boxes and packing crates in his designs. The most intriguing example? One particular guitar was crafted out of an Apache Powder Company box formerly used to hold explosives.
For those players looking to utilize the best of what technology has to offer in terms of creating new sounds/tones with their guitar, you might want to head on over to the Roland site. The new GR-55 combines PCM synthesis with digital instrument modeling to deliver over 900 sounds. A third sound engine is driven by Composite Object Sound Modeling (COSM), which allows you to emulate everything from basses to acoustics to a variety of guitar amplifiers. The editing process is more intuitive than ever, you can play WAV files stored on USB flash memory, and song playback is controlled via onboard pedals.
Vox TB35C1 and TB35C2 Guitar Amplifiers
Boutique amp designer Tony Bruno teamed up with Vox to create a few of Vox's latest all-tube offerings, which employ four 6V6 power tubes and a tube-driven reverb section featuring a premium Accutronics spring tank. Bruno's additional circuitry includes a Macho Switch, a Bass Boost to enhance the warm/low-end response, and a Master Volume Bypass. Both the single and dual Celestion speaker models will be available this March.
Dean Resonator Series
When you think of Dean Guitars, it's difficult not to immediately see an image of Dimebag or a bevy of other metal-driven artists. But at NAMM 2011, there was certainly a nod to the bluegrass genre as well with the Resonator Series. One selection in the line is the Resonator Thin Body Electric Black Chrome, which features a mahogany C neck, rosewood fingerboard, pearl dot inlays, sealed die cast tuners, and a black chrome finish. And for those only interested in a bit more diabolical Dean models, check out the latest models associated with Dimebag, Dave Mustaine, Michael Schenker, and many others at this location.
Gretsch Custom Shop G6128T-GH George Harrison Tribute Duo Jet
For any Beatles fan, Gretsch's new tribute to the late great George Harrison was certainly a highlight. The guitar is a crafted replica of the black 6128 Duo Jet Harrison played with the Beatles from 1961 to 1963. The latest Gretsch model pays homage to what is said to be one of Harrison's favorite guitars, mirroring even the scratches and dings. Making it even more sought after is the fact that there will only be 60 pieces of the G6128T-GH made worldwide.
ESP Snakebyte/ ESP KH-2 SE
The latest custom guitars for the ESP/LTD series deliver a unique body shape inspired by Metallica's shredders. James Hetfield's Snakebyte feature a set-neck construction at 24.75" scale, a mahogany body and neck, and an ebony fingerboard with 22 XJ frets. Other specs include Sperzel locking tuners, Schaller straplocks, a Tonepros locking bridge/tailpiece, and EMG 81 (bridge) / EMG 60 (neck) active pickups. If you have found yourself more of a Kirk Hammett fan, ESP also debuted the ESP KH-2 SE and LTD KH-SE, but you'll have to get those fast as only 100 to 300 pieces will be available worldwide.
Jackson Dave Ellefson Signature Model Jackson Concert Bass/Partnership
Following a tour that celebrated the 20th anniversary of Rust in Peace, Dave Ellefson once again celebrates the epic album with his latest signature bass. Partnering with Jackson, Ellefson has released the Jackson Concert Bass, modeled after the instrument with which he recorded 1990's Rust in Peace. Specifications include an alder body, quartersawn maple neck with compound-radius ebony fingerboard and jumbo frets, pearl shark fin inlays, EMG 35CS neck pickup and EMG 35DC bridge pickup, EMG BQS electronics, and a limited-edition burned-in fallout logo and Rust in Peace-themed case.
Fender Road Worn Player Series
Taking a cue from the Road Worn series, the latest Fenders continue in the spirit of the popular guitars but now have upgraded pickups and a flatter fingerboard. One particular model is the Road Worn Player Stratocaster HSS Guitar, which features an alder body, a C-shaped maple neck with lightly worn urethane finish, rosewood fretboard with 9.5 radius and medium jumbo frets, Texas Special neck and middle pickups, Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates humbucking bridge pickup, five-way switching, aged knobs and switch tip, three-ply pickguard, vintage-style synchronized tremolo bridge, and deluxe gig bag.
The ivin Fjeld G-Sharp Guitar
Designed by ivin Fjeld, who has been one of Norway's premiere repairmen and trouble shooters for over 30 years, the G-Sharp Guitar is a short-scale instrument that revolves around the specific tone it emits. The name comes from the fact that Fjeld often landed on the G# as his preferred timbre when playing the guitar himself. While the G-Sharp Guitar is slowly but surely garnering buzz, it already has been used by the likes of Mark Knopfler and Johnny Winter.
Zoom G2.1DM Signature Guitar Effects Pedal
Dave Mustaine teamed up with Zoom to create this custom pedal, which features custom patches designed by the Megadeth frontman himself. The pedals' 40 patches include some of the specific sounds and tones used to record some of Megadeth's greatest hits over the years, while it also delivers the original options offered with the G2.1Nu (ZFX-3 sound engine, 100 user patches + 100 presets, 83 guitar effect types among many others). The aesthetics are possibly worth the purchase alone, as Mustaine's expression pedal is modeled after the accelerator found in the guitarist's favorite sports car. We'll let you guess which sweet ride that might be
Auralex Sustain Bamboo Sound Diffusor Series
Sound control isn't a new issue in the music world, but Auralex has developed a product that addresses it in a new and green method for the studio. The Sustain Bamboo Sound Diffusor Series combines the natural properties found only bamboo with a variety of designs to capture the most ideal atmosphere for recording. Whether it's WaveLens' ability to scatter and redirect acoustical energy or the WavePrism's elimination of flutter echoes, Auralex's new line offers a variety of options for those looking for a more environmentally forward-thinking studio setup.
James Trussart Guitars
You may not have necessarily heard of James Trussart yet, but his guitars have been brandished by everyone from Jack White to Eric Clapton. What comes to your attention first and foremost is the steel-bodied construction that combines earthy rawness with sleek beauty. Trussart, who has made a career as both a musician and a luthier, created the guitar line in an effort to capture a vintage look but without sacrificing the sound. Blues rock legend Billy Gibbons has stated about his James Trussart steel six-string, It's funky. The tone is the thingand this instrument has got some tone.
D'Addario Zyex Bass Strings
For bassists interested in a warmer, gut-like tone for their instrument, D'Addario's latest addition should perk up their ears. The Zyex strings feature a synthetic material with a core configuration that allows bassists to control the nuances of their playing with greater efficiency. Even better, these strings are able to combat extreme climate changes, making it a must-have for gigging musicians that have to deal with inclement weather (or storage in general) on a regular basis.
RapcoHorizon i-BLOX Smart Phone Interface
With smart phones becoming the norm for communication these days, it's no wonder that those devices are finally being utilized by the music world as well. RapcoHorizon debuted the i-BLOX Smart Phone Interface, which can attach to the phone's microphone/headphone jack via a 6' interface cable. The product allows player to take advantage of on-the-spot recording and/or simply using a practice amp.
We didn't get an opportunity to hold any of these beauties, but there's immense promise if they sound as good as they look. These detailed guitars are made after the wood is air dried and stored for many years. At this point, an Anointed Oil finish is applied several times over, undoubtedly a factor in the aesthetic appeal and feel. The bodies range from having unique carvings or in some cases brilliant artwork inspired by Jimi Hendrix (The Tribute). Check out the website to get a better idea of the craftsmanship.
Olympus has become synonymous with quality recording devices over the years, and its latest model certainly maintains that tradition. The LS-7 is a pocket linear PCM audio recording device that differs from past models in that it now features three mics versus the usual two mics. Along with the two condenser studio mics, the LS-7 includes a third omni-directional mic that is able to capture lower bass ranges. The latest model also feature a pre-buffer record option that picks up seconds of audio before hitting the record button, a low-cut filter that eliminates unwanted low-end sound, as well as a voice guidance option for users with assistive needs. The device's wireless remote also makes for the perfect aide when trying to record your own show from a specific location.
Boss RC-30 and RC-3 Loop Station Pedals
These battery-powered pedals use the most up-to-date technology to act as an upgrade to Boss' former releases. New features on the RC-30 include true stereo inputs and outputs, three hours of onboard stereo recording and loop storage, and a dual phrase loop feature that allows users to craft and play two completely independent stereo loop phrases in perfect sync. The RC-3 is essentially a smaller, more compact version of the RC-30 and offers the same specs.
As one of the youngest companies featured in our Hot List for NAMM 2011, Fret Daddy gets back to basics in a novel way that will undoubtedly aid scores of new players. Mastering the notes on your guitar neck may just be attainable with Fret Daddy's sticker sets, which are designed to help you learn scales and patterns with ease. With acoustic/electric, classical, and bass varieties available, Fret Daddy's removable stickers finally allow you to set aside theory books and keep your eyes on the guitar. For a video tutorial and even free online lessons, go to FretDaddy.com.
Neutrik powerCON TRUE1 AC Power Connector
For the technically minded and/or those who just want reliable circuitry when gigging, Neutrik's powerCON TRUE1 AC power connector is a lockable system of single-phase connectors featuring IEC 60320 breaking capacity. The key to this product is its high-breaking capacity, which enables it to connect large amounts of equipment without the worry about damaging electrical issues. The twist/lock system is also a selling point for those worried about accidental disconnection while in use.
Couch Guitar Straps
It's been a few years since Couch Guitar Straps made a splash at NAMM winning Best in Show back in 2009, in fact but it's a novel enough product worth mentioning again. With plenty of the world embracing a green and/or animal-friendly lifestyle, Couch has taken notice. The company has created a line of guitar straps utilizing upcycling, where waste from fabric is used to make straps and other gear. These vegan straps are gaining popularity, with musician John Cale one of Couch Guitar Straps biggest fans.
By Amy Kelly Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2011