This year’s winter NAMM was INSANE! Thursday was as crowded as a typical Saturday and it escalated from there. The noise floor was non-stop jet-engine level. I came home with ears ringing and NAMMthrax. Was it worth it? You bet. Three full days was barely enough to cover all the cool stuff. It opened with a terrific concert band doing a modern composition that incorporated either recorded or live recitations from young people (I couldn’t see from my vantage point) about the difficulties of growing up. This boded well for a forward-thinking show and, in fact, there were ample examples of manufacturers leaving the traditional behind to explore new territory.
Other than the upward trajectory of the business evidenced by the crowd, the only trend I noticed was the invasion of the pedal market by Greece and Brazil. As usual, NAMM often stands for “Not Available, Maybe May,” so stay tuned to the manufactures’ sites and guitarmoderne.com for updates, and, if you would like to hear me talk about this year’s winter NAMM, check out Matt Wakeling’s Guitar Speak podcast featuring yours truly.
New to this show was a booth dedicated to boutique guitars that push the envelope rather than rehashing vintage favorites. It housed:
Teuffel, the designer of our masthead guitar, who showed this Birdfish model in leopard.
The DiDonato instruments from Italy were gorgeous, with slim bodies made possible by mounting the electronics on the outside—masterpieces of design.
Jersey Girl’s bespoke Japanese guitars come with an enormous amount of hand crafting.
The guitars Peter Malinoski showed at the Nashville guitar and amp show were unusual, but for this show he brought some of his more extreme “art” guitar models.
If Malinoski’s work was Miro, Michihiro Matsuda’s spectacular instruments were Picasso.
Despite the Asian name, Tao guitars originate in Brussels, Belgium.
When it comes to “art” guitars, Michael Spalt brought his A-game. Though the Viennese builder also makes less radical road-worthy instruments, the guitars at the show seemed more suitable for collectors and/or museums.
The always cool looking DiPinto guitars are now made in USA.
Titan is a more affordable instrument line by the maker of the upscale Kauer Guitars.
This NAMM heralded my first chance to play some Ronin guitars. They are, in fact, all that. I recognized Izzy Lugo from his days at Rudy’s repair shop in NYC. He has taken whatever lessons he learned there, added his own magic and made these true objects of desire.
Congrats to Reverend, who showcased instruments commemorating their 20th Anniversary.
A rare sighting of Rick Turner, a godfather of modern guitar design.
In the “retro-future” department are the reissue Supro guitars. These fiberglass guitars were modern when they were originally made and now that Pigtronix owns the brand they are being reissued in original plastic and current wood versions. I played a bunch and they all felt and sounded great, especially for their reasonable price-point.
ElectroPhonic Innovations has upped the ante on “amp-in-the-guitar” models. These sound good enough to mic in the studio for some cool sounds.
O-Guitars – just because.
Quilter is introducing a line of solid-state amps that sound good and feel good to play, whether as a spare in case your tube head goes down, or as your main rig, you will no longer have to settle for cheesy tone with solid-state.
Iceberg Amp’s Steel Chicken (it’s a long story) looked modern, is insanely expensive, and I have no idea what it sounds like as the builder was out of the booth when I passed by and there doesn’t appear to be any video.
Guitar Moderne Spotlight artist Dan Phelps has been raving about Benson amps for a while. I got to meet Dan at the booth and I checked one out as best as one could amid the din. It sounded good enough to warrant closer examination. In the meantime, check out Dan’s videos for a listen.
ZT is reissuing their Nels Cline approved Clubman in custom colors.
I had a chance to check out the Supro Comet extensively in their soundproof booth and was blown away. It’s one 6L6 sounded great clean or driven and the touch responsiveness was equal to amps three times the price.
Pedals (In alphabetical order)
I reviewed the original Amplifire pedal for Guitar Player . It works very well with a pedal board in front of it, so it makes sense that the Atomic guys are bringing out a version without effects (except reverb; got to have reverb)—just amp and cab modeling.
…And also a larger model for more instant patch access.
Amptweaker released the PressuRizer compressor, with a built-in output FET limiter/booster, parallel studio-grade compression, wet/dry blend, side-chain variations, and a Bloom switch (Fast/Off/Slow) that lets the signal compress and then grow. The Limiter switch adds an FET booster after the blend. The footswitch operates as a true bypass on/off switch, or locks the compressor on if you hold it down. Tapping it then kicks in another boost, controlled by a knob on the side of the pedal.
You can now also custom order different Amptweaker effects together in one housing.
BeetronicsFX is owned by Brazilians living in LA. The effects were typical but displayed some cool housings.
Fans of the fabulous That Pedal Show (and if you are not you should be) will recognize the Carpe Diem overdrive pedal from the Brazilian Fire Custom Shop. I had a chance to play through it and it is everything Mick and Dan say it is.
The new Catalinbread Belle Epoch Deluxe uses the same audio circuitry as the original tape Echoplex EP-3: the highly filtered zener shunt-regulated 22 volt DC power rail, JFET preamp, high gain silicon transistor based record and playback amplifiers, feedback loop, mixer stage, big orange drop 225P capacitors, and full sized resistors.
Chase Bliss Brothers is, to my knowledge, the first and only programmable analog overdrive/distortion pedal.
Their new Fave switch lets you scroll through six presets.
Classic Audio Effects deserves props for trying something new with their roller-controlled effects.
I call Death by Audio effects the “cliché-killers.” It is impossible to play hackneyed blues or rock licks through them. They invite creativity and new ways of looking at sounds.
Since Tom Cram came to Digitech they have been coming up with some of with the coolest pedals at NAMM each year. You may remember the Boss Feedbacker pedal. It made some interesting sounds but never really resembled true, natural guitar/amp feedback. Digitech’s Freqout sounds like the real thing at any volume.
The Digitech demos at NAMM were all played without amps, through this new pedal. They call it a cab sim but it apparently removes the need of an amp as well.
Dunlop released the MXR Conquistador, a gated distortion that can go all the way into spitty waveshaper sounds.
The Snarky Puppy boys showed up at the Dunlop booth to prove that no drummer is necessary to maintain a groove.
Dwarfcraft displayed the new Super Wizard, which promises a wealth of glitchy goodness.
Earthquaker Devices’ new Space Spiral delay offers some fresh takes on modulated delay in a pedalboard friendly size. Look for a full review soon, but spoiler alert—it nails the early Frisell EHX Deluxe MM sound. As usual they had the coolest booth with demos by modern players like Nick Reinhart, Juan Alderete, and Noveller.
We previewed the EHX Blurst analog filter, and can’t wait to get our hands on it.
Electrofaustus showed two distortion/noise machines.
Empress is entering programmable, MIDI controllable dual delay field with their Echosystem.
We recently featured Jannis from Jam Pedals as an artist. His company is part of the growing Greek pedal boom and his effects have become favorites of modern guitar heroes like Eivind Aarset and Nels Cline. For NAMM 2017, he was showing largely cool new custom enclosures.
Mad Professor’s offerings were not modern, being pedal simulations of Tweed and Dumble amps, but were notable for two reasons: 1) They sound terrific, and 2) the former priciness of these Finnish pedal has been brought more in line with normal boutique tariffs.
The Plus Pedal is a piano sustain pedal for guitar. Similar to EHX’s Freeze or Super Ego, but based on a different principle and more natural sounding.
I covered the Rainger Minor Concussion in last year’s roundup. The Deep Space Pulsar is a smaller, similar chopper synched to a mic so you can pulse in time with the drummer’s bass pedal, wherever it wanders.
Red Panda’s glitchy Tensor will be a must-have come release around April. It offers many of the same type effects David Torn gets from his rare and expensive hexe revolver pedal, but will no doubt be more affordable and available, not to mention adding some twists of its own.
For the 40th Anniversary of Boss pedals the company assembled every pedal ever issued for an impressive display.
The minimal GT-1 multieffects offers a wealth of effects in a battery powerable, gig bag- and wallet-friendly package. I couldn’t find an effects list anywhere but you can expect the usual suspects, including whammy, wah and a looper. It will also act as an audio interface.
Source Audio unveiled the Ventris Reverb. This dual reverb engine pedal will follow on the heels of their incredibly popular Nemesis delay in offering a highly configurable multitude of reverb options in a compact, affordable pedal.
Like the Nemesis, it will be easy to operate on the surface, but massively programmable under the hood with the Neuro app and/or a software editor.
The original Pigtronix Disnortion is used by modern guitar icon Adrian Belew. The Micro packs the tonal variations and 18V headroom of the original full-size Fuzz and Overdrive pedal into a version that runs on 9-volts. It includes the parallel routing, but adds a new series routing, which offers wider gain and more extreme filter effects, including self-oscillating timbres that can be modulated by pickup selection and guitar control settings.
Modern guitarists love wave-shaping distortion, like the WMD Geiger Counter and the Source Audio Multiwave Distortion. The TWA Dynamorph’s envelope ups the ante with the amount of wave distortion controlled by your attack.
Skip to 2:25 for Dynamorph
Mobile-Catch showed this iPad holder and iPhone holder/capo. Hopefully these will be coming in from Asia soon.
The Loknob was one of my favorite accessories last year. It allows you to replace your pedal knob with one that pulls out to set and then locks in place when you let it go so that once you have it set for the gig you won’t accidentally hit it with your foot and change the settings. This year the company added Fuggedaboudit, a knob that locks permanently, for those using in-ears, where the settings of your pedals need never change from gig to gig.
As you can see from the picture, you can also use these for guitar. For those who just find the guitar knob turning a little too easily, this year debuts the Nut-Hugga, which allows you to press down on your guitar knob until the rotation ease is just where you want it.
Guitar Triller offered a new way of attacking your guitar.
D’Addario always has solutions to real world problems. This year they announced the Latching Cut-Off Switch model cable, with an actuated “kill switch” that allows for noise-free instrument changes.
Endpin jacks can create issues with standard guitar straps, often requiring modification that results in a less-than-desirable fit. D’Addario came up with the Acoustic Cinch Fit, which loops through the end of any instrument strap, using a magnetic security clasp to ensure it stays in place and allows easy application and removal. It utilizes the weight of the instrument to remain locked onto the endpin so the guitar is held securely.
And if you haven’t tried the NYXL series of strings, I recommend them. (Don’t be fooled by the XL, they come in all gauges).
So that’s it. As always, check out Premier Guitar, Guitar World, and Guitar Player for coverage of the more traditional gear.