Winter NAMM 2020 - evidence of a changing business
This year there were signs of the MI business and NAMM changing. There were companies not exhibiting. There has been a lot more new product introductions during the year from companies that usually makes their product announcement at trade shows. Many companies were not at all interested in talking to us media people unless we did video. There were fewer product demos in sound booths so you could actually hear what's going on.
But having said that, the NAMM Show is still a wonderful place to visit and meet all the people surrounding all the gear. With every year I visit Winter NAMM, I find myself talking to people more and more, realizing that I have many firends in this industry and the knowledge I gain from these talented individuals is invaluable.
One unexpected aspect of this NAMM Show was that I found myself talking equally much about studio gear as guitar gear. There seems to be a lot happening in that segment of the industry.
Please read my usual disclaimer here.
This personal report should bee seen as my very own point of view and does not reflect the view and/or opinions of any other person or company of which I may be associated either through my work or in these pictures. If you find any faulty information in this report please e-mail me at mats.n[at]nermark.com.
I have placed the products in alphabetical order for your convenience. I also have divided the report into 5 sections. Otherwise the load times would be problematic.
Please also accept my apology for any language
errors as English is not my native language.
One problem with reverb is that there's a build up of unwanted resonances. Acon Digital claims to have solved that problem with the Verberate 2. As far as I could tell in that environment, it sounds really nice and the graphic presentation and editing of the Decay Editor and Output Equalizer makes it easier to dial in what you want to hear.
API has always held a place in my heart. The Box is a very nice mixer that would fit well in my home studio but equally not well in my budget.
The Artiphon Orbais probably the most innovative and inspiring piece of gear I've come across in a long time. This instrument, the size of half a grape fruit makes me approach how I make music in the most positive way. When I sat down with it I realized I had no preconception of how I should work nor were there any old habits I could fall into that prohibits creativity. The Orba just showed me the pure joy of musical exploration.
The Orba is a musical instrument that you can play by triggering notes/sounds/chords with the eight outer keys or by shaking it or hitting it on the side. You can modulate the sounds by turning it. The button in the middle allows you to change sounds and/ or MIDI channel as you can connect is to a comuter/tablet via Blutooth or MIDI via USB.
It has it's own built in sound generator and speakers so it actually works stand alone. With the headphone output, I can see myself using this during long flights or train rides.
There's no way I can explain this in words alone, so I urge you to check out the demo videos available online. I can't wait to get one.
I was very much looking forward to trying Bill Asher's new Studio Series. I was not disappointed in any shape or form. The Nashville model is basen on Bill's T Deluxe shape and has a Tele bridge, a Strat middle pu and a Firbird pu in the neck. A very versatile guitar. The LA model is equipped with an S/S/H configuration and is based on the S Custom body shape. Both guitars have that unmistakable Asher quality feel but as they are set models do not carry the boutique price tag that you may have expected. Both models were a joy to play.
To the left above you see what you can do with a custom order. To the left is the Marc Ford signatore model.
The looks of the Resophnic Rambler can best be described as cool and quirky. The playability, however, is right there.
Mr Bill Asher just about to be interviewed by an online entity. Those who have had the opportunity to work with Bill on a build has nothing but good things to say.
I have olny tried a few Bartel amps but everyone has been very dynamic and responsive. They look really nice too.
I was not aware that Beard makes electric guitars. Maybe this was the first time they showed? Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to try them as they looked well designed and well made.
These are the kind of instruments I'm used to seeing from Beard. Pick your color and go play!
If you hold any affection for archtop guitars, then Bob Benedetto's designs will probably be at the very top of guitars you once hope to afford. I firmly belong to that category of players. I love the way they look, play and sound!
Back in the 1990s I was first introduced to Blade Guitars designed by luthier Gary Levinson. Many of his models had an electronic circuit built in he calles the Virtual Spectrum Control or VSC for short. I loved what it did and would have bought a guitar on the spot if not for the fact that I like very fat necks. So since then I've badgered Gary to release the VSC part in a pedal. He's been dropping hints every now and than that it will probably be done but very evasive when I wanted to pin him down on a delivery date.
This NAMM, I got an SMS asking if I wanted to see the pedal. So here it is. For me it's the most awaited product launch ever. It is either a mid boost or a treble/bass boost. While I like the mid boost, the treble/bass boost gives your guitar instant funk vibes or the scooped LA 80s clean sound I love. If I can only get one thing this year, the VSC pedal is it!
Blue Cat Audio
In my opinion, the coolest new software for guitar players were two new offerings from Blue Cat Audio. The AcouFiend is a feedback generator that were very convincing in the demo I heard. You can set the harmonics to an interval of your choice and it can be set to appear by setting Time, Threshold and Sensitivity or you can trigger it via MIDI.
I been on the edge of the IR rabbit hole and looked down and I didn't like what I saw. So while I'm well aware of the power and possibilities of great IRs, I've made a conscious decision to to avoid working with them more than absolutely necessary. The IR Tone Map possibilities from Blue Cat may change all that. Here you get a map of the IRs in the Axiom and you can easily see what's available and select them but you can also morph between the different speakers . Absolutely the way to go. Compared to this, every other way of handling IRs seems difficult and convoluted. Now I'm actuall lokking forward to working with IRs. Well done, Blue Cat!
Ever since my first experience with Bluesman Vintage, I've had my eyes open for them as they sound and feel as good as they look. Here's my friend Mike Van Tine with his very own Bluesman Vintage 5-string bass that sees daily use at gigs in and around Nashville.
The Boss demonstrator did a good job of showing off the versatility of the SY-1000 Guitar Synthesizer.
There were a few SY-1000 available for trying in the Boss booth, so of course I gave it a shot. It's a definite step up from previous guitar synth efforts from Roland/boss and I thoroughly enjoyed myself for too long (had to run to my next meeting). This is definitely on my wish list.
According to Boss, the Waza Air Headphones are able to simulate the amp in the room experience. The demo room was close to the very loud demo stage so it was impossible to get a proper sense of what they did. But what I did hear had me curious and I will investigate further. One good feature is that you can easily exchange cushions in case you wear them out.
I've met too many guitar players with very big egos and here's a pedal that matches in size.
I've always had a soft spot for the guitars by Dana Bourgeois. Here's a beautiful OM model.
Green is an alternative.
Danish company Carl Martin has always been a maker of great sounding pedals and I still think the DC Drive is one of the best drives. So of course I wanted to step in and see what's on offer.
I was surprised to see the Ampster. According to Carl Martin boss, Sören, the Ampster is your clean pedal platform amp in a pedal. It has anlog speaker simulation but there's no stopping you from using a digital IR based sim of your choice.
Last year I was shown the prototype of the Preamp MkII and this year I caought sight of a similar looking pedal but from reading the parameter names I can only surmise that this is a reverb unit.
A few years ago I was happy with my ordinary run of the mill pick from a large manufacturer. Little did I know how much the pick influenced the way I played and how it affected the sound. Then Eppo from Chicken Picks gave me a sample of his Chicken Picks. I didn't play it until I got home but that was an epiphany to me. That day I ordered a number of CHicken Picks and since that day I have only played them.
New for this year is the Bermuda III-XL.
In the world of power supplies there's one brand I trust above all else and that's Cioks I have a number of them from pedal boards and racks in my home studio. I have had them for longer than I can remember and they have never ever been a problem. I wish all the stuff I own were that reliable!
This bearded gentleman is the brain behind the brand, Mr Poul Cioks.
This guitar haunts me in my dreams. It is everything I want a P90 guitar to be. Nuff said!
Collings exhibited a few guitars with extraordinary wood selections. Here's an I-35 with a quile maple top that's so 3D that you can drown in it.
A Soco with an interesting figured top.
As a predominantly electric player, it's easy to overlook the fact that Collings is one of the premier builders of acoustic guitars in the world today and here's a wall of them to prove it. Still wiating for my lottery ticket to win so I can order a few of them.
The Excel model is still majestic to me!
Diego Vila Custom Guitars
Diego Vila exibited as part of the Boutique Guitar Showcase and his retro-futuristic designas appeal to me. They just look like fun guitars to play!
Diffusin Audio from Canada is the US distributor of Xsonic and had this cool and artistic display.
Back To The Future? I don't know anything about this guitar at all. I don't even know if it works at all or how. I just think it looks awesome.
Believe it or not, these EP01 sneakers are equipped with Buetooth sub woofers in the soles of the shoes. $450 per pair.
Earthtone have the nicest boxes for their pedals.
I love a sparkle Les Paul and here were many. The new Epiphone Les Paul felt really nice and today hit above their price point.
Some more modern Epiphones.
Ergon Guitars were part of the Red Guitars display together with Ulrish Teuffel and Michael Spalt. Common for all three apart from the red theme is that they all can see beyond the traditional and create playable art.
ESP always shows a number of nice guitars in different shapes, colours and woods.
They also always show a few guitars that really highlights what they can do.
Here's a wall with guitars that in comparison looks very normaland traditional. :-)
Larry Mitchell was one of the best musical experiences at NAMM. Here he is demonstrating new algorithms in the Eventide H9.