2007 NAMM Report
2007 NAMM Show Report: Guitar and Bass
By: Scott Kahn
This year’s NAMM show was a real treat for fan of ‘80s guitar virtuosity – flash is back! Ibanez led the way with more guitars in bright, hot, flashy colors than anyone, and we found ourselves wanting to own more of them than we could ever possible afford. But they were clearly not alone, as hot colors were evident almost everywhere we turned.
Tom Anderson Guitarworks was at NAMM showing off their gorgeous instruments (we’re talking about playability and tone, of course; not just their looks). Happily, the company is remaining in business – they scared many pro-level players earlier in 2006 by almost reverting back to a small one-man operation, but popular support won out and the company will be with us for hopefully many more years.
We had a chance to play their new Hollow T Classic that now features custom M-series pickups with a “kickback” switch that drops the hot output level to vintage levels. We loved the tonal difference provided by the pull of a tone knob – it took a very modern Telecaster-style guitar and transformed its tone to that of a vintage Telecaster, albeit a quiet one lacking in typical vintage single coil noise.
If you’re a fan of archtop guitars, you’ve probably drooled over images of Robert Benedetto’s creations, but the price tag, typically in the $18,000 to $25,000 range, put his hand-crafted instruments out of reach for most players.
Fortunately, Robert was also showing his newest creations, the Bambino and Bambino Deluxe, priced at $2,950 and $5,500 respectively. Wow – that Deluxe belongs in the Museum of Modern Art! Happily, it’s priced so that mid-level pro players can put this beauty to use. We wouldn’t be surprised to see it embraced by a few pop and rock players, too.
Some days we had a camera with us at the show and other days we didn’t. This was one of those days we should have had the camera because our friends at Carvin showed us a beautiful prototype nylon-string, acoustic, MIDI guitar! There are no publicity photos or published specs to reveal yet – it’s not even posted to the Carvin web site at the moment, but we’ve been told to expect availability by March.
Fender introduced some hot guitars at Winter NAMM – “hot-rodded”, that is! The Vintage Hot Rod Series (around $1,600 street) features reissues of the ’57 and ’62 Strats, plus a ’52 Telecaster. But unlike standard reissues, these guitars feature the popular aftermarket upgrades that were particularly popular with players.
The ’57 VHR Strat has Somarium Cobalt Noiseless pickups in the neck and middle, and a DiMarzio Tone Zone thin humbucker in the bridge, rewired to the tone control. The ’62 Strat features a reverse middle pickup as well as the bridge pickup being rewired to the tone control. The ’52 Telecaster features a Seymour Duncan mini humbucker in the neck and custom pickup in the bridge for darker tones than the stock classic provided.
If you’re looking for our coverage of the VG Stratocaster, see our overall show innovation highlights.
Gibson unveiled more than just their digital wonder at Winter NAMM. The Gibson Les Paul BFG definitely shows off a modern twist on the popular rock guitar. Two volume knobs and one tone knob may be familiar territory, but the Burstbucker 3 humbucker in the bridge and single coil P-90 in the neck make this a different sort of rock machine. Selection is made from a mini-toggle switch at the volume knobs because the traditional toggle switch has been reconfigured… as a kill switch for muting effects!
If you’re looking for our coverage of Gibson's digital guitar wonder, see our overall show innovation highlights.
Ernie Ball was celebrating its 20th Anniversary, too, and with that celebration came some beautiful Ball Family Reserve instruments – special limited editing versions of their guitars in very high-end figured tone woods and premium finishes. The limited edition guitars feature a special inlay at the twelfth fret. Additionally, the gorgeous, sparkly Blue Dawn finish has been brought back for a limited time, available on most Music Man instruments.
The 20th Anniversary Sting Ray 5 Bass features an exclusive and brand-new pre-amp optimized to accentuate the low end frequencies while cleaning up the high end and improving sustain. We can’t wait to play one of these!
Starting with the biggest hit to the wallet was the JEM 20th Anniversary Limited Edition Steve Vai Signature Model. Carrying a list price of $6,666.65, the guitar is made from a clear acrylic, has eight internal green LEDs that run for about twenty minutes from a nine-volt battery (and look very cool in the dark), plus usual JEM features – a JEM Prestige neck, DiMarzio Trans JEM pickups modified to accommodate the tonal difference in the acrylic body, and an Edge Pro bridge. Only 500 will be available worldwide (200 in the USA), so if you’re a collector (or guitar nutcase with lots of spare cash), place your order soon. I suspect these won’t stick around for long.
RG metal lovers can rejoice too! The RG550XX 20th Anniversary Limited Editions feature original colors and neck specs (yes, maple is back), plus matching colored cases and straps. Only 1,200 of these will make it to the USA.
Ibanez introduced a ton of other new guitars and updated models including the new RG2228GK eight-string guitar – Yikes! Thought the low B string was cool on your seven-string? Now add an F# below that one!
The bass line has plenty to show off, though mostly on the less expensive mid-line SR and new SRX series instruments. The SRX instruments have a clever horizontally-installed three-way pickup selector switch for the high-output alnico magnetic pickups.
Prestige necks are appearing on more new Ibanez models than we’ve seen in recent years, and there are some really hot finishes on many updated RG and S-series models. And if that weren’t enough, you should check out the exotic woods being used on some of their acoustic instruments.
John Taylor, the famous bass player from Duran Duran, was on hand at the Peavey booth to introduce limited production models of the Liberator J-84 EX four-string Bass and Liberator A-435 EX Tele-style Guitar. With a subtle graphic design applied to the black instrument bodies, fashion apparel company, Juicy Couture, helped with the aesthetic design. As a cool point of trivia, John's wife is a co-founder of that hot fashion company!
Neiman Marcus – definitely not your typical Peavey retailer, made the original limited editions available for sale last year, and the $1,200 instruments sold out promptly, presumably to people with a greater eye for fashion than for musical equipment. This year, however, mere musicians will have access to these instruments through the traditional retail channel.
The instruments are standard fare, two-humbucker designs – nothing particularly noteworthy other than the nice body artwork. A nice touch though is that the cases open into an instrument stand and have a mini amplifier/speaker combo installed inside the case. For the record, John plays a custom shop Peavey bass, but it will sport the “juicy” new style during Duran Duran’s 2007 world tour.
Particularly exciting news relates to the Peavey HP Custom Shop. You can order customized guitars direct from Peavy with any color you want. Literally, you can dial in the color of your choice from their online color wheel and get a flame top finish in whatever color you dream up. That is cool.
Spector, known for their outstanding bass instruments, impressed us with their line of electric guitars. The ARC 6 guitars feature both bolt-on and neck-thru models, carved mahogany bodies, and premium hardware, and prices start at a surprisingly low $699! Their bass lines are dressed in a wide range of suitably flashy colors. Sure, they’ve got the beautiful wood finishes, but their Performance Series and USA Neck Thru have some great color options to make these premium instruments stand out.
If you think the Taylor T5 sounds great and plays great, it now sounds twice as good. That’s right – one year after unveiling the T5, Taylor now introduced the T5 Twelve-string guitar, not to mention a host of additional outrageous colored finishes for the six-string versions.
Yamaha debuted their RGX A2 guitar last year featuring a new method of construction called Alternate Internal Resonance (A.I.R.) that resulted in lightweight instruments with extremely good resonance: The guitars are a composite of a very lightweight wood sandwiched between heavier fronts and backs. Tubes running through the body from front to back enable the entire instrument to resonate rather than only the soundboard on top.
The modern white instruments with illuminated pickup selector switches are now available in black, but more importantly, Yamaha introduced the RBX4 A2 bass guitar featuring the same construction. We’re very curious to hear how they sound, and are hopeful that the technology will find its way into some of Yamaha’s higher-end instruments.
Speaking of one such case… Wes Borland has been added to the ranks of Yamaha players with a signature guitar. The CV820 WB ($2,499) has some great features beyond the cool new body shape. The back, sides, and center block are carved from a single piece of alder wood, with a maple top placed on top. The instrument also utilizes the A.I.R. technology internally.
This marks the first time that custom pickups designed for an individual artist have found their way onto a production model instrument. Additionally, the guitar incorporates Yamaha’s patented Finger Clamp quick-change tremolo system that provides for easy string changes on a double-locking system without the need for tools.
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