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MusicPlayers.com Best of NAMM AwardWinter NAMM 2013 Special Report:
Guitars & Bass

By: Scott Kahn

 
   

 

Aclam Guitars

Aclam Guitars
It’s rare that a guitar stand gets us excited, but these invisible guitar supports were just super cool. If you want to hang your guitars on the wall as if they were floating in space, check these out. They’re fully adjustable, and they hold your guitars by the strap pegs on the body instead of hanging from the neck.

Aquilina Bass

Aquilina Bass
This was the first time we saw the instruments made by Sebastien Aquilina, and they definitely stopped us in our tracks. Striking a fine balance between classic and modern, these are beautifully hand-crafted instruments from France. Definitely lust-worthy.

Audio-Technica System 10

Audio-Technica
It’s amazing that anyone still makes analog wireless products for music when digital wireless products sound so good now. Audio-Technica introduced their next-general product, the System 10 Digital Wireless. Operating in the 2.4 GHz range, it delivers 24-bit audio and 20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency response. We like the diversity system—two antennas for improved reliability and reduced interference, but traditional AA batteries may sound old-school compared to some other new products that are including rechargeable NiMH technology. You should use rechargeable batteries, regardless.

Bogner Pedals

Bogner Amplification
OK, our favorite mad scientist, European transplant Reinhold Bogner, has finally bit the pedal bug, and what bite it was. The Ecstasy Blue and Red pedals have preamp designs based on the classic amp channels of those names, while the Uberschall pedal is based on that amp’s high-gain channel. We can’t wait to compare these up against our 25th Anniversary Bogner Ecstasy head in the studio.

Bogner Atma

Need something more? Coming soon from Reinhold Bogner is the Atma. This tiny terror has three channels, 18 Watts that can be attenuated down to 1 Watt, and an effects loop.

BOSS MDP Pedals

BOSS
BOSS had some really interesting gear to introduce at Winter NAMM. Utilizing their new Multi-Dimensional Processing (MDP) technology were three new pedals. The TE-2 Tera Echo creates spacey ambient textures, the MO-2 Multi Overtone creates new sounds that enhance and deliberately color your tone (we can’t really describe it better until spending more time with one), and the DA-2 Adaptive Distortion, which uses the new MDP technology to adjust the quality of the distortion sound based on where you’re playing on the guitar (rather than applying the same distortion uniformly to all notes).

EBS HD360

EBS
The Swedish bass amp gurus had some great new gear on display. The new Billy Sheehan Signature Drive pedal is sure to be a huge hit as it combines distortion, compression, and tone shaping in a compact, bass-optimized package. But the EBS HD360 High Definition Bass Head had us even more excited. This replacement for the legendary HD350 amp improves upon a number of things: more headroom, improved low frequency response, built-in speaker simulated output, and more. Expect an in-depth review this spring.

EC Custom Shop Super Switcher

EC Custom Shop
Israeli pedal builder and musician Eldar Cohen showed a very cool pedal audio looper/switcher at NAMM. The Super Switcher has seven mono audio loops and one mono loop, plus relays for five amp switching functions. It stores 21 presets in three banks of seven presets each, has a bypassable onboard buffer, dedicated tuner output, and can be linked to another unit in case you want to have one on stage and one off stage with your gear or under your tech’s control.

ENGL Ironball

ENGL
Mighty big balls in this little guy. Sometimes it’s hard to listen to new amps at the NAMM show considering just how loud it is, but we caught a break and got to hear the new ENGL Ironball. This lunchbox-sized amp is a 20 Watt, EL-84 powered, two-channel amp with onboard reverb, a series loop, and lots of familiar ENGL amp features. It sounded really sweet and is on the must-review list!

Music Man Armada Guitar

Ernie Ball Music Man
There was a lot of new stuff in the Music Man camp for guitarists and bassists. What first caught our attention was the new Armada guitar. The thing is gorgeous, and photos you’ve seen probably didn’t do it justice as the top is radiused/curved! It’s a work of art with a touch of retro ‘60s Corvette styling fused to something a bit Gibson-ish. It’s the first neck-thru Music Man, and its heft and the atypical-for-Ernie-Ball chunky-style neck will make this instrument feel right at home in the hands of a Les Paul lover.

OK, sure you can still buy a Music Man JP-6, but the guitar god has bestowed upon his faithful the new JP-13. Yes, another Petrucci signature model. The major difference here is an onboard preamp circuit and solo boost accessible by pulling up on the volume knob. Unlike the 20” radius on the JPXI neck, the JP-13 has a 17” radius.

Music Man Classic Sabre Bass

Bassists can rejoice in the way-cool Classic Sabre, an updated version of Music Man’s first humbucker-equipped bass. This one features a pair of classic mini humbuckers and is a dream to play.

ESP LTD Elite Series

ESP Guitars
Can we get a collective “It’s about time?” ESP builds some pretty killer guitars in Japan under the ESP brand, but those guitars will easily set you back a few thousand dollars. They also make the popular and much-more-affordable LTD line. We were thrilled to see and experience the new LTD Elite line, guitars built by the same luthiers in Japan who make the premium ESP line, but at a price point that puts it in between the two (and closer to the LTD models).

Eventide H9

Eventide
Breaking form with the familiar Factor-series pedals comes the new Eventide H9 Harmonizer pedal. Sweet! This pedal includes a pair or more of algorithms from the ModFactor, PitchFactor, TimeFactor, and Space pedals. But the fun doesn’t stop there. This pedal is expandable via an editor that runs on your tablet or smart phone. The app lets you purchase additional downloadable effects and provides a large-screen visual effects editor. We may just hand over our credit cards before we even borrow the review unit…

Fender Roland G-5A Guitar

Fender
Though the product is, technically, being sold by Roland, we were very excited to see the VG Stratocaster G-5A… as in American!!! Finally, a Roland-ready Strat featuring the cool VG capabilities like multiple alternate tunings and COSM guitar modeling built into an American Fender Strat. Thank you!

Fuchs Mantis Jr.

Fuchs Audio Technology
We’re praying to get our hands on the Mantis Jr. from Andy Fuchs and company. Derived from the fantastic sounding, high-gain series bearing the Mantis name, along comes Mantis Jr., a two-channel head with hard bypassable effects loop, three 12ax7 preamp tubes, and your choice of 6L6 or EL-34 power tubes in both 50- and 100-Watt versions. Head and combo versions are expected.

GuitarDocks

GuitarDocks
File this one under “Why the hell didn’t I invent this thing first?” A handy accessory that fits in your guitar case, the device clamps onto the edge of your speaker cabinet or mic stand and turns it into an instant guitar stand! Perfect for those gigs where you don’t have the luxury of bringing stands along, this works like a dream for anyone who ever leaned their guitar up against a speaker cabinet only to have it topple over. We love this!

Ibanez AT-1 Premium

Ibanez
We always enjoy seeing a variety of hot new guitars from Ibanez, but one of this year’s show highlights was definitely the Ibanez AT10P Premium. We’re talking about an Andy Timmons signature model: a beautiful, Strat-like instrument for all the rock guys who think that RGs and Jems are too metal for them. There’s a DiMarzio AT-1 signature pickup in the bridge and a pair of The Cruiser single coils in the middle and neck, and a Wilkinson tremolo. All this for under $1,200.

J. Backlund Design JBD-400

J. Backlund Design
Retro-future cool guitar designs from J. Backlund Design. Thanks to a successful kickstarter campaign, their hand-made guitars and basses will be turned into the Retronix import line that mere mortals like us can afford. We want the import version of this JBD-400. Oh heck, we want this one, too.

Kemper Profiler Rack

Kemper
We fell in love with the Kemper Profiling Amplifier a year ago, but our one complaint was that for something so cool and modern, how on earth could we build a compact, modern guitar rig using the thing and have it not rack mountable? Well, the Kemper folks spilled the beans on the good news just a week or two before NAMM, and at the show we were treated to seeing the Kemper Profiler Rack.

As if that wasn’t enough, though, they built a power amp into the standard Kemper Profiler. Holy 600 Watts! Now you’ve got a lunchbox that powers a pair of 4x12 cabinets!

Laney Ironheart Rack

Laney
At first we thought we were looking at the popular Ironheart amp transformed into a rack-mountable preamp, but a closer inspection revealed so much more. First, the Ironheart IRT-Studio is the whole amp, but in a lower powered, 15 Watt version optimized for studio recording!

USB connectivity delivers audio on two channels to your computer: a dry signal and the amp processed signal. An internal dummy load allows for silent recording, and there’s also a speaker-simulated analog output (a balanced XLR output) that taps the signal after the power output section (but output can still flow to your cabinet for live playing while recording), so you can send your tone directly to the front-of-house mixer without miking your cabinet.

The amp features three channels, three ECC83 preamp tubes, two EL84 power tubes, and on-board digital reverb.

Rivera Rock Crusher Recording

Rivera
The popular Rock Crusher attenuator just got an upgrade! The soon-to-arrive Rock Crusher Recording attenuator gains a 11-band equalizer and direct recording outputs with cabinet simulation! Street price is around $800.

Shure GLX-D Wireless

Shure
Although there was no introduction of an SLX-series digital wireless system, we were very pleasantly surprised by an entirely new series – GLX-D, that seems to fall somewhere just below SLX, but above the BLX series. Guitarists and bassists now have a digital wireless system from Shure that is vastly more affordable than the ULX Digital products while providing similar 20 Hz – 20 kHz audio specs.

While the GLXD4 fits in a half rack space, the new GLXD6 Wireless Guitar Pedal Tuner & Receiver is certainly going to get the lion’s share of attention. What a great idea: sticking a tuner into a wireless system that fits on your pedalboard! These systems use the 2.4 GHz frequency band (a good thing) and feature rechargeable lithium-ion batteries (another good thing). We’re looking forward to getting our hands on review units when they ship sometime in mid-2013.

Strap Graphics Custom Guitar Straps

Strap Graphics
Custom guitar straps—It’s about time! Strap Graphics makes full-color, custom printed straps on your choice of leather or polyester. Sweet!

Tech 21 Formula 21

Tech 21
The Formula 21 is an exciting new bass amp from Tech 21 that is sure to turn some heads with its striking, cherry-stained solid mahogany enclosure. And if looks aren’t all that it takes to keep your attention, check this out: Andrew Barta’s design concept was to take the popular Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver and see what happens if you build it with real tubes! Four 12ax7 preamp tubes and 3-band EQ plus presence and drive is straight out of the classic amp design book, but don’t expect to see this on the shelf at your local music store. These hand-made American beauties are only available by way of special order.

Two Notes Reload

Two Notes Audio Engineering
Those crazy French engineers are at it again. We’re just putting the finishing touches on our review of the amazing Torpedo Live, and we were just commenting, “if only this thing were also a power attenuator…” Then, we got to NAMM and saw… the power attenuator!

Don’t think of the Torpedo Reload as just an attenuator, though. That would be so un-Two Notes-like. Besides a choice of 4-, 8-, or 16-ohm speaker attenuation, this is a tool for direct recording and re-amping. Patched in-line between your guitar, your DAW, and your amp, the Reload enables you to record your unprocessed guitar tone to one track while sending the signal to your amp and effects for recording to another track. The innovative Match feature monitors and compares the level of the guitar signal going into your DAW with what’s coming back out of your DAW into your amp (by way of the Reload), and it shows you if you need to do any gain makeup in the DAW to preserve your tone. You can then track at reasonable volume levels by miking your amp, or record silently while using Two Notes’ PI-101 cabinet and microphone modeling.

Warwick Artist Series

Warwick
The new Artist Series basses from Warwick are an import line manufactured in Korea, bringing the price of a Warwick down below $1,500. IT’s hard to hear instruments at NAMM but these basses felt pretty nice. We’ll be looking to do an in-depth review soon.

Warwick LWA1000

Also new from Warwick is a pretty sweet bass amp, the LWA 1000. Lightweight Class D power amps have become popular these days, and Warwick put together a pretty sweet 1,000 Watt package that features two independent channels, each with a four-band EQ and compressor.

Yamaha THR Amps

Yamaha
Some good things come in small packages, and Yamaha has found popularity with their line of compact modeling amps. They were showing off some very interesting stereo amps for guitar: the THR5A, THR10X and THR10C, each aimed at recording and home rehearsing, with amp modeling and built-in effects. Smaller than a cinderblock, we heard some pretty impressive demos of the units by noted session and touring guitarist, Phil X.

 

 

 

 

   
             
             
             
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