Darkglass Electronics
Take our money! Besides being an amazing producer, composer, and bassist, Jon Stockman worked closely with Darkglass Electronics to design the Alpha•Omega Dual Bass Overdrive/Preamp pedal. It’s everything you would expect from Darkglass, and this pedal will allow you to create some massive bass tones. We played it extensively and thought it sounded fantastic.

Each year at NAMM we notice more bass manufacturers introducing multi-scale basses with fanned frets. We played so many different fanned fretted basses at NAMM this year that by the end, they started to feel quite natural and easy to play. We’re just about ready to dive in for ourselves and purchase one.

One company building these guitars longer than most, and only making multi-scale basses, is Canada’s Dingwall Guitars. We were excited to put our hands on the Dingwall NG2, a totally hot, modern looking (and sounding) bass that plays effortlessly (though you do have to reach a bit for that first fret). It’s based on Dingwall’s Combustion model, and we loved how balanced the bass sounded. The string tension was perfect for us, as fanned-fretted basses fix the loose, low B string problem that many traditional five-strings suffer from. Multi-scale basses feature a tighter string tension on the low string thanks to the longer scale on that string, and you can really dig in with this thing.

Also new this year was the D-Bird, sporting a familiar, vintage Thunderbird shape, married to the modern aesthetics of a multi-scale neck. —KP

The Reidmar line of compact bass amps has been a huge success for the premium Swedish bass amp and bass effects pedal builders, and this year saw the introduction of another model in the lineup: the Reidmar 500, which offers a familiar feature set, but with improvements in the areas of both size and weight reduction. They are available as a compact head as well as part of the new Session Combo amp.

EBS also introduced their new Blue Label Pedals, a trio of analog overdrive pedals developed for use by both guitar players and bassists (optimized to retain clarity in the bass’ low frequencies). Black Haze, Drive Me Crazy, and The Drive offer various differences when it comes to providing just the right overdrive, and we just received them for a full, in-depth, comparative review.

Also cool were a series of flat jumper cables for your pedalboard. Available in various lengths, these premium cables for interconnecting your pedals are right angled, with very flat ends and flat cable. Even better, the Blue Label Pedals each include one of these, so you can see how cool they are right away.

The Fender Booth at NAMM revealed hundreds of new guitars and basses, but of most concern to most players would be the new American Professional bass line. The Fender American Standard line has been replaced with the “new and improved”  American Professional Series, which aims to make a number of Fender’s formerly premium instrument options standard on their most popular line of American-made instruments. The Jazz Bass and Precision Bass will come in four- and five-string versions, with a leftie option for the four-string versions, as well as a fretless Jazz four-string.

The most obvious differences you’ll find are new HiMass bridges and tall-narrow frets, which have replaced the familiar medium-jumbo frets of the past. We already have the American Professional Jazz 5 and Precision 4 in the studio for review, and you’ll be in for a treat with either instrument. We’ll cover all the other little design upgrades at that time, too.

It’s great that all of the bass companies are now building pedal-based preamps. Bassists can finally have a stunning array of tones at their feet, and the Hartke Bass Attack 2 is the latest pedal to join the fray. In this case, the pedal includes Hartke’s special Shape EQ circuit, which provides a custom EQ curve, along with a generous collection of tone shaping and distorting options, plus the obligatory, XLR direct output for use straight into a console.

We were in the Ibanez booth for hours playing their latest basses—there were so many to try out! The most interesting was certainly the SRAS7 Ashula, a seven-string hybrid fretless and fretted bass. A pit band player or session player would probably appreciate only having to bring one bass to the gig, assuming you’ve got the chops to handle a bass with more strings and a larger neck. This was the most talked about bass in the Ibanez booth to be sure, and definitely an overall buzz-worthy instrument throughout the show.

If you’re looking for a cool combo amp that packs big sound in a lightweight package, check out the new Markbass Ninja 102-250 Richard Bona signature amp! This 2x10 combo (plus Pizeo tweeter) puts out 250W RMS into 4ohms, has an effects loop, direct out, and weighs only 36lbs. It sounded as good as it looks.

Martin Sims Guitar Works
The new SimS Custom “Super Quad” pickups caught our eyes with the colored LEDs attached to a pair of humbuckers installed in an Enfield Fusion, a nice, boutique, J-bass-style instrument… except that these weren’t humbuckers, per se. They were also single coil pickups, and split coil pickups, too, depending on the toggle switch settings. If you love tonal variety but worry in the live context as to which pickup sound you’re playing, seeing color-coded LEDs on the individual pickups indicating what kind of pickup you’re hearing is extremely practical. And, these are custom-shop pickups, so chalk this one up to being more than just another pretty face.

Video courtesy of MusicPlayers.com

Mayones Instruments
Mayones Instruments has been making handcrafted basses and guitars since 1982 and is still a family-owned company based in Poland. The Jabba Mala 5 is the name of the signature bass belonging to phenomenal bassist and YouTube sensation, Federico Malaman. It’s a great J-style bass that plays beautifully, and we can’t wait to get our hands on one for review.

Phil Jones Bass
Phil Jones Bass showed off the new D-1000, a compact bass head/amp that has a five band EQ, limiter, effects loop, direct out, and weighs only 5.3 pounds. Pair it with the new Cab 47, which houses 4x7” woofers and a 2” tweeter. Your compact rig never looked so cool, and then of course there is that classic, hi-fi, clean PJB tone…

Bassist Mike Watt of the Minutemen and the Stooges introduced his Mike Watt signature bass, dubbed the Wattplower. This short scale, 30”bass looks like it’s something from the past, but the sound is timeless. The bass played and sounded great. Mike Watt’s collaboration with Reverend has resulted in a killer vintage vibe instrument.

Tech 21
If you were in too much of a rush, you might have run right past the Tech 21 booth and missed the awesome new, SansAmp GED-2112 Geddy Lee signature bass preamp. This awesome looking, single-rack space, vintage green colored, SansAmp is unique in that it provides two preamp circuits that run in parallel with each other. The Drive and Deep preamps have unique and complementary voices, and they can be blended together or run separately to individual power amps. The EQ section was customized to Geddy Lee’s personal taste, and paired with a Fender Jazz Bass in the Tech 21 booth, it was almost as if the man himself was standing there playing with us. Expect a full review soon.
—SK and KP

Trace Elliot 
It’s beginning to look like every amp manufacturer has now entered the pedal market. Do you think the pedal makers are going to get into the amp business, too? We were impressed by two new effects bass pedals from Trace Elliot, the Transit A for acoustic players, and Transit B for electric bass players. They look great on stage with their color-coordinated, backlit footswitch controls, but the real reason you’ll want them is that Transit A features a chorus and reverb, tap-tempo delay, and boost, while Transit B features overdrive, compression and EQ. Or heck, maybe you just dig the cool colors.