BOSS had what we felt was one of the best rooms on display this year, complete with live musicians set up in different parts of the room jamming in real time as a band across multiple genres of music. The guitarist was showcasing their new flagship floorboard, the GT1000. Designed to be used in a multitude of situations, BOSS takes into account just how common it is for guitar players to record ourselves at home and they now provide USB connectability on their pro floorboard. Borrowing from both the Katana and Waza line of sounds, there are a staggering number of combinations to be had and you’d be hard pressed to find a musical situation their new floorboard isn’t at least useful in. The modeled-amps-and-effects- on-the-floor category just gained a fierce new competitor.
BOSS also expanded the popular line of 500-series pedals and showcased two new beauties, the RV 500 and MD 500 pedals. The RV 500 provides nearly two dozen reverb types, and if that isn’t mind boggling in and of itself, it also allows for adding delay to the signal on a per patch, per channel basis, both in series or parallel. The MD 500 contains a history of modulation effects, and serves as an end-all pedal for guitarists seeking to add chorus, flanger, phaser, and any other type of modulation effect we can think of. With 12 modes and over two dozen effects, this modulation pedal is definitely not a one-trick pony. —BS
The land down under got one over on everyone and snagged a NAMM 2018 Best In Show award, bringing their line of acoustic guitars featuring Australian-sourced woods which proved to be both beautifully resonant and stunningly beautiful. Their guitars feature a Spanish heel, in which the neck is one piece all the way to the soundhole and glued to the top, which is not common in modern guitar building. They also feature a pickup and electronics system designed to tune out some of the piezo shrillness, which is achieved using piezos in combination with a separate sensor as well as a condenser mic built into the instrument. They are lauding their electronics as the most natural pickup system in the industry. —BS
It seems you can’t be an amp manufacturer anymore without also offering a line of pedals. ENGL joins the fray with a series of pedals housed in rugged, brushed aluminum cases. The delay and reverb pedals keeps your dry tone completely analog, the delay offers both vintage and modern modes, and both feature true bypass (as do all of the pedals). Also worth considering: FullRange (boost), FuzzyHead-OD, and Alpha-Drive. —SK
Android users rejoice, as Eventide showcased their new control app for Android devices. Mirroring the iOS version we’ve been using for years, thousands of additional H9 users will now have access to this essential editor.The really big news from Eventide can be found in our Recording feature, where the new H9000 processor was unveiled. We know a few of you may be tempted to stick one of these in your guitar rig, but while it has the ability to make you sound like a guitar god, it’s really not intended for such a trivial task (compared with the heavy lifting it’s designed to handle).
—BS and SK
Fender had a dizzying display this year, and on top of all the breathtaking guitars and amps, they released a new line of stompboxes!
The Pugilist Distortion is designed to stack and blend two separate distortions to give players a perfect level of saturation, and the Santa Ana Overdrive is a FET-type stomp producing amp-like tones and feel. The Level Set Buffer is a long needed pedal in the industry, allowing players to swap out guitars during their performances and not radically alter levels. This one also features a silent tuner out jack, allowing for both silent or always active tuning. Next up was the Bends Compressor, offering classic four-knob compression as well as a blend knob, enabling players to blend in the original signal. Also offered up are a new Delay and Reverb pedal, and we plan to put this collection to the test in the studio shortly.
Although Fender displayed an array of breathtaking Custom Shop one-offs, mere mortals can’t afford those. But for a taste of something special, Fender also brought to the show their new Parallel Universe collection, a production line featuring some interesting, modern guitar mashups. We saw a Tele and a Jaguar with Strat headstocks, a Strat with a Tele headstock, and so on. Refreshing? Perhaps. These were different for sure.
Fender has also updated the Hot Rod series of amps, and we took note of the Blues Jr. on display, which we’re particularly fond of. Besides updated gain circuitry, Fender is now offering Celestion speakers on some models as opposed to their typical Eminence speakers.
Eric johnson rocked the house and jazzed the house at separate events. The Fender room had one such event during NAMM hours, where Johnson played a few notes and talked about his new signature model, the first thinline, semi-hollowbody Stratocaster! The real cherry on top was seeing Johnson perform a set at a Fender-exclusive, limited-attendance event (after hours). We were lucky enough to get a ticket to this exclusive event, and it was an experience to remember. We think his new thinline Strat is a winner, too!
Framus Guitars had a very impressive display this year, and we took note of a couple of their models. The organic, bare bones Phil XG goldtop, with one volume knob and a P90 pickup. This is the guitar that separates the men from the boys, boys!
Also on display was a breathtaking William Duvall Talisman, decked out in a stellar high polish, AAA flame maple transparent Nirvana Black finish. Framus spares no expense with appointments, including Graph Tech locking tuners, Seymour Duncan pickups and Tonepros bridges.
Framus also took the NAMM show by surprise, introducing a Phil XG guitar in their more economical, standard line of instruments. Still featuring premium appointments such as Seymour Duncan pickups, set neck construction, a graphite nut and straplocks, this is a working mans instrument sure to continue in their high end feel and appearance. -BS
Nita Strauss, the blonde vixen gracing Alice Cooper's stage in recent memory, has been a heavy endorser of Ibanez guitars for a few years now and has reached the time honored plateau of a signature instrument in the hallowed likes of Andy Timmons, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Paul Gilbert. Following in the S series tradition, a maple top on a mahogany body, paired perfectly with an ebony board and the “beaten path” inlay, which looks much like an EKG generated heartbeat. The guitar also features her signature DiMarzio pickups in a 2 hum, 1 single configuration.
For those of our readers who are looking to rock all night and party every day, there was the Paul Stanley 40th Anniversary extremely limited edition Iceman guitar on display. The PS1DM has been adorned with over a thousand rhinestones (would you really expect anything less?) it is being made in limited numbers with a MAP of 7,999.99.
For those of us who can't afford a trip into space just yet, the PS 120 will get us into the Signature Paul Stanley Iceman guitar with many of the same features, including a bone nut, Abalone and acrylic inlays and set neck construction for about 1/10 of the money. There were many Paul Stanley models on display, including a vintage one or 2 behind a glass case.
Kyle Rhodes has whipped up yet another hot boutique amp to add to his already impressive collection of high-powered, feature-packed, tube amplifiers. The new Juno amplifier is KSR’s first amp built specifically around EL-34 power tubes, and this three-channel head had some British inspiration behind it, making it sound a bit more unique compared to its 6L6-based siblings in the product line. The Crunch and Lead channels are based on sounds from the Orthos amp, but modified to sound more like classic ‘80s hot-rodded Marshalls. The true-bypass effects loop is the same design as found in other KSR amps.
Line 6 was showing off its new flagship effects-only floor based processor, the HX Effects. Offering a small enough footprint to be a good centerpiece to a reasonable sized pedalboard, it provides flexible routing capabilities as well as the ability to select up to nine effects at once.
Also of noteworthy mention were several Variax guitars, including the shredtastic Stevic MacKay (Twelve Foot Ninja) artist-designed signature Variax Baritone guitar, not to mention the James Tyler models that have been with us for a few years already.
—BS and SK
Lunastone, hot off of their WHIO win for the TrueOverDrive 1, released four new pedals. Not eager to take a winning format out of production, they smartly kept the exact same layout of their popular TrueOverDrive pedals but now offer Distortion, Red Fuzz, Smooth Drive, and Blue Drive pedals as well.
Unlike the TrueOverDrive series, which sound like your amp grew a set of extra channels, the new pedals are more traditional distortion and boost pedals. We were treated to a great demo and sure enough, Red Fuzz delivered classic ‘60s fuzz, the Blue Drive definitely conjured up some blues mojo… you get the idea. And you can bet we’ll explore all of these in depth soon. —BS and SK
Mezzabarba releases the Skill combo, a 1x12, two-channel, fire breather modeled after their popular Mzero line of guitar amps. The Skill 1x12 Combo includes a proprietary foot switch with boost and bright switches, and an effects loop. Stay tuned for an in-depth product review of this one.
Our friend and fellow serious musician Howie Simon, fresh off recording guitars for Jeff Scott Soto’s new album, gave a stellar performance at Mezzabarba’s booth using the Mzero Overdrive 100w halfstack. Shortly after, we spotted veteran shred guru George Lynch lighting up the showroom floor with the exact same head over at the Seymour Duncan booth. —BS
A few years ago, we reviewed some compact stomp boxes from Mooer, and they were showing off a greatly expanded product line at the NAMM Show.
We like their Ocean Machine, a combination delay/reverb/looper pedal designed in collaboration with guitarist/songwriter Devin Townsend, and their Red Truck was a great multi-effects pedal that is similar to other fly-rig-type pedal options, but appears to be more fully featured than most. We’ll be reviewing it shortly.
Following what seems to be an industry-wide trend of “less is more” when it comes to amplification, PRS unveiled a new fire-breathing artist signature amp. Mark Tremonti has long been regarded as a monster player and a lifelong tone chaser, so as a PRS artist, it seemed almost overdue he was anointed with a signature PRS amp. In a lunchbox design and powered by two 6L6 tubes, this amp is rated at just 15w. We were fortunate enough to get a demo by Mark himself, and can assure you that these 15 Watts are more than enough to fill a room with aggressive gain. A two-channel amp with a footswitch and an effects loop, we can definitely see the MT15 being very popular with working guitarists.
This innovative Swiss company impressed us with their guitar designs and the fantastic underlying technology behind their designs. The guitars have wood tops and necks mated to an aluminum body structure, but that’s where things just begin to get interesting. Pop the entire back off the guitar—it’s held on by powerful magnets. Want to swap pickups? They mount into self contained pickup rings that pop out from behind, and are interchangeable without a need to solder anything. Relish offers a variety of pickups from Bare Knuckle, Seymour Duncan, and their own vintage PAF and P90 models.—SK
Synergy carries on the legacy of Bruce Egnater’s innovative design, which enables guitar amplifiers to be built with interchangeable preamp sections. In fact, Bruce is still part of the engineering design team, and working with the Synergy team, they’ve designed new preamp modules in conjunction with a number of leading boutique amp builders.
We had an opportunity to play through the new Metropolous module, and considering we are already intimately familiar with the Metropolous Metro-Plex (reviewed here), we felt this was a home run in terms of nailing the Metro-Plex tone and feel.
Synergy showcased exciting host options for their modules as well, including a two-slot 50W head (in which you can install any two Synergy preamp modules) as well as the SYN1 and 2 rack type enclosures geared for recording or live use (one is a convenient table-top format that holds two modules, while the later is a 19”, 1U rack enclosure for a pair of preamps). The Synergy products all feature a variety of connectivity options including direct recording capabilities, and yes, they’re fully compatible with your existing collection of Egnater M4 modules. We are excited to begin reviewing some of these this spring.
—BS and SK
Breaking with classic X-bracing design, Taylor Guitars master designer, Andy Powers, developed new V-Class bracing for Taylor’s beloved acoustic guitars. Unlike the familiar and historic bracing design, V-bracing enables the soundboard (the guitar top) to flex more, resulting in increased volume, while providing the stiffness necessary for increased sustain.
At NAMM, it was too loud to objectively hear a difference compared with classic Taylor designs, but the new 400-series instruments we played featuring the new bracing sounded every bit as sparkly and rich as the Taylor guitars we have played and owned before them.
Wampler had a massive pedalboard on display featuring both new and existing products, and some amazing players were on hand to demo them as well. We thought the Faux Spring Reverb was anything but faux and would swear they stuffed a mini reverb tank into the pedal. —BS
Orange Amplification has been steadily been building their artist roster and this year released the Brent Hinds Terror. A 15W, two-channel head, the design has been beefed up to withstand the rigors of gig life. Gone are plastic connectors in favor of hard soldered leads, and the Brent Hinds Terror features a Headroom/Bedroom switch, allowing the amp to be dialed down all the way to ½ Watt.
One of our favorite shredworthy guitars at the show this year came in the form of Jennifer Batten’s signature instrument. This super-strat style guitar wears a stunning, blue, flamed maple top, but more exciting is that it features a 24-fret, Stevens Extended Cutaway neck! We raved about this innovative neck design first popularized on Nuno Bettencourt’s signature N4, only here, it’s got an additional two frets. Making things even more exciting for the discerning shredder is that the guitar is set up with the Buzz Feiten Tuning System, which incorporates a compensated nut that achieves more consistent intonation across the entire fretboard. The guitar has a pair of classic Seymour Duncan humbuckers and a double-locking, licensed Floyd Rose tremolo.
For the prog rock lover, also consider the Trevor Rabin signature guitar! To our surprise, Rabin likes his guitar a bit more classic these days, and his current signature instrument has more of the look and feel of an SG type instrument, with a thick, round neck and fixed bridge.