It’s the final week of January 2014. It’s freezing outside, and as I’m organizing my thoughts on all the cool new stuff I saw
at NAMM, I’m incredibly preoccupied with how nice the weather was in Anaheim. I’m really missing that mid-70’s, shorts and tee-shirt weather. But, you’re not here to read about my discontentment with Utah’s frigid winter, so let’s talk gear!
This year at NAMM, the Rev gave me one task, look at guitar stuff. That’s really not too hard right? The problem with NAMM… I found WAY TOO MUCH cool stuff. So, after sorting through hours of footage, I have narrowed my list down to my top picks. To avoid making this post incredibly long, I have chosen not to include too many images, but everything mentioned and a few extras can be seen in the video. Enough rambling, let’s get started!
Shure GLX-D Wireless Guitar System
There are a lot of wireless guitar systems out there, so why do I love the Shure’s GLX-D? First off, it’s build out of heavy duty steel. It is road tough and will easily survive a life of gigging. Second, it is compact. The receiver fits on your pedalboard and has a built-in tuner making it a dual purpose unit. The transmitter on your guitar is also compact and will easily attach to any strap. Finally, the latency is insanely low. When it comes to response and attack, it feels and sounds just like you’re using a cable.
AXL Bel Air Guitar
With the body reminiscent of a LP, Filtertron pickup and Bigsby like a Gretsch, and a bright vibrant orange or blue finish, what’s not to love? No only do they play and sound great, AXL has also rounded off the heel behind the set-in neck, making a smooth transition as you play the higher frets. Very cool, very usable, and a little different from what everyone else is playing.
VHT is Genius
It’s no secret that I think VHT builds some of the best, budget priced, tube amps on the market. While at NAMM I had the chance to sit down with amp/effects designer Terry Budding, and he showed me his latest improvement. VHT amps now come with a built in 9v adapter. Such a simple improvement, yet at the same time it’s pure genius ! If you’re the kind of player who has a favorite reverb, tremolo (like VHT”s Meloverb), or boost pedal that you like to leave on all the time, you can now sit the pedal on top of your amp, dial in you perfect setting, plug it in and leave it there. If you’re not stomping it, there’s no need to keep it on the floor.
Taylor New 800 Series
How do you make an already perfect guitar even better? That is the assignment that was given to master guitar builder Andy Powers. When we asked how he approached making the 800 series even better he remarked, “I started by looking at a tree.” How cool is that? After numerous experiments with wood types and thicknesses, different glue types and much more, the guitars in Taylor’s New 800 Series are truly works of art.
As a side note, Taylor was handing out coasters that were made from sound hole scraps. I now own my first “Taylor”… too bad its primary use is to keep my drinks from sweating on my desk.
Squier Vintage Modified Series
After looking at the Fender custom shop and Gretsch Falcon collection, I moseyed on over to the Squire section (much more in my price range). I have seen a lot of love for the Vintage Modified series on forums, and wanted to check them out for myself. Needless to say, I was impressed. Fender has managed to take Squier, a brand none of us would have been caught dead with 10 years ago, and turned it into line of well built, great sounding, and cool looking budget-friendly guitars. My two favorites are the Surf Green Jaguar ($299 street price), and the Filtertron/Bigsby loaded Cabronita Tele ($399 street price).
For those who haven’t been to NAMM, Hall E is either a place you love (because of the adventure) or dread (because of all the junk). It is the basement where small vendor, importers, and backyard gadget tinkers reside. Sadly, 99% of the products down there will probably never reach the mainstream music world, but every once-and-a-while, you find something cool. My cool find this year is the Beat Buddy. It is a drum machine built into a stompbox. You can program beats on your computer, and then by combining the Beat Buddy with a standard two button footswitch, you can start, stop, add fills, change from verse to chorus, etc. Honestly, this is the first “drum machine” I have ever looked at and thought, “I want it”. Very cool up and commer.
Digitech/DOD New Pedals
Call it what you will, nostalgia, fanboy syndrome, etc., but I love that Digitech is reviving the DOD line. When I started playing in the early 90’s (yeah, I’m just a baby), all of the local guitar stores carried DOD pedals. Support local businesses, right? Based on their vintage models, the new DOD pedals are well build, great sounding, and very reasonably priced. As the Rev can attest to, when they brought these out, I was like a kid in a candy store. All social graces set aside, I started opening boxes and playing with the demo gear.
I was also really impressed by the new Vocalist Live Harmony pedal. While watching the demo, the only thing I could think of is how much easier this would make my life when I’m playing live.
Ibanez RC Series
With a body that is very similar to the 90’s Talman Series (pre-acoustic Talman), these guitars caught my eye right off the bat. Now, if only they’d give me a model with 3 lipstick pickups.
?Ibanez has also released more gorgeous, reasonably priced, hollowbodies in all kinds of cool colors.
Gibson 2014 LTD’s
For 2014, Gibson is releasing updated limited editions of two of my favorites. The first being a gold top Les Paul with P-90’s (best pickup ever built) and a Bigsby. I don’t even want to know the price because I would be tempted to take out a second mortgage.
The second, and likewise as cool, is the 2014 Firebird which features the input jack on the side instead of on the top. Not a big change, but it will certainly reduce the frustration of having to go out and buy a 90 degree angled cable for that one guitar.
Okay, I’m back on a nostalgia kick. When I was younger, I picked up a late 60’s Italian made Eko at a pawnshop. It looked like a really ugly Jaguar (4 single coil pickups and 6 selector buttons). While it never actually worked right, there is still a place in my heart for it.
To my surprise, Eko is back in the US with all new, and equally as funky guitars. Everyone I tried played and sounded great, and I really like Eko’s take on a Bigsby tremolo. If you want something to make you stand out on stage, take a look at Eko’s electric line.
TC Electronic mini Pedals
I love TC. I think they are one of the most forward thinking companies out there. While I find most smartphone/tablet interfaces cheesy and not-really-usable, I think TC Toneprints are amazing! On top of that, I love how several of TC’s most popular pedals are now coming in a mini versions. I re
ally love the mini Hall of Fame. While the full stompbox is amazing at home or in the studio, who is honestly going to change/tweak their reverb mid-show?
Additionally, the updated version of the Ditto Looper now allows for many of the features I was left wanting from the original Ditto. The most important, in my opinion, the ability to export/import awesome loops!
So there you go, you now have “GuitarGuy” Tim’s list of cool stuff from NAMM. Due to space restrictions, I had to keep the list somewhat short. If I had more time/space, I would have written about awesome new plugins that Waves launched, the amazing studio integration by Presonus, Mackie’s new line of monitors, Fishman’s new pickups, and MXL’s 50’s style radio mic with USB (which would have made my video look 100x cooler), and that’s just for starters. I could seriously ramble on for another four or five articles, but for day I’ll stop.
?Questions/Comments? Post them below, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or make fun of me on twitter @guitarguytim