NAMM Musings 2011 By Matt Blackett

| January 15, 2011

Here we are again, in Anaheim, at the NAMM show. Every year, thousands of us make the pilgrimage to the second-happiest place on Earth, like the salmon returning to Capistrano, to quote Lloyd Christmas. This is the place where guitarists are seemingly required to play in a style that would lose them gigs anywhere else, and where many women working the booths are encouraged to dress in a way that would generate HR action, reprimands, or lawsuits in almost any other environment. But we come back every year, because thankfully, that’s how cool music is. I would say the overall vibe is more positive than in years past, with more manufacturers introducing new products and more attendees clogging the aisles to look at those products. These are some of my snap judgments about what I’ve seen or heard that is cool and is by no means an exhaustive list. We’ll get that to you in an upcoming issue. This is just what I can recall off the top of my head and anyone who has been to a show knows that you don’t always remember everything you think you remember, but I’m pretty sure the following statements are true.


Coolest Guitars

The PRS Signature that was unveiled is the latest in Paul Smith’s never-ending quest to build the ultimate guitar. Among its many beautiful appointments, the Signature sports a “new pickup system with proprietary 408 treble and bass humbucking pickups which produce eight sounds on a simple switching scheme.” It looks great, plays great, and has such amazing acoustic volume that I could clearly hear single notes in a crowded, noisy cocktail party.
Wechter introduced some new solidbodies that feature the Seymour Duncan Tripl-Shot switching system, which allows series, parallel, or split-coil operation. Upgrades include piezo bridges and MIDI capabilities for a huge array of sounds.
Taylor’s new double cutaway electrics are just insanely beautiful, with a shape and finish that is new and classic at the same time.
Martin had so many gorgeous acoustics it’s hard to know where to begin, but the Harvey Leach inlaid 1,500,000th dreadnought is a good place to start.
Coolest Pedals
So far, my favorites include the Ringworm ring modulator from Way Huge, which gives you all the clangy, robot-y tones we love but also features a 7-step arpeggiator for sounds that Dunlop’s Bob Cedro likened to “circus clowns on acid.” I also really dug the new Envelope Follower from Source Audio—a super-flexible, warm-sounding box to help you get your “wow” on.
Best Press Conference

PRS. They not only showed a bunch of cool new guitars and amps, but they also had an unreal collection of talent that included Ricky Skaggs, David Grissom, Tony McManus, Davy Knowles, Martin Simpson, Myles Kennedy, Warren Haynes, Orianthi, Dweezil Zappa, and many more. It was emceed by guitar mag legend Mr. Tom Wheeler.
Coolest Amps
I could hardly have been more impressed with the demo we got at Blackstar. Now distributed by Korg, these amps sound big, fat, sweet, and full with incredible dynamics. Freddy DeMarco did a great job of showing how many sounds these amps are capable of, from pristine clean to filthy dirty. My only gripe is that the 200-watt KT88 model was so damn loud I think it fractured my sternum.
I’d love to write more but I need to get down to the lobby and wait for the limo.

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