It’s confusing, isn’t it? How do you peruse all the magazines and websites and YouTube videos and social posts to get a handle on the new products you might wish to explore further? Sadly, we can’t really help you with that. You should study all of that stuff, because there are a lot of cool products released at NAMM each year, and why would you want to risk missing something really cool?
What we can do, however, is highlight the gear that caught the editors’ eyes, and perhaps start you on your quest with just a few products to check out first—you know, before the Onslaught of Plenty.
For this report, editor-in-chief Michael Molenda, senior editor Art Thompson, Los Angeles editor Jude Gold, and Nashville editor Michael Ross all picked the new products they dug the most. Obviously, these choices are subjective—not comprehensive—but as you know most of us from reading our gear reviews, you’ll hopefully find some highlights that you’ll dig, as well. If not, you can always tell us where we went wrong. Please send your own lists of the top products of 2017 to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line “NAMM 2017,” and we’ll publish those lists at guitarplayer.com.
ACLAM SMART TRACK S2 PEDALBOARD
Why: I loved Aclam’s post-modern pedalboards and their innovative pedal fasteners when I first saw prototypes a couple of years ago. The Barcelona, Spain-based company had some challenges with distribution, but now KMC Music is distributing them in the USA, and these potentially game-changing pedalboards may finally get into player’s hands. I know that I want one. The S2 holds eight to ten pedals, and those fasteners look to be pretty darn cool, versatile, and, hopefully, snug.
Price: $249 street (other sizes available)
More Info: aclamguitars.cat
BANDLAB TECHNOLOGIES AUDIOSTRETCH
Why: A truly super tool for learning solos, licks, melodies, chord patterns from any audio or video source. AudioStretch lets you slow down tracks without pitch changes, shift pitch up or down 36 semitones, and scrub audio for precise, note-by-note listening. I can’t wait to input video of my fave artists performing onstage and slow down the musical onslaughts to something my ear can grab hold of. Fabulous!
Price: $9.99 (LITE version is free)
More Info: audiostretch.com
BC AUDIO GRAND PRIX 100
Why: This superbly built, point-to-point-wired amp features a unique footswitch-activated Dual Power function that lets you footswitch between two or four EL34 power tubes, doubling power output and creating a volume boost that’s handy when you need to stand out over the band. The Grand Prix has a Clean/Crunch mode on Channel 1 and Vintage/Modern on Channel 2, 3-band EQ, Presence and Depth controls, and an effects loop.
Price: $3,600 retail
More Info: bcaudio.com
EARTHQUAKER DEVICES SPACE SPIRAL
Why: This crazy modulated digital delay with 30ms to 600ms of delay time and a variable wave-shape LFO (that affects the delay repeats only) is all you need to create dark, gothic dreamscapes—or nightmares—of sonic hysteria. Not that brave? Well, you can still play around with tape-like delays and undulating modulations.
Price: $195 street
More Info: earthquakerdevices.com
Why: I admit it. I completely freaked out over the FreqOut. Why? Because I adore feedback, and this pedal lets me spew sonic carnage in many ways. I can select the harmonic of the feedback, set the speed at which it starts wailing, and delete the dry signal for spooky, EBow-like sustain, and more. This savage beauty is due in March. Can I wait that long?
Price: $179 street
More Info: digitech.com
D’ANGELICO PREMIERE BOB WEIR SS
Why: Co-designed with the legendary Grateful Dead guitarist, the Bob Weir SS is an impressive hollowbody electric that offers a maple-on-maple body and a 3-piece (maple/walnut/maple)set neck topped with a 22-fret, 25"-scale rosewood fingerboard. Available only in right-handed and with the new “Stone” finish, the SS also has Weir’s signature engraved on the classic “skyscraper” trussrod cover.
Price: $6,990 street
More Info: dangelicoguitars.com
Why: This radical modulating filter may only be for the brave, the adventurous, or the sonic anarchists. It’s also a ton of fun. Electro-Harmonix has unleashed some cool synthesizer tricks in a package that guitarists can both understand and enjoy. Go hither and make noise!
Price: $137 street
More Info: ehx.com
ELIXIR OPTIWEB STRINGS
Why: Coated strings have received a bad rap in some quarters for feeling a bit, well, weird. But I tried out a pre-release set of OPTIWEB strings before NAMM, and, to me, they felt no different than the uncoated strings on my other guitars. In addition, the OPTIWEBs sounded balanced, articulate, and accurate. The feeling is good!
More Info: elixirstrings.com
EMEDIA GUITAR METHOD 6
Why: This interactive teaching tool just hit version six at NAMM, and its “automated fretboard” continues to be an awesome and simple way to absorb guitar concepts. A new chord-recognition engine keeps you playing the right stuff, and jam tracks, songs, the ability to loop tough sections, and instructor assistance is all just a click away.
Price: $59 retail
More Info: emediamusic.com
ERNIE BALL PARADIGM STRINGS
Why: Those crazies at Ernie Ball just slammed down a guarantee on their electric and acoustic Paradigm strings. If they break or rust within 90 days of purchase, you get a replacement free of charge. They even dared Kenny Wayne Shepherd and John Petrucci to destroy their Paradigms. Saying something is break resistant is one thing, popping a warranty on that claim is something else.
Price: $14.99 retail
More Info: ernieball.com
FISHMAN FLUENCE SIGNATURE PICKUPS
Why: Fishman expanded its line of Fluence pickups with some very savvy evangelists. Will Alder (his pickup is shown), Tobin Abasi, and Killswitch Engage have all joined the Fluence fold with wildly different sonic preferences. It’s going to be very exciting indeed to check out the varied tones of these new pickups.
More Info: fishman.com
EPIPHONE JOE BONAMASSA “TREASURE” FIREBIRD
Why: This one really caught my eye as it is closely modeled after Bonamassa’s original 1963 Gibson Firebird—a rare single-pickup version made only in the first year of production. The Epiphone “Treasure” features a 9-piece thru-neck made of mahogany and walnut, mahogany body wings, a ProBucker FB720 pickup (a recreation of the early ’60s Gibson unit), and correct-style Kluson banjo tuners on an in-line headstock. Available finishes for this sweet-looking solid are Polymist Gold and Tobacco Sunburst.
Price: $799 street
More Info: epiphone.com
ERNIE BALL ST. VINCENT
Why: The St. Vincent didn’t actually debut this year, but the new Tobacco Burst finish on an African mahogany body puts a classic spin on what has to be one of the coolest retro-esque body shapes around. Equipped with three DiMarzio mini humbuckers and an Ernie Ball/Music Man vibrato bridge, the St. Vincent is a sleek-playing reminder of some models that a certain Kalamazoo-based company came up with back when tailfins were hot items on ’50s-era autos.
Price: $1,999 street
More Info: ernieball.com
GRETSCH G6218T-CLFG SIGNATURE DUO JET
Why: This exacting replica of the 1954 Gretsch Duo Jet played by Cliff Gallup when he was a member of Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps in the late ’50s, features a semi hollow mahogany body, period-correct DynaSonic pickups, “Big Block” pearloid inlays, a compensated aluminum bridge with a pinned aluminum base, and a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece. Go, cat, go!
Price: $2,799 street
More Info: gretsch.com
Why: Another thrilling entry in the digital-processor field for guitarists, the HeadRush offers intuitive touch-screen programming, gapless preset switching, 20 minutes of looping time, and tons of amp, cabinet, effects, and microphone models—all ready for stage and studio in a robust footpedal.
Price: $999 street
More Info: headrushelectronics.com
L.R. BAGGS SYNAPSE
Why: This gorgeous and funky personal P.A. system looks like a cross between a tiki god and a fine piece of furniture. But the Synapse is not just a looker. Waveform dispersion is claimed at 180-degrees horizontal at all frequencies, it puts out 500 watts of Class-D power, and it provides two channels, each with separate controls for EQ, reverb, gain, a 20dB pad, a mute, 48-volt phantom power, and more.
More Info: lrbaggs.com
Why: Designed to deliver more volume, clean headroom, and bottom than the previous Komet 19, this new head (also available as a 1x12, 2x10, or 2x12 combo) packs four EL84 power tubes and larger transformers, while remaining the same compact size as the 19. Volume, Thrust, and Tone controls, a 3-way Bright switch, point-to-point wiring, and top-shelf components define the Komet 29 as an amp to be reckoned with in the mid-wattage boutique category.
Price: $2,999 street
More Info: kometamps.com
Why: These are sleek, light, and modern-looking boards with modular options that can handle everything from a collection of mini pedals to a monster rig rivaling that of The Edge. Each of the five available pedalboard sizes is fashioned from laser-cut aluminum, anodized with a black or clear finish, and includes rubber feet.
Price: $109-$219 direct
More Info: monocreators.com
LOKNOB FUGGEDABOUTIT TOUR CAPS
Why: Another wild and wacky idea from some not-so-crazy minds. You adjust your guitar and/or pedal settings, put Tour Caps over your potentiometers, and “fuggedaboutit.” You’ll never have to worry about your pedal or guitar controls shifting.
Price: $9.99 direct
More Info: loknob.com
PRS SONZERA 20-WATT COMBO
Why: Offering everything from pristine, dimensional clean tones to super saturated overdriven sounds, the Sonzera 20 gets its game on with a pair of 6L6 power tubes—a bit unusual for a 20 watter—and the results speak for themselves. Features include two footswitchable channels, reverb, FX loop, and a Celestion V-Type 12" speaker. This is a cool and versatile amp with a high pedigree for a sweet price.
Price: $799 street
More Info: prsguitars.com
RADIAL TONEBONE NORTH-STAR
Why: This is a pretty groovy Solo Machine for those who dig smacking up their amps for natural, soaring sustain, but who also want a good drive option for a bit more edge and yowl. The North-Star provides both options with a 24dB clean boost that can also activate an effects loop for truly mesmerizing solos, as well as a dedicated overdrive. In addition, you get a low/flat/high switch for tuning the tone to match your amp or the room.
Price: $169 street
More Info: tonebone.com
Why: It’s shocking and near magical that you could have the power of Abbey Road Studios on your smartphone. Well, that’s not quite true, but the GO:MIXER is an ingenious solution for mixing vocals, guitars, keyboards, and other sounds into your phone as you track tunes and soundtracks for social-networking videos. Think about it—audio quality for hand-held devices just received a mammoth upgrade.
Price: $99 street
More Info: roland.com
REVEREND SHADE BALDEROSE SIGNATURE
Why: Balderose is the guitarist for the hardcore punk outfit Code Orange, so it’s no surprise his signature model is a stripped-down, aggro rock monster. Features are a korina body and set korina neck, a rosewood fretboard, Rail-hammer Chisel (bridge) and Hyper Vintage (neck) pickups, and a cool kill switch when you pull up the Volume knob.
More Info: reverendguitars.com
ROCKBOARD BY WARWICK FLAT PATCH CABLES
Why: As a pedal geek, one of the big surprises at NAMM—and one that really knocked me out—were these flat patch cables. What a simple, elegant, and “duh” way to get even more pedals on your pedalboard. I also dug the option for cleaner cabling—no more big ol’ jacks sticking every which way. The cables come in four lengths: 10cm (4"), 20cm (8"), 30cm (12"), and 60cm (2').
More Info: warwick.de
SEYMOUR DUNCAN POWERSTAGE 170
Why: How cool is a stompbox-sized power amp with 170 watts of power? I’d say pretty kick-ass cool—especially if you rock digital rigs, such as Kemper, Axe-FX, Line 6, Boss, or the new HeadRush. The 170 also means that your guitar, pedalboard, and “amp” will likely fit in an airline overhead compartment. Of course, if you want even more power, the 700 delivers 700 watts in a rack-like configuration.
Price: $399 street (PowerStage 700; $699 street)
More Info: seymourduncan.com.
SOURCE AUDIO VENTRIS
Why: Coming on the heels of the Nemesis Delay, the dual-processor-equipped Ventris is an inspiring stereo reverb pedal that offers 24 effects ranging from classic ‘verb sounds (spring, plate, room) to wilder effects such as modulation, pitch shifting, shimmer, and swell reverbs. Details of this super sounding pedal include eight onboard presets, true spillover, stereo inputs/outputs, soft bypass (preserves reverb trails), a unique hold function, full MIDI, and deep editing capability with the free Neuro Mobile App.
More Info: sourceaudio.net
TECH 21 Q\STRIP
Why: I’ve been a studio geek almost as long as I could wrap up a mic cable, which is why I’m so tickled with the Q\Strip. For one thing, the gray chassis and red knobs look as if the were inspired by a channel strip from a ’70s Trident console. Love that. But the serious stuff is the massive, big-studio-like frequency control. This is a preamp to die for. Sigh.
Price: $249 street
More Info: tech21nyc.com
SOUND CITY SC30
Why: Based on the original Dave Reeves-designed Sound City One Hundred—from which the new Sound City Master One Hundred and Master Lead 50 amplifiers were created—the SC30 delivers dead-amazing clarity, punch, and sweetness for its size and power. Designer Steven Fryette says that linking the expressive Gold Lion KT66 “Kinkless Tetrode” power tubes to a classic Reeves-inspired, phase-inverter design in a cathode-biased configuration yields remarkably rich harmonic balance and tonal detail from single-coils and humbuckers. Evidence of this concept was obvious when I got to try the SC30 in the sound booth with a Stratocaster. It had a righteous blend of fatness and chime, subtle-but-tactile compression, plenty of juicy grind when laying into it—and, man, could it get it loud. Other details of this inspiring amplifier include a 5AR4 tube-rectified power supply, a Partridge-inspired, paper-insulated output transformer, and a carefully evolved rendition of the original 12" Sound City Power Speaker—right down to the original label design.
Price: $1,699 street
More Info: soundcityamp.com
SUPRO AMERICANA SERIES
Why: These replicas of the classic Supro “reso-glass” guitars are constructed with a chambered mahogany body and resonant molded top. This semi-hollow recipe retains the unique sonic characteristics of the vintage Supros while being lightweight and easy to play, and the Vistatone pickups are modeled on the single-coil design developed by Valco in the early 1950s. These historic reissues (including the Martinique shown here) are available in two body styles with a range of hardware options.
Price: $699 to $1299 street
More Info: suprousa.com
WAY HUGE RUSSIAN PICKLE
Why: Well, here’s a Russian initiative that won’t start a political battle—unless it’s a groovy fusillade of ’90s, grunge-influenced fuzz. The Pickle combines a clear midrange with and a stout low end to deliver saturated buzz that gets pretty rude, but doesn’t degrade to mud.
Price: $159 street
More Info: jimdunlop.com