The 2013 Summer NAMM show isn't the biggest gearfest of the year—in fact, it ain't even close. However, the place it's contained in—the brand-new Music City Center in Nashville—is a mind-blowing expanse of metal and glass that stretches for blocks along the spine of the city's downtown area, which is a haven for tourists who migrate here in the warmer months to enjoy music, dining, museums, and the mix of modern and medieval American architecture that frames the Nashville experience. Thursday was the opening day of the festivities at Summer NAMM, and here are some of the cool things I spotted. —Art Thompson
Taylor GS-Mini with Expression System
This all mahogany GS-Mini gets a big boost from onboard Expression System electronics, turing it into a supremely compact gigging guitar that's amazinging toneful for its size.
Pigtronix Gate Keeper and Quantum
The new Quantum is an incredibly powerful modulation device that—among other interesting things— can ape the sound of complex rack units such as the Zappa's MicMix DynaFlanger, Lifeson's TC 1210 Spatial Expander and the venerable Roland Dimension D. Simpler but very effective in it's own right, the Gate Keeper is a super-fast noise gate that completely eliminates hum, hiss, and buzz from your signal chain.
Martin Ed Sheeran LX1E Signature Edition
This ultra-small flat-top plays superbly and sounds much bigger than it looks. The satin finish and Stratobond neck help to make it perhaps the most affordable signature model I've ever seen—and it's a Martin y'all …
Blackstar HT Metal 100
One of a series of new HT Metal amps, this 100-watt, 6L6-powered, three-channel head pumps out excellent rock and metal tones. Also available in a 60-watt , 1x12 combo version.
Vox Tone Garage Series
These compact pedals may look way different than anything you've ever seen from Vox, but the all-analog boxes sound pretty impressive. The Flat 4 Boost, V8 Distortion, and Straight 6 Drive all sport a 12AX7 tube running at a studly 200 volts (stepped up from power provided by either a battery or 9v adapter). The Double Deca delay uses a trio of V3205 bucket-brigade chips to deliver a very wide range of delay effects, while the Trike Fuzz packs germanium diodes to kick out extremely gnarly octave fuzz tones. All feature discrete circuitry (no op-amps), which puts them in league with many boutique pedals. Well done!
Earthquaker Devices Arpanoid
This polyphonic pitch arpeggiator pedal creates some very enticing sounds, and features eight expandable programs (four major, four minor) that are selected with the Mode control. It works with chords or individual notes and features Step (adjusts how many notes are in the cycle and the rhythm of the sequence), Rate (adjusts the speed of the cycle), and individual Wet and Dry controls. The Organizer next to it was released at Winter NAMM, and still creates a stir with its panoply of awesomely cheesy faux-organ sounds.