Art Thompson: Summer NAMM 2013—Final Thoughts


As with any NAMM show, there are always tons of excellent products that can enhance your music-making experience, though they aren’t always necessarily the kinds of things that radically differ from myriad other products that are aimed at the guitar playing public. Sure, I was impressed by the Blackstar LT Series pedals (, which include the LT Boost, LT Drive, LT Distortion, LT Metal and LT Dual. All of them sounded had a great range of tones, were dynamically responsive, and featured stout metal enclosures.

I also dug the aluminum-bodied offerings from Metalin’ Guitars (, which will appeal to anyone with a nascent hot-rodder streak, since these instruments are highly customizable via the many options in bridges, knobs, pickguards, backs, platings, etc. -

While not everyone needs a wireless effects rig, I have to say that theFXconnectx Stage Pro-12 ( with its true-bypass operation, 12 remotely switchable loops, and interference-free 2.4 GHz technology is something to consider if you play on big stages and want the freedom that such a system affords.

I would also make a case for the Amptweaker FatRock( for Strat players and others who want fatter distortion tonestheFargen Town House (—a 5-watt head that can be powered with 6V6, EL34, 6L6, KT66, KT77, or 6550 output tubes—and Grover Jackson’s GJ2 Glendora Series(—superbly made double-cutaway, bolt-on guitars that offer sumptuous necks, cool colors, and a variety of pickup and hardware options.

However, among all the perfectly happening guitars, amps, and effects I saw at the show, there were a few items that deserved special mention in three categories:

Value. I’d have to pick the archtop guitars from Eastman. Whether it’s the AR372 CE, a nicely made, ES-175 clone with a street price of around $880, the slightly more costly AR503CE (pictured here), which has a carved spruce top, or the John Pisano series AR880CE with its all solid wood construction (and a price tag that’s about one-tenth of what an American-made equivalent jazz box would cost), you simply can’t beat the bang for the buck that Eastman delivers.

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Innovation.Though the Fishman Triple Play was introduced over a year ago, it has evolved into an amazingly capable package that puts a wealth of instruments at your fingertips and allows guitarists to use a variety of those sounds simultaneously. Triple Play definitely adds new dimensions to the guitar playing experience, and you don’t have to be an accomplished player to enjoy what it can do. And when you add wireless operation, looping and recording capability, and a Progression function that turns whatever you play into a musical score, and Triple Play emerges as quite possibly the most powerful composition and performance tool available today.

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Evolution.Ed Gonzales of EDG Guitars introduced me to the powers of the Toroidal Tuner by first making it clear how little modern machine heads have advanced from the screw drive that Leonardo da Vinci used in the 1400s. Gonzales’ Toroidal tuner completely rethinks worm-gear equation, and the result is a tuner with a drive ratio of 41:1 that lets you to bring the strings up to standard pitch (or well beyond if you desire) using just one finger to turn the knurled knob—all with zero backlash. How cool is that!

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