While the hustle and bustle of NAMM's huge ground-floor arena offered the chance to bump into celebrities, play some brand new guitars, and catch the latest news. It was the quiet promise of Hall E that pulled a lot of people in.
This is where the new companies on the circuits pay their dues, if there's a cool invention that you wish you'd thought of, it will be downstairs in Hall E. This not only applies to the high-tech stuff, but also to guitars, such as the Kitara - a stringless synth-guitar, and the Voyage Air Guitars - high-spec guitars that fold in half and stay in tune.
Of course, there were great products to be found in all locations, and some of the bigger companies even had their own private rooms on the higher levels of the convention center. So here's a round-up of our guitar highlights from Winter NAMM 2011:
- So first up is the Ibanez J Custom, Tom O'Dea explained in the video story that there will only be 12 of these guitars made every month. The reason for that is that they are hand-crafted by Ibanez's premium Luthiers, and to keep the quality up, they take their time to build them. This exclusivity also means that there's a high-end price tag of $4,666. The J Custom has had a production run previously, but it was very limited and only really saw the light of day in Asian markets during 1996. For that reason, it's taken on a mystery status, which will only be boosted further by the relatively small amount hitting the market this time around.
- EVH announced new products on both the amp and guitar fronts this year. The Wolfgang Guitar Series has seen some updates and there's a new amp in the 5150III range - a 50-watt smaller version of it's big brother. Chris Cannella talked us through the new gear, including Eddie Van Halen's brand new toy - the Wolfgang Stealth. The Stealth breaks away from Eddie's love of maple, and as the name may suggest, it's an all-black guitar. Check out the beautiful ebony fretboard in the video.
- Misa Digital announced the release of the Kitara at NAMM, which isn't technically a guitar, but rather a synth. Michael Zarimis, the inventor of the Kitara, talked us through the guitar-shaped synth, which features a string mode and a ball mode. These work kind of like the guitar and synth apps on iPad, you can finger pick or strum the strings with your right hand, and then fret the right notes by pressing down buttons with your left hand. He said the instrument is "for guitarists who want to control synths, or guitarists who want to control electronic instruments."
- On the last day of NAMM we stumbled across Derbyshire-based guitar company, JJ Guitars. Their hand-crafted guitars caught a lot of attention at the show, especially as they were being demonstrated by Joe Berger. Check out our video coverage to see JJ Guitars being played through Lockard amps by two of the funkiest guitarists at NAMM11.
- The Voyage Air Guitar is essentially a guitar that folds in half, while being a selling point, this is not the main selling point of the guitars. The Bel-Air electric is a beautiful guitar, with an alder body, custom-wound pickups, and a rosewood fretboard. The finishes on the range are stunning, and the fact that it folds away (and stays in tune when you fold it back out), is just an extremely useful added-extra. Check out our video at the Voyage Air booth for the full explanation of how this works, and to see the electric and acoustic ranges on offer.