Armchair NAMM Nerd: Scott McGrath stays home and picks his NAMM favorites
Press Day, Installment 1 - NAMMaste
While Rich Beech and the SonicState team are compulsively filming the opening of the annual NAMM show, I am sequestered far away from the glitz, glitter, and glitterati attending NAMM. Still, I thought I'd highlight some of the products that are standing out at a distance, one coast away from the hype machine.
I will be glued to the coverage over the next several days, but I would say I've already seen a few items of intense interest that suggest this will be a rather exciting NAMM. Plus, I get to kick back with a beer and watch Rich and team do all the work.
It's clear even before the show begins that computers remain important even to guitarists. I'm already in.
First, Rich catches up with Malina Moye demonstrating the Ampkit software that I reviewed for Amped a few weeks back:
She sounds great, and is playing (lefty) through a wah pedal. Rich is styling the Iron Maiden tee shirt, and looking quite formidable himself. I'm hoping to review Agile Partners' new Mac/iOS input device, a competitor to the Apogee Jam, soon.
Close Thy Computer, Open Thy Amps up ...with Pedals
Some very interesting pedals are already leaking out, with new models from Boss, Wampler, Catalinbread, Eventide, and many others on the way. Rich has his work cut out for him her.
TC Electronic kicks off a robust-looking software editor for the TonePrint pedals.
As a fan of the Sonuus Wahoo pedal and its superb editor software, I've developed a bit of a soft spot for well-implemented geeky editors for presets and settings. TC Electronics adds a TonePrint editor that allows you to create and manage your own artist preset style presets, and load them into the pedals. This is going to add a lot of power to pedals like the Flashback x4 Delay.
I have 4 Catalinbread pedals on my pedalboard, including the superb Dirty Little Secret Mark II, which I like a lot. A new version, the Dirty Little Secret 2, is due out in February with the ability to toggle between Marshall Super Lead mode and Marshall Super Bass amp mode. We don't have sound samples yet, but these folks make great pedals, and this is going to be exciting.
This page also shows off a video of the new Boss pedals – they sound great, and seem to be breaking new ground.
The Multi Overtone MO-2 also seems to offer some new approaches to this well worn category...very interesting. I'm not a heavy user of octaver type pitch shifting type effects, but this makes some interesting sounds. Rich dissects it here: http://www.sonicstate.com/amped/2013/01/20/review-boss-mo2-multi-overtone/
You can never have too many delay pedals, in my opinion. I think the TE-2 Tera Echo sounds interesting – straddling the line between delay and reverb as it does -- and Rich shows it off here: http://www.sonicstate.com/amped/2013/01/20/review-boss-te2-tera-echo/
Another trend worth watching: desktop amplification. Roland has introduced the Cube Lite, an attractive, iOS-friendly competitor to Yamaha's groundbreaking desktop amplifiers first introduced at last year's NAMM and recently updated with new models – the THR family of amps. A close friend of mine really loves his THR- 10, so it will be interesting to see if Roland is matching the impressive sound of these units, and whether iOS integration changes the equation significantly.
Early coverage suggests Roland has a lot of great new products across almost every category, so be on the lookout. New audio interfaces, keyboards, and the return of an American-made Fender V-Guitar Strat are among the highlights. (Love the red finish on the new V-Strat!)
IK Multimedia has really been pushing the envelope with interesting iOS controllers, but the BlueBoard is unexpected and I already want one. http://www.sonicstate.com/news/2013/01/23/wnamm13-bluetooth-midi-pedalboard-for-ios/
Hands-free control of iOS amp sims and midi devices is really useful, and the addition of Bluetooth compatibility – which should make Android as well as iOS users happy – is brilliant. You can also add 2 expression pedals to the chain, which is even better, and it runs on AAA batteries. Great idea.
So what's next?
Here are some of the news items I'm expecting to hear more about over the next few days:
1. Rich is just starting to play his way through thousands of square feet of actual guitars – and I expect we'll see a kaleidoscopic range of interesting electric and acoustic guitars – sights and sounds.
2. Obviously we're just getting the first batch of new pedals – and we want to hear more. Is there such a thing as too much pedal coverage? (Plainly, No.) I'm hoping we'll see some goodies from the Strymon booth.
3. I have a personal interest in seeing what Yamaha and Steinberg are up to this year. I've developed an unexpected new passion for Cubase 7 (which came out in December) - I upgraded from a very lightly used copy of version 4, and have been blown away by its ease of use. Steinberg just introduced a new iOS controller app that integrates well; Steinberg also recently introduced the
Cubasis iOS DAW application and a new audio interface. Seems like Yamaha have been very busy this year, and I want to see more.
4. Eventide is introducing a very interesting new pedal that borrows from several of its stompboxes and can be controlled by Bluetooth and portable devices. Must see this...
5. The Unexpected. I expect this, and this is what will make a NAMM vital.
These are my personal picks....but the coverage on Amped is going deep, and comprehensive. Stay tuned this week!