The NAMMage Is Done: The ULTIMATE Guide To What Happened at NAMM 2013

Scott McGrath gets NAMM dunked      25/02/13

There’s also a new design aesthetic in controllers emerging that seems equally vital and overall a sign of a healthy music industry. For example, Keith McMillen continues to innovate with reasonably priced new controller ideas:

Keith McMillen continues to leverage Kickstarter with his new controller:

Novation has updated the LaunchPad with an iOS version that looks very interesting (of special interest to Ableton Live users, but let’s face it, everything Live related pales in comparison to the Push, even the Akai APC40):

Soft synth maker Arturia have lowered the barriers to entry for their Spark drum machines, which compete in that rather odd and specialized space that Native Instruments Maschine and similar controllers play, with a scaled down version of the Spark.

Good stuff.

And one more controller related item: The return of the M-Audio Axiom. Avid sold off the M-Audio brand last year, and one company is bringing the well regarding Axiom keyboard controllers into new circulation.

Beyond The Controller

I guess you’d have to call the Wheelharp more an instrument than a controller, but I figure everybody had to be wondering whether the best use of 10- or 12,000 dollars would be to set up the Joe Perry Les Paul...

...or a Wheelharp?

This is probably an easier decision, by the way: save a few more thousand for the Gibson Clapton “Lucy” reproduction - - this guitar makes me want to cry.

Guitar Mania

Ok, controllers and iPads are not every guitarist’s main choice of beverage, so let’s look at the mainstream guitar products on display at the show. Amped picked its “best of show winners” for guitar, so I won’t repeat of all of those. Find them here. The Wampler Dual Fusion Proto looks lovely.

Other guitar specific items I found interesting:

1. Dunlop Fuzz Face Minis – More fuzz than a bad hangover:

What’s nice about these is that they resolve the pedalboard crisis caused by the hugeness of the Fuzz Face, and AC power. Different fuzz voicing are available in a range of pedals, $99 US street prices. Fuzzes with collectability.

2. New Line 6 Variax shredder model JTV-89F, with a Floyd Rose. I have a JTV-59 that plays well…this wouldn’t be for me, but it’s handsome and pretty versatile if dropped D and dropped Eb are your kind of key signature.

3. Gibson seems to be very focused on reproducing its own near-mythological historic specimens in the Les Paul line. Joe Perry’s 59 Les Paul gets a loving custom shop re-creation – for something in the neighborhood of $10,000 US. In the same vein, another classic 1960 historical model… the collector's choice. These guitars are beautiful, but is anyone who can afford this sort of obsessive compulsive artisanal craftsmanship likely to actually play it? Once in awhile, you see a Lamborghini on the street, I suppose. Still. Love those 50s wide necks.

4. In the “Gibson Weird” category, Gibson’s first “B-Bender” Les Paul. Sometimes I feel like Gibsons that try to be Fenders, and Fenders that try to be Gibsons are just a bit odd and irrelevant. But I suppose there are a lot of guitar hangers in the world and players looking to fill them.

5. Speaking of guitar heroes and Les Pauls… Marshall is showing a Slash signature 5-watt combo 1x12 that puts small power through a big speaker to get giant tone. Looks interesting, sounded good in the demos, and sports a rather paint-peeling number of tubes for a 5 watt.

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6. Fender had a few new models, but nothing really stood out for me this year, though I’m a Fender player most of the time. Rich did get a tour of some of the new custom shop models that’s worth watching:

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7. Zachary Vex gives charming geeky demos of his pedals, but they subtly reveal the kind of hidden complexities you’d hope for in a pedal. Three new models with sequencers sound promising in the demo:

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One Last Trend

The last trend of note is a bit of a head scratcher. If you watch a lot of the SonicState coverage, and odd theme starts to emerge. In many clips, American demonstrators seem feel a strange and uncontrollable obligation to roll out their awful British accents (accent caricatures I suppose) for Rich and Nick. Blimey, but I am embarrassed for my people sometimes.

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