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FEATURE: Winter NAMM 2010

Each January, the music and pro audio industry manufacturers gather in Anaheim, California, to unveil their newest products before a rabid assemblage of retailers and the press – these are the new products you’ll be lusting after for your guitar rig for the next year! I’ve attended dozens of trade shows for more years than I care to remember, and I have to say that this Winter NAMM show was a ton of fun – loads of new products, great concerts and music events, $12 turkey sandwiches… what more could you ask for?

Let’s take a look at some of the newest and coolest gear for guitar players that was introduced at the Anaheim Convention Center. And remember, for complete NAMM show coverage of all the music and pro audio gear at the show, check out Sweetwater’s complete report.

BOSS ME-25

BOSS

BOSS introduced the ME-25, a new multi-effects unit featuring a built-in USB computer audio interface for recording, COSM amp models and effects, a 38-second phrase loop function, an MP3-player-friendly aux input, and more. The TU-3 is the next-generation stompbox tuner from BOSS, with a high-brightness mode for use in direct sunlight, drop-tuning support, and an auto-mute function for when the tuner is on. It can power up to seven other BOSS pedals via an optional cable.

BUDDA

The MN-100 is a new 100-watt all-tube head with three channels. Tube and solid-state rectifiers with a variable-rectification control allow new sounds. Each channel has an “Overboost” overdrive feature, resonance and presence controls, and a true bypass effects loop. MIDI control is supported. Like the MN-412 4 x 12″ speaker cabinet, the amp head is covered in custom Italian leather designed by Mark Nason.

D’ADDARIO

EXP Electric Strings sound identical to the company’s XL strings, but they’re coated to last much longer. The coating is 50% thinner on the wrap wires, for a feel similar to uncoated strings. The new String Line Extensions offer special gauges for players who drop tune, as well as other unique string types.

DigiTech JamMan Solo

DIGITECH

The JamMan Solo and the JamMan Stereo are compact sized to provide convenient, powerful looping functions for pedalboard users. Up to 35 minutes of CD-quality audio can be stored onboard, or you can use an SD card to hold many hours of material. USB lets you connect to a computer for loop storage, editing, and organization.

DR STRINGS

DDT (Drop-Down Tuning) strings are designed to keep your guitar stable and buzz free when tuning to lower-than-standard pitch.

ELECTRO-HARMONIX

The E-H crew was showing two new pedals: the Ring Thing, a modulation effect that can do anything from ring modulation to metallic sweeps to pitch shifting, and the Deluxe Memory Boy, a new delay from the Memory Man family. Interesting features include expression pedal control, tap note divisions, and a send/return loop.

EVH

Eddie Van Halen and his EVH brand announced two new colors for the Wolfgang guitar: Cherry Burst and Trans Amber. EVH also previewed a new lower-cost guitar that will be formally announced later in the year.

Fender American Special Stratocaster

FENDER

The American Special Series, including a Stratocaster, a Telecaster, and an HSS Stratocaster, are affordable American-made instruments with gloss-finished bodies and satin-finished necks, Texas Special single-coils, 22 jumbo frets, and ’70s-sized headstocks. I received advance examples of each of the models for review before the show, and I loved them!

The G-DEC 3 Fifteen and the G-DEC 3 Thirty are new combo amps that are designed to cover all your practice, rehearsal, recording, and gigging needs. There are modeled amps, 100 presets, audio accompaniment tracks (including artist-recorded tracks from Anthrax, Brad Paisley, and more), onboard effects, USB connection to computer for direct recording, and an SD card slot of audio track and preset storage. I thought this was one of the big hits of the show. The amps sounded great miked up through a big PA in Fender’s demo room.

FISHMAN

Fishman FT1

The new FT-1 digital tuner clips onto the headstock of your guitar and gives instant an readout of the pitch, even in noisy environments. It can tune 6-, 7-, and 12-string guitars, and can adjust from a reference pitch of 435Hz to 445Hz.

GRETSCH

Gretsch was showing the Eddie Cochran Tribute 6120 hollowbody guitar, which is a custom-shop duplicate of the 6120 Chet Atkins that Cochran bought, then had modified. Only 50 of these instruments will be made.

Gretsch also introduced the Tim Armstrong Signature Electromatic hollowbody. Duplicating Armstrong’s (Rancid, Transplants) personal guitar, it has two “Black Top” Filter’Tron pickups for sustain and graphite-nut Grover tuners for tuning stability. This one played and sounded great, regardless of the fact that it’s affordably priced.

IBANEZ

The Ibanez booth was packed with new guitars, including the ART600 (singlecut with dual humbuckers), the EGEN8 (affordable version of Dragonforce’s Herman Li’s signature model), the GART50 (super-affordable singlecut with dual humbuckers), the JEM505 (latest Steve Vai signature model), and the JS2400 (Joe Satriani signature model). The company also unveiled a limited-edition anniversary Steve Vai Universe 7-string.

But Ibanez didn’t stop at guitars; the company surprised everyone at the show with the 15-watt tube-based TSA15H amplifier head and matching 1 x 12″ cabinets. The amp uses 6V6 power tubes and features a built-in Tube Screamer overdrive. For less than $400, this thing is absolutely going to be a big winner.

IK Multimedia AmpliTube 3

IK MULTIMEDIA

AmpliTube 3 is the latest generation of IK’s popular guitar amp-/speaker-/effects-modeling software for Mac and PC. This version is a huge step up from the last one, with more than 160 accurately modeled pieces of vintage and modern guitar gear, including 32 amplifiers, 47 speaker cabinets, 14 microphones, and 51 effects. VRM (Volumetric Response Modeling) provides realistic dynamic response.

JACKSON

The JS Series of guitars offers super-affordable pricing for models with high-output pickups, jumbo frets, compound-radius fretboards, shark-fin inlays, and an included gig bag. Don’t let the price tags fool you. I played these, and they rock!

Jackson also announced a Phil Collen (Def Leppard) limited-edition run of guitars, each of which was hand-painted and signed by Phil himself. Collen was there at the show, checking out the final guitars at a special Jackson event. The finishes feature splattered colors on a black background; each is unique and very cool.

Jackson Phil Collen Ltd

A highlight of the show for me (as a never-reformed metal fan in the ’80s) was the limited-edition Randy Rhoads Anniversary model. Only 30 will be made, based on the original “Concorde” prototype Randy played before settling on the final Rhoads model. Rhoads’s brother and sister held a special event at the Jackson booth, where the model was announced.

KORG

For portable recording, loop tracking, and laying down ideas, the new handheld Sound On Sound looks perfect. It allows for unlimited tracks and overdubbing; has a built-in tuner, mics, and rhythm patterns; and has 100 onboard effects powered by Korg’s REMS technology. The demo I saw made it look fast and easy to use for quickly capturing song ideas.

LR BAGGS

The Anthem is a microphone-based amplification system for acoustic guitars. It offers light weight and a natural reproduction of the tone of the instrument, with high feedback resistance.

MARSHALL

The Marshall booth was rocking, with a special appearance by Slash to intro his AFD100 amplifier project, a tonal duplication of a certain rented and modified JCM 800 2203 that was lost. There’s even a website where you can check out the progress of the project.

But Marshall also was rocking the booth with the new JMD:1 Series amplifiers, which feature EL34 power tubes driven by a digital preamp designed by the plug-in geniuses at Softube. The series includes a 100-watt head; a 50-watt head; a 100-watt, 2 x 12″ combo; and a 50-watt, 1 x 12″ combo.
MESA/BOOGIE

Mesa had one of the buzz-worthy hits of the show, with the TA-15 TransAtlantic, a new “lunchbox” amp. Other companies may have come out with compact amp heads before, but none offers the flexibility of the TransAtlantic. Completely tube-based, the amp is powered by two EL84s and four 12AX7s. There are two completely independent footswitchable channels offering classic American and British tones. Each channel can be set for 5 watts single-ended Class A, 15 watts push-pull Class A, or 25 watts push-pull AB power. Total weight? Just 12 pounds! I played it at the show, but I can’t wait to get my hands on this in my own studio.

MOOG

This is one I’ve been personally waiting for. I love the Moog guitar for the extended capabilities it offers with its filters and sustain technology, but now Moog has upped the ante by giving the E1-M a 13-pin hex pickup output, so it can drive Roland-compatible guitar synths. Imagine combining all those possibilities in one high-tech rig!

MOTU ZBox

MOTU

The ZBox is an affordable little impedance-matching box designed to make plugging your guitar into a computer-based recording interface sound and feel more like plugging into a real amplifier. There are two inputs, which duplicate the response of the high and low inputs on a Fender amp.

MXR

MXR rolled out a variety of new pedals, including the Jerry Cantrell Wah (custom-voiced for darker, wider response), the reissue Micro Chorus and Micro Flanger (both originally released in the ’80s), the limited-edition ’75 Vintage Phase 45 (handwired little bro of the Phase 90), the custom shop Custom Comp (using the rare CA3080 “metal can” IC), and the latest Zakk Wylde signature pedal, the Black Label Chorus.

Orange Tiny Terror Combo

ORANGE AMPLIFIERS

Orange showed several new amps at NAMM, including the Rockerverb Mk II 50-watt head; the Rockerverb Mk II 50-watt, 2 x 12″ and 1 x 12″ combos (the new Rockerverbs feature a midrange EQ control in the clean channel); the Thunder 30 head; a more compact 10″ Tiny Terror Combo; and a 4 x 10″ speaker cabinet.

PAUL REED SMITH

The folks at Paul Reed Smith have been busy! In addition to all of the 25th-anniversary models announced last fall at the PRS Experience event, the company introduced five new SE signature-model guitars at NAMM, developed with artists such as Orianthi, Zach Myers (Shinedown), Paul Allender (Cradle of Filth), Mike Akerfeldt (Opeth), and Nick Catanese (Black Label Society). They also showed another new SE, the Torero. This guitar features a number of PRS firsts: a neck-through-body design, a maple neck with an ebony fretboard, EMG pickups, and a Floyd Rose tremolo tailpiece.

PRS Dallas II head

PRS also unveiled their lineup of “Tuxedo” amplifiers, which feature classy-looking black and white tolex coverings. The new Tuxedos include the PRS 30 (English vibe), the Dallas II (50-watt workhorse), and the Texaplex (50-watt British inspired). Then there’s the “Handwired” family: the Super Dallas (Dallas on steroids), the Paul Reed Smith Signature (modified Original Sewell), the Original Sewell (same as the old version, in new tolex; previously it had a paisley covering), and the 25th Anniversary Amplifier (multidimensional vintage-inspired amp).

PEAVEY

Peavey announced several new electric guitar amplifiers at Winter NAMM. Leading the charge was the 6534+, a 2-channel high-gain amp head using EL34 tubes to deliver 120 watts of power. Six 12AX7 preamp tubes drive the front end. The Butcher uses four EL34s to crank out 100 watts, with five 12AX7 preamp tubes driving two channels for chest-thumping British tone. A built-in MSDI output emulates a microphone for easy connection to a recording or live sound console. Peavey also expanded the Vypyr family. First up is the Nano Vypyr, which is a battery-powered 15-watt combo featuring a 6.5″ speaker, with sophisticated line porting for projection, bass response, and volume. Other features include a mic input, a tuner, an aux-in, a headphone-out, and strap buttons. The other new Vypyr is the amazingly cute Vypyr 30 Head and Mini Stack, which includes a 30-watt head driving two specially voiced cabs, each loaded with a Blue Marvel speaker. The Vypyr 30 Head features 12 amp models, 11 “stompbox” models, 11 “rack” effects, and more.

On the software front, Peavey showed ReValver Mk III.V, the latest version of the popular amp-modeling software. Nine new amp and effects models are included.

Roland AC33

ROLAND

The AC-33 is a stereo acoustic guitar amp that runs on either AC or battery power. It delivers 2 x 15 watts (2 x 10 watts on battery) through twin 5″ speakers. It has reverb, chorus, and ambience effects plus an anti-feedback function. It also offers a built-in phrase looper with 30 seconds of record time, as well as a stereo auxiliary input for music players.

SEYMOUR DUNCAN

The Duncan booth was busy throughout the show, with celebrity autograph sessions and appearances. Three new signature pickups also put in appearances: the Blackouts EMTY (Mick Thomson of Slipknot), the Alnico II Pro Slash (Slash of Guns ‘n’ Roses and Velvet Revolver), and the YJM Fury (Yngwie J. Malmsteen). Other new items included the P-Rails Hot, the Vintage and Custom Staggered 7-string, the Custom 5 7-string, and the Full Shred 7-string.

SKB PS-8

SKB

The 3i series guitar cases provide military-strength protection – plus these guitar vaults are waterproof and air tight. They’re lightweight, with cushioned grip handles, patented trigger-release latches, and molded-in hinges. There are models to fit most popular guitar body styles.

SKB also introduced the PS-8 powered pedalboard, which is made from eco-friendly rubber-modified styrene. It offers eight 9-volt power ports, a 9 x 12″ pedal platform covered with hook-and-loop material for easy pedal mounting, and a heavy-duty carry back with a zipper pocket and an adjustable shoulder strap.

SQUIER

Two new Classic Vibe Telecasters were on display at the Squier booth: the Telecaster Custom, with an alder body featuring front and back binding, and the Telecaster Thinline, a mahogany semi-hollowbody with a maple neck/fingerboard. I had advance examples of each for review before the show, and there’s no doubt: Squier is making some of the best bang-for-your-buck guitars around.

TAYLOR

Taylor broke new ground in acoustic guitars with their exciting 8-string Baritone 8 acoustic model. This guitar has a deep rich sound, with extended low end that is complemented by the doubled D and G strings.

TC Electronic PolyTune

TC ELECTRONIC

Why waste time tuning one string at a time? With the TC PolyTune, just strum the six guitar strings, and the unit instantly displays the tuning of all six, allowing you to quickly make adjustments. TC showed me a prototype of this a few months before the show, and I was blown away by how well it works!

VISUAL SOUND

Looking for the mystique of boutique, but at a price you can afford? The new GarageTone pedals from Visual Sound feature the same buffer circuit and quality as the company’s “big” pedals, and they come in a rugged 18-gauge steel case. But the prices are stupid low! Five models were introduced: the Axle Grease delay, the Chopper tremolo, the Chainsaw distortion, the Drivetrain overdrive (based on the Reverend overdrive, which VS designed and manufactured for Reverend Guitars), and the Oil Can phaser.

VOX

The AG70 acoustic guitar amp has both solid-state and tube preamps, and both feature automatic feedback suppression, a 3-band EQ, an onboard tuner, and 75 watts of power into a 6.5″ speaker.

Vox AC30C2

The Custom Series amps include the AC15C1 (Celestion Greenback speaker), the AC30C2 (Celestion Greenback speaker), and the AC30C2X (Celestion Alnico Blues speaker). All the great AC15 and AC30 features from the past are still there, re-voiced for authentic vintage tone, plus modern features from the Custom Classic line have also been incorporated.

Vox also debuted three new series of electric guitars. The 77 Series is made up of semi-hollowbody instruments with sharp-pointed cutaways. The guitars have dual CoAxe pickups, each providing three distinct sounds. The new 55 Series solidbody guitars have either single- or double-cut designs, and utilize the same CoAxe 3-sound pickups. The 33 Series guitars also have either single- or double-cut bodies, with dual CoAxe pickups, and of any Vox guitar, they offer maximum value for your dollar.

WHIRLWIND

Whirlwind followed last year’s introduction of the Rochester series with the new TBM series. The first pedal in the new series is the ByrdBox, a combination compressor/treble booster designed to create either a chimey 12-string sound or the “Bakersfield” sound with a 6-string. The Commander 2 is an A/B footswitch with a built-in boost, a transformer-isolated DI, and a tuner. The tabletop WT1000 and pedal-style WT2000 tuners were also debuted.

Zoom G1u

ZOOM

One of these years, I’m going to do a NAMM report in reverse alphabetical order so that Zoom isn’t always last – because they’ve always got great products! For example, there’s the new G1u guitar multi-effects. It includes 30 drive tones, 67 effects, a looping function, a built-in drum machine, an onboard tuner, and even a USB interface for recording directly to a computer. (Ableton Live LT is included to get you started.)

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