NAMM 2020 Recap

TGP News

It’s the second half of January and that can only mean one thing to gear nerds: the NAMM Show. TGP spent three days at the show and here’s what we saw and categorized under Trends, Commends, Friends, and Attends.

Anaheim Convention Center

Trends

More Guitars Defy Tradition: Features like headless designs, fanned frets, radically different body shapes aren’t the norm yet but they don’t seem quite so weird, either.

Guitar FX Builders Create Eurorack Effects: I was a bit surprised by the Eurorack cases in guitar FX booths as companies like Meris and Earthquaker.

IR’s Are Everywhere!: From $99 pedals to studio outboard gear to top-shelf amps, IR’s have expanded beyond the realm of DAWs and modelers.

Pedalboard Integration: We’re seeing more companies create pedalboards that are designed to integrate with their pedals. Not only do the pedals just snap on to the board but power and signal are routed automatically.

Commends

Alexander Pedals introduced the crazy SuperBall modulation/delay, the Magnolia drive, and the Super Neo-Matic.

Asken Guitars

Bad Cat introduced the pint-sized Paw amp. Its sounds great pumping 60W through its internal 2×6 speakers but also supports IRs for recording or running direct to FOH.

Balaguer had its broad range of guitars on hand from the traditional or something a little more eccentric.

The Beetronics booth catches my attention every time I walk by.

Chase Bliss had their Blooper and CXM 1978 reverb (collaboration with Meris).

The Claas booth had some striking guitars. No question that their necks are solidly attached to the body.

CSL Sophia has some amazing bridges and trem blocks. They have models that can drop in to Floyd or Strat routes and have aftermarket blocks with built-in stabilizers and global adjustment (a la Schaller Sure Claw).

EAE had an interesting 4-channel mixer pedal with EQ, compression, etc. for each channel. Seems like it could be useful for individual IEM mixes in addition to pedals.

Earthquaker’s booth is always a hotspot

Empress had a clever Lego theme

ESP had their usual dazzling NAMM specials on display

The father of Fire Hose Strap’s creator was a firefighter and he chose this unique and durable material to make his straps.

Floyd Rose introduced a new saddle-less bass bridge. The intent is to maximize coupling with the body and based on our experience with the $99 bass they installed it on, it seems to work.

Gigatone unveiled their USB guitar plug interface. Bus-powered, it’s a guitar plug with a USB-C output. You couldn’t come up with a more compact way to use amp sim plugins. Estimated to ship this summer.

My first reaction to the Go pedal board was that it’s a nice sturdy aluminum board. It wasn’t until I saw the back of the board that I appreciated its innovation. Using standard rack panel cutouts, the board can have a custom patch bay built into the board. The only proprietary part is the CE-approved power module. Lightweight (surprisingly so) hard cases and padded soft cases are available.

IdeaBench has some cool rounded pedalboards. These have a serious hot rod vibe from the hood locks used to keep it closed to the colors they offer. Soft case is available.

I wasn’t able to meet with our own OKhan at his booth but I did get some pictures

Portland’s Saul Koll always has some cool stuff at his booth. This year, he featured guitars made from Oregon woods as well as a new amp.

I missed out on the Line 6 party due to a conflict but stopped by to check out the Pod GO and chat with Frank Ritchotte.

Last month Lok-n-Roll released its compensated locking nuts. If you’ve played a guitar with a compensated nut, you probably understand what a big deal this is. They’re going to be standard equipment on Floyd-equipped Friedman guitars (built by Grover Jackson) and I suspect other premium Floyd guitars will be getting them soon.

Martper Guitars look like something from the Star Wars universe

Meris was showing off their new CXM 1978 reverb pedal as well as their Eurorack modules. I really enjoyed playing the Enzo synth through the 1978!

Neunaber launched the Seraphim shimmer pedal, Wet reverb, and Echelon echo.

The Neural DSP booth was constantly mobbed by people checking out their Quad Cortex prototypes, plugins, and Darkglass hardware.

Nexi was one of the pedal companies with pedalboard integration. Not only does it handle attachment, power, and routing, the board has a tuner, solo boost, and cab sim/DI built in. They offer acoustic, bass, and electric models with 4 and 8 pedal capacity. They also offer pads allowing non-Nexi pedals to integrate. Pedals are quite reasonable at $99 while pads are $25.

Poly Effects is a company from Melbourne, Australia creating an outrageous delay / reverb / modulation pedal. It has the ability to do convolution reverb, has a touchscreen, and offers four signal paths (including inputs and outputs) that enable incredibly complex routing. It also has an impressive array of LFOs and other parameter modifiers such as ADSR.

PRS had their usual lovely booth on the second floor. To commemorate 35 years of business, they released a number of anniversary models ranging from the SE line to the Custom Stock Dragon.

As someone who’s owned a few Rivera amps, I had to stop by Paul’s booth.

Source Audio keeps on building innovative pedals with significant input from the TGP community. New this year are the EQ2 and Collider delay/reverb. The EQ2 has adjustable frequency bands and two separate signal paths, each with its own boost/cut settings. That could be super useful for pre/post EQ in one box.

Siger builds carbon fiber guitars. As you can see from the back of the red guitar, they body and neck are hollow.

Tom Cram had his Spiral Effects pedals on display. New this year was the Red Spiral Drive (something of a successor to the Looking Glass also built in collaboration with Shoe) and the White Spiral Boost.

Strandberg had some 10th Anniversary models on display along with new Prog and Original neck-thru models to complement the current Fusion and Metal neck-thru guitars. They also introduced the first production True Temperament guitars.

Strymon

Suhr. Would’ve said hello to John but he was pretty busy when we stopped by.

Visionary Instruments works hard to live up to its name. From its dazzling video guitar to its MIDI controls (including a MIDI “whammy bar”), their guitars have functionality like nothing else out there. They had the MIDI bar set up to control the pitch effect on an AxeFx, providing up to two octaves of pitch change up and down.

Lots of interesting stuff coming out of Portland these days. One of the newest is Wang Amps. Eddie Wang is a college professor applying his knowledge to amp design. His amps have a Variac-like circuit to attenuate power to get tasty drive tones at even NAMM-friendly volume. The amps have three switchable voicings to get you Fender, Vox, and Marshally tones from a single box.

Friends

One cool thing about covering NAMM is having a set of great folks that you see (about) once a year. I work with DGTCrazy and Scott Peterson daily moderating TGP but our face-to-face interaction is infrequent. I got to hang out with Brian from Guitar Workshop Plus (an amazing program and a heckuvalot of fun) as also ran into Brian from The Guitar Sanctuary. I always check in with Eppo and Yolanda, who come all the way from the Netherlands. Their Chicken Picks are awesome and they’re lovely people too! Last but not least is Frank from Line 6, a guy who most TGP digital folks know but few are fortunate enough to hang out with regularly. There are others that I didn’t get pictures (or enough time) with, too.

Attends

While NAMM is about seeing music gear, the NAMM Show is an amazing opportunity to hear great music. While in SoCal I caught performances by Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, Larry Mitchell, Travis Larson, Animals as Leaders, Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani, Nita Strauss, Paul Gilbert and a bunch more.

That’s about it for now. Hope 2020 is a great year for gear and look forward to checking back next January!