2015 NAMM: Thursday Report

Thursday was a short day…at least in terms of time at the show.  My flight got in to SNA at about 12:30 so I didn’t get to the show until around 2pm.  Even so, I got to visit and chat with a number of folks.  I’ll break it down by gear category below.


I didn’t visit with many guitar manufacturers today.  Today’s meetings were in Hall A and Hall B and I didn’t get to walk by many exhibitors.  I stopped by Parker (since they made my #1) and peeked at a couple booths but only took this one pic of Morse at the EBMM booth.



I spent a fair bit of time chatting with Patrick Quilter of Quilter Labs.  He gets my “most oddly dressed award” for Thursday. It was interesting getting his take on what makes a tube amp sound tubey as well as getting the perspective of a guy whose company had to unlearn a number of lessons learned building PA gear when they returned to guitar amps.



I also got a pic of Dave Friedman



I stopped by the Blackstar booth and noticed that they’ve gone nuts with the ID line, going from mini practice amps, through the ID:Core to the full-size and more traditional ID lines.




I stopped by the Digitech booth and got to meet Tom (who goes by “Digitech Rep” in the discussion area.  I did get to hear the new Trio backing pedal in action. While it sounded cool, I’ll save any further commentary for tomorrow when I have my formal meeting with them and hopefully get some hands-on time with it.  As a teaser, I’ll share this picture that includes the “new” DOD 280 Compressor  (a reissue of the first stomp box I ever owned back in the early 80s) as well as the Earthshaker pedal, a dirt box featuring a parametric EQ for mondo tone shaping.  As with the Trio, I hope to get hands-on tomorrow.



I also spent a goodly bit of time at that Hotone (pronounced “hot tone”) booth.  There was a bit of buzz around their new XTOMP (more on that in the digital section) but I found that there was much more to report on.


As is clear from this picture of the top of a 4×12, the one theme among all the Hotone products is form factor.  The stomp boxes are smaller than pretty much anything you’re likely to see.   They have a line of 5W amps similar in concept to the ZVex Nano Amp.  The Hotone versions don’t use tubes but they do have a line out with speaker simulation that can be used for recording.  The orange pedal on the left front is a volume/wah/expression pedal that’s about the size of a regular stomp box.  I wouldn’t mind seeing how that might work as an extra/spare expression pedal with my AxeFx.

Since the Hotone pedals have a peculiar size, they decided to offer a special pedalboard for the pedals. Seems to me that this could be used to assemble the Hotone pedals into a rig comparable in size (though a fair bit taller) to a Tech 21 Fly Rig.


Speaking of Tech 21, I did drop by their booth.  They didn’t have anything new on hand besides posters of their upcoming compressor pedal.  On the plus side, they did have Dug Pinnick rocking out on his signature bass amps.


As requested, I also paid a visit to Moog.  Today they introduced new Flanger and Chorus pedals to the Minifooger line, which also got some updated cosmetics.




Digital / Modeling Gear

As I mentioned earlier, the new XTOMP pedal provided the impetus for my visit to Hotone.  As with the company’s other offerings, the XTOMP has unusual dimensions: namely its height.  It doesn’t rise far off the floor.  Overall, the matte metal and blue lights (on the footswitch and any active knobs) give it something of a TC Electronics or Apple vibe.  The XTOMP is a single effect (at a time) stomp box than can loaded with other functions via Bluetooth.  Hotone claims to have 300+ boxes already modeled and those models are included with the price of the device.


Of course we can’t forget about Kemper‘s new Profiling Remote foot controller.  My buddy John Huldt is demoing at the Kemper booth and he gave me a quick run-through of the pedal. It connects to the KPA with a single Ethercon or Cat-5 cable.  In addition to being able to switch presets, it has four switches for turning effects on/off.  Interestingly, multiple effects can be associated with a switch (I believe on a per-preset basis) allowing for groups of effects to be turned on and off similar to scenes in the AxeFx.  The KPR also has a looper mode (I don’t know what the record time is) and a tuner.  The tuner function has three always-active LEDs that’ll get you in the neighborhood.  When in “tuner mode” the display switches from displaying the active blocks to a linear tuner display.


Pro Audio / Other

My one scheduled meeting of the afternoon (after Sennheiser blew me off) was with Zivix, a company than has a MIDI/Wifi bridge but wanted to talk to me about Jamstik.  Jamstik is a guitar-like wireless (Wifi or Bluetooth) MIDI controller.  Rather than doing pitch to MIDI, it senses contact with the frets to determine where a string is fretted.  It has an array of IOS apps for guitar instruction (I suspect I’ll get one to game-ify my son’s learning of guitar) and can also be used as a MIDI controller with a DAW.  When used with Garage Band on IOS, it offers an interesting way to have a travel-friendly “guitar rig”.

Fans of the 11R will be disappointed to know that, while Avid considers it an active product, they’re not promoting it here at all.

I stopped by Wi Digital Systems and learned about their new wireless monitoring setup (eliminate XLR running from mixer to power amp/powered monitor) and IEMs.  I’m a lousy judge of IEMs because my ears are a funky fit (thank goodness for custom molded IEMS!) but they seemed to sound pretty good, at least comparable to the Westones I sampled earlier.  There’s also been some discussion of Wi’s older wireless monitoring systems.  The specs indicate serious potential for latency issues but I might see if I can get my hands on a review unit to try with my band.

Speaking of my band, I’m planning on getting a Behringer XR18 digital mixer for my band.  It would provide for individualized IEM monitor mixes as well as easy recording of rehearsals and gigs with its 18×18 audio interface.  Though this had a sticker on the bottom saying “Engineering Prototype”, it’s small and surprisingly lightweight.



Last but not least, I figured I’d catch some grief if I didn’t offer up at least one of these pix. There weren’t any booth babes hanging around the pro audio sites.  Tomorrow, I’ll probably find more as I visit more guitar exhibitors.

EyeCandy2 EyeCandy