by Alec Lee
I spent much of Friday in the upper levels of the convention center where many of the larger guitar manufactures have their exhibits.
Amps & Cabs
I had a meeting set up with Evan (a.k.a., MasterEvan07) from Fryette and he showed me some of the cool stuff that they had on hand at the show. On the Fryette side, they had the Valulator GP/DI, which is way different from the old VHT with the similar name. The GP/DI offers a flexible guitar preamp with gain controls for two different gain stages, allowing the user greater control over the nature of the overdrive. It also has a speaker simulator for running direct to FOH or into a recording interface. He also walked me through the Power Station, a reactive load / power amp enabling users to re-amp their rigs to manage volume or transform a cranked low-wattage amp into what is effectively a 50 watt rig. Finally, there was the Power Load, combining the reactive load of the Power Station with the speaker simulation of the GP/DI.
On the Sound City side, they have the Sound City 30, a 30W combo version of their larger amps.
A few years ago, I helped George Metropoulos with some tech issues on his web site (http://www.metropoulos.net). It was nice to finally meet him in person. This year, he's introduced the SuperPlex, a head based on the JTM45/100 for those seeking a sweeter tone that that of the MetroPlex. It runs KT66's in the power section at a somewhat lower voltage than the Marshall that inspired it to give a less strident top end.
Boss is very much enamored of the Katana. I finally got a chance to sit down with one and try out a head. It probably sounds much better through a guitar cab but the speaker simulator in the device had the sizzle that seems to be something of a trademark in Boss modeling products.
This modular FX unit from Liberatoe has a variety of modules (24 at the current time) and packages them in a tidy little package.
Your Heaven Audio has a new product for micing acoustic instruments. You do some prep (they call it "profiling" the instrument) and then their mic will provide an "in the room" sounding signal to the mixer/interface. It seems to work well (sounds way better than any piezo) and the guitar version offered very good isolation in the din of Hall D (D is for "Drums").
After much wrangling, I finally was able to see the mysterious HeadRush modeler from InMusic. To date, there was precious little info on the device. Here are my impressions: Physically, it's a little smaller than Helix (mainly front to back). The touch screen looks great and the UI is very responsive. Mike (the demo guy) let me set up a couple presets from scratch and it was super easy to add/modify blocks as well as recording them. Foot switches are programmable on a per-preset basis and colors are user-selectable. There's also a Helix-like hand-free edit mode so you can tweak tones while the device is on the floor. An editor app is planned but not currently available.
Okay, Alec. Enough about the pretty stuff, how does it sound? I thought it sounded pretty good. Mike's presets were pretty wet with effects so when given the chance, I dialed up a preset with a plexi into a cab and nothing else. It sounded pretty much what I'd expect from a quality modeler in 2017 that has the benefit of IRs. The response to picking dynamics seemed good from what I could tell in a room where DJ gear was also getting demoed. I did something similar with a Vox model and thought it was good. I can confirm that their claims of gapless preset switching are true and was told (but did not test) that the device offers spillover.
The big thing that was missing from my demo experience was a Product Manager. First, there was the brain damage around getting into the room. It took a lot of time and effort on my part through multiple channels to get on their schedule. Mike could do a nice demo but nobody in the room could answer technical questions such as the processor(s) used and the number of samples used by IRs. Mike mentioned that the modeling algos "had their math rewritten". Reading between the lines, it sounds like the algos are pretty much what was in the 11R with perhaps higher precision floating point arithmetic and higher internal sample rates.
As the videos indicate, the product is oriented towards artists in modern genres. While the device does have a lot of classic tones, I suspect that many of the enhancements will be oriented towards less traditional players. That doesn't limit its ability to service traditional players but could offer some "interesting" features going forward.
LSL Instruments introduced they XT3, a mahogany bodied S-style guitar. It has a roasted flame maple neck and nitro finish. Instruments are build to order with an estimated 6 week lead time.
Fender / FMIC
Iconic / BC Audio / Henrietta had a cool booth. I was impressed by Henrietta's Pete Cornish-like board made from his micro set & forget pedals.
Schecter seemed to have more traditional shapes than in recent years.
Strandberg revamped their product line with roasted maple and some other hardware changes.
Zemaitis had the coolest (IMO) guitar frames.
ZW guitars on display at the Schecter exhibit.