NAMM 2010 – That’s a Wrap!!!
Holy crap…..NAMM 2010! Anaheim, California…..I’m still not right….!!! It has been about one week since I returned from “gear shangri-la” and I feel in some ways like I am still there. My man Todd Hamilton and I shot a whole bunch of video & pics and I am just now finished with editing, uploading and sharing some of the coolest things I saw at NAMM 2010. Oh, believe me…there were tons more things that I saw and did not shoot and tons more I did not even see. This is like the mother of all shows here in the U.S.A. and you could not see all of just the guitar gear in 4 days. I was only there for 3 days and I must admit that even as much energy and enthusiasm I have for guitars and everything related I was a bit spent at the end of Day 3. I could have totally toughed out Day 4 though 😉 I apologize for the very long winded diatribe of everything I saw but I wanted try to share some of the highlights along with some pics.
We started out in the press box on Day 1 with the map and a plan. I actually had some appointments with selected manufacturers scheduled ahead of time. That definitely made life easier! It took a little while to get the lay of the land inside and correlate that to the map but once we got it we were off! I was on a mission to see some manufacturers that I always wanted to meet with and also visit some that you guys asked me to check out for you. I apologize if I could not get to every one’s request because NAMM is that big and as the days went on it really got more crowded.
Some of my gear highlights started with my visit with ZT Amplifiers. I am a huge fan of Ken Kantor and his amazing little ZT Lunchbox amps. He is a really nice guy and very smart. He and the ZT team have some cool things cooking up for 2010 and beyond.
The next release due out in mid-February is the ZT Club amp. 12″ speaker, 200 watts, separate bass & treble controls and nice sounding reverb. I have one for review and it kicks butt! It is more than loud enough on a gig and sounds great with archtop jazz guitars.
In March we should see that little Lunchbox Acoustic amp which has 2 channels and the same basic size and power of a Lunchbox. Then hopefully later this year Ken tells me a Lunchbox type bass amp should be born! I know lots of bass players who would love that one!! ZT Amplifiers.
Another really cool amp I found out about on Twitter of all places is Kevin Frazier’s Grid 1 Audio amps. These are very unique because they are battery powered (not so unique) but they are 60 watts and have vacuum tubes…..(very unique)! I played the BPT212 amp and it sounded awesome. Very warm and sweet sounding with one of the best sounding analog, non-spring reverbs I ever heard. Plenty of volume for a gig and you can play 4-6 hours on a single charge.
The amp is very light and uses Eminence Tonkerlite speakers which keep the overall weight down as well as sounding fantastic. I really liked this amp and Kevin is another really nice guy and is very smart. Grid 1 Audio.
One builder that I absolutely had to meet was Juha Ruokangas. I became aware of his guitars a few years ago and I have been following him ever since. I have done a few interviews with him and posted all his video diary installments of his Unicorn guitar build.
Juha’s guitars are almost other-worldly because of the off the chart build quality and his unique choice of materials. One unique material is Moose shin bone for the nut. Not moose nuts….moose shin bone. Juha tells me that the shin bone of a moose is very dense and has an oily property to it and when cut properly the guitar strings slide quite easily through it. An interesting side-note is that every so often an entire moose shin is dropped off at the Ruokangas guitar building facility. The shin is in its raw form and has to be skinned and then boiled. Now Juha’s wife, Emma, is a vegetarian and has to help with this process which she finds not very pleasant. After it is skinned it is boiled and taken to a local butcher to be cut into usable sizes. Talk about going to lengths for your products!!!
Juha also has a brand new website and a revolutionary iphone app for his guitars. This is the cutting edge and you can check it out on his website!! Ruokangas Guitars.
John Piccurrello and his brother Bo were there showing their new Hanson guitar lineup for 2010. John and Bo are not newcomers to the guitar industry. No sir….not at all. Both were heavily involved with the Lakland bass guitar company.
The two brothers bring a lot of experience to the table with their products and I really liked these guitars especially the unnamed Tele type guitar. That guitar ROCKED!!
All of the new Hanson guitars have an Italian flare to them and are very comfortable to hold and play. Really nice guitars!!!! Hanson Guitars.
On of the absolute coolest things I saw at the 2010 NAMM show was the new Flux Density Modulation speaker by Eminence. This revolutionary new speaker blew my mind!
Basically the new Flux Density Modulation (FDM) speaker model is a speaker with a built-in attenuator! This is a total game changer in my opinion because so many of us love our amps but they end up being too loud for some situations. With the new Eminence FDM speaker you can actually use the dial on the back of the speaker’s magnet like an attenuator. Some players cringe when they hear the word “attenuator” but let me tell you something this does not sound or feel like any attenuator I’ve ever played. The reason it sounds and feels better than an attenuator is because it’s a speaker!
So imagine getting to your gig and your amp is a bit too loud. You just reach around back and crank it down until the volume is right in the pocket. Genius! If on the next gig you need a little more volume you just readjust. Oh, but what if you are using a sealed back cabinet like a 4×12 box you ask. Well, I’m here to tell you that Eminence is working on that as we speak and they assure me that this will not be an issue.
There will be two models to start according to Anthony Lucas. The Reignmaker which is part of the Red Coat Series and the Maverick, part of the Patriot Series. Both models will be available in 8 ohms and be able to handle close to 100 watts. I can’t wait to demo one!!! Eminence Speakers.
Voyage-Air Guitars were on my list of manufacturers to visit with and I found them downstairs where the atmosphere was much more calm and not nearly as loud. It was almost a break from the show……almost!
I met up with Michael Ferrucci and Wes Lem and they introduced me to Harvey Leach who designed the folding hinge for these guitars. Oh, didn’t I mention that the Voyage-Air guitars fold in half for travel??? Yes, you heard me these guitars fold in half! The design is awesome, they sound fabulous and play really easy. They have one of the most comfortable acoustic guitar necks I have ever felt. Voyage-Air Guitars.
I actually did a review on the VAD-06 a few weeks ago and it really knocked me out! Click here for the review. It is everything they said it was and more. And get this….they are coming out with folding solid-body electric guitars soon! These are great guitars, period. The fact that they fold in half for travel is a bonus!
Did you know that this guy Thomas Nilsen makes some really great pickups in Norway? Yep, he makes the Cream T pickups and I hooked up with Thomas on…….you guessed it….Twitter! We had been “tweeting” back and forth and I found out that he would be at NAMM and his pickups would be in a Brazen guitar.
Now first of all Norway is way out of the way as compared to California and it is like -20 degrees over there or something at this time of year. I guess there’s nothing else to do except stay inside and wind pickups. My man Todd could probably think of a few other things but that’s another subject! Anyway, Thomas had a set of humbuckers mounted in a Brazen guitar that was made of one-piece of mahogany….the entire guitar was one piece. It was light, had a beautiful tone, played unbelievably well and seemed very versatile. The Cream T pickups sounded detailed and balanced with that sort “zingy” sound on the top end.
Incidentally Thomas has a unique way of hand winding his pickups so they do not need to be wax potted which was very interesting to me. I believe that wax dampens the vibey-ness of a pickup but when you are playing at higher gain setting then potting is a necessary evil. The Rev. Billy F. Gibbons is using the Cream T pickups now so they have to be good…don’t take my word for it. Besides….he’s a reverend! Great guitar and great pickups! Brazen Guitars. Cream T Pickups.
I have gotten many emails about the Luna guitars that I made a post about a few months ago. So while I was at NAMM I was able to see the guitars and the founder of Luna guitars herself, Yvonne deVilliers. Yvonne is a renowned stained glass artist and her mom was a full time working musician playing the bass for many years. Yvonne was literally brought up around music her whole life.
The Luna guitars are just a beautiful sight to see plus they play and sound as good as they look! Luna’s marketing man, Dennis Stafford, talked to me for a while about the company. You get a strong sense of Luna’s goal which is truly wanting to build and provide wonderful instruments for guitar players to express themselves with. Luna makes some killer little ukulele’s too! Luna Guitars.
Chess Lim whom I met back at the NY Amp Show in May of 2009 was at NAMM with his Attitube G20 and Shaman guitar. This is a hot setup for many reasons. First, the amp is all point to point hand wired. Second, the transformers were designed by Chess’ father who has decades of transformer design experience. Third, the amp has a proprietary original designed speaker. Fourth, the amp comes with a foot-pedal attenuator!
Then there is the Shaman guitar. This is just about my favorite modern type electric guitar for many reasons including; the build quality is superb, the fretwork is some of the best I have seen, it is light and balances perfectly while standing or sitting and the tone is awesome! Those of you who follow me know that I’m a more rootsy traditional guitar guy. Give me an old Tele and I’m happy but this guitar is really a great combination of materials and design formulating an excellent players guitar in the end. I cannot specifically say in great detail what it is about the Shaman and G20 (maybe it’s just good old fashioned mojo) but this combination ROCKS! Oh, and the friendly price will knock you out of your chair…!! Attitube & Shaman website.
Another cool value guitar was by a company named Anthem. I played one model that was based on a LP and I was pleasantly surprised. I have to say that all the manufacturers at the NAMM show are really on their game as far as products go. Everything I played and heard was very good or better and Anthem was no exception.
The model I played which I believe was the PST20 in a solid color green finish was of excellent build quality, played great out of the box (literally) and sounded fantastic. These would make a superb beginner electric guitar that a player could grow into for many years. They would also make a great second guitar. Let’s say you have your main guitar like a Strat with single coil pickups. An Anthem PST20 would be a very affordable choice for a guitar with full size humbuckers to get that LP sound. You get more tools in the tone toolbox for not a lot of money.
Great feeling neck, very unique looking hardware, lightweight and the pickups have a coil-tap switch. Another great application for these guitars would be to set one up dedicated for slide! How’s that for a tool in the tone toolbox? Anthem Guitars.
You want amps? There were amp makers there by the ton! Steve Carr of Carr amps was debuting his new Artemus model. This is a killer amp and pairs up with a Tele like nobody’s business. The Tele/Artemus combinations made me feel right at home and I could have played that rig all day.The new Artemus has great texture and cuts with a little bit of a bark. I liked it!!
Steve is a nice guy and has several other models that are equally as great sounding. His booth also made me feel at home with the faux fireplace….! Carr Amplifiers.
Bob Burriss of Burriss Amps had a nice assortment of heads and combos with him at the NAMM show. I played the Dirty Red and Royal Bluesman. Both amps have an awesome tone and feel. Both platforms use EL84 tubes but I really thought they were 6V6 amps. They did not have an EL84 sound at all to me. Very dynamic, juicy and fat while still retaining excellent clarity and note separation. The reverb and tremolo on the Royal Bluesman were very warm sounding. Another nice guy who is very smart living his passion. You gotta love that. Burriss Amps.
While we’re talkin’ amps I got to check out Henry Clift’s Jaguar amps. It was actually Thomas Nilson from Cream T pickups who told me about them right there at the NAMM show! I played the Jaguar Twin which has a pair of EL34’s for output tubes. This was another amp that fooled me into thinking it had different output tubes than I thought. I played an Outlaw Guitars Tele type through it and again this was a great combination. Fat, juicy and because of the 2×12 Greenbacks this amp breathed with a nice big presence. But at the same time did over step it’s sonic boundaries. This would be a great amp in a medium sized venue. Jaguar Amps.
Criss-crossing the NAMM floor I stopped by to see Chris DiPinto of DiPinto Guitars. These are some of the coolest looking, retro styled guitars I have seen. But besides being retro cool looking the DiPinto guitars played and sounded phenomenal. They had a sort of relaxed feel to me in both playability and overall feel of the instrument itself. Who says that style has to be uncomfortable, huh?
These are real lookers but you can definitely get some cool tones from them. Chris told me that he was always into older kitschy-cool looking guitars but being a lefty it was hard, if not impossible to find one. So what’s a lefty guitar player supposed to do if he can’t find what he wants? Build it himself of course….duh!! So that’s just what he did. He built a matching guitar and bass for his band and some players in the audience asked him to build some more and the rest is history. DiPinto Guitars.
This is another guitar that took me by surprise and knocked me for a loop. This is the Blackbird Guitars Super OM model. Let me tell you something…. This guitar is awesome despite its unconventional look. The Super OM is made of carbon fiber and there is not a splinter of wood on it anywhere!!
I was blown away at how much it resonates and that it actually has a hollow neck with a small soundhole in the headstock! The body conforms to your torso perfectly and the neck is super comfortable to play. Because it is made of carbon fiber it is impervious to the elements which would probably make it a good touring guitar especially if you were doing a lot of outdoor shows. If the looks sort of bother you and you can get past them you will find an unbelievable guitar. I kinda like the looks myself….! Thanks to Jeremy from Blackbird for taking us up 4 floors to the quiet zone to check it out!!! Blackbird Guitars.
There were many more delights at the NAMM show than I can’t even remember and I am so glad I took video, pics and hand written notes! Some more highlights for me were; Seeing Paul Pigat serve up some really heated rockabilly at the Fender/Gretsch booth, seeing Ted Nugent play the Star Spangled Banner, meeting some really great people & manufacturers, stumbling upon Joey DeFrancesco at the Yamaha booth, hooking up with Loni Specter of “The Amp Show”, trying out all kinds of gear for three straight days, my live ustream shows and some awesome Mexican food.
A few other folks worth mentioning are Jeff McAlack from Source Audio, Dale Krevens and Andrew Barta from Tech 21, Andres from Fernandes Guitars, Paul Patronete and Paul C. from Mercury Magnetics and so many others (I feel like I’m on the Grammy podium…).
So everyone I’d just like to say thank you very much for sharing the 2010 NAMM Show with me! It was a lot of work at times but overall an amazing experience. And thanks to my family, my man Todd Hamilton and all you guys that visit me here at 300guitars every day rain or shine. You all make this adventure not only possible but rewarding as hell. Thanks and we’ll do it again next year….!