After attending almost 40 NAMM shows over the past 22 years, this most recent one—held from January 19-22 in Anaheim, Calif.—somehow turned into my favorite. It had been three years since my last visit, and this time I just got to have fun visiting with old friends and take my time seeing all the new products. And as an overall take on the trade show this year, it seemed like everyone felt really good. There was renewed energy and a positive vibe in the air as the more than 95,000 attendees filtered through the exhibit halls.
For those of you who don’t know, NAMM stand for National Association of Music Merchants and is a trade show for all of the new instrument and gear manufacturers to show off their new products for all of the retailers and media. So it’s basically a 4-day ticket to Candyland for musicians and gear geeks.
This year, as I wandered through the maze of booths to say hi to people who had supported Performing Songwriter for so many years, I decided to pick my favorite things and tell you about them.
My first stop was by the Yamaha exhibit in the Marriott ballroom where I ran into Wayne Hrabek who showed me the new DXR Series Active Loudspeakers. The series offers an 8, 10, 12 & 15 model, and are all built with high performance, light weight and high output in mind. I listened to an 8-minute presentation of all four models and the sound was incredible. The DXR8 is perfect for a coffeehouse performance, for example, is super simple to set up and weighs only 28 pounds. Check ‘em out!
Next I headed upstairs in the convention hall to see my favorite Canadians at the Godin exhibit. Godin also makes Seagull guitars (which is the guitar I own and madly love), Multiac, Simon & Patrick and more. This year I was smitten with the cherry red 5th Avenue Uptown GT. Wow. Perfect neck, warm sound, and I looked really good playing it. Just sayin’…
Even cooler than that is the 5th Avenue series handpainted by the great Joseph Arthur, one of my favorite performing songwriters. There are 15 of these guitars finished thus far, and each one is insanely gorgeous and an incredible work of art. Check out Godin’s video for a 7-minute tour of all their new products at NAMM:
After I wandered downstairs and into the main convention area I ran into my friend Stacey Moran who now works for Blue Microphones. She showed me the coolest new Mikey Digital external stereo mic for iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch. It plugs right into your iPhone and uses the iOS audio app or the video camera. The possibilities of using your iPhone or iPad for studio use with the Mikey Digital could be an audio dream. (Check out the guitar audio clip.) It’s supposed to retail for $99 and should be available in a few months, so I’ll be sure to keep you posted.
Next stop was the ION Audio booth with more new products than I could get my head around, all incorporating iPhones and iPads. In other words, it was my kind of place. For just a quick spin, there was the Guitar Apprentice, a electric-guitar style controller into which you pop your iPad and play (with your iPic) or take lessons (using something like the Miso app). Same concept for Drum Apprentice and Piano Apprentice. Then there was the Pro Rocker, a compact speaker system for iPad and iPhone with a wireless mic, so you can use it for parties, events or anything else. Stay tuned for more on ION’s cool products—they have everything from speaker systems to audio conversion products, all iFriendly. I think I’m addicted.
The TC Helicon booth was in a frenzy with someone signing autographs when I stopped by—I still have no idea who she was. But I did manage to squeeze in for a second to check out their new VoiceLive Play that was being demoed. Very cool! It has hundreds of song and artist presets to get you inspired, effects for every genre of music, harmonies and looping. Check out the video on their site.
The Martin Guitar booth was non-stop hoppin’, and for good reason with their new products. The wonderful Diane Ponzio showed me around and let me fondle the gorgeous guitars that nearly made me drunk with joy. And I even got a chance to hug on Chris Martin, whom I met backstage at Telluride listening to Dan Fogelberg 19 years ago. He signed on as my very first advertiser for Performing Songwriter and kept that back cover for all 16 years and 118 issues.
The main event at the Martin booth was the new John Mayer custom guitar. It’s a 00-45 and only 25 have been made. Here he is introducing it:
They also had a gorgeous new D-28M Mamas and the Papas guitar that I could swear had all the harmonies built right in. Finally, I ogled the D-41 Purple Martin made of Madagascar Rosewood and Adirondack with the most intricate inlays. I was so beautiful I wouldn’t let myself touch it, and figured it was time to head to my next stop before I left my fingerprints on every guitar within reach.
Audio-Technica is celebrating their 50th Anniversary with some limited edition products, and the one that blew me away was the AT4050 Urushi multi-pattern condenser mic. It’s over-the-top beautiful, hand-painted Japanese maple leaves in urushi lacquer. It also has an etched-on serial number and a hand crafted wooden carrying case. Can you imagine how sweet that would look in your studio? Happy anniversary, Audio-Technica!
While moseying through one of the back sections of the convention center I ran into Amanda Whiting, one of my favorite people who is now with Universal Audio. She showed me their brand new Apollo, a hi-resolution audio interface with realtime UAD processing. It was mighty impressive, and makes a great-looking recording system for Macs & PCs with it’s Firewire/Thunderbolt interface. It also has DUO Core or QUAD Core processing onboard. If you’re an audio producer in search of great sound and an ultra-fast workflow, this might be your ticket.
I also ran into an old friend, Lloyd Trammel, who has invented Max Sound which you have to hear to believe. Basically the process take MP3s, turns them into hi-def recordings, and delivers them back in MP3 size. He’s been working mostly in the film industry, but is going to be doing more and more with songs you can simply upload. I’ll fill you in on more about Max Sound later, but for now put on some headphones and listen to this demo:
Next up was the TASCAM booth which had so many new buzz-worthy products that I’m just going to focus on the iXZ interface that turns your iPhone, iPad or iPod into a recording studio. Seriously. You just plug your mic, guitar or bass into the iXZ, and the iXZ into your iPhone, and hit record. It works with the PCM Recorder, a free app available in the iTunes store that has input and output level faders with an “on-screen” meter to help you check levels. Very, very cool. Sadly, after getting overwhelmed at all TASCAM’s other new products, I spilled an entire tin of mints in their booth. Little white dots rolling around all over the carpet. So sorry.
Finally, I ended my day at the Peavey booth where Jim Beaugez demoed the new AT-200 Guitar with auto-tune. It automatically tunes you guitar—pitch-perfect—with the touch of a button. It’s freaky. It monitors the precise pitch of each individual string and electronically makes any corrections necessary so that every note of every chord and riff is always in tune. And it’s even smart enough to know when you mean to manipulate the pitch. It’s pretty amazing, and I think Jim said it would be available in July. So stayed tuned for more on the AT-200.
Another cool product at Peavey was the AmpKit LiNK HD guitar interface, which connects into the dock of your iPhone/iPad/iPod . Use it with the AmpKit—the guitar amps, effects and recording app—and jam wherever you go. It will be available this summer, also.
At this point I ended my day by heading over to the Hilton Bar to join my friend Jon Jordon from Southern Audio Services (who makes the Woodees earphones and iPic I’ve talked so much about). He was having drinks with a man who turned out to be George Benson. I kid you not. Then we were joined by our Louisiana buddy Brandon Foster who used to work for St. Louis Music and now is with IK Multimedia, and the three of us had a great evening courtesy of Jon’s American Express card. It was the perfect way to end an absolutely perfect NAMM. Cheers!