The annual NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Show in Anaheim California is the premier occasion for Musical Instrument manufactures to unveil their new products to the world. With hundreds of exhibitors to check out, over 100,000 musicians descended upon the show this year for the chance to be the first to see and play with these new toys. While you can check out the full list of NAMM show releases here, we challenged our Sam Ash staff to choose their favorites from the show across all product categories. So without further delay, these are our Best of Namm Sam Ash Selections:
Drums and Percussion:
Like most people, when I think of Meinl cymbals these days I think bigger, darker and washier because of their wildly successful Byzance series. Thanks to their new “Pure Alloy” series, Meinl will have a much wider sound pallet to offer than ever before. This new series really has it all – the hi-hats (available in 14” and 15”) while blissfully crisp, can cut through many situations/styles of music when played hard and open. The crashes (available in 16”,18” and 20”) react immediately to the touch and rise to thunderous roars when you lean into them. The rides (available in 20” and 22”) are so sonically clear and articulate with any kind of stick type – these things are truly versatile.
Just when I thought there was every type of drum head available, Evans comes along with their new UV1 drum heads and adds something different to the mix. The UV1’s are a single-ply head that have a special/proprietary coating which offers extended head life with no chipping/flaking. The 10mil single ply offers a much more open sound with a wider tuning range that is not as susceptible to denting like many other tom/snare batter heads. These are available for tom, snare and floor tom sizes. Most drummers today are expected to play a wide range of musical styles; from Country Music to Broadway tunes, Bossa Novas to Blast beats, Rock to Reggae – these drums heads can do it all in one night, night after night!
I was very surprised to find that the M-240E Troubadour emanates full-bodied tone that belies its diminutive size. The M-240E’s natural acoustic tone is brilliant, but a whole other world opens up with the DeArmond ToneBoss soundhole pickup. The mahogany neck has a comfortable profile; making it an absolute joy to play. This is a highly recommended, versatile guitar.
This Fender Jazzmaster is not only a looker with its eye-catching finish, but it offers the best of classic and contemporary, which I really appreciate as a guitarist. The new neck shape coupled with narrow-tall frets make this guitar incredibly comfortable and playable. I also love that warm vintage voice, and the newly designed V-Mod pickups really nail that classic sound.
The Supro Hampton is truly the best of both worlds when it comes to offering the best of the old and the new. The classic ’60-style Ozark body design and trio of Gold Foil pickups ooze vintage appeal and sound, which is great for someone like me who really appreciates a nice old-school instrument. The Hampton is incredibly comfortable to hold and play, and it has the sonic versatility to tackle pretty much any genre you throw at it.
At first I was apprehensive about the Multi-Scale design of the RGIM7MH, but I quickly adapted. This unique fretboard layout, combined with the Mono-Rail bridge system, provides perfect tension for all 7 strings. The dual EMG’s deliver the exact tone I’m looking for. This RG style 7-string excels whether I’m playing clean or with full-on Gain. The Nitro Wizard 5-piece Maple/Bubinga neck is classic Ibanez all the way.
What I really love about the new American Pro P-Bass is that it’s so obviously a modern bass but still retains that timeless Fender sound and playability that we’ve all come to know and love over the years. The early ‘60s-style neck and its satin back finish really give this a smooth classic feel, and the V-Mod split-coil pickups dish out an incredibly clear vintage sound.
Amplifiers and Effects
The Orange Rocker Series amps are incredibly versatile all-tube combos. Both the Rocker 15 and Rocker 32 feature a unique two-channel design, and come equipped with Orange’s exclusive Voice of the World Gold Label speakers. What I really like about the Rocker Series models are that they work extremely well with my pedals thanks to their valve buffered FX loops. The FX loop on the Rocker 32 even offers mono or stereo operation, which I think is an awesome, highly-usable feature for guitarists who depend on their pedalboard. What I also love about these Rocker Series combos is that they offer Full and Half power modes, which allows me to adjust the wattage to whatever fits the situation—whether I’m jamming in my room, recording in the studio, or playing a gig.
If you’re a guitarist or bassist who loves experimenting with different sounds, lo and behold the Electro-Harmonix Blurst! I love the fact that the Blurst gives you plenty of tonal control all on its own, but when used with other EHX pedals like Next Step Expression Pedal or the 8-Step Program, you have even more control over your sound. The sonic possibilities are nearly endless with the Blurst!
I was in the market for a reverb pedal, but I got way more than what I bargained for with the JHS VCR Ryan Adams Signature Pedal. The warmth of the hall reverb effect was exactly what I was looking for. The chorus sounds lush, and the boost option is the icing on the cake. Each effect has its own on/off toggle, and the variety of tones seem endless!
Brass and Woodwinds:
The MANTRA Soprano Sax has to be considered one of the best sopranos to hit the market in some time. I would have to describe the sonic character as full, flat, and round, playing more like a tenor than your standard Soprano would. With features including improved ergonomics, a beautiful dark lacquer, “shark skin” interior, and improved bore, this enlightened horn offers an expressive experience that any player is sure to fall in love with.
Yamaha’s phenomenal Custom G Series Bb clarinet has been completely re-imagined into one of the most elegant instruments on the market. It’s 100% granadilla wood body features a brand new bell and barrel design delivering a rich, deep, extremely expressive sound with lots of overtones. The redesigned keys, featuring an improved Eb lever and Low E/F mechanism, are plated in a proprietary process and ergonomically designed making an instrument a player can truly become one with.
This new MPC is a great standalone controller if you want to separate yourself from the computer and offers premium portability thanks to a lightweight casing and 6 hour rechargeable battery. The workflow is bolstered by the 7 inch multi touch display which works well in conjunction with great feeling tactile encoders and the dynamic pressure and velocity sensitive pads. Not only can the MPC live run the powerful MPC2.0 software but it also offers over 16GB of internal storage.
The first thing I noticed about the sleek Roland RD200 was the incredible feel of the PHA50 Progressive Hammer Action Keybed. Then I was floored by the massive sound ensemble which is powered by both Roland’s V Piano Technology for authentic acoustic sounds and the SuperNatural based sound engine for the classic, exotic and vintage. Also featured are a USB Audio /MIDI interface allowing for seamless integration of the internal sounds with computer based software instruments.
I love the compact design of the Samson QH4 and the look of this beautiful device goes great with my other home studio gear. With four independent high power amplifier channels operating between 16 and 600 Ohms, the audio sounds great with almost no noise and a nice wide dynamic range. The top mounted controls are ultra-convenient when you need to make quick adjustments. Another real solid feature is the master volume and mute switch. The useful Mono button lets you test your tracks to ensure compatibility with mono speaker systems.
Around here, Sennheiser Wireless is known for flawless sound and ultra-reliable performance. These are both now attainable to all performers with the release of the XSW-1 Handheld Wireless system. Featuring the custom E-825 capsule for superior feedback rejection and natural vocal response, the XSW-1 is all about streamlined operation. I love that I can scan for the optimal channel with 1 touch on the receiver and then sync my transmitter to match the channel wirelessly. I’m glad I can use up to 10 systems simultaneously as I will picking up many of these in the near future.
When the DDJ-SZ burst onto the scene a few years ago it was the most full featured DJ controller to ever hit the market. Thankfully this new version makes upgrading worth it thanks to a new built in sequencer that works perfectly with Serato’s FLIP remixing tool. You will also enjoy the streamlined access to other new Serato features such as Pitch n’ time. Im a huge fan of the new Oscillator which lets you overlay your track with effects like Noise, Drop, Laser or Siren.