Summer NAMM 2015 Top Picks

Summer NAMM 2015 Coverage: Top 10 Picks

If you’re a guitar geek or a gear head, then Nashville Tennessee is the place to be this summer. Music City Center recently hosted Summer NAMM 2015, and even though Summer NAMM (as opposed to Winter NAMM) focuses more on industry meetings and professional development than products, this year was full of exciting releases from big makers, I’ve rounded up some products that I thought were the most impressive and innovative this year:

  1. Marshall Astoria1. Marshall Astoria: “I want the green one” was the first thing that came to my mind. Marshall has hit the mark yet again by releasing the new Marshall Astoria series of amplifiers.
    The family members of this series are the Classic (Green), Custom (Red), and Dual (Blue). They come in a 30 Watt head + 1x12 Cab Variation, and my personal favourite, the 30 Watt Combo. All of the amps have 75 Watt 12 Inch Celestion Greenbacks. This isn’t a reissue, this is a brand new 2015 release that aims to sound and look vintage yet have that modern edge. Huge KT66 power tubes power the heart of these beasts, along with the tried and trusted 12AX7s in the front and GC34 Rectifier tube. A push pull pot on the master volume acts as an attenuator that drops the amp from 30 Watts to 5 Watts (ideal for the loud bedroom, will still perfectly annoy your neighbours). The Classic family member has a “sensitivity” knob that is basically a gain knob that Marshall decided to name otherwise as this amp is geared towards clean sounds with slight crunch perfectly suitable for pedal enthusiasts. Transitioning from the Classic to the Custom, you lose the sensitivity switch and gain (no pun intended) a “gain” switch and a treble boost. Transitioning from the Custom to the Dual, you get (as the name suggests) Dual Channels. Get ready for the bummer though, the Classic Combo comes in at around 2100 GBP, the Custom Combo comes in at around 2200 GBP, and the Dual Combo comes in at around 2300 GBP, as for the heads they come in at around 1800 GBP, 1900 GBP, and 2000 GBP for the Classic, Custom, and Dual heads respectively, with the cabs at 519 GBP each (available in three colours)
  2. TC BodyRez Acoustic Pickup Enhancer: TC Electronic keep producing great ideas and products one after another and they never cease to surprise me with ideas that you never thought you needed. Well, this I need. Taking inspiration from the TC Helicon’s Play Acoustic BodyRez filtering, TC decided to create a single pedal that offers the highly desired quality that BodyRez filtering creates. Does your Piezo equipped acoustic guitar sound dull, super sensitive, thin, or artificial? Do you long for that acoustic chime and natural feel? At first I thought it ran on magic, but as it turns out, BodyRez applies a set of carefully tuned filters, along with slight compression that brings your regular unamplified acoustic tone back to life. You think it ends there, but TC have pummelled and destroyed yet another acoustic amplification issue: FEEDBACK. No longer are the days where you plug your acoustic in and all you get is screaming feedback, as BodyRez allows you to configure the footswitch to cut, if not completely eliminate the feedback. It even comes with a 9V power supply which isn’t the norm with pedal makers lately so that’s a nice addition. All that in the size of TC’s compact pedals which makes it an easy add-on to your pedalboard. 100$ street price.polytune-clip.jpg

3. TC Polytune Clip: I’ve never expected to see so much hype and effort being put into a clip on tuner, but the clever folk at TC Electronic have changed the tuner industry yet again. The original Polytune pedal was highly successful, usable, and gig friendly. TC decided to take the spirit of the pedal and squeeze it into the market of clip on tuners (of which I have to say none are quite impressive). The Polytune is a stainless steel clip on tuner that features a display with 105 LEDs with auto screen rotation. You are able to strum once and see the pitch of all the strings AT ONCE, but wait, there’s more, the Polytune Clip can detect Monophonic AND Polyphonic signals so that when you want to tune one string only it shows you that single string instead of all strings, how neat is that? It’s quite astounding that TC could fit everything on this small gem. TC say that the Polytune Clip surpasses all previous Polytunes for tracking, accuracy, and response time, and that alone is quite an impressive feat. 

4. Boss DD-500: Boss obviously set out to make their best delay pedal ever, 32 Bit/96 KHz studio quality processing inside a little stomp box, it’s like having a high end rack processor at your feet, 12 delays ranging from standard to reverse to modulated delays, A/B delay preset switching, tap tempo, 60 second looper, MIDI, and USB. This is for the player who wants more control over his delays, geared as a competitor to the TC Flashback X4 and the TC Flashback Triple Delay, I’d usually go with single stomp boxes like the Boss DM-2W or TC Electronic Flashback Delay as they provide adequate delay options for me, but if you want studio quality delays along with switching, then you’re going to have to check the big boys out, and Boss’s got quite a hell of a stomp box for you to consider. It comes in at around 300$ street price.


5. EHX 22500 Stereo Looper: Two separate loops, a microphone input with phantom power (Yes!), an SD Card slot, 100 storage banks, USB Port, tempo change, reversing/octave capabilities, AND drum sounds. With all these features I’m surprised it doesn’t have a bread toaster too. 275$ and it’s yours. With the price point though, it’s still hard to beat the TC Electronic Ditto and Ditto X2, they don’t have all these features though.

EHX 22500 Stereo Looper

6. EHX Silencer Noise Gate: The EHX Silencer is a noise gate with a built in FX Loop so you can stick in the noisy pedals inside the FX loop and leave the others frolicking happily untamed. Both the timed release and reduction knobs allow you to enjoy the full tone and back off the unwanted noise. Crisp and intact tone all the time. The budget price point of 75$ puts it as a viable option instead of the ISP Decimator.

7. Roland JC-40: The Roland JC-120 has been one of my favourite amps ever, it’s the first solid state amp that has won my heart, it’s a joy to use, silent, accurate, clean solid state goodness, works well with pedals, and has that space chorus associated with it. The problem with the JC-120 is the size, and price associated with it. The newly released Roland JC-40 is basically the JC-120 shrunken down into a size you can carry (my back still hurts from lugging around a JC-120). The JC-40 as the name suggests is a 40 Watt amp two 10 inch speakers that offers the same signature space chorus sound we’re used to with the JC-120, built in vibrato, distortion, and reverb. The JC-40 also has an effects loop built in, and a stereo input that allows you to plug in your stereo enabled pedals and hear their full glory. It comes in at a very acceptable 600$ street price.

Roland JC-40

8. Schecter Sultan: The Schecter USA Custom Shop has been renowned for producing extremely high quality guitars since 1976, and one of the most famous users (and Fender endorsee) Mark Knopfler used exclusively a red Schecter Strat from 1980 to 1985. Schecter just released the USA Custom Shop Sultan, a guitar that tries to capture the “Sultans of Swing” tone. You’re getting immaculate quality, fit, and finish here. The guitar comes loaded with either Schecter MonsterTone pickups or Schecter Sultan pickups, there are three three way toggles (one for each pickup) that offer On/Off/Coil Tap for the MonsterTone set and On/Off/Out of Phase for the Sultan set. This guitar has some serious tonal variations inside it. Comes in at a hefty 3700$.

Schecter Sultan

Ibanez Talman Prestige Series

9. Ibanez Talman Prestige Series: Are you bored of the usual Strat shape yet still want to achieve the Strat sound? Do you want a gigging workhorse that’ll get you tones from country twang to thick creamy tones? Well, Ibanez just released the Japanese Talman Prestige Series fitted with Seymour Duncan pickups, and it sounds like a steal at only 1199$. My personal favorite is the 1802 (Nashville Tele Style), with a comfy 12 Inch radius, separate middle pickup volume, and Gotoh locking tuners. Japanese craftsmanship seems to be on par, if not better than American craftsmanship lately, and this makes this an even better deal. All the guitars in the series come with a hardcase too which is an added bonus.

Fano Standard Series Guitars.jpg

10. Fano Standard Series Guitars: Oh Fano Guitars, my dreams guitars, the illegitimate child of Fender and Gibson, only if they were cheaper, well fret no more, Fano has introduced the Standard Series which is 1000$ cheaper than the Alt De Facto series. Fano launched the JM6, ML6 and SP6 each available in three colours. These guitars have the twang associated with Fenders and the bite associated with Gibsons, and for 1999$ that’s a boutique quality guitar for less than the price of a standard Gibson Les Paul. My personal favorite is the SP6 as it has the Les Paul body and scale length (24.75 Inches) yet also has a bolt-on neck (much better for the road, bolt-on vs set neck doesn’t make any noticeable differences, trust me on this), a compound radius for easy bending, a fat P90 in the neck position, and a tilted twangy single coil in the bridge position, it can’t get any tastier than this, gone on top of my wishlist.

Gear Acquisition Syndrome is getting me really hard now, I’m craving all the gear on this list, let me know which ones tickle your GAS reflexes, and leave your favorite releases in the comments if I haven’t mentioned them above. As always, thanks for tuning in and don’t forget to subscribe to our RSS updates.

20th Aug 2015 Rida Hallal

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