Over the course of the 29 years they have been bestowed, Music & Sound Awards have been called everything from “the Oscars of the music products industry” to “the most prestigious honor in the MI retail market.” At the recent NAMM show in Anaheim, I had the privilege and the pleasure of presenting this year’s Music & Sound Award recipients with their plaques, honoring the best among our industry’s manufacturers and retailers for their exemplary service. Here, we pass the metaphorical microphone to all the manufacturers whose products and whose executives were honored this year, allowing them to reflect on the significance of earning a Music & Sound Award and to thank you—our dealer readers—for voting for them.
Flip to page 36 to check out a collage of our manufacturer winners, and then flip to page 34 to see the complete list of dealer winners, along with photos of many of the honorees.
Earning honors as Best Acoustic Guitar of 2014 was Taylor’s 814ce Acoustic Guitar. Keith Brawley, Vice President of Sales, remarked, “It’s an honor to be recognized with the award for Best Acoustic Guitar of 2014. Last year, we rereleased the 800 Series with an array of tone-enhancing refinements. And, today, the 800 Series is more popular than ever, with the 814ce the bestselling acoustic guitar in its class. This honor wouldn’t be possible without the strong support of our dealers: not only for the 800s, but also for the entire line of Taylor guitars.”
Pulling off two big wins was Fender, which prevailed in the Best Electric Guitar of 2014 category for its 60th Anniversary Classic Player ’50s Stratocaster, as well as in the Best Bass Guitar of 2014 category for its American Deluxe Dimension Bass V HH. Of the Stratocaster, Justin Norvell, Vice President, Product Development, said, “It’s truly an honor to be recognized with a Music & Sound Award…even more so as the selection of this particular instrument represents the validity and ongoing relevance of our most successful model, the Fender Stratocaster guitar. This model also shows how far Fender’s Ensenada, Mexico facility has come, combining Fender Custom Shop design and lacquer finishes to create a truly great-looking, great-sounding collectable instrument. We want to thank The Music & Sound Retailer and their readership for granting us this award.”
Of the bass, Norvell added, “Winning a Music & Sound Award is always special, but especially so in this category, as it represents true innovation and growth for Fender. We popularized the category of electric bass guitar back in the 1950s, but the Dimension Bass platform is relatively new, and it proves that we are not just resting on our laurels; we continue to experiment and find new voices and sounds for players of all different styles.”
D’Addario and its family of brands was among the biggest winners among this year’s Music & Sound Award recipients. D’Addario’s NYXL Electric Guitar Strings were voted Best Guitar Accessory of 2014. Brian Vance, Director of Product Management, commented, “D’Addario’s NYXL Electric Guitar Strings are the result of our continued investment in vertical integration. Through innovative engineering in our D’Addario wire mill, newly relocated to Long Island NY, we developed the strongest, most pitch stable high-carbon steel in the business. While we knew we were onto something big, the reaction from players has been astounding. This acknowledgement is both humbling and thrilling. It’s also humbling to see how much potential we have to improve the lives of players by focusing on everyday problems and developing real solutions.”
Evans’ Heavyweight EMAD Bass Drumhead and Snare Head earned honors as Best Percussion Accessory of 2014. Nick Gordon, Percussion Business Unit Manager, stated, “The Evans Heavyweight EMAD Bass Drumhead and Snare Head are what our heaviest drummers had been asking for: a head capable of withstanding a merciless beating without losing dynamic responsiveness. Heavyweight is a perfect example of the power of our Level 360 technology, now present on nearly our entire line. The drumhead collar sits evenly on the bearing edge for maximum resonance, low end and tonality, without additional pillows or muffling, and easy tuning at the widest possible range. We’re ecstatic it has been so well received by our family of drummers, and that it’s earned this Music & Sound Award.”
In a repeat honor, D’Addario & Company, Inc. was once again bestowed with the Outstanding Community Service Award. Suzanne D’Addario, Director of the D’Addario Foundation, remarked, “It is an honor to be acknowledged by The Music & Sound Retailer for D’Addario & Co.’s local community work and for our broader philanthropic efforts through the D’Addario Foundation. Our desire as a family-run business to ensure we are thinking beyond what we produce is something we approach with a strong commitment and focused energy every day. From the hundreds of not-for-profit music-education programs we support worldwide to the free El Sistema-based lesson program for children on Long Island that we run, giving back is an incredibly important part of our ethos. We will continually ask ourselves the question, ‘What can we do to positively effect change?’”
The company’s crowning achievement, however, was the Lifetime Achievement/Hall of Fame Award, which The Retailer’s Publisher/President, Vinny Testa, presented to Jim D’Addario. D’Addario said, “It’s an honor to be selected for the Lifetime Achievement/Hall of Fame Award. From early in my career, the focus has been on bringing innovation to all our brands. We know we have a big responsibility…that musicians depend on us when they take the stage. We take great pride in what we do, and we always strive for continued improvement.”
Another big winner among this year’s Music & Sound Award recipients was perennial honoree Yamaha Corp. of America. The company’s P-255 Portable Digital Piano took home awards hardware in the category of Best Keyboard/Sound Module of 2014. Dane Madsen, Digital Piano Marketing Manager, said, “Yamaha is both humbled and honored that music dealers nationwide—the very engine that drives our success at retail—have voted our P-255 Portable Digital Piano as The Music & Sound Retailer’s Best Keyboard/Sound Module of 2014. The P-255 excels in both practice and live-performance settings, and our customers appreciate both its Graded Hammer keyboard action and its PureCF Sound Engine that reproduces the sound of Yamaha’s legendary CFIIIS nine-foot concert grand piano. We believe this Music & Sound Award reflects the fact that the P-255, the flagship model of our bestselling P-Series, is a true digital piano for today’s musicians and casual players, with features that set it apart from other models on the market. Music dealers have voiced their opinion, and we could not be more delighted by their decision.”
The only thing that may have delighted the company more was dealers giving the highly coveted Manufacturer of the Year crown to Yamaha Corp. of America. This is another category in which the winner has been a perennial favorite. Rick Young, Senior Vice President, said, “Being recognized as Manufacturer of the Year underscores the tremendous pride we at Yamaha take in the quality and craftsmanship that goes into every instrument and product that bears our name. Now more than ever, Yamaha strives to build on our goals of being the best, infusing that mission with a focus on passion and performance. Yamaha is passionate about music and music education, which is reflected in our relentless determination to delight our customers and to advance the musical landscape. That passion manifests itself in our products, our people and our performance. Performance can refer to a virtuosic display of musical talent. However, it also reflects on our team members, who work diligently to achieve our goals, and on our dealers, who understand that Yamaha is a profitable brand to stand behind. For consumers and retailers to recognize the tradition, dedication, innovation and, above all, the highest standards of quality that Yamaha is known for makes this award particularly welcomed. Yamaha is committed more than ever to excelling not only in the products and services we offer, but also in the unmatched support that comes with each Yamaha instrument or product that, no doubt, contributed to this honor.”
For Best Instrument Amp of 2014, the winner was Peavey Electronics’ ValveKing Combo 20. Fred Poole, GM, Product Development, said, “We are honored that the ValveKing Combo 20 has been selected as Best Instrument Amp of 2014. Fundamentally, Peavey has always pushed the state of the art in any category we participate in. The ValveKing Combo 20 represents several industry firsts, including the first all-tube amplifier with a built-in resistive load for silent, speakerless USB recording.”
JBL’s EON615 Powered Loudspeaker was the dealers’ choice in the category of Best Speaker of 2014. Becki Barabas, who handles marketing for the company, said, “JBL Professional is honored to have won the Music & Sound Award for Best Speaker of 2014 for the EON615 Powered Loudspeaker. EON615 represents the best of JBL Professional’s heritage. Bringing together JBL transducers, the very best in waveguide technology and a professional, user-friendly enclosure, the EON615 offers users an unmatched product at an entry-level price point. Powerful, accurate and durable, the EON615 sets the standard for the next generation of portable PA speakers. Recognition from The Music & Sound Retailer not only means that JBL Professional has made a product that users will love, but also that retailers can sell the EON615 with confidence, knowing that it will meet the needs of a diverse group of customers.”
In the category of Best Multitrack Recorder/Recording & Mixing Software of 2014, the award went to PreSonus’ AudioBox iTwo with Capture Duo. VP of Sales Rick Naqvi stated, “We’re delighted that dealers, who meet daily with our customers, understand that AudioBox iTwo is more than just another audio/MIDI interface. This is a next-generation, truly mobile interface because it works natively with an iPad, as well as with a Mac or Windows PC. Inputs can be through the ultra-high-headroom XLR mic preamps or ¼-inch line/instrument input, so you can connect it to any source. Free Capture Duo’s ability to record on an iPad and wirelessly transfer tracks to Studio One for Mac and Windows is another PreSonus first. With AudioBox iTwo and the included Studio One Artist DAW, you can truly record high-definition audio anywhere, at any time.”
The company also took home top honors in the Best Mixer/Console of 2014 category for its StudioLive RM32AI with UC Surface. Naqvi continued, “This award shows that dealers believe, as we do, that StudioLive RM-series mixers and UC Surface software for Mac, Windows and iPad will change the way people mix, especially for live events. The StudioLive RM series is already finding a home with systems integrators, front-of-house engineers, venue owners and touring acts, as well as with record producers who appreciate its quality and workflow. UC Surface implements innovative organizational tools like Filter DCAs and presents information in the context of what you’re doing, showing you everything needed for a given task while letting you view critical levels at all times. Of course, at PreSonus, the first release is just the start: UC Surface is going to get major new features soon, and we’re preparing to release our AVB card for StudioLive RM mixers, with Dante to follow a few months later.”
Turning to the world of mics, Best Cabled Microphone of 2014 went to Sennheiser’s MK 8 Vocal Recording Microphone. Christopher Currier, Manager, Trade Marketing, System Solutions, Americas, remarked, “Sennheiser is incredibly honored to receive the Music & Sound Award for the MK 8 for Best Cabled Microphone of 2014. This microphone is a very diverse tool, featuring five switchable polar patterns (omni, wide-cardioid, cardioid, supercardioid and figure-eight), a multi-stage pad (0, -10dB, -20dB) and a multi-stage roll-off (0, 60Hz, 100Hz). The MK 8 also features dual one-inch diaphragms that are precisely spattered with 24-carat gold and shock-mounted to reduce unwanted structure-borne noise. The MK 8 represents the ultimate in versatility for just about any application. Made in Germany with the engineering precision that Sennheiser is known for, the mic is also exceptionally affordable, and it’ll quickly become an important fixture in any studio.”
Shure’s QLX-D Digital Wireless System claimed first prize in the Best Wireless System of 2014 category. Stephen Kohler, Senior Director, Marketing, commented, “It’s truly a special honor for our team to be recognized by industry peers, dealers and manufacturers for the Shure QLX-D Digital Wireless System. With the QLX-D Digital Wireless System, we set out to offer everyone—from hotels and government offices with conferencing spaces, to schools and houses of worship—a professional system that is simple to set up and operate. Leveraging our advanced digital wireless technology, QLX-D is a cost-effective solution that operates more channels on-air than any other wireless system in its class. We’re proud to receive this Music & Sound Award for Best Wireless System of 2014. Thank you!”
MakeMusic’s Finale 2014 Music Notation Software prevailed in the category of Best Book/Video/Software of 2014. Ron Manus, CEO of Alfred Music, said, quote, “As the exclusive North American distributor for Finale, Alfred Music and MakeMusic are thrilled to be recognized with a Music & Sound Award for Finale 2014 Music Notation Software as Best Book/Video/Software of 2014. Finale is the gold standard of music-notation software, and this edition has received critical acclaim from both end users and industry influencers. It means the world to us that our retail partners are equally as thrilled about this product as we are.”
Electro-Harmonix’s B9 Organ Machine won raves from dealers, who voted it Best Floor Effect of 2014. Mike Matthews, EHX’s Founder and President, commented, “The process of developing a new product requires a belief that what you are creating will be embraced and adopted by the marketplace. Why else would you make the investment and tie up your resources? When I had the idea that we could create a pedal that would allow a guitarist to cop the sounds of an electric organ and electronic keyboard, I was optimistic. The pedal began to take on life. When we could actually hear it, the guys critiquing it became more and more excited…and so did I. By the time we were ready to drop the needle and unveil the B9 Organ Machine, everyone associated with the project was really psyched. Of course, there’s always that tiny bit of doubt. There’s that little voice that asks, ‘Will players really like it as much as we all do?’ With the B9, the answer turned out to be a resounding ‘YES!’ Thanks so much to all the retailers who voted for the B9 Organ Machine, and to the great team that made the product a reality!”
The winner of the award for Best DJ Product of 2014 was Pioneer DJ’s DDJ-SZ Professional DJ Controller. David Arevalo, Director, Professional Sound and Visual Division, said, “There are so many DJ products each year from dozens of manufacturers in the industry, all of which are incredibly innovative and cutting edge. That’s why it’s such an honor to receive the Best DJ Product of 2014 award for the DDJ-SZ Professional DJ Controller. We design our products based on how we think consumers will want to use them, so recognition from an established source such as The Music & Sound Retailer gives us a great indication that we’re making our products the right way. We’ve put a lot of engineering resources into the development of DDJ-SZ, supporting the successful look and feel found on our flagship CDJ and DJM products, but in a controller form factor. Our engineers and designers are the ones who truly deserve this acknowledgement: for their hard work in bringing this product to life, and for making it possible to get these types of awards.”
For Best Lighting Product of 2014, the dealers’ choice was CHAUVET DJ’s FlareCON Air. Albert Chauvet, President of Chauvet Lighting, remarked, “It was especially gratifying to have the CHAUVET DJ FlareCON Air honored with the Music & Sound Award for Best Lighting Product of 2014. FlareCON Air, which makes it possible to control lights from cell phones or tablets, reflects the CHAUVET DJ vision of developing products that free our customers from ‘busy work’ so they can focus on creating compelling experiences for their audience, which is really what it’s all about. Seeing DJs and bands control lights from their phones gives our team members a great sense of satisfaction, knowing that they’ve helped to blaze a new path. On a personal level, I’m honored and humbled to receive an award based on voting by The Retailer’s readers, who are always on the front line when a new product is introduced. Their enthusiasm for FlareCON Air shows that what was once a revolutionary idea is now a successful product in the real world.”
Kala Brand’s Spalted Maple Travel Ukuleles nabbed top honors as Best Non-Guitar Fretted Instrument of 2014. Rick Carlson, Director of Sales and Marketing, said, “Kala is grateful to our dealers and The Music & Sound Retailer for this year’s Music & Sound Award, recognizing the Kala Spalted Maple Travel Ukuleles. The spalted maple cutaway designs are additions to Kala’s popular Thinline Travel series, and they’re available in concert and tenor sizes. The designs are unique because of the thinness in their body depth (1¾ inches), along with their select solid spruce tops and precisely engineered arched backs, which all contribute to a remarkably full, rich sound. All Kala Thinline ukuleles come with a thick, padded gig bag with embroidered logo, and they’re strung with Aquila strings. Kala appreciates the acknowledgement from The Music & Sound Retailer’s dealer voters that the Spalted Maple Travel Ukuleles are a distinctive design and worthy of this year’s honor.”
Earning the gold in the Best Accessory of 2014 category were Kyser’s Guitar Straps with Built-In Capo Keeper. Meredith Hamlin, President and CEO, responded, “Kyser is absolutely thrilled to have won a Music & Sound Award for Best Accessory of 2014. For our line of guitar straps not only to be recognized in this competitive industry, but also to be honored with this award, is something of which Kyser is genuinely appreciative. We are certain that this award would make the late Milton Kyser so very proud. We would like to sincerely thank The Music & Sound Retailer and all MI taste-makers who follow this cutting-edge magazine. In 2014, Kyser wanted to expand our product line to guitar straps while ensuring that they be held to the same vigorous quality standards as our capos. We set out to make something new, fresh and useful, and also something 100-percent made in the U.S.A. The built-in capo-keeper that also holds a slide or harmonica, the long tail that adjusts from 45 inches to 55 inches, the recycled leather and the extra padding make Kyser straps a guitar accessory for your ‘necessaries.’ At Kyser, we believe in quality American workmanship and American ingenuity. We’re pleased that The Music & Sound Retailer and its readership do, too.”
Honors for Best Bag/Case of 2014 went to Gator Cases’ PRO-GO Deluxe Guitar Gig Bags. Robert McCoy, Senior Product Manager, commented, “On behalf of everyone at Gator Cases, I want to thank The Music & Sound Retailer and all our dedicated dealers who voted for the PRO-GO Deluxe Gig Bag for the Best Bag/Case of 2014. The response to the PRO-GO guitar gig bags exceeded our expectations and, ultimately, it led us to expand the line into several additional markets. Many of the Gator team members are musicians and take great pride in offering the best solutions to protect and transport all that our consumers hold dear.”
Multiple-time Music & Sound Award winner and nominee Billy Bohanna, of Brio Sales Group, snagged another Representative of the Year award. He enthused, “I am honored and thrilled to receive a Music & Sound Award for Representative of the Year for the third time. Words cannot express how grateful I am to everyone who took the time to vote to recognize me and Brio Sales for the work we have done over the past year. Thank you to The Music & Sound Retailer for presenting the Music & Sound Awards, and congratulations to all the winners on both the dealer and manufacturer levels.”
The Best Cymbals of 2014 award went to Sabian’s 22-Inch HHX Omni Cymbal. Luis Cardoso, Marketing Manager, commented, “An amazing cymbal like the HHX Omni doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s the result of a very precise formula: a world-class artist like Jojo Mayer, a Sabian Vault team that’s second to none and years of R&D that began with the award-winning AAX Omni cymbal in 2010. Jojo had a very specific sound in mind—he had a crystal-clear vision for what the HHX Omni should be—and Mark Love and his team in the Vault were able to deliver. As a result, the HHX Omni was a home run at every stage: from the initial germ of an idea all the way through to the brilliant marketing campaign with Jojo Mayer and Mark Guiliana. Thanks to The Music & Sound Retailer for this wonderful recognition.”
The 22-Inch HHX Omni Cymbal is such an impressive product, in fact, that it also won Product of the Year this year. Mark Love, Product Specialist, said, “The 22-Inch HHX Omni, our latest collaboration with Jojo Mayer, is one of the most highly anticipated cymbals we have ever developed. Given the overwhelming success of the AAX Omni and Jojo’s desire to create a dark version, we began work on the dark Omni almost immediately after the launch of the AAX Omni. Like Jojo himself, the new HHX Omni is as comfortable on the hippest electronic dance music records as it is on the most traditional jazz or blues stages. It has all the features that made the AAX so popular, with added darkness and versatility. Thanks to The Music & Sound Retailer for recognizing this amazing cymbal in both the Best Cymbals of 2014 category and the Product of the Year category.
Here’s what rounded out this year’s winners list: Best Power Amp of 2014 went to QSC’s PLD 4.2 Processing Amplifier, and Best Drum Set of 2014 went to Gretsch Drums’ Marquee 5-Piece Shell Pack.
The Retailer sincerely congratulates everyone who earned a Music & Sound Award!