First Published In The Music & Sound Retailer’s February 2007 Issue

New Companies and Products Make the Grade at NAMM

Christmas may be long over, but for MI, the chance to view all the hot new toys comes later. It was NAMM time all over again and many companies chose the show as a chance to debut their hottest new products, and even some companies made a first big splash in Anaheim. So what was this year’s Tickle Me Elmo?

Let’s start with guitars and amps. One of the biggest pairings in MI kicked off on the first day of the show—Fender and Roland. These two merged technology and innovation to come up with the VG Stratocaster, which combines Roland VG circuitry with Fender’s Strat. It’s got 37 sounds, including Stratocaster, Telecaster, humbucking, 12-string and acoustic, as well as five alternate tunings. Switches and knobs on the front of the guitar let the user access all of the sound possibilities.

Two other companies came together at the show, but not to co-develop a product. Rather, Taylor Guitars reached out to D’Addario and Company to endorse the Planet Waves Humidipak. Based on the same concept D’Addario had been using on its reeds, the Humidipak is a two-way humidity system that maintains a 45 percent humidity environment for wooden instruments. The product comes with pouches for the soundhole and the headstock, as well as three packets that emit and absorb humidity in order to reach the optimal level. As part of the Taylor Guitars endorsement, a Humidipack will ship with all Taylor guitars beginning in April.

Tronical’s got a new system that self-tunes electric guitars. It’s called the Powertune System and its individual memory recognizes the player’s tuning preferences to tune the guitar in two seconds to an accuracy of 0.2 cent. There are some pre-programmed presets, and the user can set some of his or her own.

On the amp side comes a new series from Crate. Even as Loud Technologies is moving its St. Louis Music plant overseas, the company is still bringing out new products like the FlexWave Series. These models are equipped with the patented FlexWave Evolution 5 preamp that offers three-band EQ and Sequential Cascading Gain technology for more precise tone shaping.

A host of new companies are poised to make a splash at your stores this year, including Baden Guitars. TJ Baden, a veteran of Fishman Transducers and Taylor Guitars, started his own brand of acoustic guitars with the help of designer Andreas Pichler. The company’s got auditorium- and dreadnought-style models that only go to independent dealers. They’re gearing up for a big consumer launch at Summer NAMM, so keep your eye on them.
Also new to the U.S. market is Red Witch. This New Zealand-based company makes a variety of analog guitar effects pedals, like the Pentavocal tremolo with five different voices and a unique bottom control feature that gives the player control over the amount of mid range and hi frequency cut that occurs as the volume decreases in the trem cycle. A full U.S. push is coming later in the year.

Moving on to drums and percussion, there’s a new kid on the block with an old and recognizable name—Buddy Rich. The legendary jazz musician’s daughter, Cathy Rich, teamed with music industry veteran Bill Morgan to create the Buddy Rick Drum Company. A variety of drum sets are available from this company, including a signature kit designed to Buddy Rich’s specifications, the Headliner Series for entry-level players, and the Legendary Maple Series for professionals.

Tama treated NAMM attendees to a unique limited edition set inspired by the Masai snare drum of the Warlord Collection. The seven-piece kit featured Warlord lugs with real Swarovski crystals on its African Bubinga shells. Only 100 kits are available worldwide, with 50 earmarked for the U.S.

The shape of things to come just may be at Xcel Drumsticks. The company has three lines of sticks, each with unique physical characteristics. For example, the Xcel Powersticks sport an oval handgrip that the company says reduces strain and slippage, especially for players with hand and wrist problems. Also available are the Xcel Drumsticks with a secondary striker below the tip for less wear, and Xcel Speedsticks with a weighted end that puts the center of balance in the drummer’s hand.

Players looking for a more virtual approach to their music can look to new innovations from companies like Yamaha and PCDJ. The PCDJ Reflex is a real-time performance software solution designed for digital DJs using both PC and Mac. Users can mix, scratch, remix and use VST plug-ins in real time. It’s got three players with waveform display. Other features include full vinyl control, beat syncing, centralized tempo management, and an intelligent track database. Reflex can even be used on acapella tracks.

Yamaha offers lots of new sounds and creative tools, all with a redesigned user interface, as part of its Motif XS. Its integrated sampling sequencer offers up to 1GB of memory for saving MIDI/audio work. Plus the user gets Xpanded Articulation sounds with 355 MB of wave ROM, four intelligent arpeggiators, and more than 6,000 phrases.

Pro Audio dealers too have new products to look forward to, among them Community Professional Loudspeakers’ Sonus line of portable linear-response loudspeaker systems. It was launched on the first day of the show and it includes four full-range models and two subwoofers. Community used its Carbon Ring Cone Technology for the first time with this line. That means the company stiffened the cone material with a radial carbon ring so that it wouldn’t add mass. As a result, Community says the user gets lower distortion and improved sensitivity and bass response.

Finally, QSC showed its new SC28 System Controller. With FIR (Finite Impulse Response) filtering, the product offers intrinsic correction by providing a drive signal to amps and loudspeakers. According to QSC, the product also provides thermal and excursion loudspeaker protection. Once it’s configured to the system, the user can add six-band parametric equalization, high and low shelving features, and signal delay.

These are just some of the new companies and products that made a splash at Winter NAMM. It’s anybody’s guess just who will make it to the head of the class, and there are sure to be even more heating up the industry in the months to come.

Editor’s note: This story is in no way meant to be a comprehensive list.

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