Our 30th Annual Music & Sound Award Winners Represent The Industry’s Best

In the music products industry, 30 is a meaningful number. Sure…it’s nothing compared to, for example, Zildjian’s 393 years in the industry or Yamaha’s nearly 130-year heritage, but it still denotes an established footprint in the music products space. And that’s one reason why this year’s 30th annual Music & Sound Awards, presented by The Music & Sound Retailer, were greeted with even more excitement and industry-wide fanfare than usual. The other big reason for the abundant enthusiasm centers on the quality of this year’s nominees, among which were dealers, manufacturers, new products, reps and respected industry executives. MSA winners are determined by polling the entire MI industry—dealers voting for manufacturers/products and manufacturers voting for dealers—and I’m glad it’s done that way. Not only does it give our awards unimpeachable credibility, but it also, this year in particular, relieves me of having to choose a category winner among four incredible nominees.

One of the most enjoyable parts of my job as The Retailer’s Editor is to bestow richly deserved MSA plaques to the manufacturers that work so hard to ensure our industry retains its well-earned reputation for innovation and product quality. They outdid themselves in 2015, creating instruments and gear that contributed to countless people making music, and having a blast while doing so. And, in categories such as Outstanding Community Service and Manufacturer of the Year, we celebrate companies whose greatness rises above a single product or line, adding incalculably to the esteem in which the MI industry is held.

Taylor Guitars’ 614ce Guitar took home top honors in the Best Acoustic Guitar of 2015 category. Andy Powers, Master Guitar Designer, said, “It’s a tremendous honor to have dealers name the 614ce the Best Acoustic Guitar of 2015. The 600 Series represents our continuing pursuit of building the best possible instruments, along with our commitment to the future of responsible tone wood forestry. This award validates the broader possibility of a more musical and sustainable future for our industry. Thank you to our wonderful dealers and the many players who have embraced the maple 614ce.”

This year’s big winner in the Best Electric Guitar of 2015 category was Ibanez’s JEM77PBFP Steve Vai Signature. Masahiko Murata, Electric Guitar Merchandiser, commented, “Winning The Retailer’s Best Electric Guitar of 2015 is a huge honor, especially given the many worthwhile contenders in this product category. Every Hoshino department that contributes to the Ibanez brand—both in the U.S. and in Japan—shares in this wonderful accolade. In turn, we’d like to publicly share the honor with Steve Vai, along with his management team. Our ongoing, 30-year collaboration with Steve is one of the major themes of the Ibanez story. His boundless skill, enthusiasm and artistic spirit continue to inspire the entire Ibanez team.”

Warwick’s German Custom Shop Star Bass SC was crowned Best Bass Guitar of 2015 by our industry’s dealers. Rodney Washburn, USA Product Manager, remarked, “We are truly honored that the Custom Shop Star Bass SC has been selected as Best Bass Guitar of 2015. Warwick has continued to produce an outstanding level of quality and innovative design for over 30 years, and to receive this accolade from The Music & Sound Retailer is fantastic. The Star Bass SC is a distinctive representation in the semi-hollow electric bass category, and we are truly excited to see it in the hands of players this year.”

D’Addario’s NYXL Balanced Tension Strings represent the rare product to win in two Music & Sound Awards categories: Best Guitar Accessory of 2015 and Best Accessory of 2015. Brian Vance, Director of Product Management, noted, “NYXL has been a runaway success story since its launch almost two years ago, and it’s an honor to be recognized by our valued customers. At D’Addario, we’re continually striving to develop new, innovative products that not only exceed the expectations of the market, but also fulfill our commitment to our customers. Through advancements in our exclusive wire-drawing process, we’ve enhanced the tone and improved the tuning stability of the electric guitar string, empowering players to perform with a whole new level of confidence. Moving forward, we’ll continue to evolve the NYXL line, as we did with Balanced Tension sets, in order to meet the ever-growing needs and demands of guitarists around the world.”

For Best Keyboard/Sound Module of 2015, the voters’ choice was Roland’s JD-XA Analog/Digital Crossover Synthesizer. According to Chris Halon, Vice President of Marketing, “The Roland team is honored that the JD-XA Analog/Digital Crossover Synthesizer received the Music & Sound Award for Best Keyboard/Sound Module of 2015. The JD-XA’s sound is massive, and many professional musicians are already hip to its enormous power and versatility. Plus, the backlit sliders, knobs and wheel controllers give musicians hands-on control, which makes the creative process seamless and fun. Roland has long been renowned for amazing synth sounds, and we’re thrilled the JD-XA is adding to Roland’s sound legacy.”

The Best Speaker of 2015 according to you, our readers, was JBL’s SRX800 Series. Craig Lambrecht, Harman Professional Solutions, stated, “We’re extremely honored that the JBL SRX800 Series has received the Music & Sound Award for Best Speaker of 2015. SRX800 broke new ground by combining JBL’s premium transducers and enclosures, Crown’s proprietary front-end DriveCore technology, user-configurable DSP and full HiQnet Network control. The result is a perfect all-in-one solution that delivers high performance, comprehensive control and pristine sound for the most demanding applications. Many thanks to The Music & Sound Retailer for recognizing this exciting product family.”

QSC’s GXD8 was the first-place finisher in the Best Power Amp of 2015 category. Dale Sandberg, Senior Amplifier Product Manager, stated, “The GXD8 Processing Amplifier is ideal for a wide variety of portable and installed sound-reinforcement applications. This product represents the best of QSC: a compelling combination of value, flexibility, performance and reliability. We are grateful to be acknowledged by The Music & Sound Retailer’s readers, and we thank our customers everywhere for continuing to think QSC when they think of power amplification.”

Honors for Best Multitrack Recorder/Recording & Mixing Software of 2015 went to PreSonus’ Studio One 3 Professional. Rick Naqvi, VP of Sales, said, “We particularly prize the Music & Sound Award because it comes from the dealers, who work with our customers every day and who know the competition. Our dealers understood from the start that Studio One is new and fresh—not ‘just another DAW’—and they got behind us. With Studio One 3 Professional, we have taken a leap forward, adding true innovations in song arranging and experimentation, as well as inspiring new ways to craft unique and evocative sounds. Version 3 is a game changer, and this award demonstrates that our dealers recognize that. Of course, we’re just getting started. Version 3.2 is going to introduce features that will make Studio One even more of a must-have DAW.”

For Best Mixer/Console of 2015, the votes went to Yamaha’s TF Series. Nithin Cherian, Marketing Manager, Yamaha Live Sound, explained, “Yamaha is honored that dealers have recognized the unparalleled value of the TF Series Digital Mixing Consoles. The TF Series introduces many new tools, like GainFinder, one-knob COMP/EQ and QuickPro Presets to empower engineers of all skill levels to achieve a great mix with unprecedented speed and freedom. At NAMM, we released TF V2.0, adding more powerful effects, more QuickPro Presets, new functions and the long-awaited plug-and-play Dante stage box solution. Comprising the Tio1608-D digital stage box and NY64-D Dante Interface Card, TF users will be able to set up and patch a digital snake just by connecting an Ethernet cable—no external computer required. Dealers and customers can expect the value of the TF Series to grow as we add features in future updates.”


Ludwig Drum Company’s Legacy Mahogany Series claimed top honors in the Best Drum Set of 2015 category. Terry Bissette, Director of Sales, noted, “Ludwig is truly honored to win such a prestigious award. We would like to thank all our loyal dealers and customers for their vote in recognizing Legacy Mahogany Series drums as Best Drum Set of 2015. Ludwig spent years researching and developing this unique drum set line. We wanted to pay tribute and homage to the rich history of the original mahogany drums of yesteryear, but with modern-day manufacturing refinements and appointments. The end result was a high-quality, U.S.A.-made set that is unparalleled in sound character and visual appeal for drummers of all ages. There are a lot of great product choices in the market today, but there can only be one winner. Again, we are very proud to be recognized for Best Drum Set of 2015.”

For Best Cymbals of 2015, the choice was Zildjian’s L80 Low Volume Cymbals. According to Mike Sutton, Low Volume and Gen 16 Product Manager, “We are absolutely thrilled to have our new L80 Low Volume Cymbals be recognized by our industry’s dealers and win a Music & Sound Award in the Best Cymbals category. We are very proud of this new product offering, as we feel we have created a valuable and trusted solution for drummers’ practice spaces, lesson rooms and lower-volume gigs. In support of our dealers and the entire music industry, we want to encourage new and existing drummers to keep playing and growing. We hope our L80 Low Volume Cymbals can enable drummers to play more often, in tighter spaces, and with the energy and passion they want to feel when sitting behind a drum kit.”

Sabian’s Sound Kit earned the crown when it came to Best Percussion Accessory of 2015. Tracy Hoeft, Brand Manager, Sabian Performance Accessories, commented, “We are honored to have our Sabian Sound Kit drum amplification solution recognized as the Best Percussion Accessory. While developing this product, we were sharply focused on giving drummers a better way to practice, perform and record their drums. Needless to say, we are very excited to be working with our dealer partners around the globe to offer drummers this great new way to hear their drums.”

Hal Leonard’s “Chart Hits” Instrumental Play-Alongs got the gold in the Best Book/Video/Software of 2015 category. David Jahnke, Vice President, National Sales, said, “We are proud that the ‘Chart Hits’ Instrumental Play-Alongs series won this award, and we’re glad that our customers recognize the benefits of our new MyLibrary online audio. Besides never again having to worry about breaking or losing a CD, now players can also enjoy options like tempo adjustment and looping to enhance their practice time and improve their performances! And, if young players are having more fun playing from these books, it can only mean more long-term customers for music stores down the road.”

Electro-Harmonix’s Key9 Electric Piano Machine came up aces in the Best Floor Effect of 2015 category. Larry DeMarco, Director of Marketing, remarked, “Every year, an incredible number of new effect pedals are introduced. So, the competition for the Best Floor Effect spot is extremely intense. We are pleased and proud that our Key9 Electric Piano Machine was selected. It’s a genuinely innovative pedal that emulates the world’s most coveted electric pianos and more. We are especially pleased that it follows hot on the heels of last year’s winner: our B9 Organ Machine.”

For Best DJ Product of 2015, the winner was Pioneer DJ’s DJM-S9 Mixer. David Arevalo, Director of Marketing, stated, “We are honored to receive the recognition of Best DJ Product of 2015. We created the DJM-S9 to help DJs express their unique music styles by using its customizable performance pads and effects. Our mission has always been to deliver high-quality products to DJs and producers all over the world, and we will continue to innovate and develop the next generation of products that the music community is asking for.”

Leading the way on Best Lighting Product of 2015 was CHAUVET DJ’s Swarm 4 FX. Berenice Chauvet, Vice President, explained, “Winning the Best Lighting Product award from The Music & Sound Retailer for the second consecutive year is a real honor for CHAUVET DJ. This year’s winner, the Swarm 4 FX, joins the Gig Bar IRC as the second multi-effect fixture from CHAUVET DJ to be honored by the industry. We’re proud that our company has led the way by introducing the first true multi-effect fixtures to the market. Multi-effect fixtures like our Swarm Series and Gig Bar have been enthusiastically received by end users, because they make it simple and affordable to create a dynamic lightshow with multiple effects from a single product. Dealers have embraced our multi-effect fixtures because they create happy customers and they’re easy to sell. While we’re pleased that CHAUVET DJ multi-effect fixtures have earned this recognition, our focus now is on developing the next big breakthrough. Our dealers would expect nothing less from CHAUVET DJ!”


Kala Brand’s Comfort Edge Tenors was the dealers’ choice in the Best Non-Guitar Fretted Instrument of 2015 category. Ryan Haugh, Product Manager, noted, “We are thrilled to have our latest Comfort Edge Florentine Tenor recognized by The Music & Sound Retailer. This model has all the features a ukulele player could want: ease of playability, striking features and quality sound, all in one.”

When it comes to product-centered categories, there is none bigger than Product of the Year. This year’s dominant vote-getter was Peavey’s VYPYR Pro. According to Courtland Gray, Chief Operating Officer, “We are proud to win the Product of the Year award for our VYPYR Pro amplifier. To be recognized with this award by our dealers across the country is a tremendous honor. The VYPYR Pro represents the pinnacle of modeling amplifier design. Combining analog distortion with more processing power than any previous VYPYR, the VYPYR Pro yields almost limitless tone possibilities, and it allows the professional player to create the rig of their dreams inside a single combo amplifier. Thank you to The Music & Sound Retailer for the opportunity. Thank you to our dealers for believing in Peavey. And a special thank you to all the Peavey employees worldwide who work together to help us build high-quality, innovative products.”

Danny Kent, of OnTrack Sales, was crowned Rep of the Year. He said, “I am honored and truly grateful to receive the Rep of the Year award for 2015. It is extremely gratifying to know that our hard work this past year was recognized by both our peers and supportive dealers. Thank you to The Music & Sound Retailer for acknowledging and presenting the Music & Sound Awards. More importantly, congratulations to the Music & Sound Awards on their 30th anniversary, and my congratulations to all the other nominees and winners.”

For the third year in a row, D’Addario & Co., Inc., deservedly received the Outstanding Community Service Award. According to Suzanne D’Addario Brouder, Executive Director of The D’Addario Foundation, “Thank you to The Music & Sound Retailer and the dealers who voted for the third year in a row to choose D’Addario for its outstanding community service. The D’Addario Foundation has worked tirelessly for years to provide cash and product grants to community-based music instruction programs. The programs we choose to partner with are transforming lives by providing access to quality, rigorous music instruction in underserved communities. These programs are filling a gap in our education system, exposing children as early as possible to music. And, they’re sticking with them through their education, so the power music training has to unlock creativity, lift self-esteem, provide a sense of belonging and improve academic performance can have the deepest impact. D’Addario has always generously donated a percentage of the net profits of the business to make our community partnerships possible, and it absorbs all our expenses so that 100 percent of our budget can be dedicated to this cause.”

Every company vies for the honor, but only one can earn it: Manufacturer of the Year. Once again, the deserving winner was Yamaha Corp. of America. Tom Sumner and Rick Young, Senior Vice Presidents, said, “The whole team at Yamaha Corp. of America is honored and humbled to receive the Music & Sound Award for Manufacturer of the Year. We work every day to design, manufacture, market and support products that dealers are confident to sell, customers are delighted to own and our employees are proud to represent. Our dealers are Yamaha’s key partners to get our instruments in musician’s hands, and we strive every day to make certain our products and people support our dealers. After meeting with most of our dealers and launching over 100 new products at NAMM in January, we hope Yamaha will help dealers be even more successful this year.”

Finally, the granddaddy of them all is the Lifetime Achievement/Hall of Fame Award, which The Retailer bestowed this year to Mike Matthews of Electro-Harmonix. Larry DeMarco, Director of Marketing, stated, “It was very gratifying for Mike Matthews to be honored with The Music & Sound Retailer’s Lifetime Achievement/Hall of Fame Award. Ever the innovator, Mike has survived and thrived while always going his own way. Over many decades, his passion has never diminished, and he’s still totally involved in every aspect of the business of Electro-Harmonix!”

Several other richly deserving award winners did not submit comments by press time. They are as follows: Best Instrument Amp of 2015: Fender’s Acoustic Pro Acoustic Amp; Best Cabled Microphone of 2015: Audio-Technica’s AT2020USBi Cardioid Condenser; Best Wireless System of 2015: Sennheiser’s Evolution Wireless D1; and Best Bag/Case of 2015: Gator Cases’ Titan Series Waterproof Guitar Case.

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