Having administrated the Music & Sound Awards (MSA) program since 2011, I’ve had the privilege of giving MSA “hardware” to some of the finest dealers, manufacturers, reps and industry executives in the music products space. Even with all that history, though, I was struck by the outstanding winners in our 31st annual MSA presentation. In the unlikely event that you doubted our industry is in a renaissance of creative innovation, just check out the manufacturer and product winners, spotlighted here. From the guitar category to percussion products, from mixers to print publications, and from DJ gear to wireless systems, these products are not only exceptional in quality, but also robustly profitable for brick-and-mortar dealers.

Let our distinguished MSA winners share their thoughts with you…and
join us in celebrating their considerable achievement.

In the Best Acoustic Guitar of 2016 category, top honors went to Taylor Guitars’ 562ce 12-Fret Guitar. According to Master Guitar Designer Andy Powers, “It is a real honor to have our 12-string/12-fret 562ce recognized by our dealer partners. Our 12-string instruments are deeply woven into Taylor’s guitar-making history as superbly playable guitars, and the 562ce was designed to be a uniquely expressive voice that invites more players to enjoy the 12-string experience. We felt a small-body edition offered an appealing new feel and sound, and we are thrilled to find that dealers and musicians agree.”

When it comes to Best Electric Guitar of 2016, the dealers’ votes went to Ibanez’s RGDIX7MPB-SBB Iron Label Guitar. Tom Appleton, Sales Strategist/Guitars & Electronics, stated, “We are honored to receive the Music & Sound Award for Best Electric Guitar for two years running. It is extremely gratifying to know that our Ibanez dealer network has chosen us for this prestigious award. Without the support of our dealer partners, we would not be able to create the amazing instruments that we offer. I would also like to salute all of this year’s nominees, which do so much to continue to grow and foster the music industry. We are truly humbled, and we pledge to continue to deliver the best products for you and your customers. Thank you from all of us here at Hoshino and Ibanez.”

Continuing in the guitar vein, the winner for Best Bass Guitar of 2016 was Fender’s Flea Jazz Bass. Acknowledging the win, Justin Norvell, Vice President, Electrics and Accessories, said, “We at Fender are excited and honored to be recognized by our partners and dealers around the country with this award for our Fender Signature Flea Jazz Bass. This was an exciting project with a marquee artist, and it clearly resonated with the community. In addition to the product, we were pleased that our PR/marketing and social campaign helped expand our reach, driving interest and traffic into the MI channel from both fans and mainstream media. We strive for product excellence, and having this award be voted on by our valued dealer network is a true privilege.”

In the category of Best Guitar Accessory of 2016, On-Stage’s GS7140 Push-Down Spring-Up Guitar Stand earned the gold. Jim Hennessey, Executive Chairman, remarked, “TMP/On-Stage has been dedicated to innovative product design since its inception in 1979. We are truly honored to have been recognized this past year with not one but two Music & Sound Awards. The GS7140 Push-Down Spring-Up Guitar Stand is unique in its blend of functionality and convenience. It utilizes a spring-loaded mechanism that renders the guitar and stand a single unit for ease of set-up and placement. Simply press the guitar down into the lower yoke and lock its neck in the upper yoke for one-unit positioning and portability; then, reverse the process for smooth, secure stage or studio access.” He continued, “A Music & Sound Award is very gratifying and much appreciated because it reflects a broad spectrum of retailers. It means we’re doing our job, giving folks exciting new options and helping them focus on what’s really important: their music.”

A perennial Music & Sound Award winner in the category for Best Effect Pedal, Electro-Harmonix and its MEL9 Tape Replay Machine once again earned the votes. Larry DeMarco, Director of Marketing, commented, “We’d like to thank all the retailers who selected the Electro-Harmonix MEL9 Tape Replay Machine as Best Effect Pedal of 2016. What makes receiving this award even more incredible is that those retailers chose our KEY9 Electric Piano Machine as the award recipient in 2015, and our B9 Organ Machine in 2014. The MEL9 transforms a guitarist’s ax and lets them conjure up the sounds of vintage, tape-based keyboards. Those sounds have become part of the fabric of modern music, and the MEL9 provides players with a portable, practical and affordable way to emulate them.”

It was a great year in the string category, with lots of product innovation. However, voters’ clear choice for Best Strings of 2016 was D’Addario’s Nickel Bronze Acoustic Strings. Brian Vance, Director of Product Management, noted, “After pioneering 80/20 Bronze and Phosphor Bronze, it’s no easy feat to reinvent the acoustic guitar string. But, we’ve done it with Nickel Bronze. By bringing out unrealized tones and hidden wood character from acoustic guitars, Nickel Bronze has opened up an entirely new spectrum of acoustic sound. Sparkling clarity, improved balance and unsurpassed projection have inspired artists as diverse as Ray LaMontagne, Keith Urban and Kacey Musgraves to re-imagine their acoustic tone. We thank the readers of The Music & Sound Retailer and our valued dealer partners for supporting Nickel Bronze, and for taking a chance on this new standard in acoustic tone.”

In the hotly contested Best Non-Guitar Fretted Instrument of 2016 category, Kala Brand’s 2016 Elite Ukulele Series came up aces. Jason Villa, Manufacturing Manager, stated, “We are thrilled to have received this award from The Music & Sound Retailer at the NAMM Show. It is an honor and privilege to be building instruments at the Kala shop in Petaluma CA. Each day, our team of builders takes great pride in crafting high-quality instruments for musicians and enthusiasts to enjoy for a lifetime. And special thanks to all our dealers for their continued support over the years.”

This year, Best Band & Orchestra Product of 2016 went to Yamaha’s YEV Series Electric Violin. Ken Dattmore, Marketing Manager, Strings, said, “It’s an honor and achievement to be named the MSA winner for Best Band & Orchestra Product. The purpose behind the Yamaha YEV Series Electric Violin was to provide a seamless transition for the multitudes of violinists ready to move to an electric instrument, and it has surpassed even our expectations. Thank you to all our dealers for their continued support in making the YEV Series Electric Violin the great success it is today. We will do our utmost to continue delivering the quality you have come to expect from us.”

Let’s turn to Best Keyboard/Sound Module of 2016, which, this year, went to Roland’s FP-90 Digital Piano. Corey Fournier, Category Sales Manager, noted, “We are grateful to our dealers, whose support is essential for the success of our products. The FP-90 is the result of several years of development, and many of its refinements are based on dealer feedback. So, it’s gratifying to know that our partnership has created an instrument that is fulfilling for trained musicians and helping to inspire the next generation of music makers, which is our ultimate goal. This makes this award all the more satisfying, in that it represents the achievement of our mutual success as a team: a real win-win-win.”

For Best Speaker of 2016, it comes down to three letters: JBL. The EON ONE Linear-Array PA System earned the top prize. Bryan Bradley, Senior Vice President and GM, Entertainment, said, “On behalf of everyone at JBL Professional and HARMAN, we would like to thank our partners and The Music & Sound Retailer for recognizing the JBL EON ONE all-in-one linear-array PA system as the Best Speaker of 2016. It is such an honor for JBL Professional to win this award for the second year in a row, especially in such a highly competitive category. With the first truly all-in-one linear-array PA system, we strove to bring the same technology and sound quality found in our loudspeakers to the EON ONE system. It seems that our hard work has paid off with this acknowledgement and continued support. Again, thank you to The Music & Sound Retailer and all our partners for this wonderful recognition.”

The winner for Best Mixer/Console of 2016 was PreSonus’ StudioLive AR USB Hybrid Mixers. According to VP of Sales Rick Naqvi, “We appreciate the Music & Sound Award because it comes from dealers, who work with our customers every day. StudioLive AR USB mixers have been an instant success because they’re lightweight, versatile and feature-rich, yet they’re easy to use and a terrific value. They combine the familiarity of analog; the flexible inputs of our unique Super Channel; 24-bit, 96-kilohertz, multi-track USB recording; and an integrated stereo SD digital recorder. The Music & Sound Award confirms that’s a winning combination.”

Turning to the world of drums, we arrive at a new category: Best Acoustic Drum Product of 2016. The top vote getter was D’Addario’s Evans Drumheads’ UV1 Drumhead Series. Sergio Bonsignore, Percussion Product Specialist, remarked, “The UV1 series is the end result of years of research, experimentation and product development. These drumheads went through extensive testing, and they were played by over a thousand drummers before we landed on a finished product. Through the process, we learned a lot about drummers’ needs, and we created something compelling that solves a common problem: Drummers want heads that hold up to the rigors of everyday playing, but that remain versatile for a variety of musical applications. UV1 drumheads are exactly that. We’re grateful for the recognition from The Music & Sound Retailer, and we’re excited to share the most versatile and durable drumheads that drummers have ever laid their hands on.”

Top honors in another new category—Best Electronic Drum Product of 2016—went to Roland’s TD‑50KV Electronic Drum Kit. According to Drew Armentrout, Product & Artist Relations Manager, Drums & Percussion, “On behalf of Roland Corp. U.S., we would like to express our sincere thanks and gratitude for the Music & Sound Award for Best Electronic Drum Product of 2016 for the TD-50KV V-Drums kit. Twenty-seventeen marks the 20th anniversary of Roland’s iconic V-Drums line, which completely revolutionized the percussion industry. Roland has continued to refine and improve these instruments, and the flagship TD-50KV is a reflection of Roland’s 45-year commitment to electronic drums and percussion. Most importantly, we would like to acknowledge our valued dealers. Their loyalty and continued support, and the infectious enthusiasm they share with their customers, are truly the fuel that drives Roland to design and produce the best possible instruments for creative music making for musicians of every age and skill level.”

Moving right along to Best Cymbals of 2016, the dealers have spoken, and they’ve chosen Zildjian’s A Avedis Cymbals. Victor Filonovich, Cymbal Category Manager, remarked, “We are absolutely thrilled to have our A Avedis Cymbal Collection be recognized by our industry’s dealers and win a Music & Sound Award for Best Cymbals of 2016. This collection not only represents a big part of Zildjian’s history, but also represents many of the great drummers and the legendary music of the 20th century. We’ve worked hard to recreate the sound, the look and the feel of these iconic cymbals, and we are honored to have them win this award from the best dealers in the country.”

Rounding out the world of drums, we have Best Percussion Accessory of 2016, in which Promark By D’Addario’s ActiveGrip Drumsticks nabbed the most dealer votes. Elijah Navarro, Percussion Product Specialist, said, “Promark sought to develop a new drumstick coating technology that would push far beyond the offensive stick grips currently available, while elevating a drummer’s performance—not detracting from it. Through many painstaking iterations, the groundbreaking, patent-pending technology of ActiveGrip was born, and it has inspired drummers, including Mike Portnoy, Rich Redmond, Glenn Kotche and Anton Fig, across a vast array of musical genres. As the manufacturer of the first-ever heat-activated drumstick coating, we’re honored that the readers of The Music & Sound Retailer, as well as our dealer partners, see the benefits of ActiveGrip technology. It puts an emphasis on how a drummer’s tools can help them handle any playing situation, while taking their performance to new heights.”

Next up are microphones, and multiple-year winner Sennheiser took first place in the Best Wireless System of 2016 category for its ew 100 ENG G3 Wireless. According to Greg Beebe, Director, Live Performance & Music, “We would like to express our sincere thanks to The Music & Sound Retailer and all the dealers that voted our ew 100 ENG G3 Wireless as Best Wireless System of 2016. Since the G3 has been on the market for nine years and this is the third generation of our evolution wireless series, this award speaks to the quality of the product and Sennheiser’s pursuit of perfect sound. Indeed, the G3 is still relevant today for many applications, including podcasting and video blogging, as well as more traditional broadcast uses. We are also proud to note that the G3 is assembled in our Albuquerque NM plant, right here in the U.S. Thank you again for the recognition and to the readership of The Music & Sound Retailer.

A frequent winner in this category, Shure secured the gold as Best Cabled Microphone of 2016 for the KSM8 Dualdyne Vocal Microphone. Abby Kaplan, Director, U.S. Retail Sales, commented, “Since the original Unidyne debuted in 1939, innovation in transducer design has been a hallmark of Shure’s engineering. The KSM8 Dualdyne Vocal Microphone opens the next chapter in Shure microphone history. It was the result of years of effort by a devoted team of people who are passionate about live performance, and it has been embraced by the dealers and rental companies who provide equipment for shows every day. Shure is delighted that the KSM8 has been named as Best Cabled Microphone of 2016 by The Music & Sound Retailer.

Light fixtures are an increasingly profitable category for music products retailers. This makes the Best Lighting Product of 2016 win for CHAUVET DJ’s GigBAR 2 Four-In-One Lighting System even more meaningful. Albert Chauvet, President, stated, “CHAUVET DJ is grateful to have been honored with The Music & Sound Retailer’s Best Lighting Product award for the ultimate pack-and-go lighting system, GigBAR 2. GigBAR 2 includes two LED derby fixtures, LED wash lights with UV, a laser and four high-power LED strobe lights, all mounted on one bar. Products like GigBAR 2 mean entertainers can provide amazing light shows quickly and easily. Our commitment to providing the very best value, innovation and performance tools, like the ultra-convenient, four-in-one GigBAR 2, is stronger than ever. We’d like to thank our dealer partners for their continued partnership and confidence in CHAUVET DJ products. This incredible honor shows us that, together, our efforts are helping mobile entertainers prosper through lighting.”

If you’re a DJ, you want to know which product earned the MSA for Best DJ Product of 2016. Well, it’s Peavey’s Dark Matter Series Enclosures. Courtland Gray, COO, noted, “We are honored to have our Dark Matter speaker enclosures recognized as Best DJ Product of 2016. Thanks to their advanced, DSP-equipped power section, the high-SPL Dark Matter enclosures provide best-in-class performance and deliver crystal-clear, professional audio. These enclosures are perfect for bands, DJs and other musical applications. The Peavey team worked long and hard to develop a new line that would meet and exceed the demands of today’s consumer. Thank you to all of the participating dealers for recognizing that effort and choosing Peavey in this category.”

Next on the list is Best Bag/Case of 2016. The MSA went to category powerhouse Gator Cases and its Updated TSA Series Cases. According to Mike Swenson, Senior Director of Marketing & Creative Services, “The Gator Cases team is honored to have won a Music & Sound Award for our upgraded TSA Series Cases. We are thankful for the incredible content delivered by The Music & Sound Retailer, which enriches our business community. We would also like to thank the powerful and passionate dealer network for all the votes cast in every category. We thank you, and we look forward to an incredible year.”

One of the toughest categories, if for no other reason than its sheer breadth, is Best Book/Video/Software of 2016. The winner this year? Hal Leonard’s “Hamilton – Vocal Selections.” David Jahnke, VP, National Sales, said, “We are very proud to represent ‘Hamilton’ in print. This amazing show has taken Broadway to exciting new heights and introduced a whole new generation of fans to the world of musical theater. Thanks to the stores who voted for our ‘Vocal Selections’ as Best Book/Video/Software of 2016. We hope you’ve all had fun selling it in your stores, as well as performing it with your coworkers and customers. We look forward to a whole slew of new movies and Broadway musicals causing more buzz in 2017!”

More and more dealers have identified accessories as their bread-and-butter sales these days, making the Best Accessory Product of 2016 award particularly high profile. The winner was On-Stage’s GPB4000 Guitar/Keyboard Pedal Board. Jim Hennessey, Executive Chairman, remarked, “TMP/On-Stage, again, is truly honored to have been recognized this past year with not only one but two Music & Sound Awards. The Best Accessory Product winner, the GPB4000, is the first of its kind: a pedal board that accommodates both guitars and keyboards. Designed to fit seamlessly over any On-Stage X-Style keyboard stand, the GPB4000 accepts effects pedals for guitar, keyboards, modular synths, laptops, DI boxes, small mixers and drum machines. The included padded gig bag and ample adhesive strips complete this unique product. Everyone at TMP/On-Stage—particularly the R&D team, who dedicate themselves round the clock to researching, engineering and fulfilling industry demand—is appreciative of the awards and the recognition from all the voters. The support and the inspiration make our jobs a much more exciting profession.”

When it comes to recognizing music products, there is no higher honor than Product of the Year, which, for 2016, went to Yamaha’s EMX Series Powered Mixers. According to Nithin Cherian, Marketing Manager, Pro Audio, “We are greatly honored to accept the Music & Sound Award for 2016 Product of the Year. With the EMX Series mixers, we set out to create a product that would build on the performance of its predecessors, as well as appeal to a wide range of users. Winning this award affirms the hard work and dedication of our staff of engineers. Of course, none of this would be possible without the continued support of our dealers, who have helped make Yamaha the bestselling line of powered mixers in the U.S. Thank you, and we look forward to bringing you even better products in the days to come.”

For a truly stunning fourth year in a row, the award for Outstanding Community Service went to D’Addario & Co., Inc. Suzanne D’Addario Brouder, D’Addario Foundation Director, commented, “Thank you to The Music & Sound Retailer and to all the dealers who voted, for the fourth year in a row, to recognize the D’Addario Foundation for our commitment to supporting music education. Last year alone, the D’Addario Foundation granted more than $700,000 and raised $200,000 to support our not-for-profit grantees. The Foundation partners with programs that are transforming lives by providing access to quality, rigorous music instruction, filling a gap in our education system, exposing children to music as early as possible and sticking with them through their education for as long as possible. Our future goals include collaboration and information sharing with this amazing dealer network in order to tap further into local needs, as well as to expand our ability to create more music makers. Thank you once again.”

Of a piece with the company’s winning ways, D’Addario & Co., Inc., also earned Manufacturer of the Year, based on its dealer partners’ votes. John D’Addario III, President, stated, “As part of our lean philosophy at D’Addario, each and every day we relentlessly seek opportunities to eliminate waste, improve processes and innovate. We are driven by our quest to sustain our status as a high-quality, low-cost manufacturer and remain globally competitive. We also have a great deal of pride in our commitment to designing and producing over 95 percent of our products right here in the U.S.A., while remaining socially responsible along the way. However, everything we do would not be possible unless we had the support of so many loyal customers. On behalf of the entire D’Addario family and family of employees, I would like to extend our sincere appreciation for being recognized as Manufacturer of the Year. It is truly an honor to be nominated by The Music & Sound Retailer and our dealers, let alone to be awarded as such.”

Finally, for Rep of the Year, The Music Link’s Misha Guiffre came up aces. He said, “I am deeply honored to accept The Music & Sound Retailer’s Rep of the Year award. I have long admired The Music & Sound Retailer’s commitment to quality industry coverage. It’s been an amazing year at The Music Link, and I am genuinely thankful to every single dealer who nominated and voted for me. I look forward to a bright and successful future together.”

Other Music & Sound Award winners included the following: Best Amplifier of 2016: Supro’s 1695T Black Magick; Best Multitrack Recorder of 2016: TASCAM’s DR-100mkIII Handheld Digital Stereo Recorder.

Chris Martin Wins Highest Honor

Far and away the most prestigious Music & Sound Award is Lifetime Achievement/Hall of Fame, which is reserved for the true icons of the music products industry. This year, dealers selected Chris Martin, CEO and Chairman, Martin Guitar, for this singular honor.

Speaking to The Music & Sound Retailer, Martin said, “It is an honor to receive this Lifetime Achievement/Hall of Fame Award on behalf of Martin Guitar. We truly value the close relationships that we have enjoyed with our dealers and distributors, many of them decades long. With the making of our two-millionth guitar in 2017, I reflect back to the innovations my family has made in the world of guitar building. We are fortunate and thankful to remain relevant 184 years later. This would not be possible without the hard work of our craftspeople, dealers and the legions of committed Martin fans who faithfully buy our guitars and strings. Although MI as a whole is heading into 2017 with some challenges, we remain optimistic that, since music heals and lifts us up, it will prevail over uncertainty in the end, and retailers of musical instruments will flourish once again. We felt the excitement at NAMM, and we were thrilled to be there introducing new products, including FSC-certified and artist signature models. We are proud of our rich history, and we continue to dedicate our efforts to sustainable guitar building and innovation in a world of endless possibilities. Many thanks to The Music & Sound Retailer for this prestigious award.”

Plans are already underway to make next year’s MSAs our best ever. Stay tuned!

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