2015 NAMM Show:
The Big 10 We Saw

Since the 2015 NAMM Show, we've once again posted the videos and photos first, and now we step back, assess and share our findings with everyone in a little more detail. In the end, it was the following 10 companies and their products that we spent the most time with, so why not make it easy for everyone and get right into it.


Blackstar Amplifiers

At the 2015 NAMM Show, Black Star Amplifiers showed off the FLY 3, a compact mini amp with big tone. Combining two channels, the Fly 3 features the company’s patented Infinite Shape Feature (ISF) and a ‘tape’ delay. The ISF allows the player to change the sound and tone o the amplifier, while the tape delay effects allowing you to make your amp output resonate during play. The FLY 3 also comes with an MP3 & LINE IN jack built in, which means you can connect your MP3 player, mobile phone, laptop, tablet etc. and jam along to songs. The Emulated Output jack can also be used with headphones for on-the-go musicians.

You can combine the FLY 3 with the FLY 103 to create a six-watt guitar amp setup for a stereo effect when playing your guitar or listening to music. The FLY 103 comes with its own built-in cable to connect it to the FLY 3, making it a true stereo set-up. The extension cabinet is sold separately or as part of a FLY Stereo Pack that provides a power supply to power both units. At NAMM, Blackstar also introduced the ID:Core BEAM, the company’s first product with Bluetooth functionality, allowing you to stream your music to the amplifier. Go to www.blackstaramps.com to learn more.



Taylor Guitars

At NAMM, we learned a thing or two about some of the acoustics Taylor is rolling out, thanks to Master Builder Andy Powers, the man behind the company’s maple 600 Series. In 2014, Powers began to experiment with how far bracing, thickness, finish, and new seasoning processes like torrefaction — a wood roasting method — could enhance maple's tone profile. The result is a warmer, more dynamic, and more responsive instrument with more broadly appealing tonal properties than any maple guitar before it.

The acoustic voicing enhancements designed for the new 600 Series translate into amplified form with Taylor's new Expression System® 2 (ES2) electronics. The ES2 incorporates three uniquely positioned and individually calibrated pickup sensors. These are installed behind the saddle, through the bridge, and effectively capture more of each guitar's dynamic properties and acoustic energy. The newly redesigned 600 Series is available in the 614ce (Grand Auditorium), 616ce (Grand Symphony), 618ce (Grand Orchestra) and 656ce (12-String Grand Symphony). For more information, head over to www.taylorguitars.com.



Ludwig Drums

We looked at a few different drum options, but somehow Ludwig pulled us in. We were shown an array of new products, including the company’s Classic Maple kit with a satin natural maple finish. The Vintage drums caught our eye for obvious reasons, with its old-school three-ply shell construction from Ludwig's Golden Era and treasured for tonal purity in recording environments. As Ludwig's flagship professional drum line, the Legacy Series is a decidedly modern twist on the company’s vintage shell formula, unveiled in 1923 and touted as being built "...in accordance with the recognized correct principles used in the manufacture of airplanes."

After a glimpse of a few choice Ludwig snare drums, we stat behind a set of amber Vistalites — the “Zep Set” to replicate John Bonham’s famed kit. Vistalite drums are actually available in four colors: Amber, Blue, Yellow, and Clear. The original Vistalites came out in 1972, billed as joining wood and steel shells as part of the "Ludwig Triad of American Manufacturing." Indeed, the company continues to make some of the world’s best drums. Check them all out at www.ludwig-drums.com.



Johnny Winter’s Texas Screamer

Developed with the late Johnny Winter, the Texas Screamer was designed to capture the guitarist’s signature tone in a rugged and compact three-knob pedal. According to pedal manufacturer Big Joe Stomp Box Company, Winter approached them, seeking a pedal he could take on the road, and help him recreate that famous blues tone of his. After listening to more than 30 different pedals and prototype, he finally singed off on the Texas Screamer. “I cannot believe how this pedal recreates my tone through any amp I play through,” Winter remarked upon the pedal’s release.

Winter’s guitarist and close friend Paul Nelson recounted, “Johnny went through a plethora of pedals before choosing this pedal from Big Joe. It’s a shame he cannot be here to see the realization of this dream. Johnny not only picked out the sound, but he also picked out the product graphic- the dragon tattoo he had on his chest. He approved the final version and was looking forward to having it introduced at NAMM.” The Texas Screamer is 100% analog with true bypass circuitry. With just three basic knobs: Gain, Tone and Output. It’s Johnny in a box and true analog. Our kind of pedal. To learn more about it and Big Joe’s full line of pedals, power supplies and accessories, go to www.bigjoestompboxcompany.com.



Impression Cymbals

We got an eyeful of titillating cymbals at NAMM thanks to Impression Cymbals. Established in 2010, the comapny is the realization of experienced industry veterans and cymbalsmiths, offering a full line of completely hand hammered, artisan crafted cymbals produced in Istanbul, Turkey. We saw a wide range of cymbals including — Rock, Jazz, Dry Jazz, Traditional, Mixed, Smooth, Dark, Hard and X-Hard.

Each cymbal bears a handwritten signature, along with its weight, under the bell as a confirmation of quality. "Impression has amazing products, a cadre of fantastic artists, and a host of accolades from the press, retailers, and end users," Derek Zimmerman, president of ZimMusicInc, the North American distributor of Impression Cymbals said. "Their cymbals have been creating a buzz among professionals worldwide, and we are thrilled to be able to bring Impression to the U.S.A. and build upon the solid foundation they have created." For more information visit www.ZimMusicInc.com or www.impressioncymbals.com.



Gibson Les Paul Reference Monitors

As always Gibson showed of its latest wares in grand style, as we were lead to a small studio to see their latest to Les Paul. Recognizing the man who first pioneered the solid body electric guitar and later introduced multitrack recording, the company has rolled the Gibson Les Paul Reference Monitors.

As we would learn, the speakers truly offer superior sonic definition and are capped off with the Les Paul styling. Carbon-coated titanium tweeters, non-woven carbon woofers and custom-made amplification ensure an ultra clean transient impulse response and large headroom. The Les Paul Reference Monitors is available in three sizes and various Les Paul color configurations, such as cherry, tobacco sunburst and cherry sunburst. Judas Priest never sounded so good. Visit www.gibson.com to learn more.



Gretsch Drums

News of Drum Workshop scooping up Gretsch Drums, Latin Percussion, Toca Percussion, Gibraltar Hardware and KAT Percussion in a sweeping acquisition from Fender has brought about a mix of curiosity and anticipation. So we headed over to Gretsch’s room on the third level of the Anaheim convention center and got the grand tour of their latest drum sets. The company’s Broadkaster set features shells utilizing a mix of maple, poplar and maple wood, without reinforcement hoops. Broadkaster kits are available in two different hardware packages, standard and vintage.

Standard package includes heavy-duty Gretsch lugs, spurs and straight-sided GTS tom suspension typical to Gretsch USA Custom and Brooklyn kits, which we also saw. As Gretsch Drums were created in Brooklyn, New York in 1883, it only seems natural that the Gretsch Brooklyn series celebrates the rejuvenated Brooklyn city’s passion and spirit and with vintage Gretsch tones that are full, punchy and warm. Modified by the six-ply North American maple and poplar shells and "302" hoops, Brooklyn drums sound like classic Gretsch drums with their own sonic personality.

We couldn’t leave without hearing about Gretsch USA Custom drums. The company offers more than 75 drum sizes, in over 60 finishes. Hardware finishes include chrome, black and gold, plus there customizable hardware options such as T-rods and snap-in drum key holders. Head over to www.gretschdrums.com to learn more.



IK Multimedia

IK Multimedia offers an array of audio and interface accessories you can use with an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. At NAMM, however, they showed us a new version of their popular iRig guitar effects processor for Android devices called the iRig UA. It gives Android users the ability to utilize the AmpliTube, a full-featured version of the company’s guitar and bass multi-effects processing app. The iRig UA is touted as being able to produce rock solid performances, high-quality sound and near-zero latency on virtually any Android device running Android 4.0 OS or later and supporting USB host mode/USB OTG, including models from Samsung, Sony, Motorola, LG, HTC, Xiaomi and many more.

At NAMM, we were also shown the iRig Mic Field, the first ultra-compact audio/video stereo field mic for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. It lets you make stereo recordings while on the move, as well as recording a rehearsal or a concert, capturing audio for videography, acquiring audio for a music project, saving a lecture or speech, or creating a video. Finally, we were directed to the iRig Mic Studio, an across-the-board ultra-portable large-diaphragm digital microphone for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Macs, PCs and Android devices. It’s perfect for on-the-go musicians, vocalists, home producers, podcasters, broadcasters, and voice-over artists. iRig Mic Studio is fully compatible with a wide variety of third party apps and software, like Cubasis, ProStudio Vocal FX, MultiTrack DAW and more. It’s also compatible with Apple’s GarageBand and Logic Pro X apps, and iOS Voice Memo. Information on these and the huge variety of other cool IK Multimedia products can be found at www.ikmultimedia.com.



Peavey Electronics
PV AT Series Mixers w/ Antares Auto-Tune

W e got a chance to chat briefly with Hartley Peavey, founder of Peavey Electronics, and he assured us the company continues to develop and produce new and innovative products on an annual basis. Along with an array of amplifiers, guitars, speakers, Peavey was most anxious to tell us about the PV AT Series Mixers with Antares Auto-Tune, adding that this is the first mixer with integrated Auto-Tune. The PV 14 AT and PV 10 AT series mixers are equipped with Antares Auto-Tune pitch correction, a technology that can literally help anyone sing in key.

Adding features like Bluetooth, streaming capabilities, and MP3 playback via an USB port and LCD display, this is a mixer designed for people, in the words of Hartley Peavey, who can’t sing. Which just goes to show that the company’s reach into consumer markets is expanding with new technology on all fronts. Learn more at www.peavey.com.



IZ Technology's Radar Studio

During Media Day at NAMM, we got a peak a IZ Technology’s Radar Studio, a digital audio recorder boasting what the company says are best-in-class sonics, unparalleled build quality, and brilliant simplicity. You run your favorite DAW, natively or run ProTools out of the box.

Built with world-class converters and Adrenaline DR technology, RADAR studio transcends the digital barriers of sonic quality. Simple to use As any studio owner knows, the difference between good and great often almost always comes down to the performance. Be creative instead of steering a mouse. Just arm your tracks, hit RECORD, and focus on the music. When you runs Pro Tools natively, you can track, mix, and automate, using all the plugins and features your workflow requires. Made of the highest quality components, RADAR, unlike audio PCs and audio interfaces, is a true investment. Learn more at www.izcorp.com/products/radar.



Compiled by Shawn Perry
Photos by Maria Younghans & Ron Lyon where noted.

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