2017 NAMM Show:
Five That Caught Our Eye

When you’re wandering the aisles of the NAMM show, some of the eye candy starts to blur until it's hard to tell one guitar from another. You really have to get up close to tell the difference. We decided to dig a little deeper this year, and see what unique products we could pick out amongst the thousands that fill the Anaheim Convention Center floor. What we decided on were a couple of cool guitar lines, a device to save stolen instruments, colorful portable turntables and a set of signature cymbals.



GearSecure solves an age-old problem with owning precious musical instruments: recovering them if they’re stolen or lost. Adam Mandel, the man behind GearSecure, told us that out of a million instruments stolen each year, only three percent are recovered in the United States. “It’s an epidemic,” he said, adding that losing an instrument can be a traumatic for a musician. “It’s an extension of them.” Here’s how it works: the company’s mobile app syncs with patented technology to create the first embedded anti-theft device for musical instruments and other assorted gear. GearSecure’s proprietary technology provides a bridge between RFID and GPS technology to help in instant recovery of lost or stolen gear. When it releases later in 2017, the technology will be offered to consumers at a yearly subscription price of $19.95 retail. It will be embedded in new gear, immediately available for backline and tour management inventory solutions, and eventually released through a certified installer network. For more information, visit gearsecuremusic.com.


McSwain Guitars

Stephen McSwain had a spot on the NAMM floor to introduce his Boutique Guitar Showcase, an impressive display of customized axes. Based out of Portland, Oregon, McSwain has been building guitars since 1991. He told us Steve Vai owns the very first guitar he carved. Since then, he’s worked to develop a guitar with “my own shape, my own headstock, and my own look,” often incorporating metal with wood to create virtual art pieces. His Red, White & Bullets model utilizes aluminum over mahogany and features genuine .357 magnum bullet shell casings on the body and star-shaped finger board inlays. “It’s straight up Malcolm Young,” McSwain said. “A split coil and the bridge and you’re there man.” He showed us the first set-neck guitar he built, incorporating aircraft aluminum, airplane gauges and sterling silver knobs for the total aviator effect. The StaCool, the designer’s personal favorite, is highlighted with a 1940s Sta Cool oil. If you’re looking for guitar that looks as unique as it sounds, visit mcswainguitars.com.



Paiste’s "Nicko's Treasures" Limited Edition

We couldn’t resist checking out "Nicko's Treasures" Limited Edition set of cymbals at Paiste. Inspired by the Mayan theme of the band’s Book of Souls tour stage set, Paiste and Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain collaborated to create special silk screens for the cymbals. Elements of the artwork include the sun god Tonatiuh, and the date January 9, 1983, written in Mayan calendar glyphs, the day the drummer first played with Iron Maiden. The Paiste logos are rendered in Iron Maiden script. The cymbal set consists of the Signature Reflector models 14" Heavy Hi-Hat, 15", 16", 18", 19", 20" & 22" Heavy Full Crashes, 22" Bell Ride, 22" Heavy China, a Signature 20" Fast Medium, a RUDE 17" Crash/Ride and a Formula 602 13" Heavy Bell. The 12-cymbal set comes in a massive, customized wooden crate. You also get a signed CD and vinyl versions of The Book of Souls album, signed Nicko "Boomer" McBrain signature drum sticks, and a signed Certificate of Authenticity. Better hurry because they’ve only made 83 sets worldwide. Interested customers should contact Paiste at paiste.com.



D'Angelico Guitars

D’Angelico drew crowds to their room on the upper level with sets from Kurt Rosenwinkel, Robert Randolph, Erick Walls, Matt Schofield, Brandon "Taz" Niederauer, Gene Cornish, and Skunk Baxter. A special performance by Bob Weir hasd the Grateful Dead guitarist introduced his new Bob Weir Signature SS, a Bigsby-equipped, coil-tapping, single-cutaway semi-hollow guitar. Designed over eight months with Weir, there are Premier and Deluxe series equipped with different hardware and other features. “It’s got that twang sound that Bob loves,” the company’s Ryan Kershaw told us. Kershaw also showed off three limited edition custom guitars: the Excel 175 Elvis Presley 175, with a 16-inch wide fully hollow body sporting an image of Elvis and two Kent Armstrong humbuckers; the popular Excel EXL-1 Marilyn Monroe, an elegant 17-inch wide body with a captivating portrait of Marilyn Monroe; and the Premier Grateful Dead DC with the famous red-white-and-blue Steel Your Face lightning bolt logo stretched across its 16-inch-wide semi-hollow body. What’s interesting is that these guitars are all reasonably priced and total collector’s items. Get yours at dangelicoguitars.com.



Rock 'N' Rolla

On Sunday, the last day of NAMM, we headed down to the basement to check out some of the more innovative, sometimes unusual, sometimes the kind of stuff you never realized were working parts of musical instruments, like wood, gears, valves, tuners, wire, etc. In the midst of this valley of entrepreneurship, we came upon a colorful display manned by a proprietor with a familiar name. Marshall Blonstein is a veteran in the music business, a principal and co-founder of Ode Records, one-time president of Island Records, and founder of audiophile music labels Audio Fidelity Music and DCC Compact Classics. We have reviewed several of the SACD reissues Audio Fidelity has released, many of deep catalog gems that are revived with new upgrades and packaging. His product line at the Rock N Rolla booth was something else altogether, but certainly executed with the same spirit and imagination. We were shown four portable record players: the Junior, the Premium, the XL and the UFO. They all have a USB port and SD card readers, so you can digitize your analog record. The Premium and the UFO feature a four-hour lithium battery for audiophiles who like to play their records in remote areas without electricity. And you have to love the XL with its hidden CD player underneath the turntable platter. We also checked out the Britney Spears and Pitbull celebrity Bluetooth headphones (Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus models are on the way). When you add the style, color and exceptionally low prices these items fetch, it’s no wonder more people aren’t scrambling to buy these products at myrocknrolla.com.


Compiled by Shawn Perry
Photos by Ron Lyon and Shawn Perry where noted.

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