By Shawn Perry
Photos by Erin Scott
While everything at the NAMM Show seems to get bigger, the space allotted for Media Preview Day gets smaller. That didn’t stop a handful of ambitious vendors from breaking out their wares for members of the press to slobber over. Lots of guitars — D’Angelico, Fender, G&L Guitars, et al. — were on display. Then JC Curleigh, Los Lobos, Jared James Nichols, and the rest of the Gibson crew showed up and kicked out the jams.
Amidst the processing effects, apps and gadgets, we gave it all a look-see and focused on five products, mostly with an international flair. Over the next few days, we suspect we’ll see a lot more.
DM48 Digital Chromatic Harmonica
A MIDI harmonica? It was bound to happen. The Lekholm DM48 is actually an electronic instrument controller in the form of a chromatic harmonica. Twelve independent pressure sensors put players in control of a world of synthetic sounds. The DM48 is described as a pure MIDI controller without onboard sound synthesis. So you can practice without waking up the neighbors, or blow through a jam without feeding back.
Proprietor Erik Lekholm told us the DM48 gives “a harmonica player the same possibilities a keyboard player has.” Little Walter just rolled over in his grave. “You can play any song you like, controlling the tempo…” All you have to do is plug the DM48 into your computer, iPad or iPhone, and you’re on your way to a new harmonica experience. With the compact DM48 featuring an anodized aluminum mouthpiece, harp players finally get to board the digital revolution.
Like we said, guitars are a NAMM staple, and it really takes something special to outshine the Gibsons and Fenders of the showroom floor. Paoletti Guitars are crafted in Tuscany, Italy, using reclaimed chestnut wood from 130- to 150-year-old wine barrels. OK, that got our attention. We just marveled over the Wine, Loft, Leather and Lounge series. The effect from the wood is, according to the company brochure, “layers of tone and sustain.” Though the shapes and sizes are comparable to Fender Stratocasters, Telecasters, and Gibson Les Pauls, the look and feel is definitely something to behold.
General Manager Filippo Martini proudly showed us the Richard Fortus #2 Signature model the company designed with the Guns N’ Roses guitarist. The guitar’s chestnut wood body connects to a pure Canadian maple neck. The Italian white leather top and handmade pickups provide the guitar with a classic sheen, while extending the life of weathered wood beyond the vineyards.
Most of the big-time drum, cymbal, percussion and related tend to not participate in Media Preview Day. Maybe it’s the noise factor, though more likely space. Which is why Wizzdrum, a 3D printed, portable, all-acoustic drum kit, grabbed our attention. Available in a variety of configurations, the Wizzdrum comprises all the essential pieces of a standard drum set — bass drum, snare, tom toms, cymbals, pedals — within a fraction of the footprint.
Invented in the Netherlands by Wouter Hietkamp, the Wizzdrum made quite an impression. Company representative Lotte Vermeer gave us the rundown, saying the Wizzdrum is a “completely a new way of drumming.” She motioned to a nearby Wizzdrum and stated with hesitation that it fits “in a suitcase.” Which means you can either check it in or carry it on your next plane flight! “Yes, you can take it anywhere and it has a great sound.” With the option of a set with or without a drum pedal, an inventive, easy-to-twist tuning system, and the ability to change the heads without the hassle, you couldn’t ask for a simpler set.
Jones-Scanlon Studio Monitors
Maybe it was the glossy red finish of the cabinets that made the initial impression, but the Jones-Scanlon Studio Monitors we heard made our ears tingle and take notice. Designed by musician, producer, and manufacturer Wayne Jones and engineer Steve Scanlon, who’s turned the knobs for The Chainsmokers, Mariah Carey, Deep Purple and many more.
“We know what engineers and producers want in the studio,” Jones tells us. “We have one monitor that can do everything. It has a frequency range that is accurate, no mud in between. You can hear your compression.” Scanlon adds, “It has better transient response. Everything is so accurate — the relationship between the two drivers is amazing.” A sampling later, and we were sold.
With vinyl records in vogue and outselling CDs, newer technologies embracing the old analog format are likely to spring into action. According to one resource we found, lathe cut records are made from clear plastic and cut individually, one at a time. They are made by cutting grooves into the disc using a record lathe. It’s not an exact science and mistakes occur regularly. Enter Perfect Groove.
Perfect Groove software is a virtual lathe cutting tool, which allows mastering engineers to virtually cut the grooves and correct any critical areas before the actual cut happens. The company’s Andreas Wagner explained that because the demand for vinyl is “on the rise,” the ability to cut quality lathes in studios is imperative. Perfect Groove “put it in the software, and analyzes it,” saving money and time, while providing better audio quality and longer playing time. In other words, the quality of vinyl records is only going to get better.