NAMM Announces Best in Show Winners

Panelist Mike Guillot shows off the new Level 360 drum head from Evans Sunday at NAMM
Panelist Mike Guillot shows off the new Level 360 drum head from Evans Sunday at NAMM

Brandon Ferguson

The fact that NAMM's Sunday Best in Show event, featuring a panel discussion of the week's  coolest gadgets and companies, happened at the ungodly hour of 8 a.m.and was still packed speaks volumes about the allure of this epic trade show and its ability to inspire musical gear heads and retailers. Though many of the folks hunched over plates of scrambled eggs  spent the previous night getting debauched at NAMM parties, yet they awoke at zero dark thirty to flood the massive Pacific Ballroom at the Anaheim Hilton to watch six panelists announce their picks for cool NAMM products in four categories: Best Add On/Accessory, Gotta Stock item, Company to Watch and Best in Show. 

The panel was made up of music store owners from across the country (many rocking long "O" Southern accents), who engaged with one another in good-natured ribbing as they referenced the previous night's parties. At one point panelist Donavan Bankhead of Springfield Music presented panelist Alan Friedman with a pair of Brazilian leather underwear sporting pink tassels. Most of the humor though would have made Krusty the Klown cringe, especially Friedman's lamentations regarding his kid's taste in music, which involved obsessions with the bands Sum 41, 311, and Avenged Sevenfold. One had to wonder if the kid is in his mid 30s. 

Here's an abridged list of some of the niftier finds at this year's show according to the panel:



Guitars printed by 3D systems.
Guitars printed by 3D systems.
Brandon Ferguson


Best Add On/ Accessory
D' Addario Evans Level 360 Drum Head

Whether or not this proclaimed advancement in drum-head technology is all its cracked up to be I can't say--I don't play drums. But what's cool is that it doesn't cost extra. According to panelist Mike Guillot of Mississippi Music, the new drum head features a unique collar that allows it to sit level making it easier to tune. Later in the day, a rep giving a demonstration at the Evans booth was heard making the pitch "Who picks up a pair of drum sticks and says to themselves, 'I want to spend my time tuning?'"


Best Add On/ Accessory
Ernie Ball Slinky M-Steel Electric Guitar Strings

Ears perked up when panelist Alan Friedman mentioned this product from the popular string manufacturer was made of defense grade steel.  "They make bombers out of these things," he declared. Supposedly these new strings allow for a greater output of sound and are break resistant. Though it's unlikely Friedman  had a chance to put the product through serious paces in the last four days, it sounds like it might be worth while for guitarists to pick up a pack or two and give them a rigorous strum.

 

Gotta Stock Item
TC Ditto Looper

If you've ever had a chance to see Orange County's local bar band phenom Danny Maika, then you know what looping is. Though I hate his music, he makes impressive use of the technique which involves playing a phrase on his guitar or singing a verse, then using a pedal to record said phrase or verse, then layering said phrase or verse with other phrases--all live. The TC Looper Ditto Looper features a simple interface with two knobs for adjusting the level and recording. It can record up to five minutes of material at a time. If you think you need more, I contend you don't.


Best in Show
Taylor Guitars Grand Orchestra Series

For fans of beautiful guitars, this was one of those mouth watering moments. Taylor acoustics are among the most coveted in the market. According to panelist Donavan Bankhead the Grand Orchestra Series features the boominess of a jumbo body without the mass. "It sounds like a grand piano," he said.



Best in Show
3D Systems

This was the "future is now moment" of the morning. If you're not familiar 3D printing, the technology is what its title purports to be--one day we're all going to be using digital printers to make everything from breakfast to prostitutes. Panelist Billy Cuthrell of Progressive Music Center in North Carolina showed off a small rocket ship made of plastic that was literally printed by the 3D systems machine on display. The machine capable of producing the rocket will set you back $1200 and is still sort of a novelty item. Less novel was the red, white and blue colored electric guitar with Statue of Liberty embellishments in the body. It was printed in a larger machine, which frankly you can't afford. But a guitarist can dream.

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