Wednesday, January 29, 2014

NAMM 2014: Best in Show Products

For a musician, walking through the massive Anaheim Convention Center halls during NAMM is like being a kid in a candy store. There are so many instruments, so much gear and so much going on (artist signings, demos, performances) that it takes at least a couple days to absorb it all. You never know what you'll find going on around the corner.

Here are some items that immediately caught my attention at NAMM 2014 last week...

Martin Guitars' sharp new Eric Clapton signature edition model (OM-ECHF Navy Blues), the third in a series of collaborations between the guitar maker, rock 'n' roll hall of famer and Hiroshi Fujiwara.

Previous ECHF models included the "Bellezza Nera" (Black Beauty) and "Bellezza Bianca" (White Beauty) with a 24.9" scale length. This OM edition incorporates a longer 25.4" scale for added string tension and tonal projection.

The neck and body are lacquered and polished with a striking dark navy coloration combined with atop East Indian rosewood back and sides and a European spruce soundboard.

Each OM-ECHF Navy Blues guitar bears an interior label, individually numbered and personally signed by Eric Clapton, Hiroshi Fujiwara, Dick Boak and C. F. Martin IV. Quantities will be limited to 181 guitars. (MSRP: $6,999)


Early Friday afternoon, I decided to check out the wares in Hall E on the lower level and stumbled upon the Mahalo Ukelele booth. It drew a sizable crowd, thanks to a pair of hula dancers and a guy playing/singing songs like Harry Belafonte's "Day-O."

The China-based company started in the early 2000s and sells electric and acoustic ukes, plus lap steel models. Designs range from custom, mahogany and colored to flags, art, rock and my favorite - surf, which - you guessed it - is shaped like a surfboard. Even better - the prices are reasonable.


Located directly across from Mahalo was Matsikas S.A. Musical Instruments, whose headquarters is in Athens, Greece. It has specialized in the production of Hellenic traditional musical instruments since 1979. 

Products include Turkish ouds, bouzoukis, tamburas, tzouras, lyras, mandolas and lutes as well as cellos, mandolins, banjos, violins, violas, accordions and accessories. 


Taking the prize for the most bizarre instrument I saw during NAMM '14 was the drum set (above) by Tampa-based Crush Drums and Percussion that was encased in a vine-type apparatus display dubbed "The Tree of Life." Several adults and teenagers clamored atop a pedestal to take their picture with the kit. 


Over at the Ogre booth, the Korean company's Thunderclap distortion and Tubeholic overdrive effects pedals with gargoyle covers, in addition to this guitar below, were very interesting. 





Heading upstairs to the large Peavey Electronics room and performance area, I was fascinated by the novelty designed guitars based on TV's "The Simpsons," "The Walking Dead," the film "Star Wars," various comic superheroes and more. Not just for kids learning how to play, these instruments easily appeal to fanboy adult musicians too.


Based in Mississippi, Peavey is one of the top instrument and amplifier manufacturers in America, was founded in 1965 and boasts more than 2,000 products. 


On the main floor of the convention center, there was also an enclosed display featuring the 
"The Walking Dead" guitars...




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