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Home > Features > General: Winter NAMM 2014

Winter NAMM 2014 Special Report:
Guitars & Bass

By: Derek Davodowich and Scott Kahn



Bogner Helios

Bogner Amplification

Reinhold Bogner was dressed to the nines for the occasion with his full line of boutique products. Introduced last year, the 18-watt Bogner Atma is still building a name for itself, while the new Bogner Helios commemorates Bogner’s 25th anniversary. The two-channel amplifier features Plexi and Hot inputs, hand-wired turret board, dual footswitches, EL-34 power tubes, and can run at 100w or 50w.


As major players in the custom-guitar building world, it was no surprise to see new gear in the Carvin booth. On the guitar side, Carvin was showing off a variety of new beveled tops on their guitars and basses that were pretty sweet looking, but what stole our hearts was the new 24-fret, Bolt-series prototype bass (with a beveled top, of course) that Jeff Kiesel just finished designing. Other than the new design, we can’t tell you much about the specs because it’s not a production model yet… but we’re waiting for it.

Cort Rithimic Jeff Berlin Signature Bass


Honestly, we haven’t paid this brand much attention as most of their instruments haven’t targeted the pro-level player, but when we heard that Jeff Berlin was endorsing a signature bass, we took note. Then when we saw the stunning looks also featured a Babicz Full Contact bridge (fantastic hardware that many players don’t know yet), we knew that this was going to be something worth getting excited about.

Here are the specs from Cort: “Called the RITHIMIC, the bass features an alder body with a spalted maple and padouk top.  Outfitting the body are a pair of Bartolini Jeff Berlin custom soapbar pickups, a Babicz FCH4 bridge, one volume control, one balance control, one tone control, passive electronics and gold hardware. The hard rock maple neck is complemented with a rosewood fingerboard and four inline headstock featuring Hipshot Ultralight tuners. “ Can you say, review, please?

Decibel 11 Loop Expander

Decibel 11

When we reviewed the fantastic Pedal Palette a few months ago, we loved it, but our one concern was that four audio loops may not be enough for some players. We were very excited to see the new Loop Expander, a compact device that can add an additional four loops to your Pedal Palette or Switch Dr.

It’s not just for Decibel 11 switchers, though! With a solid MIDI implementation, you can use the Loop Expander to add audio loops to any pro rig, and you can control those loops via MIDI Program Change (PC) and Continuous Controller (CC) messages. Multiple Expanders may connected in series, and the fourth loop can be configured for amp channel switching.

EBS Classic 500


The new Classic 500 is a retro-style bass amp designed to produce tube amp-like tone (it’s actually solid state), and we like the dual midrange controls for extra tone shaping while still presenting a very straightforward user interface. This is a no frills, great sounding bass head for players who care about great tone but don’t need complex feature sets like big EQs, compressors, effects loops, etc. Definitely a plug-and-play beauty.

ENGL Bass Rackhead 1060

ENGL Amplification Best of NAMM AwardThe biggest news from one of our favorite German amp builders is sure to set the bass world on fire: the ENGL Bass Rackhead 1060 Bass Amplifier! This awesome, two-space, rack-mountable head gives you essentially two amps in one: Channel 1 has an all-tube preamp (4x 12ax7) and Channel 2 has a solid-state preamp. Power comes from 2x 500W class D amplifiers (yes, you can bridge them), and there are expected ENGL features such as channel-assignable effects loop, bi-amping output with adjustable crossover, tuner output, semi-parametric EQ, bypassable EQ, compressor, and more. ENGL has also released matching 4x10” and 1x15” cabinets.

ENGL Invader II

We were just as excited to see the new Invader II guitar amp, which refines and improves upon one of the beloved amps in the ENGL guitar amplifier lineup. The amp features two clean and two overdrive channels, with a host of configuration tweaks that let you dial in just the right sound, and MIDI control for all of the amp’s various footswitchable settings is built in. Tone tweakers can rejoice: the Sound Wizard Module Z16 is an optional circuit card that installs into the rear of the Invader II, and it adds twelve sound options to the sixteen basic sounds already found in the amp. These dip-switch controlled settings (all clearly labeled on the module) let you custom tailor your sound as if you sat down with one of ENGL’s master engineers and had them customize an amp just for you. Awesome!

ESP E-II Guitar Line


This has been one busy year for ESP, and it’s full of great news for players in the USA. First, ESP opened up a California-based factory (North Hollywood) where it has begun manufacturing guitars under the ESP Original and ESP E-II brands! The other bit of good news: lots of guitars! ESP has always had a broad range of guitars sold around the world, but a much more limited selection sold in the USA (not counting the LTD line). With their expanded domestic presence, ESP plans to sell a wider range of their Japanese instruments in America. Rock and metal players, yes, you may raise your fists now.

Fender 60th Anniversary Strat looks like... a Fender Strat!


The most iconic electric guitar of all time turned Sixty this year, and no birthday celebration would be complete without releasing a 60th Anniversary Stratocaster, or in this case, a family of anniversary guitars.

The prime specimen in the range is probably the 60th Anniversary Commemorative Stratocaster, which features an ash body, contoured heel, three special-design 1954 single-coil Strat pickups, a compound-radius fingerboard atop a modern “C” profile neck with satin finish, custom-engraved neck plate, “no-load” tone controls, and a two-point synchronized tremolo bridge.

G-Lab GSC-4 Guitar System Controller


Guitar Laboratory introduced their new Guitar System Controller GSC-4 capable of storing 1000 presets (100 banks / 10 presets each). The unit provides six audio loops for effects switching, six relays for amp switching, six 9V DC outputs for powering stomp-box effects, expression pedal input, MIDI capability, wah pad input, USB connection for adjusting and saving settings, and an intuitive interface for direct configuration.


Graphtech’s Ratio Tuned Machine Heads are fantastic. With unique gear ratios on each individual tuner, one full rotation on each string equals one tone. This results in faster tuning, retuning, and easy open tuning, not to mention better tuning stability on non-locking tremolo systems. It’s a simple retrofit to swap out your standard tuners with these machine heads, and we think they will make a worthy upgrade on a wide range of guitars.

Ibanez Prestige Series


Ibanez continues to present at the NAMM show like a runaway freight train, and this year, the train was loaded up with too many strings—on each guitar. Ibanez was showing off a large number of eight string guitars as well as a new… gulp… nine string. We’ve so completely mastered our six string and seven-string guitars that we can no longer live with the limitations of just six strings. Thank you, Ibanez, for offering us so much more!

We witnessed tons of new artist signature models including: the Paul Gilbert FRM250 25th anniversary limited edition, the Jake Bowen (Periphery) JBM100 signature, the Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders) TAM 10, and the Kiko Loureiro (Angra) KIKO100.

Ibanez unveiled their latest generation of Prestige models, which include guitars in the RG Series with new pickup configurations and bridge options (more models with the classic Edge Pro tremolo vs. the later incarnations like ZPS), the RGD Series which provides a longer scale neck for added down-tuning response and deeper cutaways for higher neck access, and the S Series guitars now have an 8-string model and multiple six and seven-string configurations with an HH pickup configuration (the majority have been HSH). And if you remember the classic Artist series from the late ‘70s, Ibanez also brought those back as Japan-built Prestige models.

For the 35th anniversary of the Tube Screamer, Ibanez introduced the TS808DX, which combines a Tube Screamer and Boost in one box.

On the bass side of the house, Ibanez introduced the Ibanez Bass Workshop line, a new, more affordable bass line that deliver’s the company’s typically fantastic value proposition. The fretless SR Portamento and a shorter-scale 6-string bass in this line make it easier than ever to branch out into new directions with your playing while still performing with a quality instrument.

Line 6

Line 6 unveiled a new high-performance guitar amplifier and Bluetooth speaker system with iOS integration, the AMPLIFi 150 and AMPLIFi 75. This little powerhouse really provides three different functions enabling the guitarist to have a 150 watt or 75 watt amplifier with built in DSP, lots of different tones and effects, and a helpful way to model the tones from your favorite songs.

What makes this device unique among amplifiers, first, is that the multi-speaker configuration enables you to stream tracks directly from any Bluetooth-enabled device and turn the AMPLIFi into a stereo system, perfect for its intended dorm-room audience.

We could have quickly dismissed the amp as a gimmicky home-stereo-meets-amp-modeler thing, but the next bit of magic makes it a fantastic tool for guitarists in cover bands, too. In combination with its accompanying iOS app, the AMPLIFi provides tone matching: select a song from your library and the app analyzes the guitar tone in the song and creates the nearest possible guitar tone, complete with accompanying effects! If you find that it gets close, you can then further tweak the amp model and effects, then upload your “better” tone to the online community and share it with other musicians who want that song’s awesome guitar tone.

Radial Twinline

Radial Engineering

Another year passes and Radial unleashes even more tools we need in our professional guitar rigs. The Twinline Guitar Effects Router is the answer to many players’ prayers: If you run effects in your effects loop but want to share them with two amps, now you can!

Radial Headload

And when it’s time to crank it up but the sound guy says to turn it down, have no fear with the Headload Guitar Amplifier Attenuator in tow. In typical Radial fashion, it’s a bit over-engineered for the average player, but if you want some precise control over your tone once your amp has been attenuated, you’ll appreciate the fine controls that are paired with the Headload’s other Swiss army tool: a built-in JDX direct box.

Taylor T5z

Taylor Guitars

Taylor, celebrating their 40th anniversary, introduced their revised 800 series acoustic guitars that features new bracing technology and a piezo pickup that sits in back of the bridge (as opposed to underneath the bridge), enabling the guitar to have a richer amplified presence and even more tonal bloom.

In addition, Taylor introduced the new, compact T5z: a smaller version of the T5 (not that we ever thought the T5 was big in the first place). The configuration provides a smaller 12” radius neck compared to the 15” radius T5 neck profile, which will make the guitar even more appealing to electric guitar players with the need for some occasional Taylor acoustic guitar love.

TC Electronic Ditto X2 Looper

TC Electronics Ditto X2 Looper pedal / Monitor

TC Electronics introduced the Ditto X2 Looper pedal, which is an updated version of the original Ditto Looper containing additional functions and capabilities. The X2 Looper provides a second, dedicated Stop/Clear footswitch, five minutes of looping time, and is capable of importing audio files for use as backing tracks. You can also export loops to your computer and record unlimited Overdubs. Loop effects include ½ speed and Reverse, and the output is high quality, 24-bit stereo.

Tech 21 Fly Rig 5

Tech 21

Looking for the ultimate fly rig? It seems everyone is trying to address this need lately, and Tech 21’s Fly Rig 5 is ridiculous, and we mean ridiculous in the way that ridiculous can sometimes be synonymous with bad-ass (which in turn is also a good thing).

The Fly Rig 5 fits in the strap compartment of your guitar case and features SansAmp tube amp emulation, reverb, a hot-rodded Marshall Plexi tone, and vintage tape echo style delay. Plugged into a power speaker rig, this thing sounded pretty good… and better than any all-in-one solution we’ve experienced that is small enough to fit in your actual guitar case. We figure we can just tip the guy at curbside check-in an extra twenty bucks to check our 200-pound shock rack, but hey, this pedal thing could work, too!

Two-Notes Torpedo Reload


If you’ve been following our gear reviews, then you probably know we think the Two-Notes Torpedo Live is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Well, we got to check out the new Torpedo Reload and the Torpedo Studio, and these could be the greatest things since the Torpedo Live!

First, Torpedo Reload is a 150W load box, offering both reactive and passive loads. It’s also a multi-impedance power attenuator. Next, add re-amp device. But what makes things even more special is the technology at work related to re-amping. The Reload actively monitors your guitar input signal and compares it with the output from your DAW so that the amps used in your re-amping are hit with exactly the same guitar signal (tone and impedence) as the source instrument generated. Clever!

Two-Notes Torpedo Studio

Torpedo Studio is an evolutionary update of the VB-101, and it offers stereo guitar cabinet simulation: two cabinets and two microphones at a time. It’s also a 150W load box (reactive or passive), and like the Torpedo Live, it also incorporates power amp simulation.




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