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Winter NAMM 2016: Guitars



Caparison Guitars
The Dellinger model has been a favorite among shredders for some time, and for 2016 Caparison is releasing the Dellinger Prominence. Ingeniously designed with both a single coil and a compact humbucker in the neck position, this new archtop shredder offers unique tonal variation and is sure to be a favorite.

The Dellinger Prominence features Caparison’s M3 construction, which sandwiches a piece of maple between two pieces of mahogany. A recessed heel joint ensures smooth upper access, and the guitar is adorned with premium hardware. — BS

Boutique pedal designer, Christopher Venter of Shoe Pedals, collaborated with the DOD team to create the Looking Glass overdrive pedal, and it’s got plenty of mojo under the hood. There are lots of great details in here, like an input filter that lets you tame harsh pickups, and a wide range of tones provided by the hybrid Class-A, discrete FET design. True bypass, of course, and we’ve got it under our looking glass here in the studio. Full review shortly! — SK

We have always liked Electro-Harmonix for the way they take classic effects and make them uniquely their own. Electro-Harmonix had on display a well stocked pedalboard of their tried and true classic pedals as well as a few new offerings, including the Lester G and its little brother, the Lester K. These pedals provide authentic Leslie-like rotary speaker sounds.

Also on display was the Soul POG: an overdrive and octave pedal melded into one. With the flexibility to use either the octave or overdrive sections independently, it’s quite versatile. The pedal also has a built-in effects loop, so you can insert other effects directly into the pedal’s signal chain. — BS

Fender Guitars
Fender always shows off a ton of new guitars, from the main product line to the lustworthy Custom Shop one-off creations. The truly newsworthy bit, though, is easily the new Fender American Eliete Stratocaster, which floored us. This modern Strat ships with all the upgrades we’d wish upon the classic instrument: a new neck joint that provides significantly improved access to the upper frets, a compound radius neck that goes from modern C at the nut to modern D at the body, modern two-point tremolo, locking tuners and strap locks, and new, fourth-generation Noiseless pickups that are unique to this model guitar. We’ll have one in for review shortly. The finishes are beautiful, too! — SK

Friedman’s booth this year was abuzz with fuzz, as their new OD pedal was unveiled. Played through a clean Buxom Betty combo, the BE-OD pedal gets you astonishingly close to a BE-100 in terms of sound. Also available to demo were a distressed line of Friedman guitars. They played as a relic’d guitar should—well worn and comfortable.

Not to be discounted was the unveiling of a new amp as well: the Butterslax 100. This signature amp is used by Bill Kelliher (Mastodon), and the amp sounded… Earth moving. Another first for Friedman was the offering of an oversized, mixed-speaker cabinet, mating this head with a pair of 15” speakers and a pair of 12” speakers.

Speaking of speakers, Friedman has jumped into the amp modeling market by introducing the ASM-12, an active (powered) speaker cabinet in floor wedge format that houses a full-range speaker configuration optimized for reproducing the sound of modeling and profiling amps from the likes of Axe-FX, Helix, Kemper, and ISP. — BS/SK

Gizmotron debuted their patent-pending bowing device. Improving on the original Gizmotron of the 1970s, the Gizmotron 2.0 allows guitar and bass players to achieve infinite sustain via a USB powered device that attaches to the bridge of the instrument.

Beautiful cello-like sounds are easily created by simply pressing down on the device, which engages rubber wheels against the strings. The Gizmotron mounts to your instrument with removable tape, and it’s guaranteed not to mar your finish. — BS

Hughes & Kettner
The madness! The insanity! The totally over-the-top, awesome and ridiculously versatile TriAmp Mark 3 amplifier. Sure, it came out a year ago, but this year we got to spend some time with it, and… wow! When even a Mesa Road King doesn’t have quite enough flexibility to meet your needs, you’ll be happy to get your hands on the TriAmp Mark 3, which features six completely independent channels. Each channel has unique voice options, and the amp features a choice of power amp tubes, selectable on a per-channel basis.

It ships with 2xEL-34 and 4x6L6, but it can use any popular power amp tube that fits these standard sockets… and it has internal auto-biassing, so you can put in your favorite tubes without needing a trip to your local amp technician. As with other H&K amps, it’s got full MIDI control built in, a noise gate, Red Box cabinet simulated output, and more. It just arrived in our studio, so look for an in-depth review this spring. Our initial findings: worth the price of admission! — SK

Sometimes an idea is so obvious that it makes you wonder why nobody else has done it yet. In the case of the Switcheroo audio looper/switcher pedal, ideaBench nicely separated their footswitches from the patch bay, enabling you to mount the bulk of the system underneath your pedalboard, or at the top, either way sacrificing much less usable space near your feet on a pedalboard.

The FC14 footswitch and SW10 looper feature two instrument inputs, six mono and four stereo, true bypass, loops, MIDI functions, a software editor, and more. Output is stereo or dual mono. — SK

Kiesel Guitars
This NAMM Show marked the first public display of Kiesel Guitars, the rebranded line of instruments from Carvin. In support of the company reorganization that separates out Carvin Pro Audio from the instrument building side of the house, Carvin brought back their original name, which harkens back to its origins—the Kiesel family still owns and runs this fantastic guitar and bass company, and once again they are branding the instruments as Kiesel, while the pro audio products remain Carvin.

The Jason Becker Numbers guitar reissue has been a huge hit, and Kiesel expanded on the crayon theme with a limited run of headless, Vader-series guitars with the wacky, nutty, totally awesome color scheme. Their Aries series guitars feature jaw dropping finishes that feature multiple bindings in different pain schemes (on the same body), and the product family is now fully infused with six strings, seven strings, eight strings, and fanned fret models. Awesome stuff that we highly recommend in our reviews. — SK/BS

What is Korg doing in our guitar feature section? Another tuner? No, this is a bit more revolutionary. Korg, in partnership with Noritake Co., have developing new tube technology that has the potential to seriously alter the future of tubes as we know and love them.

Their product is a completely redesigned tube that has been miniaturized to the point of fitting on a small circuit card, and a nutube draws much less power than conventional tubes previously required (and subsequently generates much less heat). It’s still a complete tube, containing an anode, grid, and filament, functioning as a complete triode tube. Imagine—a new tube design manufactured with modern Japanese technology instead of coming out of a handful of pre cold-war era, Eastern block and Asian vaccum tube factories. We saw prototypes of amps, preamps, and even a Vox Continental organ on display, and can’t wait to see what happens with what may have been the most innovative technology displayed at this year’s convention. — SK

KSR Amplification
It was a pleasure to see Kyle Rhodes displaying a variety of his extremely versatile, high-gain, sophisticated amplifiers. While most boutique amp builders stick to the basics of single and dual channel, non master volume amps, KSR amps have all the bells and whistles of the big guys like H&K, Mesa, ENGL, etc.

How can big rig guys like us not geek out over the awesome Artemis, a fully rack-mounted version of the Ares amp head with an extra channel (4)? And even though metal guys are eating up everything Rhodes can build (they handle your dropped tunings and 8-string guitars with big gain, low noise, and great clarity), these are not one-trick ponies. Traditional pop, rock, prog, and metal guys will find tons of great tone on tap. Now if only he could build a few extras ahead of the unwavering demand, we could get our hands on a spare unit for review… — SK

Seymour Duncan
Oh yay, another chorus pedal, you say? In the case of the Seymour Duncan Catalina Dynamic Chorus, take note, because this pedal offers some real innovation. Beyond your typical chorus effect controls, the real excitement is that this pedal adds control over playing dynamics. You can have more chorus effect present in your tone either the harder you play or the softer you play. We can’t wait to check this pedal out in the studio. — SK

Space is the place, and Brian Neunaber is now immersing our guitar tone in cavernous, shimmery, detuned space with the new Immerse Reverberator pedal. We are huge fans of the Echelon Stereo Echo (review here) and the Chroma Stereo Chorus (review here)—as well as  the Wet Stereo Reverb, and look forward to reviewing Neunaber's latest creation shortly, which features both traditional reverbs as well as the shimmery stuff. — SK

Taylor Guitars
Taylor introduced a revolutionary new monitoring system for their instruments. Named TaylorSense, it is marketed as the first system for monitoring the care and condition of your beloved acoustic guitar, and truly, there’s nothing out there quite like it. You simply replace your Taylor’s input jack/battery compartment with the new and improved version, which has a host of additional electronics on board, and then you install a free smartphone app. Via bluetooth, your guitar will transmit essential humidity and temperature information to the app—from inside the guitar, in the case!

And, there’s an accelerometer on board, too. The guitar will alert you when it is dropped or mishandled. So the next time a roadie or airline personnel drops your case hard, your guitar will record a time and date stamp of the event, and report on it as soon as your smartphone is back in range. This is a revolutionary new approach to guitar care. — SK/BS

3RD Power
3RD Power brought their A game to NAMM this year in the form of the Citizen Gain amp. Showing off both reverb and non-reverb models, these amps take boutique hand-wired offerings to the next level. With their patented Hybrid Master, we were able to dial the amp down to whisper quiet 1w, all while retaining the sumptuous tone 3RD Power is quickly building their reputation on.

Citizen Gain features many well thought out, guitar-player-friendly features such as an ambient/tight switch, true studio quality reverb, and a three-way preamp response switch that selects between an all-tube preamp or different levels of diode seasoning. Cool! — BS




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