The History Of NAMM, And Why It’s Important

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Well, it’s that time of year again. A good chunk of our work force gets to fly down to Anaheim California, get wined and dined by our reps, party with Rockstars, and see what this year will hold for the music industry…except for me, I’m stuck here because of school, and because we need a few good men to hold down the fort. But I got to talking with some of the new guys here, and amazingly, a few of the newbies had never heard of NAMM before. So I figured, it was my duty to explain it, and I figured I would bring some of my know how to you good people!

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MUSIC MERCHANTS (NAMM) 2013 SHOW FLOOR

So what is NAMM at its core? Well NAMM stands for National Associations of Music Merchants, which might seem like a cumbersome name for a trade show, but that’s because the name is as old as it is, we’ll get to that in a second. It basically shows a sort of pre-release of all of the years upcoming new gear. You get big name companies like Fender and Taylor releasing what they are coming out with for the new year, and you get younger up and coming companies making their debut to try and get dealers (the primary attendees of the convention) to take a chance on them, and add them to their repertoire of brands. Because every company is competing for your attention, you get big guys like Gibson and Fender bringing in their A-List stars, with guys like Slash, Stevie Wonder and Eddie Van Halen being regular attendees. But after the trade floor cools down for the night, you also have the reps for all of these companies trying to get contracts signed, and relationships strengthened with afterhours parties, dinners and just general fun stuff happening all over Anaheim. All and all, it’s amazing, and I always want to go, but I can’t because it conflicts with my college class schedule, and the fact that I, and the remainders of the crew here right now are as important to the day to day operation as we are, it would be ill advised to send any of us…I’m not jealous I promise, I’m just saying that hanging out with rock stars on a sunny 70 degree beach sounds much better than shoveling snow and doing course work.

1915_NAMM_membership_photo_0

So let’s jump in the way back and figure out why NAMM is what it is? As I find that kind of stuff very interesting. Basically NAMM started in 1901 by what was at that time the American Piano Manufacturers Association, as a way of curbing the growing problem of fraudulent advertising, where people would charge what they knew you could afford rather than what an item really should have cost you, so you saw pianos in New York costing less than in Detroit, but more than in Las Angeles, just because they knew they could charge more money for them, regardless of what they really cost to make and ship. So, they established a trade organization to help set some ground rules so that no one was acting “unfairly”. Through these early interactions they organized the NAPDA, or the National Association of Piano Dealers of America (which would eventually evolve into NAMM) which established those ground rules, tackled trade problems they were all having and organized their first convention. Some of them had to travel as far as 2,500 miles via railroad, but this was successful at improving conditions nationwide.

Over the years they have changed locations off and on, and seen countless innovative products introduced at it. From the First mass production electric guitars, to the innovative Ovation acoustic guitars, to Solid State amplifiers and even piezo acoustic pickups, they all saw their debut on that trade show floor. While things have grown, moved, changed and evolved, one thing has remained the same. They have always tried to bring the best things forward, to try and help the industry steer itself into the future. As the week goes on and NAMM draws to a close, and in the weeks ahead, I will likely bring you a few more blogs, covering what all cool, new gear has come out this year. But right now I think I have given you more than enough info, but I can’t wait to tell you about some of the cool stuff that is coming your way.

~Hoover

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Winter Weather, Your Guitar and its Finish

Now while we covered Truss rod maintenance last week, this week I am going to cover something that pertains more to the average joe who plays out regularly, or who is ordering guitars over the internet this time of year, the finish on your guitar. The finish on your guitar is a lot like the finish on a car, it is there not only to look nice, but it is also there to keep the elements from destroying it. The finish on a guitar keeps the wood from absorbing too much moisture, or being too easily damaged by things like your pick hitting it, or your arm resting against it. The reason I bring this up is because of what cold can do to the finish of a guitar. On most modern consumer priced electrics, your finish is poly urethane, which is hard and flexible. So cold, hot, wet, dry, it won’t shrink or warp. Older guitars, and some high end modern guitars are finished in Nitro Cellulose, which is a much thinner and far less flexible than modern finishes, and can crack, crumble, and “check” when you take them from a cold environment to a hot environment too quickly, like say from a cold car to a warm living room. I’ve even heard stories from some of our reps about expensive guitars cracking like ice on a lake from them opening a guitar infront of a fire place after a long January car ride.

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The adverse effect of this is that once the cracks form, the body of the guitar can change temperature, humidity and size and shape much quicker, and thus the cracks will multiply much faster once they start forming.  Now on an electric, this isn’t that big of a deal, it can look pretty cool, and some guys like Rory Gallagher, Andy Summers, and John Mayer, actually prefer the feeling of a guitar whose finish is falling off of it, and some people like Nuno Bettencourt, actually like it best when there is no finish on the guitar at all, and their guitars are structurally just fine. The real problems start to show up when something acoustics finish starts to come off, as its finish serves a double purpose of also helping the guitar retain moisture. Because the underside of the wood is left bare, and the top is finished (typically with a heavy coat of poly urethane on a modern guitar) the moisture can only leave the thin sheet of wood from one side, meaning it takes longer for the wood to shift, allowing the moisture to leave at a slower rate. If you’ve ever had a guitar that got too cold, you might notice a significant amount of dehydration, this can cause weakness in the wood, and can cause a type of waviness to appear in the finish, which while rarer in poly-urethane finished guitars, does occur. This can usually be fixed by re-hydrating the guitar, but on some older guitars it does appear to be permanent.

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Now, the danger of a dehydrated guitar is usually pretty minor, maybe a rather flat sounding set, or you might have some trouble with the action on your higher frets, but most of the time it’s very minor. But if you leave it unchecked, the wood can start to get very brittle, and can more easily be damaged by say, your picking hand, and sometimes, if it gets cold enough, the wood itself can begin to shrink, and if the wood is dry and brittle, you can start to see splitting in the wood itself. Sometimes they are tiny and easily fixed, and well sometimes, they aren’t.

So how do we prevent this? Well first off, always keep your guitar hydrated, and as often as you can keep it warm, not hot, but warm. Only about as warm as you would want to be, if you would be too cold in a room, or too hot, the guitar likely would be too. The next is don’t be too sudden when opening a guitar case when moving it from in doors to outdoors, or outdoors to indoors, the temperature change can cause the rippling we talked about or on a thinner finished guitar, can cause checking and cracking as well. A good rule of thumb is wait 12-24 hours after you arrive before you open it to be safe. Lastly, keep the strings slacked if it is going to have to endure the elements for too long, because the added tension on the top can often cause problems, yet again this is normally only on acoustic guitars, but it’s good practice regardless. Proper guitar care is easy, not something to be feared or fretted about, and when done regularly, you can greatly extend the life of the instrument, and keep it in mint condition for years to come.

~Hoover

Winter Weather & Truss Rod Maintenance

There’s a golden rule that a lot of guitarists starting out either don’t hear about, or don’t want to hear, and that is, your guitar is going to need regular maintenance. Guitars are instruments, carved from wood, and because of this they are going to face some issues that are very specific to that medium, namely, shifting and warping. Now don’t get scared newbie guitarists, those words aren’t scary, it just means that the wood moves with temperature and humidity. Luthiers (the people who build and craft guitars) are aware of this and long ago figured out a solution for dealing with that, namely the truss rod. Now there is a myth that some other big name guitar stores like to spread around, that you shouldn’t ever mess with your truss rod, because it will ruin your guitar, which simply isn’t true. Thanks to the oft present modern two way truss rod designs, and a little bit of patience, and studying one or two Youtube videos, you can adjust it just as well as any $50 an hour guitar tech from those big chain guitar stores.

This is Tony, our Guitar Tech here at World Music Supply, guy’s a genius

All you need to do is eye ball down the neck and see how close to being flat it is, you never want it totally flat, or at a negative degree, because both of those make your fretboard either buzz or start fretting out, which is a bad thing. But having the truss rod too loose can make your action too high which makes the guitar difficult to intonate, and worse, difficult to play. So, like I said earlier, read, and watch a Youtube video or too and you will get the basic idea, left loose, right tight, tighter brings the neck bow back away from the fretboard, and looser lets the strings of the guitar pull it forward. I like to keep my E,A, & B,e strings tuned up, while slacking the D and G strings, and then adjusting on whichever side of the neck the truss rod can be accessed from (electrics are usually on the head stock and acoustics are usually through the sound hole, although some can vary) and I tighten it just a bit too far, so that the added string tension (and I tend to use heavier strings) will pull it up to where it is just shy of perfect, so that I can go without touching it for as long as the weather stays similar to where it is, and I do that about once every 3-4 months or so, give or take.

A lot of times we run into an issue here at WMS when we ship out a great guitar to someone, and they claim it doesn’t work, or is broken, and literally 98% of the time, it’s just the truss rod. We are located in Muncie Indiana, and right now it is about 19 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and all of our guitars are kept in a heated and humidity controlled warehouse, but when we ship them, they are put in the back of a Fedex truck, or a US mail truck and driven around for days in cold weather.  What this does it can cause the neck on the guitar to “bottom out”, because cold makes the cells in the wood shrink, and this issue can cause a lot of first time guitarists, expecting this new guitar to feel just like the one they played at a music store that had been set up by a tech within the last 72 hours, to just assume it’s broken. I remember my sister was the same way the year she got her Jazz bass from our mom for Christmas, and my mom was totally bent on getting it fixed immediately talking about how you know “we got a broken this” and “a defective that.”I grabbed the bass, sat down on the couch, turned the truss rod two and a half times and boom! like magic that bass was perfect, still is too. This isn’t a bad business practice, a poorly made guitar, or a shoddy sales company, it’s just science. We get so used to everything we own being injection molded and die cast that sometimes we forget that some things, like wood, just change sometimes, and it’s up to us to fix them.

~Hoover

World Music Supply | DBZ Guitars

Hey guys, I know its been a long, long time, but Brian of the World Music Supply blog has made his return! I was finally able to move around things in my schedule to yet again reasonably accommodate the blog, so lets get down to business. I am here to today to talk about some awesome guitars we have right now from our good friends over at DBZ. We here at World Music Supply love DBZ Guitars. Its as simple as that. They are high quality guitars, made with high quality parts, with precision workmanship, what’s not to like?
DBZ BARFMPL-FR-NS Barchetta FM Plus Series Electric Guitar

First up on the block today are the Barchetta Plus FM Series, these guys are amazing. I’ve been a big fan of the Barchetta body style since I first saw them a year or so back, their sleek strat style body, with its futuristic carved top body, and the classic vibe of the 3×3 headstock. It all adds up to a very stunning looking guitar. Back in those days though, the only versions of this guitar that I had ever laid eyes on were red, black and gray. Don’t get me wrong, those guitars were beautiful, and they played like a dream, but these guitars though, with their abalone binding, deep flamed maple tops, and matching headstock, they’re just a whole other level.

now of course they still have all of the same appointments as their non flamed maple counterparts, the DBZ signature neck contour, the floyd rose, the DBZ signature pickups with a push pull knob, and that big metal badge on the headstock, all of it puts this guitar some where between a workhorse of a guitar, and a luxury art piece. Form and functionality in harmony.

DBZ BARFM-FR-TBK Barchetta FM Flamed Maple Top Electric Guitar

DBZ BARFM-FR-TBK Barchetta FM Flamed Maple Top Electric Guitar

Amplified, the flamed maple adds a tiny bit to the guitars overall tone, but the big difference in tone seems to come from the mahogany, as opposed to the alder bodies of the LT series I am so familiar with. The tone seemed to be a little thicker, with a much heavier lower midrange bark. Alder had a balanced and almost focused sound, but this guitar paired with its mahogany body and stunning flamed maple top, well… it really growls at you. Chording on it felt nice and smooth, with enough presence to make sure I was heard over even the most over the top of drummers, and single note lines had a ferocity to them, an attitude almost. Someone could make a career off of this guitar, carry it with them from day one, be the symbol their recognized for. That’s the kind of guitar this is, it’s a guitar that will leave an impression.

DBZ BARFMPL-FR-SF Barchetta FM Plus Series Electric Guitar

DBZ BARFMPL-FR-SF Barchetta FM Plus Series Electric Guitar

Overall score, easy 10 out of 10

Long time readers of the WMS Blog will know that when it comes to guitars I have two real weaknesses, Telecasters, and White Lespauls. I really don’t know why its these two guitar styles, but they’re really powerful to me. So when the DBZ Bolero Calavera made its way into the WMS offices I had to look at the thing. Just stare at it. Its just so flashy, with its stylized metal truss rod cover, the old DBZ signature tailpiece, and oh yea, the giant metal tramp stamp (that’s what they call it, not me) that’s anchored to the lower bout of the guitar.

DBZ BOLCAL-WH Bolero Calavera Series Single Cutaway Electric Guitar

DBZ BOLCAL-WH Bolero Calavera Series Single Cutaway Electric Guitar

Other than the unusual appointments at either end of the guitar, this is a fairly typical Bolero. Mahogany body, maple top, ebonized rosewood fretboard with 22 frets and their DBZB and DBZ5 Pickups. Their also given some cool Pearloid purfling around the body as well, which really makes this guitar stand out. It might feel like a normal Bolero, but when I was playing it felt so different, it was almost like the sheer attitude of the guitar, made it another guitar. Like when you listen to some really old classic rock, you know the guitarists really aren’t that good, but you can’t quit listening. Even though their entire education must have come from one or at the most two mel bay guitar method books, you’re just captured by that sheer attitude that is exuded from their guitar.

That’s how this guitar felt, I knew it sounded almost the same as the bolero, maybe a tiny, tiny bit different because of the chunks of metal on the guitar, but this guitar just made me want to play different. It made me really slam into the guitar, dig in with my pick. I was all power chords and grit, sure the clean sound is cool and jazzy, and the single note lines are fat and clear, but look at this thing, your likely never going to play a clean line on this guitar, and sure you might play a solo here and there, but most of the work on a guitar like this is going to be very power chord heavy.

I loved this guitar, if not for the fact that it is a fantastic guitar just like the standard Bolero, but also because of its really heavy attitude. It made me play different, act different, it made me really want to crank up my amp, make my neighbors angry. That’s what this guitar felt like, it felt like what we all thought Rock & Roll was when we were little kids.

Overall score 9 out of 10. Because even though it is almost perfect, it is for a certain kind of guitarist, and that isn’t everyone.

World Music Supply | Parker Guitars PDF Series

Hey guys, Brian from World Music Supply again, bringing you your usual dose of gear and guitar reviews. Today I got to check out something I have only dreamed of since I was say 13 or so, I got to review a Parker guitar. I remember when Parkers first started getting big, I had the joy of trying one out in a store, it was weird, but in the same way being weightless would be weird, cool but confusing. The body was so amazingly thin and light that had I not felt strings under my fingers I might not have known I was wearing a guitar at all. From its arrays of knobs and switches, its ability to sound like an acoustic with the flick of a switch, its weird knob behind the bridge that controlled the flat spring for the vibrato, heck even its shape was out of this world.

Everything on the guitar felt like it was from the future, from that strange looking asymmetrical vibrato that just didn’t seem to want to slip out of tune, the carbon glass fretboard, the stainless steel fret wire, the weird not really there headstock, according to the flyer attached to the guitar, even the body and neck woods were weird, something like a sandwich of hard super resonant woods, and soft absorbent poplar to help shape the sound into perfection. The guitar felt, and sounded downright amazing, but just like everything else on this guitar the price tag was outlandish, like vintage guitar outlandish.

Parker PDF Radial Neck Series Vintage Sunburst Finish

Parker PDF Radial Neck Series Vintage Sunburst Finish

So fast forward to today, when I got to sit down with a few, amazingly affordable new designs by Parkers, the most notable of which was the PDF105QVSB. The first super noticeable thing to me is they have modified the shape a tad bit to make it a little less outlandish looking, with a more standard profile with all of the same Parker flair. The Vibrato system has been redone, to have a more conventional spring arrangement, but it still has all of the bells and whistles of the old days, just without the big roller wheel on the back of the guitar. The Carbon glass fretboard has been replaced with Ebony, and the Materials of the body were a little easier to remember this time around too, as this guy was a good ol’ chunk of mahogany, granted carved down into a thinner profile quite like the older Parker models.

The PDF105 is also part of their radial neck series, which is designed to give a stronger, more musical connection to the body by eliminating the foot of the neck that connects to the body. This allowed the neck and the body to resonate a little more in tune with each other, resulting in more harmonic richness, and longer sustain of the fundamental. The PDF105 also features a Graphtech Ghost piezo system, which has down right fantastic sounding acoustic tones thanks to the Graphtech proprietary polymer that was designed just for them, with a built in compression, meaning they never clip or get fizzy like some piezo units. Lastly add in the fact that the PDF105 comes armed with Seymour Duncan humbuckers and you have a guitar that is just ready to take over your life.

Parker PDF Radial Neck Series Black Burst Finish

Parker PDF Radial Neck Series Black Burst Finish

Clean, this guitar sounds amazingly articulate, with lots of chime and snap, but it was still warm, and harmonically rich. The bridge pickup was bright, but still full sounding, it never lacked the character of a bridge pickup, but it was never too thin and bright, it just did what it needed to do. The neck pickup was smooth and rather jazzy, with a bit of pop-y snap to keep things interesting.

The acoustic tones through a PA speaker were just amazing; they were so close to a real acoustic guitar that it was jaw dropping. The slight compressing that the Graphtech saddles have built in, really do keep it from sounding like a Piezo, and it really, really does sound like a well mic’d dreadnaught. The illusion was daunted however by my constant use of the whammy bar, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

My real favorite tone of this guitar however was not the stellar clean sound, or the stunning acoustic sounds, it was the roaring electric tone. The shape of this guitar feels familiar but still a little ethereal, which makes you play just a little bit off from what you usually play. This tiny bit of vibe in the guitar really did a lot for me, and the vibe doesn’t stop with the looks, let me assure you of that. Cranked up through our test amp, the Marshall DSL40C, this guy was a beast! The bridge pickup was rich, and clear too, playing whole chords on even medium to high distortion settings were still articulate and full, never muddy or noisy. Single note lines rung out for what seemed like forever, and that snappy, punchy character that this guitar had when clean was amplified ten fold when distorted. Power chords had punch and attack, and single line sung out with force I couldn’t have imagined. The vibrato system might have changed from the original Parker design, but the bulk of what made it play like a parker is still there. I could swing it around for days and it kept coming up in tune.

I loved this guitar, it sounds great, it feels great and it looks like nothing else. Of course, I am sort of biased, as I did love the old Parkers too. For what its worth though, this guitar is geared towards more conventional guitarists, with a vibrato that actually is set up in a way most people will understand it, body wood that a guitarist can recognize, rather than a list of space aged composites and different layers of different density wood. This guitar is like a turbo charged sports car, its as much fun as a super car without the giant price tag. At the end of a day though, the fun factor of these new Parkers really does show, and I dare anyone to play one of these guys and not smile the whole time, the Parker PDF105 series earns itself a solid 10 out of 10.

World Music Supply | Takamine Pro Series

Hey guys its Brian from World Music Supply, sorry for yet another rather lengthy hiatus from the blog, what with all of these new products flying in after NAMM, its difficult to find time to even breathe, let alone sit down and review a guitar or three, just not enough hours in the day.  Well today I got a free minutes, so I used it  to look at a couple of cool guitars by way of our friends over at Takamine. Over the past couple of years Takamine has been more or less consolidating some of their higher end models to try and get a better, more applicable guitar into the hands of some of today’s most demanding musicians.

Takamine P1JC PRO Series 1 Acoustic Electric Guitar

Takamine P1JC PRO Series 1 Acoustic Electric Guitar

First up on that list is the Takamine P1JC, which is part of their Pro Series 1 level of guitars. The Pro Series is divided into different levels, to help really hone in what a guitarist needs, so that each series can really be just about what the guitar plays and sounds like, rather than having to worry about having a guitar of every type of tone wood in every series, or having to worry about different inlay work for one specific guitar, or different brands of tuners etc. because each series level is outfitted the same, the only thing that changes is the body style.

I picked what I consider the quintessential model from the Pro Series 1 Level, the Jumbo. I love the way Takamine does Jumbos, especially when they use warmer sounding tone woods like Cedar and Sapele, which long time readers will know, I simply adore. So maybe I’m a little biased, but when it comes to guitars, aren’t we all? The Cedar top on the P1JC was stunning, with tons of super tight grain, and a gorgeous orange hue to it. The sapele back and sides were rather nicely figured, and since they are within the same general family as mahogany, it had a similar bold, yet warm sound.

Combined together, these two tone woods, and the jumbo body generate a plethora of amazing sounds. With gigantic low end, a driving powerful midrange, and crisp, pristine highs, the P1JC was really something to behold. Fingerstyle lines really popped, with clear definition, but still lots of body to even single notes. Strummed, this thing was a cannon, it was amazingly rich in harmonics and sustain, with all of the tone you have come to expect from Takamine, oh and did I mention it was loud!

Plugged in, the Palathetic pickup and the CT4B II preamp come together to recreate the sound of the acoustic guitar with flying colors, and more so, this guitar almost sounds better through an amplifier, as the already harmonically rich sound of the Jumbo Cedar top is further enriched by the natural harmonics inherent within the preamp tube. The sound was clean, pristine, and amazing. The guitar is a little more prone to feedback than I am used to, but with a top carved so eloquently to resonate like this one does, it can only be expected to respond to harmonic feedback just as well, so a sound hole cover is a must.

For the first guitar I got to review in over two weeks, this one was a genuine treat. The tones were jaw dropping, the looks were subdued yet handsome, and the playability of the whole ensemble was just to die for. The P1JC easily snags itself a solid 10 out of 10.

Takamine P2DC PRO Series 2 Acoustic Electric Guitar

Takamine P2DC PRO Series 2 Acoustic Electric Guitar

The other guitar I got my hands on today was the P2DC which is part of the Pro Series 2. The construction between the Pro Series 1 and 2 at first seemed rather minuscule, the Series 1 has a Cedar top, while the 2 has Spruce. Now while the differences are small, the sounds are worlds apart. While the Cedar has that familiar old world warmth, and charm, the Pro Series 2 with its Spruce top had something else, something new. I love Spruce topped guitars, I do have a personal bias towards Cedar, but my main guitar on and off stage for years was a cheap no name Spruce topped guitar that I have put through its paces for close to 10 years now, so I know how Spruce tends to sound, but this guitar, it was so much richer.

The sound was crystal clear, big huge low end, mid range that had a depth to it that ate up a ton of frequencies, but left more than enough room for my voice to live within, and enough high end presence to bring the guitars jangly side out to the fore front. This guitar had a classy, very round sound to it, that took fingerstyle amazingly, with tons of definition between notes, with a brilliant warmth and harmonic richness that you just don’t usually hear with many spruce topped guitars.

Plugged in, this guitar has a very crisp sound, thanks in part to the palathetic pickups unique construction technique, but also thanks to the CT4B II Preamp which enhanced the pure sound of the guitar, with its added harmonic richness. The sound was as close to the true sound of this guitar as I think you can get without a microphone, all of the highs and lows recreated perfectly, and the mids were as close to the real thing as possible. The guitar wasn’t as prone to feedback as the P1JC, but I think it had more to do with the actual size of the guitar this time around, as it is slightly smaller and thus less prone to feedback than the jumbo, but still with the volume up much past 5 or 6 I had to put a sound hole cover in.

The P2DC seems perfectly suited for any job you would usually leave to a dreadnaught, be that studio work, stage work, or song writing, the bold, beautiful voice of the P2DC is second to none in its class. It easily deserves its score of 10 out of 10.

World Music Supply | Winter NAMM Day 1 and 2

Hey guys, its Brian here again with World Music Supply. Today I get to talk about some really cool stuff from Winter NAMM 2013, sadly I can’t really discuss how it sounds or feels, as I didnt get to go due to school. Instead our resident Web Designer, and my Supervisor Mr. Danny Dunn got to go out to California to enjoy everything from hanging out with Rock Stars, checking out new gear, being wined and dined by our sales reps, and the best part (in my eyes) not having to deal with this sudden cold snap here in Indiana. Sure hanging out with rock stars is cool and all, but 70 degrees sounds pretty good when your shoveling snow just to get out of your driveway, but I digress. So here it is folks, some of the cool new stuff you can expect over the course of the next year!

and so it begins

and so it begins

So where to start? Who has come out with the coolest new stuff so far this year? Well while I highly doubt these will production models, that award easily goes to the folks over at ESP. ESP has a habit of coming out with some jaw dropping pieces of gear, usually covered in clever graphics, or in outlandish shapes. I’ve seen everything from a guitar carved like the grim reaper, to guitars sporting graphics that are more at home in a comic book or a tattoo parlor than on the face of a Strat.

The Angel Guitar from ESP, you really can't get much more elaborate than that

The Angel Guitar from ESP, you really can’t get much more elaborate than that

Their graphic work is just amazing.

Their graphic work is just amazing.

Next up are some cool pieces from our buddies over at Charvel, who (much to my excitement) have come out with some new San Dimas, and Pro Mod style guitars, and of course they have gorgeous looking single cuts coming out too, with some very out there looking colors, and bindings, not to mention the cool multi colored humbuckers. 

I want all of them!

I want all of them!

looking fancy

Takamine was there too, and they brought along some of the finest pieces of Japanese luthiery I have ever seen, which is saying something. Granted a few of their finer pieces were kept in glass cases, but from what I was told, these things sounded absolutely amazing, even over the noise of a packed convention hall, these guitars just sounded fantastic.

Just Stunning

Just Stunning

The attention to detail was just amazing

Just amazing Luthiery

Just amazing Luthiery

Ovation brought out a few new things, and a handful of their finer pieces to the show. The carbon fiber topped mandolin was cool, and the new front soundhole design on the guitar right next to it was neat, although the top wood of that guitar caught my eye a little more than the new soundhole design. They also brought out the new versions of the Yngwie Malmsteen Viper, which is a fantastic design, although I wish they would bring back the original Viper myself, this new one looks like it would be a little more comfortable on stage if you play at the speed of sound like Yngwie, less guitar to get in the way of your picking hand.

no one does Carbon Fiber quite like Ovation

no one does Carbon Fiber quite like Ovation

The new soundhole design is almost as eye catching as that Koa top

The new soundhole design is almost as eye catching as that Koa top

Say what you will, but I want that Kaki King model

Say what you will, but I want that Kaki King model

So handsome

So handsome

There was plenty more to see from the show floor, but alas, that will have to wait for Monday, when I can bring you everything from tonight, and Saturday. I’m as excited as you all no doubt are to see what else is being released, and I can’t wait to see what twists and turns are headed our way from California. But for the time being, I hope you guys enjoyed this little glimpse into the weird world that is Winter NAMM, and I cant wait to share the rest with you next week.

one last thing, I really want the Vincent Price guitar from ESP, it’s just perfect.
   

That Gargoyle guitar stand is pretty wicked too

That Gargoyle guitar stand is pretty wicked too

World Music Supply | MXR Pedals

Hey guys, Brian here again with World Music Supply, and I’m back with another dose of gear and guitar reviews. Today might have been a slightly slower day, as we’re getting ready to head off to NAMM, and find some tasty new treats for all of you gear lovers, as such I didn’t have a ton of time to sit down and review something super complicated for you all, but what I did certainly have an appeal all their own. Today I got to look at two classics from our friends over at MXR. First up to bat today, is a personal favorite, the MXR Dyna-Comp.

MXR Dyna-Comp Guitar Compression Pedal

MXR Dyna-Comp Guitar Compression Pedal

The Dyna-Comp is one of the simplest, most straight forward compressors ever made. You get two knobs, output, and sensitivity. Output increases the over all volume and clean gain of the pedal, and the sensitivity allows you to adjust just how much squash you get out of this guy. Today we are going back to our normal test amp, the Marshall DSL40C, and with good reason, one of the first things I do when trying out a compressor, is to test and see if it can copy a trick I learned from watching old Paul Gilbert videos. The basic idea is to get a good sounding dirty tone from your amp, and set the output of the compressor low, and the sensitivity high.  This allows you to go from a growling distortion tone, to a bold, 80’s style clean with the touch of a button, and the MXR passed with flying colors.

The second thing I always try and do, is dial in a good country tone, which with its two knob simplicity, I was able to dial in a snappy chicken pickin’ tone lighting fast. Volume swells had a violin like quality now, as it deleted the attack. Finger picking had a very even, very clean quality, and the tone of the guitar was brightened up, and made far more present. I personally love the tone of the MXR, with its quick sudden squash, and its slightly brighter quality, that’s why I keep one on my board. I know it might seem biased, but with a pedal this simple, that does everything you could ever want from a compressor, the MXR Dyna-Comp earns itself a well earned 10 out of 10.

MXR M-103 Blue Box Distortion / Fuzz Pedal with Octaver

MXR M-103 Blue Box Distortion / Fuzz Pedal with Octaver

Next up is the MXR Blue Box. I always loved the name of the blue box, because in my minds eye it was named after the old gadget they used to “hack” telephones back in the 70’s to get free long distance, because they both make really computer-y sounding bleeps and boops. That is the best way to describe what the Blue Box does, it in all actuality is a complex Fuzz circuit, that creates a synth like lower octave below the guitar, which can be blended in to create glitchy computer noises.

Turning the pedal on, you are instantly greeted with a very thick, rich analog fuzz. If you have it set just about noon on both knobs you get almost Nintendo sounding growls, with a grumbly two octave bass line below your psychedelic fuzzed out guitar. Be careful as this second octave is old school analog, and as such can sometimes be a little glitchy, but in a good way, as it allows the pitch to waver between two points and sometimes seem to disappear altogether. It works better on single lines for this reason, but it can take smaller chords as well.

Sure as a stand alone Fuzz, it’s a smooth and rich, and its easily an A+ Fuzz. But as an effect, or a color pedal, the Blue Box is great, as it’s like having an old school keyboard instead of a guitar, and really whose music couldn’t use more glitchy vintage keyboard style tones? Its not everybodies bag of tricks, but it certainly deserves to be tried out by anyone who plays heavy music, and wants a Fuzz box that does more than usual, the MXR Blue box might just be your right choice. Solid 9 out of 10.

World Music Supply | TC Electonic Classic 450

Hey guys its Brian with World Music Supply again, here to bring you another dose of gear and guitar reviews. In todays blog I am going to bring you a nice change of pace, I get to bring a review of a really cool amp from our friends over at TC electronics, the Classic450. I know I do a lot of reviews for guitars and guitar equipment, and while I did start out on guitar, I started out playing for my first band as the bass player. I tested the amplifier today with my personal Fender 4 string Jazz bass that I have used for years, and an active 5 string fretless that we keep laying around the warehouse,  all plugged into a TC Electronics RS410 speaker cabinet.

TC Electronic Classic 450 Bass Amplifier Head

TC Electronic Classic 450 Bass Amplifier Head

I liked the overall look of the amp, its compact enough to fit in a backpack, and the simplified control layout leaves little room for error. The amp looks rather diminutive atop the RS410, although that is part of its charm. I tested the 450 in the most classic way possible, plugged it right in, put all the EQ at 12 o’clock and left everything else alone. Even without the spectracomp, or the tubetone control (which I will explain in a moment) the 450 has a very cool, clean tone. Very, very even attack, and a smooth even sound to it altogether.

Sitting down, actually reading through the control manual and watching a handful of youtube videos, I started to see the genius behind the TC’s overall amp design. First off, the gain structure is very clean, it doesn’t really start to distort until way after 12 o’clock and even then, it distorts in a much more subtle way. The selling point for me on this amp, are the spectracomp and the tube tone knobs. The spectracomp is actually a plethora of compressors, which compress each frequency range individually, rather than altogether. This means one compressed the low end, one the lo mid, another the hi-mid, and finally the treble response. This results in a much more even sound, which has more of the organic quality of the instrument allowing for much more dynamic alterations than if you run through a global compressor, like a compressor pedal like I had for years.

Next up is the tube tone circuit which mimics in a rather realistic way the way a tube reacts when its overdriven, but it doesn’t just mimic the power amp or pre amp stage of a tube amp, instead it actually changes parameters across the entire amp, and shapes it to sound more like an actual tube amp. I have gotten to play a few tube bass amps over the years, and I know that they distort in a very particular way, they don’t have a nice angry buzz, or a warm bark like a guitar amp does, they have a very dark, growling quality to them which work particularly well with a fretless.

Turning the tubetone up, I was actually surprised by how close this circuit got to the real thing, sure it isn’t perfect, but it is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. The growling quality was there in spades, and slowly raising the spectracomp really helped to enrich this voice. With the tube tone turned up around 3 or 4 and the spectracomp about noon, playing slap on it I got a very good mid 90’s rock/funk sound, with just enough teeth to keep me heard, and enough low end to keep the snaps from sounding thin or whimpy. Turning up the tube tone and gain, and picking some heavier lines out, I was amazed at how even and aggressive I could get this amp to sound.

TC Electronic Classic 450 Bass Amplifier Head

TC Electronic Classic 450 Bass Amplifier Head

Playing some mellower jazz lines was amazing with the tube tone turned up just a bit to keep it sounding warm, the lows and mids raised a bit above noon, and the treble up a bit more than I should have it up, with the comp at about 7 I got smooth, warm low end, and with enough body to support a whole group, and enough presence to keep my solos and fills in the mix without falling below everyone else. This amp is amazingly versatile, and as I later found out, this control layout, is the one that TC uses for almost all of their bass amps, and it’s easy to see why. For the simple fact that it sounded perfect for what ever I wanted to play, from punk, to funk, and metal to jazz, the Classic 450 is amazing, and lets not forget it can fit in a backpack with ease, and for all of those reasons and more the Classic 450 earns itself a 10 out of 10.

World Music Supply | Takamine Guitars

Hey guys it’s Brian with World Music Supply again, here to bring you another dose of guitar and gear reviews. In today’s blog, I got to take a look at two great guitars from our friends over at Takamine. I always love Takamines, they make such consistently good guitars, that sometimes its easy to get caught up in the sound of one, and totally ignore how amazing they look, and how good their build quality is. Today however I got to play a few that just couldn’t be ignored, and the list begins with one of our best sellers right now, the EF340SCGN.

Takamine EF340SCGN Acoustic Electric Guitar

Takamine EF340SCGN Acoustic Electric Guitar

The very first thing you notice about this guitar, is that stunning vintage finished Cedar top, which is an almost caramel or cognac color and is down right beautiful. The workmanship is as close to perfect as I’ve ever seen, and the Nato back and sides are just as handsomely (although a little more subtlety) finished. The guitar also features a real bone nut, and real bone saddle to provide very clear, and resonant tones. Acoustically this guitar has a very vintage character to it, with lots of warm mid tones, sparkly high end, and a nice soft, almost jazzy low end. The neck is a very comfortable shape, and the Indian rosewood fingerboard is amazingly quick. Chords rung out with a distinctive boom, and single note lines had a very clear, defined character to them.

Amplified, this guitar was amazing. Acoustic guitar amplification has come leaps and bounds over the years, and the preamp technology always surprises me, how even with the same pickup, the guitars can sound miles apart based solely on their preamps. Sure, even low end instruments can have a pleasing character to them, but as you move up in quality, the quality of the sound changes dramatically. Sitting high atop the list of Takamines dozens of preamp designs is the Cool Tube series, which uses a small 12AU7 dual triode vacuum tube to help flesh out, and “warm up” the sound of the guitar.

The CT4BII pickup in the EF340SCGN is no different, and the second you hear this guitar, you understand just how important the cool tube is to the sound. The sound through a good acoustic guitar amp, or a good PA cabinet is just spectacular, with a sound that actually rivals the unamplified sound in beauty and clarity. The guitar was surprisingly resistant to feedback, and actually took quite a bit of volume to slide into that typical violent acoustic guitar feedback, and with a soundhole cover applied it took a ton of volume to switch into feedback mode. Tone wise the guitar has a lot like the actual acoustic tone, but with a bit fuller low end, and a slightly warmer sounding high end. Chords had a nice smooth character to them, with almost none of that usual piezo sizzle.

The sound of the EF340SCGN was amazing both amplified and unamplified, with tones that could cover anything you threw at it. For all of that, and its amazing looks, the EF340SCGN earns itself an easy 10 out of 10.

Takamine EF508K Noveau Series Acoustic Electric Guitar Koa

Takamine EF508K Noveau Series Acoustic Electric Guitar Koa

Next up is the Takamine EF508K which has the unusual appointment of having a Figured Koa top. I’ve seen Figured Koa as a back plate, and I’ve seen Figured Koa as sides on a guitar, but I’ve never seen it on a production guitar as a top wood. The reason its so rare as a top wood is because, first off its typically very expensive, as it is only grown in a few places around the world, and the cost tends to go up when it is as curly as the top on the EF508K. The sound of Koa is distinctive, with a lot of sparkly high end, some very warm mids, but not a whole ton of bass. This means it cuts through the mix very well, and helps to support the mix very well without overpowering it.

The feel of the NEXC body is nice, with its slightly smaller body, and a bit more even sound to the guitar, it really compliments all of the Koa in the guitar. Acoustically the EF508K has a pleasing, even sounding voice, with lots of note definition, and sustain. Chords ring out with almost piano like clarity, and they really do sustain for quite a while, far longer than almost any other acoustic I’ve had the pleasure to play thus far in my musical life. The only drawback is that Koa is hardwood, and as such is a slightly quieter wood, so the overall volume of the guitar is slightly quieter than say a spruce top guitar, although the fact it is an electric acoustic makes this point rather moot, as it can actually be as loud as your amplifier is.

The sound acoustically is remarkable, with tons of fantastic warmth and presence. The clarity of the guitar was also just dumbfounding, I was playing big jazz chords, full of 7ths and flat 5ths and there was never any overlay or woofy dissonance, just pure tone. The guitar was a tad bit quieter, athough no quieter than a smaller body size, like a mini jumbo or a parlor, and the guitar was still plenty loud enough to sing with as long as you aren’t really belting.

Amplified, this guitar is breathtaking, the definition and tone are just beyond anything I could have imagined. The sustain lasts far longer than a typical acoustic and the fact the top is made of a hardwood, the guitar is also very feedback resistant. Meaning I could play this guitar without a sound hole cover for quite some time, and at a pretty high volume without the body resonating to the speaker too much.

The EF508K was a downright magnificent guitar, with features well above your average acoustic. The figured Koa sounded like nothing else I had ever heard in an acoustic guitar, and the beauty of it was equally as profound. The EF508K easily earns itself a10 out of 10.