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NAMM 2011 - Editor's Picks, Day 3

NAMM 2011 - Editor's Picks, Day 3

Shawn Hammond - Editor in Chief

Misa Digital Instruments Kitara
Guitarists as a whole tend to skew fairly conservative when it comes to tones and gear—the majority of electric players insist on using a technology that is utterly and completely antiquated in all other applications (vacuum tubes), our most iconic guitars are half a century old (and counting), and the most extreme tones on 90 percent of our pedalboards were considered “far out” 40 years ago. But no matter how much guitar players lean toward Luddite, there’s no way we’re ever going to stop the evolution of the instrument.  

Only time will tell whether the new Kitara is the next step in the evolution of the 6-string—hell, it doesn’t even have strings. Without a doubt, though, the Kitara is at least evidence of society’s evolution: The convenience of modern technology on the whole is so engrained in our culture and collective conscience (to say nothing of the ubiquity of video games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero) that an instrument that would’ve seemed like a silly Star Trek prop 20 or 30 years ago seemed almost mundane at a NAMM where tons of exhibitors are hawking iPad and iPhone apps.  

Available in molded-plastic (MSRP $849) and aluminum-bodied (MSRP approx. $2000) versions that can be flipped to accommodate left-handers, the Kitara features an onboard, Linux-driven synth with more than 100 sounds, 144 buttons on the 24-“fret” neck, and an 8" touch screen to activate sounds and manipulate parameters in real time. It also features six effects, a MIDI out jack, a 1/4" audio out, and a headphone jack. For those who’ve been envious of big-name guitarists who can afford to outfit a guitar with a Korg KAOSS Pad (like Matt Bellamy of Muse), the Kitara seems like a fascinating, affordable way to get in on some of the futuristic action.

Kramer SM-1 Stagemaster
After I’d been playing electric guitar for a couple of years, I’d read enough guitar magazines to know what I wanted in my second solidbody. At the time, I worshipped Eddie Van Halen, so my must-have list included a humbucker in the bridge position and a double-locking tremolo. I ended up getting a top-of-the-line 1987 Kramer Stagemaster Custom, which had a Floyd Rose, a Seymour Duncan JB in the bridge position, two Duncan Vintage Staggered single-coils, a Master Volume, three mini toggles for each pickup (on/off for the single-coils, and on/off/coil-split for the JB), and a “rhythm-to-lead bypass” that toggled between the soloed humbucker and whatever the three mini toggles were set to. It also had a neck-through design, a bound ebony fretboard with diamond-shaped inlays and an abalone “KRAMER” inlay at the 24th fret, and an iridescent “flip-flop red” finish.  

Gibson now owns the Kramer brand, and the new SM-1 Stagemaster is modeled after a version of the Stagemaster that came out a year or two after mine. The new one sports the same trem (only now it’s recessed) and pickups (but with a Master Volume, Master Tone, 5-way selector, and a coil-tap mini toggle), but the body is contoured and the fretboard is adorned with mini abalone silhouettes of the headstock.

Dean Michael Schenker Strangers in the Night
For fans of UFO, MSG, and early Scorpions, this new V-shaped Dean offers an affordable way to pay tribute to the melodic metalhead. It features zebra-coiled humbuckers, dual Volume controls, a Tone knob, and a collage graphic that mimics the cover of UFO’s 1979 album, Strangers in the Night. I also like the fact that the most prominent face in the image bears a striking resemblance to PG associate editor Chris Kies. MSRP $599.
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