Premier Guitar

Summer NAMM 2011: Southern Gear Fry

August 16, 2011



Nashville in July is typically steamy, scorching, and movin’ a little bit slow. That more relaxed atmosphere is reflected to some extent in the pace of Summer NAMM, held July 21–23 at the Nashville Convention Center in the heart of Music City’s storied Lower Broadway district. Less frantic and enormous than Winter NAMM or Europe’s Musikmesse, Nashville NAMM invites conversation and interaction with new and old friends in the industry. And, most important to the gang here at Premier Guitar, it gives us even more time for investigation of gear goodies from bigtime manufacturers and off-the-beaten-path upstarts alike.

In many ways, the little guys were the stars of Summer NAMM. South Carolina’s B.A. Ferguson guitars showed us how inspired, unique, great-playing guitars can be built from sustainable and repurposed materials. A brand-new California company called HeliArc Guitars showed off their resonator-inspired aluminum electrics. And the fast ascendant mad scientists from EarthQuaker Devices added another bunch of intriguing pedals to a line that’s become the talk of stompbox nuts everywhere. Regional stars shined bright in Nashville, too. Tennessee’s Mario Martin showed off several beautiful Fender-inspired solidbodies crafted from lightweight, resonant paulownia wood, while Mississippi’s Juliet Collective brought some of the most creative stompboxes at the show.

More experienced hands did their thing at Nashville, too. A stroll through the Martin and Korg USA booths demonstrated how restless those very established companies remain. Electro Harmonix’s Ravish Sitar pedal deliciously reaffirmed that there’s almost nothing the New York-based stompbox pioneers won’t try. And there were a few milestones to celebrate, too, as Santa Cruz Guitars did with its head-turning 35th Anniversary Cowgirl.

We found a lot of other cool stuff down in Nashville, too. You can check out just about all of it via the dozens of videos we’ve made available at premierguitar.com (they’re marked here with play-button icons). We’re guessing you’ll be hard pressed to find something that doesn’t stoke your gear lust, because regardless of what anyone might say about Summer NAMM being a smaller, more relaxed show, it’s brimming with wares that we’ll check out in even greater detail in the review pages of Premier Guitar and premierguitar.com in the days to come. In the meantime, enjoy these snapshots of our sweet times in the sweltering south.




1. BA Ferguson Shirley McLean
BA Ferguson Guitars made its first NAMM show appearance this year with a collection of acoustics and electrics built from recycled materials and repurposed wood. The Shirley McLean model pictured here features a chambered cherry body with a maple top, a maple neck with a persimmon fretboard, Heavy Air single-coils, and momentary mid-boost and kill switches made from ’80s Nintendo Entertainment System controller buttons.
bafergusonguitars.com

2. Mario Martin Serpentine 2
This Tennessee-based company’s short-scale, Mustangesque Serpentine 2 uses TV Jones pickups and a super-lightweight paulownia body to create crazy-lively and overtone-rich sounds. At 5 pounds 7 ounces, it’s like slinging a feather!
guitarmill.com/custom

3. HeliArc Guitars Arc Light
Based in Santa Ana, California, this new outfit debuted its line of aluminum-bodied guitars that combine quasi resonator-style construction and Lace Alumitone pickups for tones ranging from fat, Tele-like bark to super-mellow jazz vibes.
heliarcguitars.com

4. Larrivée Bakersfield
The boutique veterans from Vancouver, Canada, unleashed their beautiful Bakersfield T-style solidbodies, which feature contoured bodies, chunky D-profile necks, an optional neck humbucker, and jumbo frets— they’re sweet players, too.
larrivee.com

5. J.D. Vokes Art Guitars
J.D. Vokes’ Art Guitars made its NAMM show debut this summer with an eye-grabbing collection of customized production guitars from other manufacturers. The “Slashin’ Assassin” Epiphone Goth Explorer (left) features an inlaid chainsaw blade and rusted-steel pickguard, while the “Home on the Range” Kona KE35 has hair-in cowhide and a leather-covered pickguard.
jdvokes.com

6. Burly Guitars
Burly Guitars builds ornately carved semi-hollowbodies that incorporate a patented Internal Resonance System to get a wide spectrum of growling tones. The company says the resonance system uses “tuning forks” carved into each guitar’s core to “recirculate vibrations back into the strings” for added sustain.
burlyguitars.com

7. Burns Dream Noiseless
US distributor Saga Musical Instruments debuted the Burns Dream Noiseless, which marries vintage Burns appointments such as the Rez-o-Tube tremolo and Gear-o-Matik truss-rod adjuster with new Burns Rez-o-Matik Noiseless pickups and locking tuners.
burnsguitars.com




1. BA Ferguson Shirley McLean
BA Ferguson Guitars made its first NAMM show appearance this year with a collection of acoustics and electrics built from recycled materials and repurposed wood. The Shirley McLean model pictured here features a chambered cherry body with a maple top, a maple neck with a persimmon fretboard, Heavy Air single-coils, and momentary mid-boost and kill switches made from ’80s Nintendo Entertainment System controller buttons.
bafergusonguitars.com

2. Mario Martin Serpentine 2
This Tennessee-based company’s short-scale, Mustangesque Serpentine 2 uses TV Jones pickups and a super-lightweight paulownia body to create crazy-lively and overtone-rich sounds. At 5 pounds 7 ounces, it’s like slinging a feather!
guitarmill.com/custom

3. HeliArc Guitars Arc Light
Based in Santa Ana, California, this new outfit debuted its line of aluminum-bodied guitars that combine quasi resonator-style construction and Lace Alumitone pickups for tones ranging from fat, Tele-like bark to super-mellow jazz vibes.
heliarcguitars.com

4. Larrivée Bakersfield
The boutique veterans from Vancouver, Canada, unleashed their beautiful Bakersfield T-style solidbodies, which feature contoured bodies, chunky D-profile necks, an optional neck humbucker, and jumbo frets— they’re sweet players, too.
larrivee.com

5. J.D. Vokes Art Guitars
J.D. Vokes’ Art Guitars made its NAMM show debut this summer with an eye-grabbing collection of customized production guitars from other manufacturers. The “Slashin’ Assassin” Epiphone Goth Explorer (left) features an inlaid chainsaw blade and rusted-steel pickguard, while the “Home on the Range” Kona KE35 has hair-in cowhide and a leather-covered pickguard.
jdvokes.com

6. Burly Guitars
Burly Guitars builds ornately carved semi-hollowbodies that incorporate a patented Internal Resonance System to get a wide spectrum of growling tones. The company says the resonance system uses “tuning forks” carved into each guitar’s core to “recirculate vibrations back into the strings” for added sustain.
burlyguitars.com

7. Burns Dream Noiseless
US distributor Saga Musical Instruments debuted the Burns Dream Noiseless, which marries vintage Burns appointments such as the Rez-o-Tube tremolo and Gear-o-Matik truss-rod adjuster with new Burns Rez-o-Matik Noiseless pickups and locking tuners.
burnsguitars.com




1. Bad Cat Cougar Series
Bad Cat announced a partnership with Hanser Music Group at Summer NAMM. The Kentucky-based distributor of brands such as Kustom and B.C. Rich is offering three new PCB-construction amps designed by Bad Cat’s James Heidrich but offered at more affordable prices than US-made Bad Cats. The Cougar 50 head features two footswitchable channels and tube-driven reverb, and is powered by JJ EL34s. A 2x12 combo is also available, in addition to the 5-watt Cougar 5, which features an EL84 power tube, three knobs (Volume, Master, and Tone), and a Celestion Vintage 30.
badcatamps.com

2. Wavelength AudioTone Bank AG
Wavelength’s chief scientist Gordon Rankin says the secret to the Tone Bank AG—which uses 100 percent silver wiring (including in the transformers), an EL84 power tube, and an RCA 5693 preamp tube—is that the reactor follower driver directly couples the driver stage to the output tube and takes the amp from class A to class A2, thus increasing output by 40 percent.
guitar-engines.com

3. Little Walter SB5 Head
Little Walter’s new SB5 features one 6V6 power tube for 5 watts, a 6SJ7 preamp tube, and a 5Y3 rectifier for unadulterated tube goodness.
littlewaltertubeamps.com

4. ValveTrain Bennington Reverb
The point-to-point-wired Bennington Reverb is a 20-watt, fixed-biased combo that uses two 6V6s and an Eminence Wizard 12" speaker to crank out deliciously snappy, blackface-style tones. Controls include Volume, Bass, Treble, and Reverb knobs, as well as a Bright switch.
valvetrainamps.com

5. Moss Amps Kraken
The 6L6-powered Kraken head is switchable between 50 and 100 watts, and features footswitchable clean and lead channels that are handwired using eyelet boards. Each channel has Volume, Treble, Mid, Bass, and Master Volume knobs, while a Master Presence brightens both channels and a push-pull bright function on the clean channel makes things even spankier.
mossamps.com




1. Bad Cat Cougar Series
Bad Cat announced a partnership with Hanser Music Group at Summer NAMM. The Kentucky-based distributor of brands such as Kustom and B.C. Rich is offering three new PCB-construction amps designed by Bad Cat’s James Heidrich but offered at more affordable prices than US-made Bad Cats. The Cougar 50 head features two footswitchable channels and tube-driven reverb, and is powered by JJ EL34s. A 2x12 combo is also available, in addition to the 5-watt Cougar 5, which features an EL84 power tube, three knobs (Volume, Master, and Tone), and a Celestion Vintage 30.
badcatamps.com

2. Wavelength AudioTone Bank AG
Wavelength’s chief scientist Gordon Rankin says the secret to the Tone Bank AG—which uses 100 percent silver wiring (including in the transformers), an EL84 power tube, and an RCA 5693 preamp tube—is that the reactor follower driver directly couples the driver stage to the output tube and takes the amp from class A to class A2, thus increasing output by 40 percent.
guitar-engines.com

3. Little Walter SB5 Head
Little Walter’s new SB5 features one 6V6 power tube for 5 watts, a 6SJ7 preamp tube, and a 5Y3 rectifier for unadulterated tube goodness.
littlewaltertubeamps.com

4. ValveTrain Bennington Reverb
The point-to-point-wired Bennington Reverb is a 20-watt, fixed-biased combo that uses two 6V6s and an Eminence Wizard 12" speaker to crank out deliciously snappy, blackface-style tones. Controls include Volume, Bass, Treble, and Reverb knobs, as well as a Bright switch.
valvetrainamps.com

5. Moss Amps Kraken
The 6L6-powered Kraken head is switchable between 50 and 100 watts, and features footswitchable clean and lead channels that are handwired using eyelet boards. Each channel has Volume, Treble, Mid, Bass, and Master Volume knobs, while a Master Presence brightens both channels and a push-pull bright function on the clean channel makes things even spankier.
mossamps.com




1. DigiTech iPB-10 Programmable Pedalboard
The iPB-10 features an iPad dock and DigiTech’s new iPB Nexus app, which offers 87 different pedal models, 37 amp models, and 32 cabinet models. All models can be quickly and easily manipulated onscreen via visual representations of the devices. Fourteen footswitches let you switch between 20 banks of five virtual pedalboards, each of which can include up to 10 pedals, as well as amp emulations that you can insert at any point in the chain.
digitech.com

2. Levana Mellow-D Digital Delay
The Mellow-D digital delay has a rear-panel Jitter switch that lets you add a low- or high-frequency oscillation to the signal for delectably trippy lo-fi tones. It also features an expression pedal input and up to 1000 ms of delay.
studiobluellc.com

3. Electro-Harmonix Ravish Sitar
This new pedal from the stompbox innovators at EHX aims to give you access to sitar tones with a polyphonic Lead voice and tunable emulations of sympathetic-string drones. It has two expression-pedal inputs for bending the pitch of the lead voice and controlling the volume of the sympathetic tones.
ehx.com

4. Amptweaker TightRock
Amp and effects guru James Brown’s new TightRock has EQ and Gain Boost switches, as well as a noise gate that adjusts in tandem with the Gain knob. It also features a PlexEQ switch for old-school stack flavors and a SideTrak effects loop that disengages when the pedal is on so you can have, say, modulation effects from your pedalboard activated with your clean sound but then click the TightRock on to blast out a solo with a direct, in-your-face tone.
amptweaker.com




1. DigiTech iPB-10 Programmable Pedalboard
The iPB-10 features an iPad dock and DigiTech’s new iPB Nexus app, which offers 87 different pedal models, 37 amp models, and 32 cabinet models. All models can be quickly and easily manipulated onscreen via visual representations of the devices. Fourteen footswitches let you switch between 20 banks of five virtual pedalboards, each of which can include up to 10 pedals, as well as amp emulations that you can insert at any point in the chain.
digitech.com

2. Levana Mellow-D Digital Delay
The Mellow-D digital delay has a rear-panel Jitter switch that lets you add a low- or high-frequency oscillation to the signal for delectably trippy lo-fi tones. It also features an expression pedal input and up to 1000 ms of delay.
studiobluellc.com

3. Electro-Harmonix Ravish Sitar
This new pedal from the stompbox innovators at EHX aims to give you access to sitar tones with a polyphonic Lead voice and tunable emulations of sympathetic-string drones. It has two expression-pedal inputs for bending the pitch of the lead voice and controlling the volume of the sympathetic tones.
ehx.com

4. Amptweaker TightRock
Amp and effects guru James Brown’s new TightRock has EQ and Gain Boost switches, as well as a noise gate that adjusts in tandem with the Gain knob. It also features a PlexEQ switch for old-school stack flavors and a SideTrak effects loop that disengages when the pedal is on so you can have, say, modulation effects from your pedalboard activated with your clean sound but then click the TightRock on to blast out a solo with a direct, in-your-face tone.
amptweaker.com




1. Benado Effects Multi-Effector
Sage Benado’s multi-effector features stompbox-style layouts for compressor, distortion, overdrive, delay, and reverb effects, and includes dual mono outputs for use with more than amp. It also features a tuner output and an effects loop for the delay and reverb sections.
benadoeffects.com

2. EarthQuaker Devices Dispatch Master
The Dispatch Master delay/reverb offers 1.5 seconds of delay time and a Repeat knob that doubles as a Thickness control for the reverb when Time is dialed all the way back.
earthquakerdevices.com

3. Morpheus Bomber Polyphonic Pitch Shifter
The Bomber shifts pitches up (a second, a fi fth, an octave, or two octaves), down (a second, a fourth, a fi fth, or one or two octaves), and has a three-octave, foot-controlled dive-bomb feature. Other cool appointments include a rear-panel Trim control and a USB port for software updates.
morpheusfx.com

4. The Juliet Collective Set Adrift on Memory Bliss
The Juliet Collective had some really unique and beautifully built stomps to display at their fi rst NAMM appearance. The ultra-cool Set Adrift on Memory Bliss modulated delay has tons of sweet conventional delay sounds (we loved the slapback sounds), radical modulated delay tones, and a guitar-mounted wand you can use to control modulation in real time.
thejulietcollective.com




1. Benado Effects Multi-Effector
Sage Benado’s multi-effector features stompbox-style layouts for compressor, distortion, overdrive, delay, and reverb effects, and includes dual mono outputs for use with more than amp. It also features a tuner output and an effects loop for the delay and reverb sections.
benadoeffects.com

2. EarthQuaker Devices Dispatch Master
The Dispatch Master delay/reverb offers 1.5 seconds of delay time and a Repeat knob that doubles as a Thickness control for the reverb when Time is dialed all the way back.
earthquakerdevices.com

3. Morpheus Bomber Polyphonic Pitch Shifter
The Bomber shifts pitches up (a second, a fi fth, an octave, or two octaves), down (a second, a fourth, a fi fth, or one or two octaves), and has a three-octave, foot-controlled dive-bomb feature. Other cool appointments include a rear-panel Trim control and a USB port for software updates.
morpheusfx.com

4. The Juliet Collective Set Adrift on Memory Bliss
The Juliet Collective had some really unique and beautifully built stomps to display at their fi rst NAMM appearance. The ultra-cool Set Adrift on Memory Bliss modulated delay has tons of sweet conventional delay sounds (we loved the slapback sounds), radical modulated delay tones, and a guitar-mounted wand you can use to control modulation in real time.
thejulietcollective.com




1. Stonebridge Guitars G22CR-C
Stonebridge introduced more affordable versions of their instruments at NAMM, including this G22CR-C with a solid cedar top, solid rosewood back and sides, a 2-piece mahogany neck, ebony fretboard and bridge, and Schaller tuners.
stonebridgeguitars.com

2. Gitane DG-560 Gypsy Classical
Gitane’s new nylon-stringed DG- 560 Gypsy Classical is inspired by Mario Maccaferri’s original guitar. It’s a 12-fret D-hole design with a solid cedar top, cypress back and sides, ebony and maple binding, and an ebony bridge and fretboard.
sagamusic.com

3. Wechter Roundneck Resonator
Designed by famed resonator builder Tim Scheerhorn, this new Wechter model has post-andbaffle construction and sports a Scheerhorn cone.
wechterguitars.com

4. Martin 000-15 12-fret
The Nazareth, Pennsylvania, flattop masters tweaked the classic all-mahogany 000-15 for Summer NAMM, revisiting the 12-fret version with a slotted headstock.
martinguitar.com

5. Beard Guitars Odyssey A Resonator
Paul Beard’s new Odyssey A resonator features an intriguing design with an internal bass-reflex baffle that turns the body into more of a speaker cabinet, which he says improves bass and lower-mid response and projection.
beardguitars.com

6. Santa Cruz 35th
Anniversary Cowgirl Richard Hoover pulled out all the stops for Santa Cruz’ 35th Anniversary Cowgirl. This showstopper has old-growth Brazilian rosewood back and sides, and an Adirondack spruce top from Hoover’s own special stash. The mother-of-pearl fretboard inlay is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, too.
santacruzguitar.com




1. Stonebridge Guitars G22CR-C
Stonebridge introduced more affordable versions of their instruments at NAMM, including this G22CR-C with a solid cedar top, solid rosewood back and sides, a 2-piece mahogany neck, ebony fretboard and bridge, and Schaller tuners.
stonebridgeguitars.com

2. Gitane DG-560 Gypsy Classical
Gitane’s new nylon-stringed DG- 560 Gypsy Classical is inspired by Mario Maccaferri’s original guitar. It’s a 12-fret D-hole design with a solid cedar top, cypress back and sides, ebony and maple binding, and an ebony bridge and fretboard.
sagamusic.com

3. Wechter Roundneck Resonator
Designed by famed resonator builder Tim Scheerhorn, this new Wechter model has post-andbaffle construction and sports a Scheerhorn cone.
wechterguitars.com

4. Martin 000-15 12-fret
The Nazareth, Pennsylvania, flattop masters tweaked the classic all-mahogany 000-15 for Summer NAMM, revisiting the 12-fret version with a slotted headstock.
martinguitar.com

5. Beard Guitars Odyssey A Resonator
Paul Beard’s new Odyssey A resonator features an intriguing design with an internal bass-reflex baffle that turns the body into more of a speaker cabinet, which he says improves bass and lower-mid response and projection.
beardguitars.com

6. Santa Cruz 35th
Anniversary Cowgirl Richard Hoover pulled out all the stops for Santa Cruz’ 35th Anniversary Cowgirl. This showstopper has old-growth Brazilian rosewood back and sides, and an Adirondack spruce top from Hoover’s own special stash. The mother-of-pearl fretboard inlay is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, too.
santacruzguitar.com




1. Bootleg Guitars Dawg Basses
US-built Dawg basses feature a 34" scale, ash bodies, quartersawn maple necks, a brass nut, Bartolini BC4C humbuckers, Volume and Blend knobs, CTS pots, and solid-brass Hipshot B-style bridges.
bootlegguitars.com

2. Source Audio Soundblox Pro Bass Envelope Filter
The Soundblox Pro Bass Envelope Filter has a Wet/Dry Mix knob and four modulation options—wah, envelope, LFO auto-wah, and Hot Hand motion sensor-controlled modes—for an incredible array of funky and/or mind-bending sounds.
sourceaudio.net

3. Bluesman Vintage ’61 El Dorado
Tennessee-based Bluesman Vintage had a collection of beautiful, Fender-inspired “recreations,” including this Candy Apple-finished ’61 El Dorado J-style bass. With matching headstock and early- ’60s-style features, it was among the more eye-catching specimens in a booth full of handsome, vintage-style instruments.
bluesmanvintage.com

4. Overton Amps Flyweight 200 and Touready OB-110 Cab
This new head lives up to its name—it weighs just two pounds—and features an auto compressor, Sculpt control, and a 3-band active EQ, in addition to Gain and Master Volume controls. The Touready OB-110 cab features a tuned-port design and a 10" speaker that handles 250 watts at 4 Ω or 8 Ω.
overtonamps.com



1. Bootleg Guitars Dawg Basses
US-built Dawg basses feature a 34" scale, ash bodies, quartersawn maple necks, a brass nut, Bartolini BC4C humbuckers, Volume and Blend knobs, CTS pots, and solid-brass Hipshot B-style bridges.
bootlegguitars.com

2. Source Audio Soundblox Pro Bass Envelope Filter
The Soundblox Pro Bass Envelope Filter has a Wet/Dry Mix knob and four modulation options—wah, envelope, LFO auto-wah, and Hot Hand motion sensor-controlled modes—for an incredible array of funky and/or mind-bending sounds.
sourceaudio.net

3. Bluesman Vintage ’61 El Dorado
Tennessee-based Bluesman Vintage had a collection of beautiful, Fender-inspired “recreations,” including this Candy Apple-finished ’61 El Dorado J-style bass. With matching headstock and early- ’60s-style features, it was among the more eye-catching specimens in a booth full of handsome, vintage-style instruments.
bluesmanvintage.com

4. Overton Amps Flyweight 200 and Touready OB-110 Cab
This new head lives up to its name—it weighs just two pounds—and features an auto compressor, Sculpt control, and a 3-band active EQ, in addition to Gain and Master Volume controls. The Touready OB-110 cab features a tuned-port design and a 10" speaker that handles 250 watts at 4 Ω or 8 Ω.
overtonamps.com