Take a look at the stomps, pickups, and accessories that filled the halls of Musikmesse.

Dutch amp and pedal company Koch previewed two pedal prototypes at Musikmesse 2014: The 59’OD is a full-featured preamp in pedal form, with a 12AX7 tube and two effect loops, one before and one after the gain stage. (The pre-gain loop would be perfect with Fuzz Faces, wahs, and other effects that sound best when not preceded by a buffer.) It runs on 12 volts, but includes a 9-volt output capable of powering other effects on your board. There’s an XLR out, plus a 1/4" out switchable between with 0dB, -10dB, and a ReAmp-like mode. The pedal sounded impressively amp-like running directly into a PA. (Yeah, the picture says “63’OD,” but Koch says the final name will be 59’OD.) They also showed the High Tide, a tremolo/reverb pedal whose digital chip coughed up convincingly spring-like ’verb. Cool feature: Switchable effect order.

Musikmesse isn’t what it used to be, show veterans say. Attendance is far from peak. There are fewer full exhibition halls. High participation costs (and the ability to announce and publicize products digitally) have prompted numerous companies to bypass the once-essential event.

But you know what? Messe is still huge.

NAMM’s European equivalent, held each year in Frankfurt, Germany, is substantially larger than its Anaheim counterpart. Far louder, too: As at NAMM, “sound police” armed with decibel meters patrol the floor, but they’re slackers. Messe is deafening.

But, hey, what’s a little tinnitus when you get to spend four days ogling so many cool new music products? From March 12th through 16th we roamed the vast halls, marveling at superbly crafted boutique instruments, solid working-player tools, and some remarkable budget-gear bargains.

The show highlights? For North American players like us, it’s probably the chance to fondle the phenomenal creations of small-production European shops whose instruments tend to be scarce in the States. The phrase “Old World craftsmanship” may be a cliché, but Messe schools you on how it became one. You can hardly turn around without being dumbstruck by a ravishing instrument that blends the engineering chops of Stuttgart or Turin with the design elegance of Milan or Barcelona.

But our report isn’t just some glamour-gear buyers’ guide for investment bankers and lottery winners indulging in a European grand tour. Quality work and compelling style were equally evident in mid-priced gear for working stiffs and in some remarkable entry-level bargains.

It’s hard to summarize such a vast event with a simple tag—but if pressed, I’d go with “retro fun.” Per usual, vintage-inspired designs reigned supreme. But we saw more manufactures playing with vintage aesthetics, recombining old-school elements in winning new ways. By and large, manufacturers seem to be having fun. We certainly were—and it’s not just the beer and schnitzel talking!

Iriondo has been a member of the Italian alt-rock outfit Afterhours since 1992. Here he’s playing a custom Epiphone SG Custom at an Afterhours show in 2015.

Photo by Emanuela Bonetti

The Italian maestro talks about the spiritual inspiration he draws from his Basque roots, as well as channeling his endless guitar-tinkering passions into his latest musical project, Buñuel.

Italian guitarist and sonic adventurer Xabier Iriondo has an affinity for the Basque term, metak—which literally means, “pile”—and he often incorporates it into the names of his various projects. His custom-built experimental guitar is the Mahai Metak (or “table pile”). Some of his unconventional musical collaborations also include the term, as in PhonoMetak and PhonoMetak Labs. And Sound Metak was the name of the eclectic shop he ran for about a decade in the early 2000s, which sold everything from boutique guitar pedals to shoes. (Check out his Instagram profile, which, in addition to pictures of his amazing collection of guitars, pedals, and vintage amps, is also a showcase for his impeccable taste in footwear).

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Megadeth founder teams up with Gibson for his first acoustic guitar in the Dave Mustaine Collection.

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The Atlas Compressor offers up an extensive library of compression options and allows for transformation into a bass specific compression machine.


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