Miss our NAMM Videos? We have you covered! See them all here in one place to find your next gear obsession.
Master builder Gene Baker talks about his new model that pays tribute to two classic designs.
Learn More: https://www.b3guitars.com/phoenix/
Although the new Spark Mini is extremely portable, it packs a lot of punch and a ton of tech.
Learn More: https://www.positivegrid.com/spark-mini
Check out a new way to solve your pedal-power problems using a system that’s powered by rare magnets.
Learn More: https://earthboardmusic.com/shop/ols/products/eartboard-ebii
Watch a demo of the British company’s new line that offers quite a punch in a lightweight package.
Learn More: https://blackstaramps.com/stjames/
The famed stringmakers launch a new 5-string bass that combines comfort with a classic look and feel.
Learn More: https://www.labella.com/bass/olinto-5-string/
Designer Ben Fulton pays homage to two seminal guitar heroes with a pair of amp-in-a-box stomps that cover British arena rock and Sunset Strip sludge.
Learn More: https://www.premierguitar.com/videos/namm/imperial...
Affordability and reliability come together in a new collection of low-end thump machines.
Learn More: https://manhattanprestigebasses.com/instruments/
Legendary bassist Neil Jason unveils a trio of bass-centric pedals that offer grinding distortion, blissful chorus, inventive octaves, and more.
Learn More: https://seamoonfx.com/product/seamoon-funk-machine/
After discovering a batch of builder’s-grade Koa, Andy Powers went to work on a new line of instruments that sport an airy sound and an ultra-thin finish.
Learn More: https://www.taylorguitars.com/guitars/acoustic/724ce
Born out of a rustic ethos and old-growth wood, the amp builders show off their new line of guitars.
Learn More: https://blackvoltamplification.com/products/earthc...
Watch how this new collaboration with Fender has made the most extreme Bigsby moves much easier.
Learn More: https://gamechangeraudio.com/shop/bigsby-pedal/
Designer Otto D’Ambrosio crafted a new series of offset solidbody guitars that balance a modern aesthetic with vintage vibes.
Learn More: https://www.eastmanguitars.com/electric_solid_body
A pair of feature-packed interfaces that can cover full-band sessions and at-home demos.
Learn More: https://www.premierguitar.com/videos/namm/audient-...
Vola OZ RV TNC | NAMM 2022
These pure shred machines are sleek, loaded with useful features, and give classic body shapes a modern makeover.
Learn More: https://www.volaguitar.com/product/oz-rv-tnc/
With dozens of amp, cabs, and effects on board, these tech-heavy instruments offer a boatload of options under the hood.
Learn More: https://www.gtrs.tech/
Watch how a quartet of highly customizable pedals cover everything from spacious ambient ‘verbs to EVH-inspired micro-pitch delays.
Learn More: https://www.eventideaudio.com/
Dreadbox FX | NAMM 2022
Watch this demo of an interesting take on an otherworldly tremolo.
Learn More: https://www.dreadbox-fx.com/
The company celebrates its 50th anniversary with a signature model from a Canadian rock legend and a powerhouse HSS-loaded double cutaway.
Learn More: https://godinguitars.com/product/session-r-ht-pro-...
Dophix | NAMM 2022
Dig into a new line of Italian stompboxes that include a versatile tremolo, dead-simple dirt boxes, and more.
Learn More: https://www.dophix.it/
Check out a demo of a high-tech tremolo and get a sneak peak of a newly designed setup for T-style addicts.
Learn More: https://vegatrem.com/product/vt1-ultra-trem-standa...
The classic sound of a seminal stompbox gets shrunk down into a micro-sized box.
Learn More: https://www.ratdistortion.com/product/625/lil-rat-...
Tosin Abasi shares the backstory on his wildly inventive collaboration with Ernie Ball Music Man.
Learn More: https://blog.music-man.com/news/ernie-ball-music-m...
Check out the roots rocker’s new namesake dread, which is an exact copy of his father’s flattop.
Learn More: https://www.martinguitar.com/guitars/D-28-Rich-Rob...
Watch Tosin Abasi shred through the highlights of a trio of new models.
Learn More: https://abasiconcepts.com/
The digitally-focused company goes analog with a new line of tube-driven amp sim pedals for guitar and bass.
Learn More: https://www.two-notes.com/en/revolt-guitar/
See how the company took one of their standout models and added a wealth of high-end features including a gold-leaf finish.
Learn More: https://destroyallguitars.com/collections/197-versoul
Watch how a very long legacy of Italian winemaking informed the design of a pair of new guitars.
Learn More: https://www.paolettiguitars.com/guitars/series/sig...
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June 20, 2022
Few might invest in an old Kay as deeply as our columnist, but, in his case, it paid off.
When I was in my early days of researching guitar history, I embraced all sorts of guitars from all over the place, from kitchen countertop guitars to cheap rusty resonator jobs. I really had no focus whatsoever. Every topic, as it related to guitars, was rather fascinating. Eventually, though, I moved towards crazy electrics and away from folksy acoustics. I wanted loud, interesting, and rare, and in my eyes acoustic guitars were all sort of the same. I know, I know … they aren’t the same at all. But in the 1960s, acoustic guitars were copies of copies, and they just never really held my interest. For this month, when I was tasked to write about an acoustic guitar, the choice was easy since I only own one.
My acoustic guitar is an early 1960s Kay model that has seen its share of wear and fixed cracks. Based on the size, it’s most likely the Kay Plains Special, with mahogany sides and a solid spruce top. When I first saw this worn-out old boy with the art deco headstock, I could tell someone really loved it. The neck has a lovely deep-V shape, and even though the guitar was in disrepair, I wanted to give it a second chance. So, off it went to a few different techs who gave it a refretting (Kay used some pretty bad frets), crack repairs on the top, a neck reset, and a reglued bridge.
I suppose most folks wouldn’t want to put that kind of money into a cheap guitar, but, in my eyes, it’s like recycling. The Kay Musical Instrument Company was one of two Chicago-based manufacturing behemoths, along with Harmony. (Valco, the other notable Windy City-based instrument maker, merged with Kay in 1967.) Both companies specialized in interesting fare, often geared towards beginners and intermediate players. I love so many of the old Kay and Harmony guitars.
Vintage Kay Acoustic Demo with DeArmond Model 210 Pickup
Hear guitarist Mike Dugan slide and strum on the author’s Kay/DeArmond combination.
With this acoustic, I knew what I needed to add, and that came from Toledo, Ohio. I’ve often mentioned that I grew up and live near the Martin Guitar Factory in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. When I was a kid, I took my first guitar lessons at a little music shop called the Nazareth Music Center (and it’s still open for business). Throughout the ’80s, as my love affair with guitars began to grow, I frequented the quaint little shop that was a converted two-story home. The waiting room was the old kitchen and the lesson rooms were in the basement. On the first floor was a counter on the left and some instruments for sale on the right … kind of like a sitting room. I wish I could travel back in time because that store, back then, had amassed all sorts of inventory from several decades of business. One item that always held my interest were the blue and white boxes of DeArmond pickups that were still new in the package. These were the early days of my interest in “hot-rodding” guitars and mixing and matching parts, so I ended up buying a few of these old pickups.
The DeArmond Company was started in Toledo by Harry DeArmond and, since the mid-1930s, they specialized in guitar pickups that could be attached to acoustic and archtop guitars. They definitely filled a need, since electric guitar popularity was just around the bend. The company made all sorts of crazy pickups and almost all of them sound amazing.
My favorite of the old DeArmond pickups is the model 210, which always seemed to be the most powerful sounding to my ears. Plus, this pickup is fully adjustable via the threads on the polepieces. There’s a whole laundry list of professionals who’ve used the DeArmond 210, and I can understand why—it just has that vintage sound built right in. (Of course, back then, that sound was contemporary!) I use this pickup with my old Kay as a slide player with open tunings.
There’s a lesson here for all you acoustic players that shun the new and fancy and innovative. Take an old American-made acoustic and an old American-made pickup, and you really have something.
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Parlor dimensions and upscale appointments add up to a flattop that’s a pleasure to cradle.
Ultra playable, super comfortable, and great action. Beautiful design details. Sweet fingerstyle voice.
Pricey for an import.
Fender Paramount PS-220E
Fender’s new Paramount PS-220E Parlor is a million kinds of fun. For starters, imagine picking up a little old Stella tucked away in a dusty corner of a garage sale—only to find the action is perfect and the tuners actually work. Then consider the basic joys of any good little acoustic: how easy it is to hold, how light it is, how little room it takes up when you leave it sitting around the living room waiting for whatever spark of inspiration hits at random. The PS-220E dishes oodles of those small pleasures. And while the price isn’t exactly small for an imported instrument of this stature, the playability and versatility are equal to much more expensive instruments.
All Dressed Up
There are a lot of reasons the Paramount sells for a somewhat premium price. It’s charmingly handsome—in no small part because of the detail work that reveals itself up close. The purfling, rosette, and backstrip are fashioned around a pretty feather-and-checker pattern of blue, green, and red that alternate with spaces of antique white. The entire neck and headstock are bound, and quite immaculately at that. The ovangkol fretboard inlay and headstock overlay are classy and understated but feel that extra bit luxurious. The visual charm is reinforced by a subtle chocolatey burst finish on the solid mahogany top. And while the solid mahogany back and sides are made from what some might call rough grain, the rustic effect works in harmony with the fancier details to create a sort of restored antique look.
While the price isn’t exactly small for an imported instrument of this stature, the playability and versatility are equal to much more expensive instruments.
You certainly can’t complain about the detail work on the guitar’s exterior. Adding so many visual treats means more spots where workmanship can go wrong. But everything from the frets to the binding, purfling, and inlays are pretty much perfect. Inside, things are less so. There is evidence of sloppy gluing and less-than-precise kerfing cuts—none of which have any bearing on the sound. But the price of the guitar does leave you longing for a tidier touch on that count.
Sit and Strum Awhile
If you imagined the perfect guitar for sitting down with after a long workday, or the ideal songwriting partner that you drag from the garden to the beach to the living room and down to the studio, it might feel a lot like the Paramount PS-220E. The action is delectably low, and you can vigorously strum barre chords from the 1st fret to the 12th without hearing any buzzing or clanking strings. The C-profile neck is just substantial enough to make you feel like you’re not squeezing to fret effectively, but slim enough that you can move around quickly. The easy playability means the PS-220E very handily transcends simple strummer roles. Fingerstyle moves and complex chords are made significantly easier for the low action and nice set-up, which can give you a lot of confidence for stretching your playing. It’s great for leads for the same reasons. Occasionally there is a slight sense of disappointment because the small parlor body can only generate so much muscle for these applications. And there is inevitably some limits to the dynamic range you can generate. That said, the PS-220E has impressive headroom for a guitar of this size. And pushing it to its limits rarely creates any harsh overtones.
The Fishman Sonitone Plus undersaddle pickup and preamp are, in general, an effective addition to the PS-220E. The tones most suited to the guitar tend to live in the lower third of the tone control’s range, and I generally played with the volume as low as possible to soften any undersaddle transients. Hard strumming, needless to say, brought out the least flattering of these sounds. But the Sonitone could sound quite sweet in fingerstyle situations, which makes it a nice fit for the very fingerstyle-friendly PS-220E.
It’s hard to find a reason to complain about any aspect of the PS-220E’s performance or playability. It feels fantastic—at times like a natural extension of your body. And if you struggle at all with hand or body fatigue from wrestling with a bigger instrument, it’s hard to imagine a more enjoyable alternative. But the PS-220E is appealing for many reasons beyond comfort. The playability makes it a much more direct line between your musical intuition and imagination, which is a pretty invaluable thing whether you’re a songwriter or tackling a challenging tune or arrangement. It’s a good thing the PS-220E is as stylish and easy to play as it is, because $829 is pretty steep for an import instrument. But regardless of price or place of manufacture, you can’t argue that the PS-220E is a pure joy to hold and play.
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