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Live from NAMM: Saturday Midday Update

It''s day three in sunny Anaheim and the gear just keeps coming

Day three greeted us with stiff backs, headaches and dehydration – two out of three caused by stupidity on our parts – but the mood changed quickly due to the excitement displayed by the throngs of buyers and visitors eager to sample the new gear. The anticipatory vibe was also caused by the sheer size of the show which required a full day of reconnoitering to develop a plan of attack.

The day started off with a press conference at the ungodly hour of 8:30 am by the good folks at D’Addario and Planet Waves. There were enough cool accessories to make any guitarist’s wallet sweat, but the best news was for recording buffs. Planet Waves’ modular snake system allows users to use a variety of connections – XLR, ¼”, etc. – with the help of one snake and two DB25 connections.That means no more climbing behind your gear to rearrange connections or paying $300 for a new snake with different plugs. Planet Waves’ also took the initiative to announce improvements and new branding for their already stellar line of cables and 17 new strap designs – including a model with a built-in locking mechanism for only $29.99.

We seemed to stumble across more high-gain madness today, with suitable offerings from a variety of manufacturers. Diamond Amps showed off their new Nitrox ($1999) and Phantom ($2499) models, promising tons of gain and hand-built reliability without the price tag of the Spec Op. Krank let us take their Rev 1 + head ($1599 street) for a test drive, which featured upgraded transformers, 6550s in place of the first generation’s 5881s, and a boost on the clean channel. ENGL had their Invader 100 ($3290) on display, but the noise police kept us from firing it up. Pumping out 100 watts through four EL34 tubes and offering tons of features, it looks fierce. Also keep an eye out for boutique offerings from Cameron Amplifiers this year, a small shop bringing new meaning to the term "modded Marshall."

We spent some time Nik Huber, who was busy celebrating his 10th anniversary in the industry. He showed off a new Special, building on his one pickup mahogany model by adding a P-90 at the neck. It offered typical Huber playability, and we’re sure it sounds great; we just didn’t have the opportunity to fire it up due to time constraints. Look for a review in a few months. He also hinted at plans to create ten special guitars to celebrate the anniversary, based on the Dolphin but featuring solid Brazilian rosewood necks and tons of appointments. Stay tuned for more.

Foxx announced six new pedals for 2008 to compliment their three reissues from 2004. They include the Clean Machine (offers up clean sustain and dirty tones), the Down Machine (wah voiced for bass and organs), the Loud Machine (Foxx’s volume pedal), the OD Machine (offering up tasty overdrive sounds), the Wah Machine (packing in four different wah sounds), and the Wah Volume (four different sounds plus volume). All of these machines feature the original fuzzy cases and are built like a tank. Prices range from $199 to $299.

First Act displayed some new models under the shadow of Carvin’s booth. The unique offerings included the Lola, a double-cut bolt-on loaded with Seymour Duncan pickups and featuring some crazy paintjobs, and their Eco-Friendly Green Bamboo Guitar, which began life as a Custom Shop creation, and is constructed of – you guessed it – bamboo. It had a medium C –shaped neck and featured great playability and tone, even though it was heavier than we thought it would be. This would be a great option for the Prius drivers out there who are looking for some enviro-cred in the studio.

Mark Baier at Victoria Amplifier Co. gave us a preview of their two newest models, the Electro King and the Golden Melody. The Electro King (MSRP $2995) is a 20-watt, 1x12 combo with tremolo, based on Gibson’s classic GA40, with a more Fender-like chassis design. The Golden Melody (MSRP $3495) is a 50-watt, 2x12 combo featuring true vari-tone tremolo and reverb. These designs showed a new direction for the company – check them out if you’re looking for a fresh vintage sound.

There’s only one more day to go at NAMM. With the odd aches and barking dogs, we’re glad that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but, right now, we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.