Hosted once again in the vibrant city of Nashville, the Summer installment of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) trade show offered a chance to see and play a wide variety of interesting new products, from entry-level instruments to high-end, investment-grade instruments.
As usual, Martin Guitar had a number of new and noteworthy models to share. The 12-fret, 12-string D12-35 50th Anniversary model boasts a European spruce top (torrefied with the Vintage Tone System) and three-piece Indian rosewood back. The HD-35 CFM IV 60th, created in honor of Chris Martin’s 60th birthday, features a Vintage Tone System European spruce top with pearl herringbone appointments and combines it with a three-piece back of siris wings and rosewood wedge. The LE-Cowboy-2015 is a 000-sized 12-fret model with a Sitka spruce top that has printed cowboy artwork by William Matthews, plus goncalo alves back and sides. The all-mahogany 00-15E Retro comes with a Fishman Aura pickup system. Also of note was the CS-D41-15 dreadnought, with Sitka spruce top and East Indian rosewood back and sides, and the SS-0041-15, with Guatemalan rosewood back and sides.
The Santa Cruz Guitar Company debuted its Brad Paisley signature-model dreadnought. Named the B/PW, it is based on SCGC’s Pre-War dreadnought model and features a bear claw Sitka spruce top with Indian rosewood back and sides, plus a custom cowboy hat headstock inlay. The company also introduced their own line of parabolic tension strings, which, as the name implies, are based on string tension, not gauge.
Andy Powers of Taylor Guitars showed off three recently developed special-edition models. From the 300 series, we have the 360e SEB 12-string dreadnought and the 326e Baritone-6 SEB, both with mahogany tops and sapele bodies. We also get a look at the 714ce-S LTD, which combines a Sitka spruce top with stunning Tasmanian blackheart sassafras back and sides and a Florentine cutaway.
The three brands of the Two Old Hippies family each had something interesting to display. Tom Bedell of Bedell Guitars unveiled the brand new Wildfire series. These models, available in parlor, orchestra, and dreadnought sizes, feature Adirondack spruce tops, big leaf maple bodies, walnut fretboards and bridges, and stunning burst finishes. Breedlove had an all-myrtlewood 2015 Oregon Concert Limited Edition model. All of the wood for this model, which will have a run of 100, was harvested locally on the Oregon coast. Weber gave us a look at its Bitterroot Octar, a Sitka spruce/mahogany instrument with a 22-inch octave scale combined with a guitar-sized body.
Yamaha introduced their refurbished Silent Guitar to the U.S. market. The new SLG200 series, available in both steel-string and nylon-string models, utilizes Yamaha’s unique SRT (Studio Response Technology) preamp and pickups, giving the instrument a sound-modeling system intended to emulate a true, full-bodied acoustic instrument.
Takamine Guitars debuted a pair of new dreadnoughts: the spruce/rosewood EF360S TT and the spruce/mahogany EF340S TT. Each comes with a “thermal” (torrefied) top and “hidden” pickup. Eastman Guitars is very excited about four new sapele-bodied models. The AC-DR1 (dreadnought) and AC-OM1 (orchestra) both have spruce tops, while the AC-DR2 (dreadnought) and AC-OM2 (orchestra) have sapele tops. All will feature an open-pore finish and will street for a little more than 500 bucks.
RainSong unleashed its latest model, the Smokey, which combines the company’s signature deep-bodied WS shape with a shorter scale, 12-fret neck, and Baggs electronics, and is available in all-carbon or carbon/glass hybrid. Also in the realm of carbon guitars, McPherson Guitars is very pleased with the new Touring model from its recently developed Kevin Michael Carbon Fiber Guitars line. An updated version of the previous Travel model, the new Wisconsin-made guitar is 100 percent carbon fiber and features a parabolic top.
Blueridge announced a new super jumbo model, the BG-1500E, which is a more economical version of its flagship BG-2500. Boasting a solid Sitka spruce top, flamed maple back and sides, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, bone nut and saddle, and three-piece laminated maple neck, not to mention Fishman electronics, the new model offers a lot of guitar for less than a $1,000. Canada’s Seagull Guitars unveiled two interesting new products. The Artist Series Concert Hall guitar boasts a classic spruce/rosewood combination. In addition, Seagull has also developed the S8 mandolin, a maple-bodied beauty with a unique top design.
Two other important brands announced new U.S. distribution arrangements. Australia’s Cole Clark, whose products combine traditional construction techniques with modern designs, has a new exclusive U.S. distribution and marketing agreement with Musiquip Inc., with the hopes of making its guitars easier to find throughout North America. We stopped by and chatted with Cole Clark CEO Miles Jackson to learn more about the company’s unique pickup system, its commitment to sustainability, and its latest models (including the all-African-mahogany versions of its Angel and Fat Lady guitars). Based in Shropshire, England, Faith Guitars has been producing quality instruments for more than a decade, based largely on the designs of world-renowned luthier Patrick James Eggle. At Summer NAMM, Faith Guitars announced its partnership with Connolly Music for U.S. distribution in the United States. We particularly liked the Venus model, an auditorium-size instrument with Engelmann spruce top, rosewood back and sides, and a Shadow hexaphonic pickup (with an individual signal output for each string).
In the world of nylon-string guitars, Córdoba showed off a special, limited-edition 55FCE Negra: a gorgeous thin-bodied nylon-string cutaway with spruce top, Macassar ebony back and ribs, and Fishman electronics. Mérida was proud of its T25-CES cutaway with cedar top and mahogany body (in addition to a handful of new steel-string models). In addition, the Ortega Guitars brand was officially launched in the U.S. during Summer NAMM. Ortega specializes in nylon-string guitars, available at a wide range of price points, but also offers mandolins, ukuleles, banjos, and more. Of particular interest is Ortega’s unique 12-hole bridge, which helps with tuning stability, tonal clarity, and ease of string changing.
Moving into the world of pro audio and other accessories, D’Addario showed us three new products: EXP 80/20 coated strings utilizing their proprietary NY High Carbon Steel, a solderless pedalboard cable kit, and a touch-activated killswitch cable. Canada-based Levy’s Leathers, long an industry leader in the realm of guitar straps and gig bags, offered a look at the super-cushy LM20, the company’s high-end leather gig bag for dreadnoughts.
JamHub displayed the company’s two main products: Their flagship live-monitoring JamHub Studios allows up to seven players to plug in and practice “silently” through headphones while experiencing in real time what each onstage signal path would sound like. The Tracker MT16 is a high-quality 16-track live recording device. Tascam debuted a pair of very cool handheld recorders: the two-channel DR-22WL (two condenser mics) and the four-channel DR-44WL (two condensers plus two XLR inputs), both with Wi-Fi capability. Finally, we checked out the new Felix preamp by Grace Design, a two-channel, studio-quality preamp specifically made for stringed instruments. The Felix is capable of blending your dual pickup systems while allowing you to EQ each channel individually.