By Zachary Caputo
Every year, a flurry of news publications, bloggers, and industry pros travel to NAMM with only one thing in mind: finding the biggest reveals of NAMM and spreading the word like wildfire! Big announcements from the major companies flood all your favorite websites tenfold until the eyes glaze over.
Sometimes lost in all the hoopla and marketing of the big players are some of the outstanding products brought out by smaller vendors. Fear not though! We have scoured the massive, four-day extravaganza that is the National Association of Music Merchants trade showand here’s a list of our top 5 favorite NAMM reveals that flew under the radar:
5: Rickenbacker 4003S Bass
Okay, so maybe this isn’t “under the radar” per say, but I didn’t see this on anyone’s lists and it is absolutely worth noting. The Rickenbacker 4003 series bass is pretty much the most famous bass guitar of all time, being seen in the hands of Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead, Jesse F. Keeler from Death From Above 1979, Scott Pilgrim from Sex Bob-Omb, and Kanye West’s new protégé Paul McCartney, but this is far from a normal “update”.
The Rickenbacker 4003S is a classic variation of the 4003 series with dot inlays replacing the signature diagonal inlays and the beloved dual trussrod system that made it a favorite for Mr. McCartney and others back in the day. After years and years of letters begging to bring this iconic model back, Rickenbacker has finally answered the call and is returning it to the production line just the way they used to make it. They are keeping all the original features, even the rounded edges and the Rosewood fretboard, to make this the true comeback of a timeless guitar. And you thought you’d never be able to play “Blue Jay Way” on bass ever again.
4: Novation Launchpad Pro MIDI Controller
The Novation Launchpad has quickly become a live performance staple since its initial launch (pun absolutely intended) in 2009. Many small changes and new models have come since then, such as the Launchpad S or the Launchpad Mini, but never has Novation really messed with their MIDI formula for perfection… until now.
This new model, the Launchpad Pro, revamps the beloved controller with brand new features adding extra sensitivity and color-coding capabilities, so you can match the pads to the exact clips on your Ableton Live screen for quicker access. It can also seamlessly transfer between session (or clip cueing) mode, note (or MIDI instrument) mode, device (or effects controller) mode, and the 100% customizable user mode.
But just because it lights up in pretty colors for Ableton Live does not mean it is not an universal MIDI controller. It still works with your DAW of choice and can still be just the classic MIDI instrument you have come to love.
3: Hotone Audio Xtomp Guitar Modeler
Have you ever had one of those moments where you went “Man, I really wish I could get a modeling pedal for my guitar that is as small and versatile as DigiTech, but does not suck as much as a DigiTech!” and released all your anger on your drummer because he obviously was smug about the whole thing? Well, anyone who has ever played a guitar knows your pain, and it seems that Hotone Audio is here to save the day and your drummer.
Enter the Xtomp: the guitar pedal that can be loaded wirelessly with 300 different effect presets from world famous pedals all over the world. Yes, you read that right: wirelessly. You are going to be able to download new pedal presets, tweak them, and throw them straight onto the Xtomp all using an app on your phone. How crazy is that? Now, the pedal has not officially come out for public purchase yet, but if Hotone can really put their money where their mouth is, this can be the next must have pedal for your board. Just don’t tell your drummer.
2: Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2 Software Synth
The Omnisphere has been held in the higher echelon of software synths for years now because of its versatility, deep customization and great quality overall. Spectrasonics has periodically provided updates for it, adding new features here and there and slowly allowing for more possibilities, but with the announcement of the Omnisphere 2 they are busting the door wide open.
This time around, you have over 400 different waveforms (that is 100 times more waveforms than Omnisphere 1) to plug into your oscillator to truly create any possible sound your heart would desire, and all of them are completely tweakable. But if you are in a rush and do not have the time to twiddle with knobs, worry not! It also comes with over 10,000 preset sounds to let you get the exact sound you need right when you need it.
On top of all of that, the interface has been redesigned, there are 25 new FX units, a new Live Mode, and the list just keeps going. The bottom line is that if you liked Omnisphere 1 at all or even just like any software synths, this is going to the top of your wish list.
1: T-Rex Replicator Tape Delay Pedal
Cassettes have been making a small but persistent resurgence as of late. Other than the fact that they are easy to record on, it has made absolutely no sense to me. They does not have the audio or packaging quality of vinyl, nor the universal capabilities of CDs and digital; it has just been a confusing series of events. The people at T-Rex, though, have finally answered the question on all of our minds: “Why?”
Enter the Replicator tape delay pedal. While many tape delay pedals nowadays use machine-built, engineer-designed circuit boards to “recreate” the classic tape delay sound, the Replicator says “forget that!” and uses actual tape, playback heads, and a specially crafted chrome cassette to create a real, 100% analog tape delay. While they only had a prototype on display at NAMM, the result is the beloved tone companies are always chasing but never catching. The echoes meld beautifully, the sound is warm, and most importantly, it is made with longevity and tape endurance in mind.
It comes with a whole dump truck of features, such as a tap-tempo circuit added in with a revamped motor, an analog chorus made from dual playback heads, and even the ability to use two expression pedals alongside the delay for on-the-fly customization. I am pretty sure if you ask nicely, they will throw a kitchen sink in there as well.
This one pedal blew me away more than anything else at NAMM -and we are not just talking about the “best of the rest” – simply because of the hard work and passion that very obviously went into it. It’s tentatively going to be available for purchase in autumn, so now you know what to ask Santa for.