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Best in Show Delivers Top Gear From Summer NAMM

What was hot at Summer NAMM 2010? For starters, 24 new products and services selected during Best in Show, the NAMM University session where industry experts discussed their favorite gear at the convention.

Held at the Nashville Renaissance on the morning of June 20, Best in Show featured six panelists — representing single-store operations, small to mid-sized chains and one of the industry’s top trade magazines — who shopped the show and discussed their choices. The event was moderated by Frank Alkyer, publisher of Music Inc. magazine. This year’s panelists included:

• Mike Guillot, director of purchasing for Mississippi Music, Hattiesburg, Miss.
• George Hines, owner and president of George’s Music, Berwyn, Pa.
• Brian Reardon, owner of Monster Music, Levittown, N.Y.
• Victor Salazar, general manager and events coordinator of The Drum Pad, Palatine, Ill.
• Gordy Wilcher, owner of Owensboro Music, Owensboro, Ky.
• Zach Phillips, editor of Music Inc. magazine, Elmhurst, Ill.

More than 250 NAMM attendees came out to hear the winners in four categories:
• Something Small — A great product that’s either small in price or small in size.
• Gotta Stock It — A product that retailers want to stock right now.
• Companies to Watch — An exhibitor with trendsetting products or services.
• Best in Show — The best product or service that panelists saw at NAMM.

Something Small
Guillot – Hamilton Stands Uni-Stand
This very sturdy metal amplifier stand lets you tilt any size amplifier to virtually any angle, and it works on open- and closed-back amps. It collapses into only 12 inches, and the rubber feet and rest plate prevent movement on virtually any surface. Plus, it improves bass response.

Hines – Coopercopia CooperStand
This high-quality, folding professional wood guitar stand is also lightweight, and guitars seem very stable when cradled in the stand. I think it will sell because it folds up nicely and should fit in most guitar cases and bags. Its unique, upscale look fits a market niche that appeals to people who want portability and high quality in a guitar stand.

Reardon – StoneWorks Picks
This is an all-natural product that is hand-carved here in the United States by Mike Stone and his family. No two picks are the same. Each 2-mm pick is a unique work of art. The picks last forever, as the stone that they are carved from is much stronger than even the heaviest-gauge string. Suggested list is $22.95, which, given that they last forever, is a real fair price.

Salazar – Hal Leonard Rhythmic Designs by Gavin Harrison
Gavin Harrison is one of today’s hottest drummers. His appeal lies in his unique approach to playing progressive rock. Despite the advanced nature of this material, drummers of all levels can gain valuable insight and inspiration from this comprehensive package. From a dealer’s standpoint, one can even play the DVD in the store in order to promote and sell the book. This usually is not the case since most books only contain a CD. With great content and Harrison’s name attached, you are sure to sell quite a few of these, so stock up now.

Wilcher – Willis Music John Thompson’s Modern
Course For The Piano/Popular Piano Solos

Thompson is probably the most-requested piano method of all time. This new offering combines grade 1 and 2, plus 23 popular songs, and provides digital media. This is useful for church musicians, hobby pianists, pop stars and educators. It’s a four-in-one product and a great deal.

Phillips – Planet Waves NS Capo Tuner from D’Addario
D’Addario has gotten accolades over the years for its small goods, and there’s a reason why: It always comes up with clever, helpful, inexpensive tools for musicians. For acoustic guitarists, this is a dream come true. It’s a capo; it’s a clip-on tuner. And it’s really good at both functions. The MSRP is $65, and I think it’s worth every penny.

Gotta Stock It
Guillot – Samson Zoom H1
This is the digital recorder that everyone can afford and is still packed with features, including one AA battery that powers up to 10 hours of recording time, 24-bit quality, a built-in USB 2.0 interface, 2 GB SD card, 1/8-inch line output, stereo X/Y mic, and it weighs only 2 ounces. They will sell like popcorn and can be given to everyone on your Christmas list.

Hines – IK Multimedia iRig from Hal Leonard
This real-time multieffects app and interface for iPhone and iTouch is designed for electric guitar, bass and other line level signals. What I love is that each preset rig includes three simultaneous stompboxes, amp, cabinet and microphone. I can choose from up to 11 stompboxes, five amps, five cabinets and two mics, plus it includes a tuner and metronome. The output can be connected to headphones, amplifiers and mixers. It’s a low-cost accessory that makes playing music more enjoyable, and it’s versatile. The packaging also allows for great cross in-store merchandising and should be a strong seller.

Reardon – Electro-Harmonix V256 Vocoder Voice Pedal and Voice Box Pedal
There has been a pronounced dearth of products available for singers within MI stores. These pedals buck that trend and provide a world of sonic experimentation for the overlooked human voice. They have gender-bender features, which let singers bring out either the male or female characteristics of their own voices. Even the most petite female singer can sound like Barry White on a certain setting. Voice Box also creates lush and complex harmonies.

Salazar – Puresound Custom Pro Series Snare Wires from D’Addario
The biggest innovation comes in the form of its new Speed Release Straps. These straps let the user quickly disengage the wires from the drum while leaving the straps attached to both the butt plate and strainer, enabling quick head and/or wire changes. The other innovation involves the end plates. Puresound’s new anti-choke end plates have less surface contact with the bottom head, thus reducing annoying snare buzz and enabling the player to crank up the snare tension for a tight snare response without the risk of choking the drum. Personally, I’ve always found the installation of wires to be tedious. Now, in a matter of seconds, you can remove and install them.

Wilcher – Austin Guitars from St. Louis Music
The AA20 series from Austin guitars is a great value and our go-to guitar for that first-time buyer or buyer on a budget. It has great fit and finish, good tone, and best of all, these guitars are set up in the same shop that gets the Alvarez guitars ready to go. The fact that they are doing the setup saves me lots of valuable time away from the repair bench. The AA20 series includes dreadnought, jumbo, 000 bodies and electric acoustics, as well. The dreadnoughts list for $149. It’s very profitable, and our customers dig them.

Phillips – VHT Special 6 Series Amps from The Music Link
In a nutshell, these are bare-bones, all-tube amps that range in price from $180–$400, roughly. I’m most excited about the lunchbox-style amp head in the line, which sells for around $180. It’s a 6-watt all-tube unit, so you can get really cutting tube tone at low volumes.

Companies to Watch
Guillot – Yamaha Corp. of America
It’s the company’s 50th year in the United States. With new products, such as the CFX series concert grand pianos, Gigmaker drum sets, Piaggero digital keyboards, Clavinovas, DTX550K electronic percussion kit, the No. 1 selling acoustic guitars and the Disklavier, Yamaha proves that it listens to the dealers, the customers and the music world. When times are tough, it’s best to follow the leader in the industry.

Hines – Rapco/Horizon
This company’s always looking for market niches and opportunities through constant research of industry trends. It’s devising new interfaces for musical instruments to communicate with Apple apps and hardware with three to four new interface box releases this summer. It’s also currently working with Taylor Guitars on distributing a great new instrument cable with volume control built into the cable that has many uses for guitarists and other players. Look for these folks partnering with other suppliers to produce great new products.

Reardon – Reverend Guitars
A company and a product line that consistently beats my customers’ expectations. Reverend is both a player’s guitar and a hobbyist’s ax, with unique shapes, tops and pickup configurations. It’s always giving the customer the feeling that they are getting so much more guitar for the money. Great people, too. They respect their dealer network and don’t work against them. They don’t chase the easy money. Unlike many ubiquitous lines, you don’t see them in catalogs and all over the Internet.

Salazar – Remo
Remo is setting a new trend in hand drums and drumhead technology. Utilizing its proprietary Skyndeep imaging and graphic technology, Remo is able to produce heads that look and feel like an animal skin or have unique graphics while retaining superb sound and durability.

Wilcher – Samick Guitars USA
Perhaps the model of an indie-friendly supplier, Samick Guitars offers great margin, huge selection and great service, too. The addition of the Greg Bennett USA series and the TJR line makes this company even more watchable. The USA Custom Shop models may be the best value at this show. They are made in the United States, offer premium pickups and come in great finishes at about $999 street price. The TJR guitars add some spice to this already hot lineup.

Phillips – Rock On Audio
It offers the Rock Box Limiter and Rockon Cable, a $200 wired in-ear monitor solution for guitarists, drummers — anyone who doesn’t need wireless in-ear monitors. The cable plugs into your guitar but also has a splitter to the side where you plug in your in-ear monitors or headphones. It’s so simple. Why hasn’t anyone thought of it before?

Best in Show
Guillot – Ibanez Montage
This guitar will stand out on your display wall, and it has “sold” written all over it. It has a spruce top, mahogany back and sides, chrome die-cast tuners, a magnetic and an under-saddle pickup, and a three-band Ibanez EQ with tuner — all for less than $500. This is definitely the guitar that will get noticed and get you noticed with its pearl white finish and black and chrome accents.

Hines – Music Distributors Group iTab
The iTab is a compact electronic tab and lyric songbook that holds thousands of tabs and hundreds of backing tracks. I like that it scrolls at your speed with tempo adjustment and can download synchronized backing tracks. It will sell because it has a cool design. You can’t underestimate cool these days. It looks like something Apple would think of. The iTab offers relatively low cost and high return on investment, and it gives you a really cool accessory to attach to the guitar headstock.

Reardon – DBZ Guitars
Modern computer technology is combined with arguably the trade’s most imaginative guitar builder, Dean B. Zelinsky, the founder of Dean Guitars. Watch out! The carvings on these guitars would have been an impossibility in an earlier time. Zelinsky seems to have a knack for intuiting what the public will want to buy before they want to buy it. The Imperial, which aesthetically appeals to a weekend warrior 50-something demographic, is like nothing you have ever seen before and, with its wafer-thin body, begs the question why no one had thought of it before.

Salazar – Ludwig Keystone Series Drum Set
These drums are made in its Monroe, N.C., facility utilizing the same shell-making technology as its top-of-the-line Legacy Classic and Classic Maple lines but without a hefty price tag. There are four stunning Glass Glitter finishes applied using the company’s new Wraptite process. This process ensures that the wraps stay on tight and never warp or bubble even under the most adverse weather conditions — like the temperatures we’ve been experiencing here in Nashville! The bass drum hoops also have inlays for a classic touch.

Wilcher – NAMM University Idea Center
The NAMM University Idea Center is hands down the best of the best at this show. NAMM’s professional development team, led by Ken Wilson, has built a valuable and useful community that gives attendees the best return on their money. The opportunity to learn best practice methods from industry icons is priceless. The team has also added NAMM U online, so we can learn 24/7. Oh yes, the breakfast sessions are part of NAMM U, and I calculate saving about $850 on breakfast these past years.

Phillips – TC-Helicon VoiceLive Touch
This is your ultimate vocal toolbox. It’s a looper, and it’s a vocal effects unit. But what makes it especially cool is the simple, user-friendly interface. Singer-songwriter-guitarists can mount this to their microphone stands, plug in the guitar and microphone, and they’re ready to go.