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‘Best In Show’ Highlights Top Gear at The NAMM Show

Best In Show, the popular Sunday-morning breakfast panel discussion, once again delivered top gear picks from The NAMM Show.

Six retail gear experts shopped The NAMM Show floor to find their top products in four categories. On the morning of Jan. 27 in the Anaheim Hilton Hotel, they discussed their choices in front of 865 NAMM attendees. Categories included:

Best In Show — The best product or service that panelists saw at NAMM
Company To Watch — An exhibitor with trendsetting products or services
Gotta Stock It — A product that retailers want to stock right now, if they haven’t already
Best Accessories And Add-ons — A great product from the small-goods arena

This session’s panelists included:
• Mike Guillot, director of purchasing, Mississippi Music, a four-store chain headquartered in Hattiesburg, Miss.
• Donovan Bankhead, vice president, Springfield Music, a three-store chain headquartered in Springfield, Mo.
• Brad Boynton, owner, Rhythm Traders, an independent percussion retailer in Portland, Ore.
• Billy Cuthrell, owner, Progressive Music Center, a two-store chain headquartered in Raleigh, N.C.
• Ted Eschliman, co-owner of Dietz Music, a four-store chain headquartered in Lincoln, Neb.
• Alan Friedman, guitar player, gear geek and partner in the accounting firm of Friedman, Kannenberg & Co., Farmington, Conn., which specializes in accounting for musical products retailers.

Here are this year’s selections:

Best In Show
Yamaha Stagepas 400i & 600i (Selected by Mike Guillot)
“You have a 400-watt, 8-channel and a 600-watt, 10-channel complete P.A. system. It’s something we can sell to everyone who walks in the door.”

Taylor Grand Orchestra (Selected by Donovan Bankhead)
“This guitar has all the ‘boominess’ of a jumbo without the big enormous body mass. It sounds like a grand piano on a guitar. It’s really fascinating. When Taylor comes out with something new, it’s always really cool and really innovative.”

Sabian Jojo Mayer Hoop Crasher (Selected by Brad Boynton)
“One cool thing is you can play an entire gig with this and a snare drum without needing a cymbal or a hi-hat. It’s not just for kit players. We see percussionists with really interesting setups, and they could totally use this with a cajon.”

3D Systems (Selected by Billy Cuthrell)
“It’s a 3D printer that prints playable guitars. It’s completely innovative. I even showed it to my 5-year-old daughter the other day, and she was like, ‘cool.’”

Kala Exotic Mahogany Ukulele (Selected by Ted Eschliman)
“You can’t believe the appeal these instruments have. They cross lines from guitarists to drummers. Even non-musicians are intrigued by these ukes. We are in love with the appeal, as well as our bottom line, with these.”

The Noodle, Slaperoo Percussion (Selected by Alan Friedman)
“You don’t really have to have much talent, but you have to have rhythmic ability. It appeals to all. In a matter of minutes, I was totally grooving it on this thing.”

Companies to Watch
PreSonus (Selected by Mike Guillot)
“This company, if you haven’t done business with them, is worth jumping into. They carry a large range of products from studio monitors to digital mixers.”

Line 6 (Selected by Donovan Bankhead)
“They are integrating all their equipment where it all talks to each other, and everything connects together. These guys are going to revolutionize the industry.”

Dixon Drums (Selected by Brad Boynton)
“They have four great drum set lines, and I’m really impressed with their snare drum lines, too.”

Hal Leonard (Selected by Billy Cuthrell)
“They are still bringing on new lines to distribute like Avid, Blue Mics and M-Audio. They aren’t only print music anymore. For dealers, that’s huge because they have over 20 lines, and they’re growing. Their infrastructure is in place for serving dealers. So it will be interesting to see what will happen for them in the future.”

Connolly Music (Selected by Ted Eschliman)
“The have grown from only a few SKUs in the beginning to branching out, adopting a new line of bows and, as of this show, some string instruments. They have very logical price points and great packaging.”

Gibraltar (Selected by Alan Friedman)
“They have started to produce some high-quality, very affordable drum accessories. The new bass drum pedal [the G-Class single drum pedal] is not only ergonomically designed, but it’s easily adjustable.”

Gotta Stock It
Peavey Vyper Modeling Amplifier Range (Selected by Mike Guillot)
“Not only do these work with electric and acoustic guitars, but also bass guitars. You just plug in and select what type [of guitar] you’re using. It’s one amp for all instruments. How cool is it for you as a retailer to not have to stock so many SKUs because you have one item that can handle all three?”

TC Electronic Ditto Looper (Selected by Donovan Bankhead)
“The Ditto Looper is really fascinating. These will fly off the shelves.”

Meinl Make Your Own Cajon Kit (Selected by Brad Boynton)
“You can paint them, you can lacquer them, you can wood burn them — whatever you want. It’s perfect for schools and summer music camps, and [students can] have a jam afterwards. They make an awesome gift for someone.”

RoomZorbers by GeerFab, Dist. by Hal Leonard (Selected by Billy Cuthrell)
“They are great room treatments for old churches that are built from cinder blocks, as well as the home-recording market. They are small, light and portable so you can move them around.”

Fender Accessories (Selected by Ted Eschliman)
“Something we need to think about as an industry is the way things look. Fender accessories give a satisfying visual experience and display well.”

Harp Arm (Selected by Alan Friedman)
“It attaches right to your mic stand, and you just rest the harmonica on it. It stays because it is magnetized. They even have a little magnet to attach to a plastic harmonica. This thing is brilliant.”

Best Accessories and Add-ons
Evans Level360 drum head (Selected by Mike Guillot)

“These new heads are aimed at correcting an age-old problem that we’ve all had where the drum head doesn’t sit level. This new collar design enables the head to sit perfectly level on the down-bearing edge of the head with no wobbling.”

Music Nomad Equipment Care (Selected by Donovan Bankhead)
“This is a top-quality product with nice margins for retailers. It is light years better than anything you have on your showroom floor right now.”

Remo Frame Drum Holder (Selected by Brad Boynton)
“It has a list price of $10.75. They are awesome. I just ordered a ton of them just to use for displays and have an equal amount for customers.”

Prologix Russ Miller’s ‘All-N-1’ Signature Practice Pad (Selected by Billy Cuthrell)
“You would think once you sell a practice pad, that’s it. With this Prologix pad, you can sell overlays, so now you have an add-on. It gives you that ability to take one pad and maximize it.”

Gibraltar Cajon Remote Pedal (Selected by Ted Eschliman)
“It gives you the ability to move it around and adjust it accordingly. It will fit any cajon and is very well thought out.”

Ernie Ball Slinky M-Steel Electric Guitar strings (Selected by Alan Friedman)
“This is a great premium string that sounds better, lasts longer and doesn’t slip.”