‘Best in Show’ Delivers Top Gear From Summer NAMM 2016

Best in Show, the popular Saturday-morning breakfast panel at NAMM U, showcased some of the best gear seen at Summer NAMM 2016.

Six retail-buying experts shopped NAMM and presented their top products in four categories. On the morning of June 25, in the Davidson Ballroom of the Music City Center, they discussed their choices to an audience of nearly 300 NAMM attendees. The categories were:

Best in Show — The best product or service that panelists saw at NAMM.
Company To Watch — An exhibitor with trendsetting products, services or both.
Gotta Stock It — Products that retailers think will turn fast at retail.
Best Accessory or Add-on — A great product from the small-goods arena.

This session’s panelists included:
• Sammy Ash, Chief Operating Officer, Sam Ash Music, Hicksville, New York
• Rand Cook, Co-owner, Candyman Strings & Things, Santa Fe, New Mexico
• Leslie Faltin, Co-owner and Ringmaster, Instrumental Music, Tucson, Arizona
• Mike Guillot, Purchasing Director, Mississippi Music, Hattiesburg, Mississippi
• Tim Pratt, President, Dietze Music, Omaha, Nebraska
• Tim Spicer, Owner, Spicer Music, Auburn, Alabama
• Moderator: Frank Alkyer, publisher, Music Inc., DownBeat and UpBeat Daily magazines, Elmhurst, Illinois

Here are this year’s selections:

Best in Show
Reverb.com (Selected by Rand Cook)
“It’s a fantastic way to connect sellers with buyers. Reverb’s sales track is amazing. For companies like ours, all I need to do is load my products on the site. Their staff is like part of my team.”

Marshall Code Amplifier Series (Selected by Sammy Ash)
“They came up with a modeling amp that sounds like themself. Why? Because it sounds like a Marshall. It is very cool and easy to use.”

Knilling 5-String, Electric/Acoustic Violin (Selected by Leslie Faltin)
“They are really well made and won’t break the bank. This is going to give your students a lot of flexibility.”

Roland EL Cajon EC-10 (Selected by Tim Spicer)
“In our store, cajons are absolutely on fire. This is the first thing I’ve seen that combines a standard acoustic cajon, but it also combines triggers and you can get this to sound like anything you want to.”

PreSonus Studio Live AR Series Hybrid Mixers (Selected by Mike Guillot)
“This is an easy to operate mixer. You can load backing tracks. There are so many features that are so easy to use.”

Yamaha TransAcoustic Guitar (Selected by Tim Pratt)
“This guitar makes me want to play when I sit down and play it. We were blown away by this.”

Companies to Watch
The Music People (Selected by Rand Cook)
“I love that every time I walk into that booth I find 10 or 15 things I didn’t know they made, but I have to stock.”

Supro (Selected by Sammy Ash)
“Their amps are great; I love them and carry them all. But these guitars [that will be coming out in the future] are well-styled after the original Supros. They are priced very well, and they play.”

A&S Crafted Products (Selected by Leslie Faltin)
“For anyone with a uke class, [these racks] hold something like 30 ukuleles. They have guitar racks, cello racks and saxophone racks as well.”

Souldier Straps (Selected by Tim Spicer)
“They have these really retro straps and are just killing it. They have straps with owls and straps made of up-cycled seat belts. For non-musician customers, they also make bracelets, headbands and purses.”

Fender Musical Instrument Company (Selected by Mike Guillot)
“My main reason [for this selection] is its education program, Fender Academy. Your sales people can complete these tests, and you can get awards for completing them. It is a very comprehensive website.”

Amahi Ukuleles (Selected by Tim Pratt)
“We sell a lot ukuleles, and Amahi has a great variety of styles.”

Gotta Stock It
Gold Tone AC-1 (Selected by Tim Pratt)
“This is a responsibly priced, entry-level banjo. And, it’s not just for a banjo player, but a guitar player with banjo dreams.”

Levy’s Guitars for Vets Straps (Selected by Sammy Ash)
“What can we do for our vets? 100 percent of proceeds for these straps go to Guitars for Vets, which helps get instruments into their hands. At Sam Ash, we made a commitment to all locations that we will carry these straps in every store.”

On-Stage UTC2200 Utility Cart (Selected by Leslie Faltin)
“Everybody needs one of these, especially band directors. They are great; I have one in my car.”

On-Stage KPK6500 Keyboard Paks (Selected by Mike Guillot)
“Keyboards are back, so who is your customer for this? Everybody. Including the person who bought a used keyboard and didn’t get the accessories.”

Loog (Selected by Tim Spicer)
“This is an instrument for children. It’s cool because it’s tuned G-B-E. It is super easy to see the spots. They do an acoustic version as well as an electric version.“

Epiphone Masterbilt Century Collection Guitars (Selected by Mike Guillot)
“Archtop acoustic electric series that has three different types in three different sizes. These are fantastic instruments. We all know that vintage is a growing thing, and this has a special vintage look to it.“

Yamaha EMX Powered Mixers (Selected by Mike Guillot)
“Yamaha has had the EMX Mixers for years and years, and they are reintroducing a new EMX series. Every starting band, every church, every small venue can use a power P.A.“

Fender Offset Guitars (Selected by Tim Pratt)
“Fender listens to us and its customer base. At South by Southwest, not one of [the guitars onstage] was a Strat or Tele. There’s a resurgence of kids playing Mustangs or Duo-Sonics. So, they came out with this Offset Series. They are in great colors and great price points.“

Best Accessories and Add-ons
Boss and Roland Accessory lines (Selected by Rand Cook)

“This stuff is extraordinarily well made. There is a sonically tangible different with these accessories. I love these products.“

GaffTech’s Gaff Gun (Selected by Sammy Ash)
“The best part is it has proprietary tape. So, after [customers] buy the gun they have to buy the tape from you. So, it’s an add-on with an add-on.“

Zither Wood Cello Stand (Selected by Leslie Faltin)
“I think this stand going to be great at Christmas time.“

Hinkler Books Electric Blues Slide Guitar Kit, distributed by Hal Leonard (Selected by Leslie Faltin)
“This is easy-peasy and a no-brainer. It is great as either a project for kids or as wall art.“

Axe-Handler Portable Guitar Stand (Selected by Tim Spicer)
“I was blown away by how well these actually work. And they even work on counters.“

On-Stage GPB4000 Pedal Board with Bag (Selected by Mike Guillot)
“This is a great add-on piece. You can hold up to 20 pedals. It is also made to fit a keyboard stand.”

Boss Waza Craft CE2W Chorus Pedal (Selected by Mike Guillot)
“CE-2W has stereo outs and combines everything from the original CE-1 and CE-2 to create the CE-2W.”

OnTop World Music Stands (Selected by Tim Pratt)
“This is a stand that goes on the back of your case. This is so cool, and you have a strap that can go with it. MI