From left, Frank Alkyer, Jim Tuerk, Mike Faltin, Leslie Faltin, George Quinlan, Chris Tso, Matt Alemany and Glenn Noyes.

'Best In Show'
Highlights Top
Gear at NAMM

On Jan. 27, in the Pacific Ballroom of the Anaheim Hilton, seven retail-buying experts shopped the show and presented their top products in four categories. They discussed their choices in front of nearly 900 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 or services
Gotta Stock It
— A product that retailers want to stock right now
Add-ons & Accessories — A great product from the small-goods arena

This year's panelists included:

• Matt Alemany, Buyer, Spicer's Music, Auburn, Alabama
• Mike Faltin, Founder, Instrumental Music Center, Tucson, Arizona
• Leslie Faltin, Ringleader, Instrumental Music Center, Tucson, Arizona
• Glenn Noyes, Director of Merchandise/Drums & Percussion, Guitar Center Management, Westlake Village, California
• George Quinlan, CEO, Quinlan & Fabish Music, Burr Ridge, Illinois
• Chris Tso, Vice President of Merchandising, Full Compass,
Madison, Wisconsin
• Jim Tuerk, Director of Business Development, Reverb,
Chicago, Illinois

And, here are this year's selections:

Best In Show
Greer Amps Soma '63 Vintage Preamp
(Selected by Matt Alemany)

"What makes this stick out to me in a market that's just flooded with different types of preamp pedals and different types of overdrive pedals: first off, it's based off the '60s Fender Brownface amp. You don't see a lot of that going on right now, which is fantastic. And then on top of that, it's got a steel-core transformer inside, so it makes it more like an amplifier so you can use it to really shape the tone of your guitar."

Ortega Ukuleles (Selected by Mike & Leslie Faltin)
"I have to just say that all their new models are amazing. They have a whole line of sopranino ukuleles. So what's great is if you've got a whole wall of ukuleles already, your brands are all set, you can add this in and not even bump anything over. You're just adding new, cool, fun product."

DW Collectors Series Pure Almond Drum Set
(Selected by Glenn Noyes)

"DW, as you all know, is an amazing company that challenges themselves every year. DW Drums Vice President John Good has gone all over the world. Every year, he seems to outdo himself with a new type of wood that has never been used in drums before. He's gone to Romania and found this amazing oak and last year, he found Tasmanian wood. He even went to the Stradivarius forest a couple of years ago and made an incredible kit. This year, once again, he'd outdone himself with the DW Collectors Series Pure Almond drum set. He didn't have to go too far for this one because the trees are actually from Northern California, which is great for our state."

Nuvo Windstars (Selected by George Quinlan)
"Nuvo has developed a line of pre-band instruments, and they perform much like traditional band instruments. They require a certain amount of air to get them to play, and it's not designed to replace what's already happening to recruit kids into music programs. And it's not designed to replace traditional flutes and clarinets and brass instruments, either. It's really something that's totally new and in-between. It has a purpose simply to get kids excited about playing wind instruments."

Neumann NDH 20 Headphones (Selected by Chris Tso)
"The NDH 20 headphones have a durable steel headband, aluminum ear cups for ruggedness and memory foam ear pads so they're
super soft on your head, kind of like the proverbial steel fist in the velvet glove."

Fender Acoustasonic (Selected by Jim Tuerk)
"The Acoustasonic is unbelievable. It's an incredibly versatile instrument. If you haven't checked it out, you need to pick up this guitar; you need to play it. You need to feel what these guys
have created."

Companies to Watch
Franklin Strap (Selected by Matt Alemany)
"They are fantastic straps. On top of being a great product, they have basically everything covered price point-wise from beginner all the way up to seasoned touring professionals. More than that, all the guys there are great guys that have their head on their shoulders."

B.A.C. Music Kansas City (Selected by Mike & Leslie Faltin)
"B.A.C. Music — Best American Craftsman — is Mike Corrigan. He founded B.A.C. in 2004. One of the things I really think about is he is not afraid to be innovative and different."

Alesis (Selected by Glenn Noyes)
"They've become a very serious contender in a short amount of time in the e-drum category, which has just become an exploding category. They make great products, and they're actually helping lead that trend. It's a combination of things that make that happen: They're a very forward-thinking company. They're very innovative, and they are constantly bringing new ideas to us to help develop and increase our sales and to build on that market that's so popular right now."

Eastman (Selected by George Quinlan)
"Over the last few years, Eastman has developed a full line of woodwind and brass instruments with a particularly interesting strategy finding a partner with higher-end instruments like Haynes Flutes, Shires Brass and Backun clarinets to join the team to help collaborate on some new products that can eventually become intermediate student-level instruments. We've seen exponential growth over the last few years."

Group One Limited (Selected by Chris Tso)
"The recording industry has gone through massive change. Streaming music is everywhere, so how do our customers, musicians earn income? Through touring. They're playing out live. Whether it's large scale, small scale, they're gigging. Group One Limited supplies great products for those tours and those musicians."

Elektron (Selected by Jim Tuerk)
"The most complex rigs that I've ever seen or have been able to stand behind have at least one Elektron product. They're incredibly powerful pieces. You should check them all out — they're incredible."

Gotta Stock It
D'Addario Professional Tour-Grade Power Base
(Selected by Matt Alemany)

"Gotta Stock It for me is something that's simple, easy to use and makes your life a little bit easier, so that's why I went with the D'Addario Power Base. It's very simple, sleek and it's lightweight.
It has eight outlets with a surge protector. It's got five on one side and three on the other for wall warts so it makes your life easier."

Yamaha Sonogenic SHS-500 Keytar
(Selected by Mike & Leslie Faltin
"The fun part is that this instrument will actually root through your phone and find all your songs, and it'll figure out the chord structure and take all the notes that don't fit those chords and it shows them
the door. You can basically push all the buttons and nothing but right notes will come out."

Casio PX-S3000 Digital Piano
(Selected by Mike & Leslie Faltin)

"This is super fancy. It is so thin, and it's so light. The display looks like a tablet. When you turn it off, it's black, and when you turn it on, it's backlit. It's really modern; There are things that are amazing about it.
It can run off of six AA batteries, which for an 88-key, weighted keyboard, that's amazing."

Zildjian K Cluster and FX Stack Series
(Selected by Glenn Noyes)

"I was very excited to see that Zildjian has expanded on the K line. They found a very unique way to make a trashy version of a crash without having to either punch holes in it or make it an actual china. It's called the K Cluster Crash, and they have very deep, little cluster groups of hammering that create a trashy sound between a china and a crash.

"Zildjian was very smart to come out as part of their FX line with the Stacks series. It comes in five different sizes, and the really unique thing that I like is that they can be used as a stack on top of each other, or you can invert it as a hi-hat and you still get that trashy stack sound but play it as a hi-hat and with each set."

Yamaha YVN Model 3 Student Violin
(Selected by George Quinlan)

"Yamaha manufactures almost every instrument in the full orchestra, except they've never actually manufactured a violin until now.
I watched what the engineering team does with these electronics, and I think a challenge to the team might have been, how do you improve a product that was perfected in 1762 by Stradivarius? Well, they
found a way to make an affordable student-level violin using computer designing and techniques based on this old-world craftmanship for
the Model 3."

Samson Expedition Series (Selected by Chris Tso)
"The Samson Expedition series are portable powered speakers. They expanded the line to six models for an incredible array of applications."

Korg Minilogue XD (Selected by Jim Tuerk)
"There are multi-instrumentalists out there, and I see this as a crossover product. If you have a guitar store that doesn't carry synthesizers, this is a great product to add to your lines. It is an incredibly powerful tool."

Best Accessories and Add-ons
Tackle Instrument Supply (Selected by Matt Alemany)
"It's a backpack cymbal bag, and there is also a leather stick bag that comes with it. It's all leather canvas. It looks great and it's super durable. The leather stick bag is pretty fascinating. It has a feature where you can use a drumstick to actually prop it up, which makes it super practical. I'm not even a drummer and I love this stuff."

Rockboard Pedalboard Series by Warwick
(Selected by Mike & Leslie Faltin)

"They have custom cables in different lengths, flat cables that wind better and a bag to put it all in. There's these oblong holes that you can basically put electronic modules into, and it's either patchbay things or effect modules — all kinds of stuff. The point is that this is an accessory that has accessories. I think it's the best accessory because it's nothing but accessories. It's super innovative and it's really cool."

Tama Dyna-Sync Pedal (Selected by Glenn Noyes)
"There's been many direct-drive pedals over the years that for whatever reason didn't quite feel right. This is the first one that I've ever played that has the features that make it feel right, and it's an extremely fast pedal."

Key Leaves (Selected by George Quinlan)
"It's just a little accessory item you pop in the keys that [keeps saxophone keys open for air drying between play]. So it's this [soft, flexible silicone] piece in there that keeps the key open … and eliminates a lot of sticky keys."

Barefoot Buttons (Selected by Chris Tso)
"Barefoot buttons simply slip on to your on and off switch and secure it with three stainless steel Allen keys. They come in a ½-inch [model] and a 1-inch tall boy. If you have a second or third row of pedals, you know how frustrating it is to try and hit those. This gives you a higher and larger target to hit. Additionally, they will laser-etch your store logo or band logo for a nominal setup charge and a modest up-fee."

Chase Bliss Preamp MKII (Selected by Jim Tuerk)
"The coolest thing about it and why it's a whiz-bang electronic that
I grabbed for this category is that those are flying faders, meaning
if you click on a preset, you actually have the faders move
and automate." MI