‘Best In Show’ Highlights Top Picks at 2019 Summer NAMM

NAMM U's popular breakfast panel "Best In Show" showcased some of the top gear, companies and services exhibiting at the 2019 Summer NAMM show.

On July 20, in the Davidson Ballroom of the Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee, six retail-buying experts shopped the show and presented their selections in four categories. They discussed their choices in front of nearly 350 NAMM attendees.

The categories were:
Best In Show — The best product or service panelists saw at Summer NAMM
Company To Watch — An exhibitor with trendsetting products, services or both
Gotta Stock It — A product that retailers want to stock right now
Add-ons & Accessories — A great product from the small-goods arena

This summer's panelists were:
• Matt Alemany, buyer, Spicer's Music, Auburn, Alabama
• Rand Cook, co-owner, Candyman Strings & Things, Santa Fe,
New Mexico
• Robert Christie, president, A&G Central Music, Madison Heights, Michigan
• Sebastian Fabal, senior director of operations & outreach, Reverb, Chicago
• DeDe Heid, executive vice president, Heid Music, Appleton, Wisconsin
• Myrna Sislen, owner, Middle C Music, Washington, D.C.

Here were this year's selections:

Best In Show

Fender Tone Master Series Amps
(Selected by Matt Alemany)

"Doubling down on this concept of having an amplifier you can play in your bedroom and play on stage, Fender has the Tone Master Amp Series. They have a Twin-Reverb, which is an 85-watt amplifier and the Deluxe Reverb, which is 22 watts. They're digital amps. A Twin Reverb is normally 60-70 pounds. This one is 33 pounds. So, it saves your back. You can play it at 1 watt. You can play it at 85 watts. It's the future of where guitar amps are going right now."

Noatronic Onboard Expression Receiver
(Selected by Robert Christie)

"Essentially, this is a way to control your entire guitar rig from your guitar. It's an expression pedal, it's a switch, it's a MIDI controller. And what you do is switch out one of the tone pots on your guitar, [and] it's like swapping out a pickup. It gives you all this flexibility and freedom."

Cordoba Music Group/Guild Guitars
(Selected by Rand Cook)

"Going back to culture, Cordoba Music Group was founded back in 1997. They are a wonderful company that brought the classical guitar back into amazing relevance. However, my Best In Show is their Guild line. They purchased it back in 2014. I very much appreciated that Cordoba was very, very patient in bringing the Guild product line back to its glory days."

Old Blood Noise Endeavors Maw
(Selected by Sebastian Fabal)

"This is the coolest thing that I've seen as a vocalist. It's not everyday that you see a boutique effects company venture into the realm of vocals. Vocal processing in a pedal format is something that we think is a hugely underserved segment in the effects industry. It's still in the final prototype stage, but I will be one of the first people in line to purchase this, plug it through and sing."

Martin D-16E Burst Acoustic Guitar (Selected by DeDe Heid)
"My team called it strikingly gorgeous, adding to an iconic lineup. This beauty truly will add a punch to your Martin wall. It's got the thinner body line, so, it won't overwhelm the player. It's got Ovenkol back and sides, [and a] sensational resonant sound with deep bass and rich overtones."

Software.NAMM/IMSTA (Selected by Myrna Sislen)
"My Best In Show is a combination of three different elements. It has to do with software. Software.NAMM is the section of the 100 aisle of the show that has the software companies Celemony, Image-Line, Nugen Audio, Fable Sounds, Fab Filter, Sonarworks, WholeGrain Digital Systems, u-he Software, Sound Theory and Sonible. They are grouped together under the umbrella of NAMM and the International Music Software Trade Association which is trying to protect their intellectual rights. The other part of this is the company Xchange Software. That enables every single one of us little guys to have access to the same products like Finale, Sibelius, without having them in our store. We sign up with Xchange, and we're able to purchase it for our customers immediately. It encourages our customers to buy it from us rather than pirating it."

Companies to Watch

AIMsi/Teacher Zone (Selected by Matt Alemany)
"My pick is two companies working together: Tri-Technical Systems and Teacher Zone. I've seen the friction between people with the sales side of your company's software and the lessons side of your software. What this accomplishes is it smoothes out that transition by being able to talk back and forth between the point-of-sales side and lessons side and not having to create duplicate entries for certain transactions. Making it a little bit easier and in the same ballpark as opposed to feeling like, 'When I go to lessons, I'm in a completely different world than when I'm in point-of-sales.'"

On-Stage/The Music People (Selected by Robert Christie)
"You can tell a lot about a company and the culture just by talking with the people who work there. That shows through to the way they treat us as a customer. They take a product category that we don't really spend a lot of time thinking about, and [show that it's] the most important thing to them."

Hal Leonard (Selected by Rand Cook)
"This has been a perennial pick, and there's a very good reason for that. They have really upped their distribution game and for small companies like mine, it's really important to have an effective breadth of product that we can get from one source and have them be sharp and knowledgeable. It really helps the smaller companies look like a bigger company."

My Music Staff (Selected by Sebastian Fabal)
"This is the pick that I am most passionate about. I understand that lessons are a key component with many of the retailers that we work with. What I love about My Music Staff is that as a parent to two young children, it's entirely accessible to me. I can see when my childrens' lessons are scheduled. I can access invoices. I have a very clear sense of what my children are going to be getting into, who their teacher is, and this is a really forward-thinking company that's working really hard to provide a modern lessons experience, not just for the teachers, not just for the students, but for their families, too."

Boss (Selected by DeDe Heid)
"It really came down to Boss' RC-10R, which is another one of those 'gotta stock items.' This loop station is all about innovation, and Boss continues to innovate. They continue to help be very customer-centric. They have been amazing at being super easy to do business with. They're very focused on what we need. Their training is amazing."

Gator Cases/Levy's Leathers (Selected by Myrna Sislen)

"This is a company under the leadership of Crystal Morris that has gone forward into areas that are outside of the box, producing products of really good quality. They are so darned good. But the reason this is my Company to Watch is that a year or so ago, Crystal bought Levy's Leathers. There are times when a company buys another company and it doesn't go well. This is a time when it has gone spectacularly right, and the reason is because of Crystal's vision and because she took on Jen Tabor from Soldier Straps. Jen has reinvigorated the Levy's strap line. She has invented the new Right Height Guitar Strap with RipChord technology."

Gotta Stock It

Boss Waza Tube Amp Expander (Selected by Matt Alemany)
"Forever, I've loved playing guitar. And I've loved being extremely loud playing guitar. But it's not very practical. The Boss Tube Amp Expander gives you the ability to take your favorite tube amp — 100 watts, 40 watts, 50 watts, something that's too loud for bedrooms, churches, most stages and most clubs — and turn it up to 10 and not blow everybody out of the water."

Baldman Percussion Junk Hat (Selected by Robert Christie)
"Lots of tonal possibilities with this, and they make two versions of it. These are guys who know percussion. They know what drummers want, and what drummers need. It's a really, really cool product. These are touring professional drummers."

Yamaha Storia Acoustic Guitars (Selected by Rand Cook)
"It's an acoustic-electric guitar, [and an] absolutely a beautiful piece. There are three different models Storia 1, 2 and 3. We're consistently looking for new markets of customers. This particular guitar gives us access to a new market of very tech-savvy generation of adults coming up. The guitars are beautifully built and are attracting a non-professional crowd."

Fender Vintera Series (Selected by Sebastian Fabal)
"[These guitars have] vintage-inspired, period-correct details with made-in-Mexico affordability. It feels like those vintage instruments without those vintage prices, and there's quite a selection, too."

Lanikai FBCET-C Figured Bocote Thin Body Ukulele
(Selected by DeDe Heid)

"They have this in both the concert and the tenor. It's thinline, [and has] that sleek and mighty projection with that nice, curved back. It's super versatile with passive pickup that makes it easy to plug into any amp. "

Walkabout Guitar Drum (Selected by Myrna Sislen)

"This is an alternative to a cajon. It has a proprietary dual-source LR Baggs microphone/pickup system, onboard volume and balance controls, and mono mix output to any sound system. I sent it back to one of our staff members at the store and he said, 'Dude, I love it, love it, and need more of it.' And I said, 'Done!'"

Best Accessories and Add-ons

Phil Jones Bighead Pro (HA-2) (Selected by Matt Alemany)
"It's kind of a Swiss Army knife, and it fits in your back pocket. It weighs, maybe a pound or two, and you can use it as a preamp, headphone amp or an interface. [Plus], it has a headphone booster in it."

Peterson StroboClip HD (Selected by Robert Christie)
"It has a real robust clip, a great tuning engine and a really easy-to-read display. It's got great quality and great functionality. This is an unbelievable company with unbelievable support."

OMG Branded Accessories (Selected by Rand Cook)
"We all sell stuff from picks to shakers to polishing cloths. OMG provides a full line of D'Andrea products that you can print your logo on. It's very important. We're all trying to market our businesses. There's no reason we shouldn't have all kinds of branded items in your store for sale."

Cable Wrangler (Selected by Sebastian Fabal)
"The Cable Wrangler is like a tie rack for cables. I saw the product demonstration of it, and I was like, 'Wow! Why didn't I think of it?' I know when this item is up on Reverb, I'm going to go and purchase one, and organize my life."

Brand New Noise Sound Gadgets (Selected by DeDe Heid)
"This is the non-tech, tech. They've got a whole lineup of musical toys from the Zoots, the Krankie, the Shaka-Khan. They are really going to be those holiday beyond the gift gifts —┬áthose boutique kinds of items. [They are] aligning with Jimmy Fallon, and it's on the soundtrack for 'The Lego Movie.'"

Melody Mist Reed and Mouthpiece Cleanser
(Selected by Myrna Sislen)

"At rental season, the moms come in, they look at the instruments, and what do they say? 'Is this instrument clean? Is this instrument sanitized for my child?' Well, now we have the solution. It's Melody Mist. Melody Mist is the only botanical cleanser for your mouthpiece, reeds, ligature and instrument."