‘Best in Show’ Highlights
Top Picks at NAMM

Best in Show, the popular Sunday-morning breakfast panel discussion at NAMM University, highlighted some of the most amazing gear and companies on display at The 2014 NAMM Show.

Six retail buying experts shopped NAMM and presented their top products in four categories. On the morning of Jan. 26, in the Anaheim Hilton Hotel, they discussed their 25 choices in front of a packed house of NAMM attendees. The 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:

• Lee Anderton, president, Anderton’s Music, Guilford, England
• Donovan Bankhead, vice president, Springfield Music, headquartered in Springfield, Mo.
• Gayle Beacock, co-owner, Beacock’s Music, Vancouver, Wash.
• John Grabowski, senior director of merchandising, Sweetwater Sound, Fort Wayne, Ind.
• Jeff Mozingo, president, Mozingo Music, St. Louis, Mo.
• Chris Tso, vice president of merchandising, Musician’s Friend, Westlake Village, Calif.
• Moderator: Frank Alkyer, publisher, Music Inc., DownBeat and UpBeat Daily magazines, Elmhurst, Ill.

Here are this year’s selections:

Alfred’s Mastering Ukulele (Selected by Gayle Beacock)
“This is a wonderful, advanced method book that we should be bundling into our ukulele sales. There’s an intermediate and beginner book as well, but it’s very difficult to find a book that is advanced.”

Line 6 Amplifi (Selected by Lee Anderton)
“It’s got Line 6 Pod technology, so you’ve got a really cool suite of guitar amp sounds. But the cool bit that’s the clincher is that Line 6 has developed an app that will listen to the track that you’ve started to play from your iTunes library. Within two or three seconds, provided you have a Wi-Fi connection, it will select three or four patches from a bank of about 10,000 patches up in the cloud, that would be an appropriate guitar tone for you to jam along with that track.”

Universal Audio Apollo Twin (Selected by John Grabowski)
“This is a desktop recording interface that also has processing plug-ins. They’ve had some larger interfaces, but this is now at a point where a solo musician who wants to record and mix can use this.”

QSC TouchMix Digital Mixer (Selected by Jeff Mozingo)
“It’s absolutely game changing. It’s compact. It’s light. It’s easy to carry around, but it gives you all these big mixer features. When you’re selling a mixer like this to a church or a school, you have people out there who know just enough to be dangerous. This thing allows you to go to an advanced mode or a simple mode and then they have presets where they’ve gone out and done research and recorded different rooms and different mics, lots of reverb and no reverb and really made some incredible channel presets.”

Triad-Orbit Advanced Microphone Stand Systems
(Selected by Chris Tso)
“We’re looking for leap-frog technology. And, Triad-Orbit systems has 10 years in R&D, and it uses technology from high-performance racing engines. So, never in MI have tolerances been machined to deliver a product like this. There’s an entire cam assembly in these to allow you to articulate these in almost any way possible. I think this piece is just unbelievable in quality and durability.”

Blackstar ID:Core Series (Selected by Donovan Bankhead)
“The thing that’’s amazing about this amp is that it’s really tiny, and when you hear it, mark my words, you will start looking around because you think they’re running it through a P.A. You will swear they’re taking a line out and running it through a P.A. This is the biggest, best-sounding entry-level amp in the market today.”

Companies to Watch

Pintech (Selected by Gayle Beacock)
“It’s a very small and focused and really innovative company. Pintech has selectively targeted a few drum items that are really amazing. The biggest item they have right now is called the Converter Kit. A lot of churches and schools like the look of acoustic drums. So, Pintech has created this conversion kit that will make any acoustic set into an electric set. You get the best of both worlds.”

Blackstar Amps (Selected by Lee Anderton)
“At my store, we pride ourselves on the breadth of different amp lines that we stock. We’re fortunate that we’ve got the space to stock a full line of about 12 different amp lines. All the best amp lines are in my store. And, Blackstar, for the last three years, has been our No. 1 selling amp line — outperforming the guy at No. 2 by about 50 percent. It’s a fantastic range of products. They’re fantastic people to deal with.”

Roland (Selected by John Grabowski)
“Roland is definitely one of the premier brands in our industry. But there’s definitely a new energy and slightly new direction in their products. The new FA Series workstations are a great example. They sound great. They’ve got new sounds from the Integra Sound Module. It’s very different from what they’ve done in the past. It looks like there will be some things on the horizon for Roland that will be pretty exciting and look back to some of Roland’s heritage.”

QSC (Selected by Jeff Mozingo)
“One of the fastest growing categories in our store has been P.A. gear and the rental of P.A. gear. In that vein, QSC is definitely a company to watch. The new mixer, the new speakers — my goodness they have just a vast array of speakers to choose from — amplifiers. And, they were just nominated for a TEC Award. QSC has been the No. 1 SKU in our store for P.A. gear, and we’ve also put it into our rental pool.”

Harman (Selected by Chris Tso)
“Harman’s new, fresh leadership team has a wide array of experience, expertise and they’re focused on not only leveraging the technologies across their brands for the benefit of their customer, but also making the products they should make, not the products they could make — whether it’s AKG in Austria, Crown in Elkhart, Digitech being reborn with DOD as well, and of course, JBL. They’re a force to be reckoned with, and we look forward to growing with them.”

Peavey (Selected by Donovan Bankhead)
“My company to watch may be a little bit of an unusual choice, but it’s Peavey. That company’s been through some challenges. But it’s a great American company. I wanted to show you this, the MiniMega Bass Amp. It’s a great product at a wonderful price point. It’s a 1,000-watt bass amp. It’s got built-in overdrive. It’s got built-in compression. It’s got Cosmos technology built-in. It’s at a very attractive price point. And one of the coolest things is the front panel. Not only does it light up, but it lights up in multiple different colors. It’s a sure-fire attention-getter in your stores.”

Gotta Stock It

Chord Buddy (Selected by Gayle Beacock)
“I’m always looking for a product that we can demo on our Demo Saturdays. And I found one distributed by Hal Leonard. It’s called the Chord Buddy. We get customers every day who say, ‘My four-year-old, my five-year-old wants to play guitar.’ With Chord Buddy, children can start playing right away. It gets people playing music. It’s super easy. It’s also great for the elderly. I really love this product. It helps make more music makers.”

Gretsch Bluegrass Range (Selected by Lee Anderton)
“It’s a fantastic crossover product for a store like ours that’s primarily a contemporary guitar store. Our customers already knew who the brand was. They’d seen all the models like the White Falcon and such. And, Gretsch could deliver an authentic bluegrass range with products that had been in their catalog 50 or 60 years ago. It covers all the bases — ukuleles, banjos, dobros. We’ve been selling them for two or three years and there’s no sign that bluegrass is on the decline. It’s very popular.”

Audio-Technica System 10 Stompbox
(Selected by John Grabowski)
“We’re always looking for something that solves a problem. This is a stompbox system. It includes a two-amp switcher in it. And the system will pair up to eight transmitters. So, say you have a customer who plays out and they use two electrics and an acoustic and they have an electric amp and an acoustic amp. You can sell them a System 10 digital wireless stompbox and a couple of extra transmitters and they can switch from guitar to guitar — and from amp to amp — very easily.”

Samson Expedition XP106w (Selected by Jeff Mozingo)
“You can sell this, literally, to anyone. It’s great for anyone who has parties in the back yard, wants to go to the beach, or wants to go to the pool. My daughter is a teacher, and she was having some problems with vocal nodes because she’s a singer. And she said, ‘Dad, I’ve got to have something for the classroom that’s just a wireless mic that I can put on my face and amplify.’ The principal saw it, and I sold 24 of them.”

On-Stage u-Mount Lighting Arm (Selected by Chris Tso)
“I think this is a gateway product. This attaches to any speaker stand creating a T-bar for lights that you can clamp right onto it. To get your customers into the growing world of lighting could expand their consumer life span. It’s certainly going to make their rehearsal more like a show. And maybe make their show more like an event.”

Bedell/Breedlove Guitars (Selected by Donovan Bankhead)
“I like their philosophy on dealers and end users and life, in general. I especially like their philosophy on feeding their dealers. It’s one of the fastest turning product lines that we have.”

Best Accessories and Add-ons

Gator ProGo Gig Bag
(Selected by Gayle Beacock)

“Gator has thought of everything on this case. It comes in electric, acoustic, bass and double bass models. Great price points. It’s the best gig bag for the money. I love this gig bag.”

Hercules Stands
(Selected by Lee Anderton)
“I really like the innovative way that Hercules has approached the stand business. Yes, they have a line of stands that’s just there in case someone is looking for a good value proposition. But my sales guys find it very easy to point out the two or three unique features that Hercules puts on the stands: the easy-lock grasp system, the easy way the mic stands can be adjusted; all of the packaging is fantastic with very bold colors, and it’s easy to see the product inside.”

Moog Theremini (Selected by John Grabowski)
“Why is this an add-on? What can you get a musician who has everything? They probably don’t have a Theramin. For example, if you’ve got an indie band and they want a cool visual element that they can add to their show, this is a great product.”

Samson BT30 (Selected by Jeff Mozingo)
“Every other second, we’ve got a new electronic device that changes compatibility and plug-ins. So, I chose the Samson BT30. It’s very inexpensive. We sell a lot of things to a lot of people over time. We’ve got all these docks that use the old 30-pin system, and we’ve got all of this new stuff coming out. The BT30 allows those to turn into a Bluetooth connection.”

AmpRidge Mighty Mic S iPhone Shotgun Video Mic
(Selected by Chris Tso)
“With social media exploding, how do you get people to share their experiences and their music? With millions of iPhones in the musicians’ hands, if they record their shows or rehearsals, the sound is not going to be great. But the Mighty Mic is a shotgun mic that plugs right into their iPhone. The shotgun pattern reduces unwanted noise, but it also has a built-in headphone jack. So, you can monitor exactly what you’re recording, as you’re recording it.”

Kirlin Cables (Selected by Donovan Bankhead)
“This is a product we’ve had for awhile. They make really, really high quality cables at an extremely attractive price point that is very profitable for dealers. And the fail rate is practically zero.”