January 27, 2020 I Event

‘Best In Show’ Highlights Top Gear at NAMM

From left: Frank Alkyer, Robert Christie, Leslie and Mike Faltin, Jim Tuerk, Myrna Sislen, Ed Spence and Chris Tso

Gear took center stage again at The NAMM Show, especially during the Best In Show panel discussion in the Pacific Ballroom of the Anaheim Hilton in California. Conducted on Jan. 19, Best In Show, moderated by Frank Alkyer, publisher of Music Inc. and UpBeat Daily, served as the final NAMM U breakfast session with seven retail-buying experts presenting their top picks for gear from around the show. They discussed their choices in front of an audience of nearly 1,000 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:

  • Robert Christie, President, A&G Central Music, Madison
  • Heights, Michigan
  • Mike and Leslie Faltin, Founder and Ringleader, Instrumental Music Center, Tuscon, Arizona
  • Chris Tso, Vice President of Merchandising and Marketing, Full Compass, Madison, Wisconsin
  • Jim Tuerk, Director of Business Development, Reverb, Chicago, Illinois
  • Myrna Sislen, Owner, Middle C Music, Washington, D.C.
  • Ed Spence, Keyboards Manager, Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center, Wheaton, Maryland

Best In Show

Yamaha YBS-480 Baritone Saxophone — Selected by Robert Christie
“The YBS-52 has been the market segment leader for bari sax since I’ve been in this business and longer. So you would say, ‘Well Robert, if the YBS-52 is so awesome, why would Yamaha change it?’ Because they are Yamaha, and they are not satisfied with greatness. They say greatness is good, but how can we make it better?”“

Boss Waza Air Wireless Personal Guitar Amplification System — Selected by Leslie and Michael Faltin
“[The Waza Air] creates a virtual reality world in which your amp is there. It’s super-easy to use, and you can choose where the amp is anywhere in the world. Then you put these headphones on, and you turn your head, and you can just visualize exactly where it is. You can almost close your eyes and touch it. It’s ridiculous.”

Korg Arp 2600 FS — Selected by Jim Tuerk
“If you know the 2600, you know it is a landmark synthesizer. It looks so daunting. It looks like the cockpit of an airplane. For me, as an effects pedal nerd, I can see how this unit inspired both the effects industry and the synthesizer industry. It’s just such a complete instrument.”

Eastman Woodwind and Brasswind Lines — Selected by Myrna Sislen
“For those of you who do not have rental fleets or are thinking of going into the rental instrument music field and are somehow hampered because of buy-ins, I found a great company: Eastman Music. They have revamped and are continuing to revamp and redesign their saxophones, tubas, trombones, trumpets. The instruments are wonderful and the margins are good.”

Universal Audio Luna — Selected by Ed Spence
“I couldn’t believe what Universal Audio [has done] with Luna. It is an integrated digital audio workstation. When I saw it, I saw its ability to sample and model real instruments and real sound effects. It blew me away.”

Roland V-Drums Acoustic Design Electronic Drum Sets — Selected by Chris Tso
“When you order a meal at a restaurant, one of the most important things they do before they bring you your food is plating. They want to make sure the food plate is attractive because how it looks affects how we think it’s going to taste. So electronic drummers have had challenges because the audience sees pads and wires and no matter how great it sounds, they don’t think it’s going to sound organic at all. So Roland has come out with the V-Drum Acoustic Design series that not only addresses the look of an acoustic drum but also has virtually unlimited sounds because today’s music production requires almost an infinite amount of sounds.”

Companies to Watch

Welch Tuning Systems — Selected by Robert Christie
“I think the drummers in the room would agree with me that tuning is always a problem. Many drummers don’t know how to do it. Some of us that know how to do it, hate doing it. And even people who are really good at it would tell you it takes a very long time to properly tune a drum set, which means if you have to tune a drum set and you’re playing a gig, it’s not an option to change your tuning in between songs. Welch Tuning Systems makes tuning easy.”

SWIM — Smart Women In Music — Selected by Leslie and Michael Faltin
“SWIM is a fantastic group of women, and they recognize that about 2% of executive-level management in the music industry are women. And their goal, honestly, is to double it to four, which is really sad. They’re working hard to do it, to involve other women. They’ve got the scholarship program, they have a bunch of [new women] coming out to [NAMM] for the first time. They paid for that.”

MusicMedic.com — Selected by Leslie and Michael Faltin
“[MusicMedic] is introducing a [horn] brand called Wilmington, and they’ve got a whole line of student model instruments coming out with clarinets, flutes. One of the really impressive things that [the builders] have done is go to the repair forums on Facebook and ask them questions like: ‘What do you guys want to see on [an instrument] now? What is currently being offered that leaves you wanting more? Tell [us] what it is, and [we’ll] put it on [an instrument].’”

Universal Audio — Selected by Jim Tuerk
“It’s rare to find a company [like Universal Audio] that can be a hardware company, a software company and a company that has a legacy that’s also looking forward in the future, looking at problems in the industry and presenting solutions that actually can move the needle.”

Amahi Ukuleles — Selected by Myrna Sislen
“The summer before last, I was walking in the Country Music Hall of Fame gift store, and I look to my left and there was an Amahi Ukulele Tree in the gift shop. That’s thinking outside the box, and we all should be doing that.”

PreSonus — Selected by Ed Spence
“I taught for thousands of churches all over the country. Most [of the people I taught] are volunteers. And [if] you’re trying to sell high-tech equipment to a church of volunteers, PreSonus has the solution: A one-stop shop for recording equipment at a price that’s fair.”

Solid State Logic — Selected by Chris Tso
“I think the bigger picture is that SSL is looking to introduce its products to new generations of customers and start to fill our shelves with much more affordable products for our customers and therefore have poised themselves for long-term growth.”

Gotta Stock It

Tackle Leather Cymbal Bag — Selected by Robert Christie
“This bag is not just beautiful, but it’s beautifully made. The leather is robust. The stitching will never fail you. The zipper, I think, will stop and deflect bullets. It’s just an amazing piece of gear for your customers.”

Pearl Travel Congas and Bongos — Selected by Leslie and Michael Faltin
“I think it’s by far the best sounding small hand drum I’ve ever heard and ever played. They’re just super-reactive. I just had to buy them.”

Yamaha Silent Bass — Selected by Leslie and Michael Faltin
“This uses an SRT, electronic preamp system that [Yamaha has] developed for other instruments. It’s been tuned specifically for this instrument. There [are] microphones that are modeled in the electronics and also the sounds of an acoustic bass are modeled in there. The electronics are absolutely top-notch; tons of different colors and ways of dialing in your signature sound. When you break this thing down, it’s only about four feet tall. So it’s super-portable, super-small. It sounds amazing.”

Levy’s Leathers Strap Packs — Selected by Jim Tuerk
“When a retailer goes to order these, they are ordering a whole series rather than trying to pick straps from 150 variants.”

Dansr Smith Mallets Student Pack — Selected by Myrna Sislen
“Dansr has stepped up and brought us this student mallet and stick pack. It comes in two different sizes of packages. You also can customize it any way that you like.”

Hercules DJ Starter Kit — Selected by Ed Spence
“It does everything. You just sell it and walk away. All the software is there, and the speakers come in one package. Now you’re into the DJ market. This thing sells itself.”

AKG Podcaster Essentials — Chris Tso
“So we all know that music is the universal language, but a leading microphone company did a study, and they found that the majority of people that purchase microphones use them for speaking, not for singing. And the trend of people sharing [their] thoughts on various media has exploded. Nielsen states that there are over 8,000 podcasts and 30 million episodes, which is crazy. So that’s why [AKG Podcaster Essentials], I think, is a godsend.”

Add-ons & Accessories

D’Addario Mic Stand Accessory System — Selected by Robert Christie
“What makes [the D’Addario Mic Stand Accessory System] a little different is it’s a fully modular system built around [a] hub in the middle [of the mic stand] and then you can add the usual suspects like a tip jar or little gear tray. It’s really thoughtfully designed.”

Flight Customizable Ukuleles — Selected by Leslie and Michael Faltin
“This is a customizable ukulele. It is distributed through Hal Leonard. What’s funny is this is a store [that stocks these] that is about a mile from our store in Tucson, Arizona. We saw this and went, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s from Tuscon right there.’ So we really can visualize ordering these and getting them in.”

Noatronic Onboard Expression Receiver — Selected by Jim Tuerk
“The Noatronic Onboard Expression Receiver is a box potentiometer that you put on or that you put into your guitar or bass, and [you can control] the expression of the pedal. So you think about it in terms of an easy application. You can do crazy stuff like go up an octave in your pitch, and the cool thing is now you’re not using your feet. It’s right by your hands.”

MuzicLight Backlit Guitar Holder — Selected by Myrna Sislen
“How many times do people come into your store and what they want is a guitar hanger? I sell lots and lots and lots of guitar hangers. [This product] curves the light so that it can illuminate the back of the instrument.”

Korg Nu:Tekt NTS-1 Digital Kit — Selected by Ed Spence
“Humans like to touch things, and we like to build things, and nothing is more gratifying than to make your own synthesizer or pedal. And it’s not just a sheet panel that’s high quality. It’s expandable. So, you can [almost] turn this into a car.”

Radial Engineering Power Series — Selected by Chris Tso
“The Radial Engineering Power series has USB on the front and eight outlets on the back, cleverly placed so that you can handle wallboards. What most people don’t realize is there’s a semiconductor resistor in there and Radial has sourced a part that was made in the U.S.”


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