January 26, 2021 I Event

Best In Show Highlights Top Gear from Believe in Music Week

The Best In Show panel.

Gear took center stage again during Believe in Music Week, especially during the Best In Show panel discussion on Monday, Jan. 26. Best In Show served as the final NAMM U session with six industry experts presenting their top picks for gear from around the show. They discussed their choices for an online audience of more than 1,100 Believe in Music attendees. The event was moderated by Frank Alkyer, publisher of Music Inc. and UpBeat Daily.

The categories discussed 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 were:

  • Sammy Ash, Chief Operating Officer, Sam Ash Music, Long Island, New York
  • Cory Froke, Director of Video Strategy, 4 Wall Entertainment, Lititz, Pennsylvania
  • Shane Kinney, Owner, Drum Center of Portsmouth, North Hampton, New Hampshire
  • Ed Spence, Manager, Washington Music Center, Wheaton, Maryland
  • Leslie Stirm, Founder and Ringmaster, Instrumental Music Center, Tucson, Arizona
  • Chris Tso, Vice President of Merchandising and Marketing, Full Compass, Madison, Wisconsin

Best In Show

Martin D-35 David Gilmour Custom Signature Guitars

“When I saw that a portion of each sale will go to David Gilmour’s charity, that sealed the deal for me. This checked off every single box that I wanted to check, and the last one, my soul, that got filled as well.” — Sammy Ash

Roland RP701 Digital Piano

“I’ve had more people come into my store saying, ‘I need a digital piano that resembles my Steinway.’ This new one is amazing.” — Ed Spence

Absen Polaris Series

“The Polaris Series by Absen, really ticked all the boxes for me. It’s got a huge range of pitches and resolutions all the way from 2.5-millimeter up through 6.9 outdoor rated. It’s kind of cross-industry specific. It’s a one-stop shop.” — Cory Froke

Yamaha YDS150 Digital Saxophone

“This particular saxophone is innovative, fresh. It’s easy to use. It has lots of sounds in it. You can use your own mouthpiece. It has a brass bell. Looks elegant. It has an alto saxophone fingering. A really cool instrument.” —Leslie Stirm

Tama Starclassic Performer

“I just love that Tama is constantly looking for ways to bring value to the customer. They’re trying to really make all of their products accessible and pack them full of features. And they did that on this kit. It just has a lot of very high-end features at a very attractive price.” — Shane Kinney

PreSonus Sphere

“PreSonus Sphere is a well-thought-out, comprehensive world of software tools and content to help our customers create, compose, collaborate and connect. PreSonus includes [its] huge collection of software, add-ons and plug-ins for recording, mixing, scoring and producing. Over 100 sound libraries and all software updates are included.” —Chris Tso

NAMM Believe In Music Week

“The team was rock solid. They helped us all the way! It’s the cast of thousands making this work. It really did feel like a NAMM Show. So, bravo to you guys.” — Leslie Stirm

Companies To Watch


“Very well funded. They have their own magazine, which is important if you’re trying to get your word out. They have made some interesting buys. Like they took on Harmony. They took on Mono bags. They took on the Teisco name.” — Sammy Ash


“Yamaha is one of the largest manufacturers of everything, except for microphones. And they have always had excellence in everything. Sometimes we forget about the big dog. Yamaha is the big dog. I’m looking at where they are going and they always seem to be ahead of the game.” — Ed Spence

Chauvet Professional

“Over the past couple of decades, they’ve done a really great job of elevating their brand to be something that’s really high up on every lighting designer’s equipment wish list.” — Cory Froke

Maple Leaf Strings

“The last 10 years, they’ve been striving to get better every year. What they’re trying to do is make orchestral instruments and stringed instruments accessible to retail music stores that don’t, perhaps, have an expertise in that area already.” — Leslie Stirm


“Conn-Selmer is this powerhouse of American-made instruments. They’ve got this legacy that is amazing. Steve Zapf has spearheaded this effort to review product mix, review brands, they’re coming out with new models, they’re resourcing things from other places. Steve has come in and spearheaded this ambitious redesign and relaunch.” —Leslie Stirm

Yamaha — Electronic Drums

“Yamaha discontinued a lot of its electronic drum lineup last year to make way for what’s to come. And now, we have a new product, the DTX6 Series, which is really impressive. On top of that the EAD10, which came out a couple of years ago. I’m really excited to see what they come up with.” — Shane Kinney

Jam Industries

“What do American Music & Sound, KMC Music, US Music Corp., Ashley Audio, Davitt & Hanser, and The Music People have in common? They are all subsidiaries of Jam Industries.” — Chris Tso


“The word Russia kept coming up. Not to talk anything about politics, but there is a labor force there. There is a will now. And suddenly, I’m looking at guitar company, guitar company, guitar company. And then, cymbal company, drum companies. We always knew about their electronic capabilities going back to when Mike Matthews was making the MIIG Amps. I marveled at how many companies there were really coming out of Russia.” — Sammy Ash

Gotta Stock It

Roland VerseLab MV-1

“Very impressive product. The reason I know it’s a very impressive product is that it impressed my son, Ben. He is the techno that I am not. It’s a Roland product, so the quality is there. This is absolutely perfect for home production.” — Sammy Ash

Tascam iXZ Interface

“It’s the kind of thing that everyone should have.” — Sammy Ash

IK Multimedia iRig

“This pandemic has been like a filter. We saw some products just go away and other companies rose. IK Multimedia iRig products were the most sought out products in every category — churches needing to stream, businesses, schools. You name the category, they had a solution for it. Our sales went through the roof for everything they sold.” — Ed Spence

Roland V-1HD+ Video Switcher

“Everything on your desk right now is taking up more and more space. To find a small, form-factor desktop switcher that is HDMI and not SDI and is crammed full of features is not something you run across every day.” — Cory Froke

Gator TPCG03 Strap Converter

“I don’t carry significant purses, and I was able to use the strap converter and switch to the strap I wanted. It’s a really neat, customizable thing.” — Leslie Stirm

Yamaha SS-3H Advanced Light-Weight Concert Snare Stand

“I know you combo guys are saying, ‘That’s not sexy at all.’ But, trust me, this is so sexy! I’ve got band directors who are going to buy like 10 of these.” — Leslie Stirm

Toca Kickboxx

“I absolutely love this thing. I can’t get enough of it. There’s a lot of busking going on. Here in Portsmouth, there a lot of people playing outside, keeping themselves socially distant. And they’re playing on drums like this.” — Shane Kinney

Shure MV7

“With both USB and XLR outputs, you can use it with both computers and professional interfaces. What this means is it spans the range of consumer, prosumer and professional audio users for a super wide customer base.” — Chris Tso

Add-ons and Accessories

Ernie Ball PegWinder Plus

“Is it the cheapest one out there? Absolutely not. Maybe one of the best though. I have a lot of really nice instruments. And a lot of them have gold hardware. I don’t want the gold to wear off. I just like a better mousetrap.” — Sammy Ash


“They have everything that everyone will ever need. You have to have a cable. You have to have some kind of connector. You have to have some kind of device. They are like the Radio Shack of the musical products industry.” — Ed Spence

Shure MV88+ Video Kit

“In this new virtual world we’re all settling into with Zoom calls and virtual events, a lot of times the audio is not so great coming from your phone or whatever cheap mic they built into your laptop. The MV88 has a whole a whole super wide range of supported platforms and devices. It’s small, compact. You can take it anywhere. It brings high-quality audio to very wide range of audiences with a very palatable price point.” — Cory Froke

D’Addario Leather Sax Strap

“The one that I saw was really thick leather, and it was like jewelry.” — Leslie Stirm

Gator Closet Storage Solutions

“Gator has come out with some products that are closet storage solutions. The fact that it provides a solution and never existed before [makes] this Best In Show worthy.” — Leslie Stirm

Amahi Steel Tongue Drums

“This is something I really am so impressed with. It’s something that can appeal to non-musicians. This is something that is good for everybody.” — Shane Kinney

Gig Gear Cam-A-Lot

“Do you work from home? Do you do any virtual conferencing, virtual meetings? Is anyone in your family doing distance learning? The Cam-A-Lot is a dual-sided, virtual conferencing privacy screen that easily slides onto any chair and blocks out your background.” — Chris Tso

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