It just wouldn’t be NAMM without a boatload of crazy guitar designs, one-off specials and desirable new models – and this year’s show had them in abundance.
So, join us on a journey through some of the more outlandish instruments that we found on our travels through the Anaheim Convention Center – expect weird outlines, luxurious finishes and high price tags aplenty…
Fender Custom Shop Music Repeater Tele
1,005 diamonds. 38 sapphires. 325 natural pearls. 20” of 18-karat rose gold wire inlay. 12 square inches of 18-karat rose gold sheet inlay. Exhibition-grade bird’s eye maple neck. Oh, and a 200-year-old antique 18-karat gold and diamond swiss repeater watch.
These are just some of the things that make Yuriy Shishkov’s Music Repeater Tele one of the most outrageous guitars we’ve yet to see from the Fender Custom Shop. Take a closer look in our gallery.
The first of several Trussarts in our list, there’s little to be said here: just stunning.
Aclam 20:14 Guitar
The 20:14 from Barcelona brand Aclam fuses electric and acoustic tech for one versatile guitar. We were particularly taken by this see-through model – just look at all those wires!
Vox Starstream Type-1
We couldn’t put this list together without including the Starstream, which promises a radical new approach to the guitar in both aesthetics and sound.
Dean Dave Mustaine USA VMNT Holy Grail
Inspired by a trip to Jerusalem, Megadave’s signature is covered in hand-laid 24k gold leaf and limited to just 33 pieces worldwide – it does come with the elusive eponymous chalice, though.
660 Guitars US/76
Aluminium-bodied with a carbon-fiber/graphite neck, 660 Guitars’ creations promise to be near-indestructible. They look cool as hell, too.
D'Angelico Marilyn Monroe EX-59
The New York company’s exquisite jazzer gets a Hollywood makeover – give a guitarist the right guitar and they'll conquer the world.
Washburn Parallaxe PSX297FRTDSAM
Your eyes don’t deceive you: that’s a 29-fret seven-string you’re looking at.
Add in a few pitch bends on the Floyd Rose vibrato system and you’ll have access to all the notes. All of them.
ESP Exhibition FRX
There’s a lovely sunburst lurking beneath this guitar’s dragon-like accoutrements, but wait: what’s that in place of a neck pickup? It’s only a skull with follow-you-around-the-room eyes, which stare directly into your soul. Freaky.
Gretsch G6120 Derby Racer Heavy Relic 'Hammerhead'
Built by master builder Stephen Stern with custom paint from Sara Ray, this hollowbody is pure cool, and with a pair of Seymour Duncan P-90 Dog Ears, it’s bound to sound the business, too.
Ritter Instruments Princess Isabella The Red Dragon
Based in Germany, Jens Ritter and co build unbelievable instruments in a variety of shapes, including the Princess Isabella, which is designed for jazz. This one-off creation is known as The Red Dragon, and carries a price tag of – wait for it –$56,000.
Martin D-12F Double Cutaway
Woah, what the…? Yes, it’s a 12-fret double-cutaway acoustic from Martin, with solid Sitka spruce top and Vintage Tone System, plus solid mahogany back and sides. This is a one-off, mind, so don’t go getting any ideas about unimpeded acoustic fret access.
Fender Custom Shop Stained Glass Tele
Master builder Dale Wilson is behind this beauty, fitting the guitar with a custom LED light panel to exude inner light and illuminate the glass.
Ibanez Steve Vai Passion & Warfare 25th Anniversary
It’s been 25 years since Mr Vai set the world alight with his monster playing and seven-string chops – to celebrate, Ibanez has created three custom guitars, each limited to 77 pieces worldwide.
First up is Passion, which features a swirl like Steve’s original Universe models.
Warfare adopts a similar approach, albeit with an orange swirl.
Finally, the third, central guitar reflects the album’s silver anniversary, and recalls Steve’s custom seven-string used when touring with Whitesnake back in the day. Each guitar will be released on specific dates in 2016.
Schecter USA Production Avenger
That Shattered Mirror finish, the Sunset Strip/Pasadena pickup set with mirror bobbins… it all adds up to a $4,299 price tag and one eye-catching guitar indeed.
The offset body shape gives it something of a pawn shop vibe, but my word, the Paloma looks magnificent, doesn’t it?
A Grand Vintage humbucker and two different single coils afford a huge amount of flexibility, as does the Bigsby-esque Radiator Tremola.
Jackson Dinky 1H 'Skinned'
From beauty… to the beast. A custom paint job by Brian Bock is enhanced by the appropriately named Tim Gore’s custom creature FX to assemble this truly horrifying monster of a guitar.
With a single Seymour Duncan SH-4 pickup in the bridge, the guitar’s tone has teeth, too – as well as its body.
Fender Custom Shop Dragon Skin Telecaster
You have John Cruz to thank for this incredible creation, the culmination of a scale-like 3D material and laser-accurate assembly.
Wild Guitars Wild TV
With a Trussart-style scratchplate and well-worn finish, this T-type from the French custom shop is an absolute peach.
The Korean co is expanding its magnesium guitars to new shapes, including this intimidating V-style model. Dig the volume knob and pickup selector placement.
Dean USA Rusty Cooley Exoskeleton
More madness from Dean, this time courtesy of a laser-etched mahogany top, as requested by top shredder, Rusty Cooley.
EMG 85-7 and EMG 707 pickups, as well as a slim D-shape neck ensure this seven-string earns its $3,199 price point.
Prog is truly alive and well – just check out this headless triple-neck from Carvin subsidiary Kiesel.
Merica is the first ever triple-neck headless guitar, with a 27" scale eight-string on top, 27" scale seven-string in the middle and a 25.5" scale six-string on the bottom, with a weight of 14 pounds.
Duesenberg Alliance Series Soundgarden Black Hole Sun
Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell is a big fan of Duesenberg, and the company has seen fit to reward him and the band with this stunning and slightly bling signature model.
The guitar is covered with nods to the band’s history (see our gallery), while the body and sound are based on the classic Duesenberg Starplayer TV – a bass version is also available (below).
Vigier GV Rock Art
A new finishing approach for the French luthier results in completely unique one-offs, such as this scratched-up black-and-blue GV single-cut.
Wylde Audio Viking FR
After securing distribution via Schecter, Zakk Wylde’s Wylde Audio models will finally be available in the USA, hovering around the $1,000 mark.
As you’d expect, they’re pretty pointy, and that’s only enhanced by the Pinstripe finish.
Martin D-45S Authentic 1936
Okay, so it looks beautiful, and it has a solid Adirondack spruce top with Martin’s Vintage Tone System, as well as solid Brazilian rosewood back and sides. But this faithful reissue also has a price tag of $59,999.
Suffice to say, we watched where we pointed our camera on the Martin stand.
Oh my, oh my, it’s another stunning instrument from James Trussart. We’re loving the stripped-back LP Jr/Tele fusion on this rusted example.
At just $688, we’re really digging the finishes on these beaten-up-looking new Artcore models – the Classic Elite pickups don’t hurt, either.
Ernie Ball Music Man St Vincent Signature
With an angular, female-friendly body shape that pays homage to the pawn shop guitars of the 60s, Annie Clark’s signature model gives off a simultaneously bonkers and practical vibe – a rare feat, indeed – while its trio of DiMarzio mini-humbuckers ensure it sounds as distinctive as it looks.
Claas Moby Dick
Claas’s headless guitars have been doing the rounds at trade shows for a while, but they still have the power to amaze.
The Moby Dick is a 27.5” scale eight-string with an unusual black limba/bocote body plus a walnut/maple neck with one hell of a long neck joint – two Lace Alumitone Deathbucker pickups provide the tones.
Dean SplitTail Celtic
At just $499, the SplitTail gets you zany looks for little cash, courtesy of the Celtic Custom Graphic finish and Celtic inlays – the construction is still legit, mind, with a mahogany top and body plus mahogany V-shaped neck.
We caught this creation over in Hall E, where the weird and wonderful hang out: the CyberAxe, which hooks up to iOS and Android devices for control over presets, songs, setlists and outboard gear – it also looks just a little bit bonkers.
EVH Wolfgang Tour Relic Replica
Just 20 of these stunners will be made, designed to accurately mimic the guitars Eddie played on Van Halen’s 2012 tour, with black paint showing through an Ivory top coat – it also comes with an awesome Van Halen hardcase to store it in (below).
Part of Ibanez’s ever-popular Exotic Wood series, this AEW boasts a spalted maple/walnut multi-wood mosaic top, and back and sides, for a stunning appearance, while its Fishman Sonicore system offers usable plugged-in tones to boot, all for $749.
Clayton Playboy guitars
Yes, Playboy guitars are now a thing, thanks to Steve Clayton USA. We don’t have anything else to add.
ESP Exhibition Stream-GT Titan Metal
ESP’s Stream outline is fairly outlandish as it is, but add in bejeweled dragon egg-esque inlays and one of the zaniest bridges we’ve seen in some time, and you have a standout on any, erm, stand.
Reverend Billy Corgan Signature
The ol’ Smashing Pumpkin himself was on hand to promote his spanking new signature model with Reverend Guitars – and it looks a little bit bonkers.
Four scratchplates cover cavities in the guitar’s body, which make it super-resonant, while BC’s custom humbuckers evoke P-90 tones.
Yes, it’s another Trussart. Yes, it’s bloody gorgeous. Yes, we can’t afford one.
Fender Custom Shop Cardboard Strat
This unusual body material was “easy to shape, hard to machine,” says master builder Paul Walker.
There’s a vibrato unit on the body, but we’d be surprised if anybody stuck the arm in and braved using it…
Back in 1957, The Teardrops commissioned John D’Angelico to build a – you guessed it – teardrop-shaped guitar. For 2016, D’Angelico has revived the model under its Master Builder line – and it still looks ahead of its time.
Charvel Style 2 Roasted Pine
You wouldn’t think it from looking at it, but that’s a Charvel. A far cry from the company’s usual shred machines, this stunner features a roasted reclaimed pine body, Jazzmaster bridge, Lollar Gold Foil pickup and Bigsby tailpiece.
Schecter Prince Symbol
There were a couple of these on hand at Schecter’s stand – no information was available, but we all know what they are: pop guitar royalty.