And the winners are...
NAMM 2017: We're two days in and our editors have scoured the cavernous, cacophonous halls of Winter NAMM, the greatest gear show on earth, to bring you the very best new instruments and products on offer.
This year, for the first time, MusicRadar is awarding Best in show awards across a series of categories. Over the following pages, you'll find the products that our editors have selected based on quality, innovation, sheer appeal and good old fashioned buzz, both on the showfloor and in the wider world of social media.
Keep an eye out for full category round-ups over the coming days but for now, without further ado, please allow us to present the inaugural MusicRadar Best in Show NAMM awards...
Guitars - Winner: Supro Island and Americana Series
We’d heard rumblings of Supro reviving its guitar line, but we didn’t expect it to be quite so comprehensive or, indeed, keenly priced, with 14 new models spanning RRPs from £649 to £1,199.
The company’s Island and Americana guitars cover a huge range of pickup and vibrato configurations, but what they all have in common is a sharp attention to detail, thanks to input from Supro's Dave Koltai, famed designer Trev Wilkinson, vintage pickup expert Ken Calvet and luthier Glenn Sweetwood.
Since the US brand’s return in 2014, it’s released a rapidly expanding line of amps, pedals and now guitars, all of which provide the perfect example of taking a company forward while staying true to its heritage.
Amps - Winner: Vox MV50
With Vox celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, the Brit amp legend could be forgiven for resting on its laurels, but instead, it took the opportunity to showcase the first commercially available use of its Nutube technology in three MV50 heads.
Divided into Clean, AC and Rock options, the MV50 heads may be tiny, but thanks to a Class D power amp, they deliver a 50W output that’s capable of gig volumes, and indeed, cutting through a crowded NAMM show floor.
What’s all the more remarkable is that each amp carries a price tag of just $199 - quite an achievement given the amount of R&D that’s gone into the Nutube, which operates at a lower voltage than regular valves, providing power saving and performance enhancements. We can’t wait to see what’s next for the technology.
Pedals/effects - Winner: DigiTech FreqOut
When we first caught wind of the FreqOut Natural Feedback Creator, we weren't expecting much: previous ‘feedback’ pedals have amounted to little more than infinite sustain. Yet the FreqOut manages to redefine what a feedback pedal - and feedback itself - can be.
The FreqOut is another riff on DigiTech's Whammy pitch-shifting but also employs a cunning inversion of dbx’s feedback-suppression technology, and more than delivers on its claims of "sweet, natural feedback at any volume".
While the effect itself has been around since the dawn of the electric guitar, the FreqOut changes guitarists’ approach to playing and fosters an appreciation for feedback as a device within songwriting and performing - for anyone missing the fiery response of real live amps while recording with plugins, it could prove to be essential.
More info: NAMM 2017 hands-on review: DigiTech FreqOut
Synths - Winner: Pioneer DJ Toraiz AS-1
The latest in what could well be a long line of collaborations between the West Coast synth maker and one of the world’s most popular DJ brands is the Toraiz AS-1 monosynth.
OK, so it’s not entirely brand new tech under the bonnet, with a single voice from Dave Smith Instruments' Prophet 06 providing the engine, but the rich palette of sounds on offer dispels any previous thoughts that this was going to be just some sort of ‘303-like’ bass synth.
Controllers/sequencers - Winner: Touch Innovations Kontrol Master
It’s Kontrol Master’s simplicity and flexibility that has made it our favourite controller of NAMM 2017.
Taking control of your DAW and soft synths is easy via MIDI and keystroke mappings across 10 arcade-style buttons and one touch-capacitive knob.
Samplers/drum machines - Winner: Teenage Engineering PO-32 Tonic
Teenage Engineering’s PO range just got serious with the introduction of the PO-32 Tonic drum synth.
There’s tight integration with Sonic Charge's MicroTonic plugin - you can transfer sounds and pattern sets via an onboard microphone and good ol’ modem technology.It feels like no other company could have come up with this.
Software - Winner: Bitwig Studio 2
Redesigned from the ground up, Bitwig Studio 2 now features a mind-blowingly vast amount of modulation possibilities. This new-found power has come with greater control, with the navigation toolbar becoming fully customisable and far cleaner for the user.
The DAW also features new hardware integration options courtesy of brand-new CV and MIDI devices and integration with Bastl Instruments’ new Klik device, also launched at the show. All of this combined with a special sound set from Irrupt Audio rounds off quite a package.
Drums/percussion product - Winner: Yamaha Rydeen kits
We'll be upfront with you. This award is being given partly in recognition of Yamaha's 50 years in the drum business.
Since 1967, when the first drums rolled out of its Hamamatsu workshop, Yamaha has become a byword for quality, and its golden anniversary gives us a chance to offer a well-deserved salute.
Having said that, the reintroduced Rydeen series, while not strictly speaking new, is a fitting and worthy winner in its own right, once again offering the fruits of that half a century of manufacturing experience at an entry-level price. We'll have a full review for you in the very near future, and would be amazed if we're unable to recommend this as an unusually high quality budget option.