NAMM 2022: The Winter NAMM Show is finally back in California after two years away… except it's summer. Yes, a lot has changed since the pandemic and while it saw guitar sales rocket, a lack of physical gatherings meant trade shows will virtual-only affairs. NAMM's return means new gear and lots of it, though there's some notable absences.
These include Fender, Gibson and PRS; all three have chosen not to exhibit for 2022's show. However, that could give a lot of other brands the chance to shine even brighter with launches and will be reporting on the key new gear all as the show progresses here. We also hope to find answers regarding where the electric guitar, effects pedal, guitar amp and acoustic guitar markets are heading, and these are our most pressing questions…
1. Is 2022 the year of the pedal amp?
What is a guitar amp? And how many do you need? One thing we do know is a lot of us love our pedalboards. With Victory, Blackstar, Two Notes and now Universal Audio the latest brands to invest in offering players backline power at their feet with new releases, we think preamp pedals and full preamp / power amp combination units are one of the most exciting parts of the market right now in the flexibility they can offer.
We’re intrigued at where it could go next in terms of features and balancing valve with digital technology, and whether this could be the ideal middle ground between those drifting between traditional amps and the option paralysis of having dozens of amp and cab model from multi-effects modelling processors.
2. Where next for ‘real’ amps?
If it ain't broke, why fix it? Modelling and tube amps are still big business and we don’t think they’re going anywhere but how many of those amps are for gigging players and what possible evolution is on the horizon remains to be seen.
Marshall celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, but it won't be at the show. However, Laney, Blackstar, Randall, Engl, Revv and Vox are amongst the exhibitor. Where can valve and modelling amps go next, what can those technologies achieve when combined for gigging amps and home playing practice amps? Blackstar will be at the show and has already thrown the gauntlet down there with its new St James – and they’re lightweight!
3. Can ‘metal’ guitars branch out?
Satin black, poplar burl, multi scale… what’s next for those of a heavy persuasion? Because not everyone who plays heavy music is into the same thing, and not everyone is sweep picking.
We’d like to see more risks being taken like Abasi Concepts under Tosin Abasi’s vision – as well as the kind of blend between tradition and modernity Fender’s Jim Root signature models first explored. More variety is always good to see and hear.
4. What’s the next wave for pedals?
The effects pedal industry has never been more diverse, vibrant and… huge! Isn’t it high time for ring modulation to become hip?
5. Can pickups innovate again too?
Away from the big names, there’s always great work being done in giving us options to upgrade our guitar pickups – often from small companies and even one-person startups.
We now have world-class work from pickup makers such as Monty’s, Jason Lollar, Sunbear and The Creamery, and the bespoke service these companies can offer is incredibly useful for players searching to upgrade and personalise their tone.
There’s never been more options for vintage-flavours and the hot-rodded versions of classics we will never tire of, and the quest for tone via modding is part of the experience. But can the bigger pickup brands at NAMM offer any new technology to spice up the pickup market like Fishman did with the Fluence to offer even wider options without swapping out our pickups?
6. Are there any acoustic surprises coming?
The last NAMM show in Anaheim saw two big guitar names present very different visions of electro acoustic guitar innovation with the Fender Acoustasonic and Martin SC-13E, will any other brand pick up the baton at this year's show?
We've also seen Lava's exciting innovations with its smart guitars – most recently with the new Blue Lava model. We'll be taking a closer look at that model soon.
7. Who are the new names to watch?
From luthiers to pedal startups and even innovative accessories, NAMM is always a great place to see tomorrow’s success stories being written. We’ll be watching closely in our coverage for them.
What new ideas can inspire us to play more, or make our playing lives easier? Or even just perfect an old concept.
8. What's going to be the standout electric?
With three of the big dogs of the guitar world staying away, there's a chance for other brands to get more of the NAMM limelight. And there's never any shortage of contenders for droolworthy electric guitar launches… and even some we can afford. One of the latter kind has already shown its hand…
The Guild Surfliner series is a £395 / $449 take on retro cool – though strangely for a 'surf' guitar there's no tremolo. We can expect much more to follow and you can find it all, as it happens over at our NAMM 2022 news hub.
9. Does the NAMM show have a future with guitars?
With Fender, Gibson and PRS absent from the show this year, and Universal Audio staying away, there’s some huge stand spaces to be filled at NAMM 2022.
Clearly, two years away from Anaheim is going to take time to recover from, with next year’s event due to take place in April before a plan to return to the traditional January period for 2024’s Winter NAMM. But with many company’s having bumper commercial results during the lockdowns, and the cost of a stand at NAMM substantial, is the future of the show in doubt for guitars?