NAMM 2019: With our fingers fatigued and our wrists worn (from playing guitar, to be clear), we’ve rounded up the highlights from this year’s show.
Naturally, this year’s headliner is the return of Gibson, which brought a range of new models inspired by the best aspects of its past, across its electric, acoustic and Epiphone divisions.
The biggest surprise of the show, however, went to Lowden’s collaboration with Ed Sheeran, with a full range of made-in-Ireland, mid-priced acoustics unveiled bearing the singer-songwriter’s name.
Of course, there was plenty more besides, as this very round-up will attest...
ELECTRIC WINNER: Gibson Les Paul Standard '50s
Gibson's return to NAMM was nothing less than triumphant, with new CEO James 'JC' Curleigh seemingly steering the company back to what it does best.
This period-correct Les Paul is a case in point: there’s real authority in its fat neck, and it just glows with fit-for-purpose build quality and a revitalised relationship with the company’s roots.
It comes loaded with calibrated Burstbucker humbuckers and a host of neat electronic touches - including Vintage Audio Taper 500k Pots and orange drop capacitors - and is available in Heritage Cherry, Tobacco Burst and oh-so-desirable Gold Top finishes.
Epiphone Jared James Nichols 'Old Glory' Les Paul Custom
This signature guitar for the rising blues star was a surprise hit at the Gibson booth.
It combines specs from the Les Paul Custom and Junior, and features a single Seymour Duncan P-90 pickup, historic binding, ebony fingerboard, wraparound bridge and an Ebony finish. Dig the Blues Power plaque, too.
Fender Alternate Reality Meteora HH
The Meteora body shape was first unveiled as part of last year's Parallel Universe series.
Here it gets an HH pickup configuration (as opposed to the single-coil bridge/Tele neck combo of the original) and an unusual control system, that uses push-pull tone pots to for coil-splitting tones, plus a push-push switch that allows you to swap the volume control between pickups.
Martin D-35 Woodstock 50th
This far-out custom offering features a custom headstock and pickguard, replicating elements from the Robert F Goetzl’s 1969 poster for the iconic festival.
Spec-wise, it’s similar to the reimagined D-35, boasting East Indian rosewood back and sides with a 35 Series wedge, Sitka spruce top with aging toner, and antique white fingerboard binding.
There’s also quarter-inch straight bracing for improved projection and a high-performance neck taper to maintain comfort across the fretboard.
Charvel Angel Vivaldi Signature DK24-7 NOVA
Designed in partnership with the American prog genius, the NOVA features a modified Dinky basswood body with sculpted heel, styled out with an eye-catching Satin Sage Green finish with gold hardware and a tilt-back reverse 7-string licensed Fender Stratocaster headstock.
Headline specs include a 12”-16” compound radius maple fingerboard with rolled edges, Graph Tech TUSQ XL nut and DiMarzio The Tone Zone / Air Norton pickups, plus a Gotoh Custom 7-string 510 tremolo bridge and locking tuners.
Gibson G-45 Studio
Besides the headline-grabbing electrics, Gibson also premiered its most affordable USA-built acoustics ever, with the G-45 Studio clocking in at just $999.
It features a solid Sitka spruce top with walnut back and sides, and comes fitted with a 16” radius walnut fingerboard and bridge, plus Fishman Sonitone pickup.
Gretsch refreshed Streamliners
We love, love, love Gretsch’s wallet-friendly Streamliner line, and for 2019, the company has given the range a refresh.
Crucially, the new Broad’Tron BT-2S humbucker is now onboard, developed exclusively for the Streamliners, and promising better definition and a tighter bass tone, with a throaty midrange.
New finishes also make an appearance, including Aged Brooklyn Burst, Riviera Blue and Torino Green, among others.
PRS SE Paul’s Guitar
The signature model for Paul Reed Smith himself has worked its way down to a far more affordable price point as part of the SE series.
What sets this one apart from other PRSes is its pair of mini-toggle switches, which allows players to put either or both pickups in true single-coil mode, offering up a wide variety of tonal options.
Ibanez Paul Gilbert PGM333
Ibanez is celebrating its 30th anniversary of collaboration with the nicest guy in shred with the PGM333.
An African mahogany body plays host to a trio of DiMarzio PG-13 pickups, and comes with a Gotoh GTC101 bridge and MG-T locking machine heads.
There’s also a reverse headstock and gold hardware throughout. Mmm, classy.
Sheeran by Lowden S01
The surprise announcement of the show was a range of mid-priced acoustics designed by Ed Sheeran and made in Ireland by traditionally high-end luthier George Lowden.
The S01 is one of the more affordable models at around £700, and features a cedar top, five-piece walnut back and sides, plus ebony fingerboard and bridge and mahogany neck. An LR Baggs Element VTC pickup/preamp appears on the S02 upwards.
ESP LTD TE-1000 EverTune
Finally, ESP is expanding the availability of the game-changing EverTune bridge by introducing it to the company’s TE body shape.
Besides the constant-tension bridge, the guitar boasts a set-through three-piece maple neck on mahogany body with flamed maple top, and packs EMG’s 57/66 set, complete with coil-splitting.
Fender Jimmy Page Dragon Telecaster
We can’t avoid mention of this jaw-dropping replica of the Led Zeppelin guitarist’s legendary Tele.
This one here is the £2,349 production version rather than the £23,259 Custom Shop incarnation, and features a custom ‘Oval C’-shaped maple neck; ‘50s Tele two-piece body; top-loader bridge for through-body or top-load stringing; custom single-coil pickups; lacquer finish; vintage tweed case with eight round mirrors (a tribute to the custom treatment Jimmy applied to the guitar); black coil cable; satin lacquer finish over a reproduction of Jimmy Page’s iconic artwork; and a deluxe black case and red coil cable.
Yamaha TransAcoustic CG-TA
This year, Yamaha brought built-in reverb and chorus effects to a nylon-string - a perfect match, given the guitar doesn’t require plugging in for the effects to chime out, thanks to a built-in actuator.
After a few setbacks, 21st-century guitar hero Tosin Abasi has debuted the Larada, which appeared in the stand in a variety of finishes, including the digitally printed graphic design you see before you.
The multi-scale design features Abasi’s signature Fluence set, but will be available later this year in six, seven and eight-string incarnations.
Fender American Acoustasonic Telecaster
This was the last thing we expected from the launch of Fender’s long-teased American acoustic line, but in person, the AAT impressed us with 10 distinct electro voices, including a nicely overdriven Tele clean.
The question remains over whether players will warm to its unconventional look, especially with its £1,649 price tag.
Looking for a boutique Suhr-esque vibe on a budget? Cort has your back with the newly redesigned G290FAT, which boasts tonal versatility via a five-way switch for the two own-brand Voiced Tone humbuckers.
It’s the wood selection that really impresses here, though, with a birdseye maple neck and fretboard and flamed maple top on swamp ash body, while hardware includes locking machineheads.
Framus Stormbender Devin Townsend Signature 7-string Masterbuilt
Hevy Devy has taken the Stormbender design into altogether heavier territories with his latest signature model from Framus.
The build centres around a carbon fibre middle block, augmented by a mahogany back, flame maple neck and tigerstripe ebony fretboard. Fishman’s Fluence humbuckers also make an appearance, as do Graph Tech Ratio locking machineheads and the all-important EverTune bridge.
Taylor Grand Pacific
The iconic US company set its sights on its rivals this year, debuting a true-to-form dreadnought in the style of a Gibson J-45 or Martin D-45, but employing its revolutionary V-Class bracing to clear up the low-end.
The line will debut with three models, including the entry-level 317e, which pairs sapele back and sides with a sitka spruce top, and two Builder’s Edition models, the 717 and 517, which use fancier tonewoods (rosewood and mahogany back/sides, respectively) and torrefied sitka spruce for the tops.
Jackson Pro Series Signature Phil Demmel Demmelition Fury PDT
The timing is a little curious with this one, given Demmel’s recent departure from Machine Head, but as far as metal axes go, the Demmelition Fury is spot-on.
We’re talking a mahogany body, 12-16” compound-radius laurel fingerboard, and crucially the quintessential metal pickup pairing, EMG 81/60. Explorer fans would do well to give this one a go, particularly at its $1,020/£749 price tag.
D’Angelico Deluxe Bob Weir Bedford
The company’s first signature solidbody boasts remarkable versatility, using a blender pot to mix in whichever pickup isn’t selected out of two Seymour Duncan P-90s and a Lollar Blonde single coil.
The look is pure class, too, with a Matte Stone finish, gold hardware, plus a Wilkinson tremolo and Grover locking machineheads.