Guitar Guy's Best In Show Picks

This year, my assignment at NAMM was to walk around and look for cool new stuff. Since I’m still relatively a NAMM-newbie (3rd time), I still enjoy wondering aimless for hours looking at the latest gadgets, good and bad. I’ll address the bad in another blog post, but for today I’m going to give you a glimpse of the things that I thought were pretty cool and innovative.

Please note, I can’t guarantee all of these are new for 2015. But, they are all new to me.

Breedlove Solo Series Acoustic Guitars - Aside from the addition of electronics, very little has changed in acoustic guitar construction in the past 50 years, 0r so I thought, until I walked past the Breedlove booth. Breedlove’s Solo Series acoustics look like standard acoustic guitars, but with one minor difference, they feature two sound holes. Okay, that could be considered a major difference. The second sound hole is on the top of the guitar and includes a removable rubber plug to fill the hole. The rational, the second sound hole allows the guitarist to hear what everyone else is hearing. And you know what, it works great! I tried out several acoustic guitars and NAMM, and the Breedlove Solo Series was the only one that I could hear clearly on the loud convention room floor. Not only are these killer guitars (looks, play-ability, and sound), but as the name insinuates, they are the perfect guitar for a solo performer.

Boss Waza Craft Pedals – As musician’s, guitarists in particular, we cling to the past. We HATE pretty much every new invention, revision, iteration, etc. Consequently, the best way to sell gear has been to label it with terms like reissue, VOS, classic, and so on. With Boss’ new Waza Craft pedals, they are meeting guitarists where they are comfortable (20+ years ago), but giving the option of looking to the future. The pedals in this series include a switch that allows you to use the pedal with the original specs, or with the most popular 3rd party mod specs. In addition to adding this feature to the Blues Driver and the Super OverDrive, Boss is also reissuing a VOS classic (see what I did there?) DM2 Delay. Simply put, I now have a reason to own two Blues Drivers.

Pro Tools First – When I went to recording school, circa Pro Tools 4, there was great version called Pro Tools Free. This was what we used for the first year of school. It was a fully functional version of Pro Tools, but had some limitations. Sadly, Pro Tools Free was discontinued somewhere around the release of Pro Tools 6. Well my friends, Avid is back with a new, free version of Pro Tools called Pro Tools First, and it’s better than ever. Pro Tools First is fully functional, cloud enabled, isn’t restricted to Avid specific hardware, and… wait for it… you will be able to rent plugins and other features from the professional version of Pro Tools 12, when you need them. Simply put, it is AWESOME! I can’t wait for my download link to arrive.

iRig UA – Finally, someone has done it! For the past few years I have reviewed several guitar apps and interfaces for IOS, but nothing for Android… And, I’m pretty much an Android fanboy. Sorry, it’s just a better OS (bring on the flogging). Considering that Android’s global marketshare is some where in the 80+% range, it’s about time that someone has made the jump to address this captive audience. IK Multimedia has announced the iRig UA, which I had the pleasure of testing, and it’s pretty great. IK had to design their new iRig from the ground up since there are so many different hardware options when it comes to Android phones. Without all the details, the iRig UA is essentially an external sound card, making it usable with pretty much any device running Android 4.0+. Needless to say, my name is at the top of the list to demo/review the iRig UA when it’s ready to ship.

Electro Harmonix Pitch Fork – I love new pedals, and in my opinion, this year’s coolest new pedal award goes to Electro Harmonix’s Pitch Fork. Simply put, this pedal does everything when it comes to pitch shifting. Different keys, check. Alternate tuning, check. Harmonizing leads, check. It’s awesome! The only thing to keep in mind, your amp has to be turned up loud enough so that you can’t hear your strings. While actually re-tuning your guitar is what you’ll want to do in the studio. This pedal will solve lots of headaches, and tuning breaks, for those who use several tunings live.

Washburn Comfort Series Acoustics – I started the article off with a new acoustic guitar innovation, and I’d like to end it with a second cool acoustic guitar innovation. Washburn has released a new line called Comfort Series acoustics. All they have done is rounded off the sharp corner on the top of their acoustic guitars, making them more comfortable to play for an extended period of time. Once again, a small change, but would make a huge difference if you have several hours of gigging ahead of you.

So there you go. Two days of wondering the floors (yes, all 4 of them) of the Anaheim convention center, and these are the coolest new things that I found. That’s not to say there weren’t a lot of other cool things. I know I have at least two more posts coming, but these are all cool new innovations.

What was your favorite new piece of gear at NAMM 2015?