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NAMM 2024: The NAMM show is making a welcome return to its regular time slot this January 25-28 at the Anaheim Convention Center in California.
After a couple of years of shifting dates thanks to COVID, it is back to hopefully doing what it does best: bringing us mountains of gear music news to digest, and instruments and equipment to look forward to for the year ahead.
To say it’s been a tumultuous time for the music gear business over the last few years would be an understatement. Thanks to COVID, the bottom dropped out of the events business, and the big shows that announce new products were hit hard.
NAMM, the twice-yearly music gear show, the globe’s pre-eminent showcase for new synths, acoustic and electric guitars, drums and much, much more, has been as stymied as any.
The last NAMM pre-pandemic was in January 2020, and was one of the biggest ever, with new halls welcoming many smaller companies, record participants and a generally positive buzz that we’d not felt at the show in years.
But in the years since, because of the worldwide pandemic, NAMM’s calendar appearances have been irregular and uncertain, so this January not only sees the show come home but hopefully return to the glory days of 2020.
Whatever the outcome, this year’s show looks to be a cracker and the gear reveals are already coming thick and fast. We’ll be bringing them to you right here as and when we get updates so be sure to check back.
In the meantime, here’s the latest word from Anaheim…
• Korg looks like dominating this year’s NAMM show with a slew of new releases across several categories. Here’s what we know so far.
• Korg has unveiled microKorg 2, the sequel to one of the 21st century’s most iconic instruments and a ‘first synth’ for a whole generation of music-makers. It’s the long-awaited successor to the beloved microKorg.
• Next up is Korg’s KingKorg Neo (above), a more compact version of Korg’s KingKorg VA synth. It uses the same XMT (eXpanded Modeling Technology) sound synthesis engine to generate its analogue-style sounds, and has plenty of hands-on controls over them, albeit in a much smaller and cooler compact form.
• Korg is embracing ‘portablism’ with a new portable record player/looper inspired by the Vestax Handy Trax (below).
• Korg’s Poetry, a ‘Chopin piano’, could be the most unexpected signature instrument ever.
• Korg unveils the Opsix mkII, an updated version of its six-operator ‘Altered FM’ synth.
• Korg has also updated its Gadget music production software and plugin suite with new gadgets, effects and VST3/AUv3 support.
• Yamaha might already have stolen the NAMM show with its new Seqtrak. Yamaha calls it a “standalone music production studio” which pretty much covers everything, as pretty much everything is included! Seqtrak has a step sequencer, drum machine, sampler and several software synths. it is equipped with a microphone, speaker and rechargeable battery, along with a companion app that allows the user to dive into detailed sound editing.
From left to right on the unit you get drums, a synth and sampler in the middle, and sound design and effects on the right. The drum section has seven tracks (kick, snare, clap, two hi-hats and two percussion sounds) that can be filled with sounds from Seqtrak’s 2000-sample library, or with your own samples via the Seqtrak app.
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• Yamaha also recently announced its new new HS3 and HS4 monitors. We described the Yamaha HS5 as “the best-sounding studio monitor we’ve heard in its price range by a mile”, so we’re already pretty excited by these – they look like delivering a great sound from a couple of even more compact enclosures.
• Ever wanted an all-analogue synth with motorised knobs? Looks like the wait will soon be over. It’s surely no mystery as to why the Nina – an as yet unannounced synth from an unknown manufacturer – chose to surface around now.
• Shame that Roland won’t be at the show (when their vast stands have proved a popular ‘go to’ in previous years) but having already played their hand with their Aira Compact synth, Fantom 0 series and Juno-X, we wonder if there’s any more NAMM-timed releases on the way?
• Definitely putting in an appearance however, will the Oberheim OB-X8. We’ve already checked it out in the flesh at Superbooth but fingers crossed we can get even closer to its greatness at NAMM.
• We’re also looking forward to getting hands-on with Eventide’s innovative interval-based sequencer module, the Misha.
• Next up, Audient is debuting its most powerful interface yet, the EVO16, and also has a new product under wraps which we should be able to unveil here very soon.
Get ready for a lot of new guitars this month. We know Fender, Ibanez, ESP and Yamaha are readying new models for announcement and you’ll find them here as soon as they surface.
• Schecter has already made headlines with its latest Machine Gun Kelly signature guitar, the Razor Blade – for reasons that become obvious when you see it.
• The Strat is turning 70, and Fender – another NAMM absentee, sadly – is going to town for the Strat’s 70th birthday with new models available now. There are two 70th Anniversary models: a Mexican-made Player model in stunning Nebula Noir, and a USA-made American Profession II with striking Flame Maple top.
In addition there are standard spec Player and Pro II models with an Anniversary Two-Colour Sunburst. All models are available this year.
The 70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster is the one we’re most excited about; it looks like a statement for today about the Strats timeless quality, and the price/spec ration here is a pretty good balance for a special edition. It will retail for $999.99/ £959/€1,099/$1299AUD/¥165,000.
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The Nebula Noir finish is something we’re looking forward to seeing dazzle up close, but the specs are just as alluring; a modern “C”-profile maple neck and 9.5” radius rosewood fingerboard, Pure Vintage ‘59 Single-Coil Strat pickups, 2-point tremolo and Classic Gear tuners could be an interesting mix of contemporary and vintage.
The 70th Anniversary American Professional II Stratocaster ($1,999.99/£2,169/ €2,499/$3,699AUD/¥330,000) is further up the price and spec scale, but is a stunner with a Comet Burst and flame maple top. Pickups are 70th Anniversary V-Mod II single-coils, neck is a deep C-shape with rolled fingerboard edges and what Fender calls its ‘Super-Natural’ satin finish.
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• Gretsch has unveiled a reassuringly non-radical range of updates for its 2024 Electromatics…
• EVH Gear is bringing back a pair of Eddie Van Halen cult classics as the Shark and the Circles (aka Unchained) guitar return to the lineup.
• Hot rodders Charvel raise the (whammy) bar for its shredder-spec Pro-Mod series with super-hot Bubblegum Pink and Malibu Sunset colours and distressed nitro finishes…
Acoustic and Bass
• Cort will be showing off three new acoustic electric guitars as part of its Core series, all with built in Fishman gear. Doubtless there’ll be more from them too.
• “A lineup of instruments designed for the serious-minded, high-performance guitarist”: Jackson launches four Concept Series shred machines for the discerning metal player.
• Taylor celebrates 50 years of high-end acoustic guitar excellence with six stunning limited edition anniversary models (below).
• Taylor’s 700 Series also gets a major boost with new Grand Concert and Grand Auditorium models to replace its spruce/rosewood combos.
• Martin is, of course, associated with high-end acoustic guitars but has also long championed an expanding line at the more accessible end, central to which is the company’s X Series. New for 2024, is a set of remastered guitars in that series.
• “A fitting tribute to a metal guitar master and one of his favourite instruments”: Gibson unveils meticulous Murphy Lab replica of Kirk Hammett’s 1989 Les Paul Custom.
Amps, Pedals and More
• Gibson has broken cover with the return of its amp division; its ’60s Falcon combo flies again with Randall-Smith-designed 20 and 5-watt Falcon tube amps at prices that are a lot more on the Fender side of the equation than Mesa/Boogie.
• Blackstar refreshes its top-selling digital practice amp series with the feature-packed ID:CORE V4 now equipped with single-watt bedroom setting.
• Laney antes up with the launch of the world’s most-powerful FRFR guitar cabinet – a 4×12 monster packing 2600W that was developed with Devin Townsend.
• Keeley Electronics and Andy Timmons join forces once again for the Muse Driver – “a veritable drive workstation” for boost, tube-style overdrive and hot germanium fuzz.
• Vox unveils Custom Series AC10 and AC15 tube combos in a very smart Rich Blue Vinyl finish.
• TC Electronic‘s Plethora X3 is a smaller multi-fx pedal… but it’s still packing a lot of tones.
• Positive Grid takes Spark amps into a whole new era for the stage with the Live Spark Amp and PA system, Wireless Control X and Link Guitar System.
• We’ve already heard all about “the lightest 50-watt valve guitar amps on Earth” from Blackstar but we’re looking forward to finally hearing the St. James amp series for ourselves.
• Can’t wait to try out Two Notes’ ReVolt Guitar and Bass amp simulator pedals, complete with amps based on Fenders, Ampegs, Marshalls and more.
• Catalinbread revamps its Rangemaster-inspired Naga Viper, making MKII hotter and more practical, taking the treble booster circuit “to its logical limit”.
• High on the list of must-plays are Seymour Duncan’s ’78, Green Magic and High Voltage humbuckers inspired by Eddie Van Halen, Peter Green and Angus Young.
• And Universal Audio claim to have upped their emulation game for their new UAFX Guitar Amp Emulator pedals, promising “the best vintage guitar amps of all time”.
• Revv’s new Shawn Tubbs signature overdrive pedal, the Tilt will be sure to impress in person.
• Getting up close with Crazy Tube Circuits‘ amazing Super Conductor four-in-one analog boost pedal is high on our list of ‘to do’s.
• And will the ‘almost too good to be true’ Bigsby Pedal from Gamechanger Audio impress once get ‘feet on’ with it? We’ll find out soon.
• Reliable as ever, big guns Line 6 will be packing in the innovation, with their show highlight being the new DL4 MkII.
• Tech 21’s four new SansAmp Character Plus pedals look like the perfect pairings of amps and effects in one.
• On the bass front the Badwater bass preamp and DI from Walrus Audio marks their first journey into the deep end.
• This year’s biggest NAMM trend appears to be… gear furniture. Taylor manages the best of both world’s with its first foray into the world of amplification with the handsome Circa 74 guitar and vocal combo (above), designed by co-founder and ex-CEO Bob Taylor himself.
• Chinese brand Mooer always has a strong NAMM game. first out of the blocks thjis year, the typically feature rich Tender Octaver and Harmony X2.
• “Cozy up and immerse yourself in true stereo analogue delay” – Walrus Audio adds its feature-packed, MN3005-loaded Meraki delay pedal to regular lineup.
• Vox’s amPlug range has been coming to the aid of guitarists since 2007, and for 2024, the firm has launched amPlug 3, the third iteration of this successful guitar headphone amp range.
The battery-powered mini-amps (just 86 x 31 x 80 mm, and sitting directly on a 3/4″ jack), each have two channels and feature up to four effects including tremolo, chorus, reverb and delay, depending on the model.
Pianos and more
• “A genuinely unique experience” – a new Kawai keybed makes the Nord Grand 2 feel like a piano, but with advanced layering options, it can also sound like a synth.
Clavia has so many great Nord keyboards, each of which is designed for a slightly different kind of player, that it would be hard to classify one as the definitive ‘flagship’. The Nord Grand is certainly in the mix, though, and it’s now been updated to version 2.
• Grandstage X is Korg‘s sleek new, ivory white stage piano. It has no less than seven sound engines, providing 13 main piano sounds, including grand piano models from Germany, Japan and Italy, upright pianos and even classic Korg pianos from OASYS and the Korg M1. In fact there are a whopping 700 sounds in total and 128 notes of polyphony.
• Prince’s stunning custom Yamaha grand piano (above), the last instrument he played on stage, will be on display.
• Roland’s Bridge Cast X adds video support to the dual-bus USB-C gaming/streaming mixer.
Tama is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2024, and one of its most-wanted re-dos has already emerged – it’s a reissue of one of the most sought-after snare drums of all time: the Mastercraft Bell Brass.