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Winter NAMM 2001

 

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        The Winter NAMM Show returned to Anaheim this January, and it was good to be back. The Anaheim Convention Center was turned into a small city of 50,000 or so, with streets of red carpet and city blocks filled with just about every kind of music gear there is. It is truly an amazing experience!! The proper name of the show is the International Music Market, and the international flavor is one of the best things about it -- it's great hearing other languages besides English, knowing that we all share that international language: that's right, money. The dreaded rolling blackouts due to the power crisis in California struck only when I was waiting to pay for my lunch on Friday. But it turned out that somebody had just tripped over the register's power cord, so the power chords being churned out by the heavy metal hair-band guitar god across the aisle were unaffected (a close call).

This report is really just a piece of even the *bass* part of the whole show -- there was so much, that to truly catch everything would probably mean to miss out on a lot of the fun. And I wasn't about to do that.

There were lots of beautiful basses, as you can see from the sample pics in the gallery (see link below). And judging by the number of pictures I took, I guess I find that the basses are more photogenic than the gear in general. Though they may not be as photogenic as some of the people in attendance. The one picture I'm sorry I missed was of "Magenta Man" -- some dude walking around in a magenta body stocking that completely covered him from the head down, face and all, so he was solid magenta except for his shoes. He probably wouldn't have shown up on film anyway.

There was certainly some cool gear, and it was great getting to check out some things that weren't necessarily new, but were things I'd been curious about. Notably, the Line 6 gear sounded pretty good and versatile, though in that noise-drenched environment you can't critically judge tone from anything. But I know their stuff looks pretty. The SWR Mo' Bass was set up in a booth all its own, and I was able to dial up some pretty fun and funky tones from it. Ashdown's stuff sounded pretty killer, as did Glockenklang, Euphonic Audio, Aguilar, and Epifani. But I guess none of this is exactly news, is it?

Roger Sadowsky has two new versions of his acclaimed preamp out. First is a stomp box [black unit in photo above ] that replaces his original outboard preamp, and features the same Sadowsky bass pre with vol-treble-bass controls, an active/passive footswitch, a mute footswitch with tuner out, both 1/4" and DI (XLR) outputs and a low batter indicator (AC adaptor is optional). Roger said he is "very pleased" with the new unit, as it more than doubles the features of the old one, while also featuring a very reasonable price of $229.

Also new from Sadowsky is the RSD-1 Headphone Amplifier/Bass Preamp. This unit looks to be VERY cool. It's got the Sadowsky preamp and its controls, but adds a second input with volume control, an input for CD/DAT/etc. with volume control, two headphone jacks, tuner out, 1/4" and XLR outs, and a pre/post EQ switch. Sweet! He's selling them for $329 (direct from Sadowsky Guitars).

Pearce Instruments, in association with Moses Graphite, had some very interesting basses at the show -- dig this: their "Dbass" had a 38" scale with DGCF tuning and a "zero" fret double dot at the 34" scale location (i.e., where EADG is), but the string tension and gauges and overall length of the bass are all the same as a standard bass! It's 22 frets, and the retail price is $499. They also have a similar "Cbass", 24 frets, with a 37.5" scale tuned CFBbEb for $549.

But not every booth was exciting. In fact, one of the most boring (so boring that nobody was in it) was Clarion Insurance, but they specialize in insuring musical instruments, so bookmark their site in case you need it.

The real highlights of the show for me were the concerts. TM Stevens was funkin' it up in the EVI booth, and did a great job of getting a NAMM crowd involved in the show. "Don't be a NAMM Boy!" he said. Good advice. Steve Lawson was seen in various places, sounding great no matter where he played, though I think he sounded best on Modulus basses. He had some lovely fingernails, too. Michael Manring kicked ass in the Zon booth, and did a great duet with an acoustic guitarist. Saturday night was the Meteoric Intergalactic Universal Big Bang show at the Hilton. Though guitar was the focus, there was plenty of great bass playing, with the best being done by Marco Mendoza. His trio was just absolutely slammin'. Will Lee was also good, as was Mark Egan. Keanu Reeves was, uh, there too with his band Dogstar. Bill Dickens and TM Stevens closed out the night. What a show!

The absolute best part of the whole NAMM 2001 odyssey for me? Meeting my bass hero Marcus Miller at the DR Strings booth, chatting with him for a bit, and giving him a "Play The Bass" poster. I'll never forget it. What a truly nice guy.

Well, again, this page is just a fraction of the highlights.

A very special shout-out to Joey Cline of Profound Sound in Sacramento, CA, the coolest music store in town. (And not just because he took me to the show!)

Thanks, Joey!

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Since this was the 100th anniversary of NAMM, we thought we'd dig back into the NAMM Show archives to see what we could find. Here is a shot from the first NAMM Show, with nearly half of the show participants taking a tour inside an early "Basserator", a forerunner of today's much more mobile 2x10 bass cabinets.

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Pat Wilkins of Wilkins Guitars is known for his incredibly beautiful finish work. But he makes some beautiful instruments too (as you can see in the above pic), with options such as James Demeter active circuitry or a Villex passive 3-band tone system that "outperforms most active circutiry hands down." The front bass is a Cat's Eye Burst 4-string with P-J configuration and the James Demeter NRS-W Quiet System, for "true single-coil sound" without the noise of a vintage pickup system.

 

Dan Lenard of Luthiers Access Group was on-hand at the Epifani booth with some beautiful basses, including this very cool 5-string by Chris Larkin.

 

Greg Rupp, the "GR" in GR Basses, shows off his new "Road Series" RSP-4 in vintage sunburst. Greg is attempting to fill in the gap that he feels exists between the traditional bass manufacturers and high-end custom basses by bringing "high end quality, detail, and tone to an affordable price range." The Road Series basses start at a retail price of $949. His "Classic Series" basses start at $1349 retail and have many custom options and upgrades available.

   

 

 

                    

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