JAN. 26-28TH



The music industry’s supercollider of sound and vision exploded inside the halls of the Anaheim Convention Center for the winter NAMM Convention. The National Association of Music Merchants annual event brings together over 3,600 exhibitors from 139 countries offering aisle after aisle of the latest musical gear, stage lighting, DJ equipment, live performances, hands-on demonstrations and useful marketing strategies for retailers and manufacturers alike. This can’t -miss event strives to strengthen the musical community promoting the pleasures and benefits of making music.

“The Music Begins Here” is this years motto. NAMM has always been a source of innovation and inspiration introducing mind-boggling technological advances and new products to enhance the music making experience, and this affair did not disappoint.

Italian based Paoletti Guitars introduced a new model constructed out of 130-150 year old  antique wine barrels. The “Nancy Tele” from it’s Leather series is comprised of an old chestnut body, mahogany neck, ebony fretboard, and olive wood for the skull inlays. Not just a guitar but a work of art.  

Brent Hinds from Prog Rock quintet Mastodon released his signature“Terror Amp” designed in collaboration with U.K.’s Orange Amplification that features 2 channels and a gain structure. The single control natural channel has been redesigned to have more bottom end while retaining the balanced and playable character of the “Terror” series.

The Metal Sounds booth drew our eyes (and ears) to the beautifully designed Spacedrum which belongs to the Trinidad steel-drum family. These metal percussion instruments are hand made in France and deliver a soothing, melodic sound similar to therapeutic chiming bowls. Spacedrum is made for all the percussionists, beginners or experienced, and other musicians looking for new sounds, or just musical discovery! It is played with hands or sticks specifically designed for this instrument and its ergonomic shape allows you to take it everywhere; put it on your own thighs or improvised support, to play outdoors, live or studio.

It’s available in 3 versions: 6 notes (ø 19”). 8 notes (ø 21”), and 13 notes  (ø 24”).

Thanks to these three sizes the Spacedrum is available in pentatonic, diatonic and even chromatic ranges. It is also the first instrument of its kind to propose a complete chromatic scale (13 notes) enabling play of all styles of music in any key. Great to have around at the end of a stressful day and meditate to its harmonious, sustaining tones. 


With the price tag of many musical instruments surpassing several thousands of dollars a relatively new company called GearSecure offers essentially LoJack for those pricey guitars, amps, or what-have-you.

Using patented technology, GearSecure is the first independent-energy tagging device created exclusively for musical instruments. Designed to be hidden in every conceivable type of gear, it allows for near-infinite tracking range with accuracy to within feet of its location. Incredibly small and flexible, it won’t effect instrument play or use. Useful for any instrument, live sound, or support gear. The hidden GPS/RFID tags are synched with mobile devices, tablets, or personal computers whereby a predetermined perimeter once breached will instantly send an alert. Once alerted users can select a “track” mode which will let them follow the path of the missing item. 

This column I’ve been writing since 1992 is called EARGASM and was remarkable to see a new product represented at NAMM called Eargasm Earplugs. In the highly competitive realm of in-ear hearing protection, Eargasm’s plugs stand out with their patent pending design that solves the problem by filtering the sound rather than blocking it out. This blurb from their website succinctly explains the utility of their “ear condoms”.

“We originally envisioned our product to be best used at loud events such as concerts and sporting events. We soon realized though that they could be used almost anywhere, anytime someone wants to “turn the volume down.” Whether it’s at a loud factory where workers still need to communicate with one another, or a noise sensitive individual who wants to enjoy a night out with loved ones at a loud restaurant. The applications of our product are endless and we are always excited to see the ever expanding list of situations and places our customers are using them.”

The overwhelming din of the Anaheim Convention Center was the perfect testing grounds for such a product. After inserting the plugs and getting them into a comfortable position in our ears they seemed to deliver the promised results with flying colors. When you unscrew the cool little black aluminum container you’ll find 2 pairs (different sizes) of earplugs to ensure a proper fit. They really came in handy recently when my neighbor was using his compressor to power a pressure washer at 7am.

As a huge fan and collector of vinyl record albums it was a pleasant surprise to see the Rock’n’Rolla Records Co. display of their line of portable briefcase style record players. The resurgence and growth of vinyl records has rocketed sales of vinyl recordings to a 28 year high according to Fortune Magazine.

The Rock ‘N’ Rolla player is being brought to market by a partnership between long-time record company executive Marshall Blonstein, president of Camarillo-based Audio Fidelity/Morada Music, and Jonathan “JK” Kendrick, Chairman of the ROK Group of companies, the UK wireless pioneer whose Rok Mobile is the first wireless provider in the country to offer mobile and music services together for one price.

Available in 4 models each with added features, all Rock ‘N’ Rolla models have an AC power cord and USB, SD, AUX, iOS, Android and mp3 capabilities. Rock ‘N’ Rolla Jr. the smallest unit, features three speed playback (33/45/78) with selectable automatic stop function, two high quality full range dynamic speakers, headphone and external speaker outputs, USB encoding to record and backup vinyl directly to a memory stick and three input options for connecting digital devices. It comes in four high fashion colors-red, black, white and teal blue-and retails for a suggested $69.99. Rock ‘N’ Rolla Premium has all the same features of the Jr, plus a rechargeable lithium battery pack, and Bluetooth and four inputs for connecting digital devices, instead of three. With the addition of the battery, this unit becomes the most versatile for any entertainment scenario, from beach to dorm room to road trip. It comes in white with red straps and handle or in either hot pink, teal or black with white straps and handle, and it retails for a suggested $99.99.

The Rock ‘N’ Rolla XL again contains all the basic features with an added hidden CD player under the turntable resulting in this model weighing more than the other two versions. It has an LCD display and comes in black, white, cream or red and retails for a suggested $149.99. All models come with a 12-month warranty. The newest, eye catching addition to the retro-line is the “UFO” which has a clear plastic dome that hinges over the turntable. This top-of-the-line model will retail around $200.

The daunting task of planning and navigating the enormous amount of conferences and panel discussions was made significantly easier with the introduction this year of modular LED web panels placed strategically throughout the Hilton and Marriott hotels. Up to the minute schedule changes and additions were fed directly from NAMM headquarters answering who-what-where-when at a glance. The USB charging stations built into the lounge tables were also a welcome convenience for convention attendees.

Thanks to the aforementioned web panels we spotted what turned out to be a riveting panel discussion with Bernie Broderick, Robert Scovill, Greg Looper, and Vic Wagner who were members of the audio crew for legendary touring act Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Taking a look back at their 40 careers with music industry icons ranging from the Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Foghat, Bob Dylan, and Barbara Streisand. Some of the topics covered were their first jobs with huge touring bands, the dangers of electrocution while rigging stage sound’/lighting, and each shared stories on the circumstances of their getting fired by some of the biggest acts in music. 

Part of the magic of attending NAMM is the X-Factor of the random encounter. Case in point; while catching our breath on the 4th floor of the Hilton I complimented a gent about his Hawaiian aloha shirt. Turns out his name is Lance Jost who in his early 20’s was commissioned by Jimi Hendrix’s management to fly to New York City and paint canvas murals for Jimi’s Electric Lady Recording Studios. He had a copy of his book “Electric Lady Cosmic Craft Mural” which was filled with inter-galactic imagery  from his artwork done in 1970.

His incredible story started in San Diego while backstage at the Sports Arena July 25th 1970 for a Hendrix concert. Initially hired by Michael Jeffery (Jimi’s manager) to do an album cover by a European rock group called Moon. Jimi was so impressed with his imagery of space that he requested Jost paint it into a mural at his Greenwich Village studio. He’s still an active artesian working in mosaics and sculpture. For more info check

The opportunity to get up close and personal with some major talent is ever-present. Guitar god, Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake-Dead Daisies) was seen promoting the Mini-Amp 50 at Baroni Labs shredding out some tasty power chords. He was also seen lending his muscular guitar work to the Bonzo Bash (for Led Zepplin’s John Bonham), Randy Rhodes, and Ronnie Montrose Remembered  concerts which were held at the Yost Theater in nearby Santa Ana and The Observatory respectively.

These annual tribute concerts pay homage to the hugely popular artists that past away too soon. The talented musicians that organize and perform to show their admiration, respect and gratitude always put on a passionate performance and show another facet to the NAMM experience. 

We’re already looking forward to see what magic NAMM will conjure up next year!

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