There was a time when manufacturers considered exhibiting in Hall E at the NAMM show in Anaheim a death sentence. "No dealers come down there," some would bark. NAMM has certainly listened to those concerns, especially for 2011. For the first time, NAMM presented its Media Preview Day in Hall E. Also, if you wanted a press badge or to hang out in the press room, you had to travel to the area directly in front of Hall E. To many retailers, Hall E has become the place to see the hottest new products. Perhaps it has become a destination.
Our annual "Class of" story shines the spotlight on first-time NAMM exhibitors that stood out from the crowd and got the show floor buzzing. Who knows? Maybe, 10 or 20 years from now, a few of these companies will stand among our industry's giants. The odds say at least one company will be on to bigger and better things.
Jack Deville Electronics, based in Portland, Ore., is a custom guitar effects pedal and custom amplifier builder. The company's Mod Zero analog modulation pedal creates all types of modulation and some special tones that have long been sought. Features include 100 percent pure analog modulation; classic, contemporary and all-new modulation tones; through-zero flanging, true pitch-shifting vibrato, chorus, flanger, phase and more; and versatile controls. It sells for $250. "The Dark Echo, which is our echo pedal—a really nice, really gentle echo—is $225. The Buzz Master, which is really a high gain germanium buzz pedal, is $250," said a representative at the booth, who asked only to be called "Jack." According to Cameron Morgan, involved in sales and development with the company, "We're looking to pick up as many dealers as we can across the U.S. and internationally." However, he added, "We're trying to stay with independent, brick-and-mortar stores where customers can actually go in and play our pedals."
The Retailer spoke to Mel Koffman, owner, Active Musical Products, importer of Pedal Boots. Pedal Boots, according to the company, are a professional, simple-to-use mounting system for musicians' effect pedals: no Velcro, wobbling or slipping. They are made from elastomer plastic, which is heat-, oil- and slip-resistant, are easy to mount and can withstand the demands of stage and tour conditions. The first model, The Boss, is suited for Boss, Maxon 9, Tokai, Ibanez 9 and Marshall pedals. Model EM-X-AR is for small MXR, EHX or identical pedals. Finally, Baby Cry is for Dunlop and Vox wah-wah pedals. "Right now, we're in the process of developing additional models," Koffman divulged. "In the U.S., we plan on distributing the product through some of the major distributors that have approached us, and some of the major musical instrument chain stores," he added. A number of potential artist endorsements are in the works.
Next up is Audible Disease, based in Sacramento, Calif., creator of effect pedals and other devices, from which the Retailer spoke to Bob Scott. "Our background is largely noise and experimental musicians," he said, adding, "a lot of our ideas come from people who do unusual kinds of music. So, many of our ideas for the synthesizers and pedals are more from that small, underground community." Products include the Audible Disease Convulsion CN-2, a high-gain distortion unit; the Synth Bomb SB-1, a simple handheld monophonic synthesizer that produces an array of sounds; the Thirty-Three TT-1, a tribute to the Buzz Box, that delivers two octaves down plus ample distortion; the Puchi Mixer PM-1, an ultra-compact four-channel active mixer; and the Infection IN-2, a dual oscillator noise synthesizer that is joystick controlled. Scott added, "We've noticed with a lot of people that—even if they don't do noise or experimental music—they might want a little bit of that element in their music, which is great for us."
Esoterik Guitars, according to Ryan Cook, owner, specializes in high-end guitars. Signature features include an original contoured body shape with neck-through design; premium woods and hardware; 24 jumbo frets; 25.5 inch scale length; ebony knobs; 16-inch-radius fret board; and dual truss rods. The company's DR-1 model (Dave Reffett signature series) offers the player's choice of select woods for the body and neck, custom knob placement and a hardware selection. Additional models are upcoming. "It's not your first-time guitar," Cook said. "It's for somebody who's ready to step it up. It's kind of like the Ferrari of guitars, if you know what I mean." He added, "I'm interested in working with the dealer channel." He noted that the channel is an excellent way to become noticed and that, when you have a high-end instrument, the channel can make it more accessible and affordable for the masses. At present, the guitars cost about $2,500.
One of the biggest attention-getters in the hall was StoneWorks, which provides 100 percent natural stone guitar picks. The company, according to Mike Stone, owner, has a selection of agate and jasper picks, as well as turquoise and variscite picks. "The most unique aspect is the idea that they're natural stones," he said. "When you're playing guitar, you're playing wood, you're playing metal and then your pick is a stone. It's a holistic approach to playing." He continued, "We polish these picks so highly that they just glide off the strings. It's almost like a frictionless pick." He emphasized that, as an "independent" company himself, he recognizes the importance of independent retailers. StoneWorks, he said, is a family business, exemplified by the fact that he and his children traveled to Montana and walked the Yellowstone River to find rocks to be cut into picks. "The [NAMM] show is even more than I expected it to be," Stone enthused. "It's just a group of unbelievably great people."
The Retailer also chatted with Hans Söllner of Zomo. The company provides a large selection of DJ products, including accessory products such as headphones, furniture, stands for various CD players/laptops, cases, bags and special cables. The products have been popular since their 2003 launch in Europe. Now, Zomo is going after the U.S. market. "We believe our products will be warmly received in the U.S. market, as well as in Canada and South America," said Söllner. "Many DJs from North and South America are constantly asking us where they can buy our products locally, as there are no similar products available in their countries…. We are positive that there is a fantastic market opportunity for Zomo in this region, and we are looking forward to receiving inquiries from U.S. dealers or distributors alike."
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