I remember not long ago being annually enamored by the NAMM show but having to wait a full month to pick up a guitar magazine to gain but glimpses of the top gear of the New Year. Social media changed all that, and Dan & Mick did their part. Venturing beyond the comfort of the TPS shed, the pair converged on sunny Anaheim and served as our ears and eyes on the ground.
This week, TPS offered up a trilogy of episodes with daily coverage of all things NAMM. As always, it’s impossible to get at everything, but this week’s blog combs through the TPS coverage focusing on the most news-breaking gear announcements of NAMM 2018. Below, you’ll find snippets of Dan & Mick’s conversations and encounters with builders as well as direct links to segments for the show.
The big news out of the red and white brick booth of JHS this year was a pedal that does for the Tube Screamer library what the JHS Muffuleta did for the Big Muff anthology.
As Josh Scott, the boss-man at JHS, commented, the Bonsai was the result of “three years in a study of the Tube Screamer.” The result is a minty green box with a selection knob offering access to a total of nine (yes, nine) Tube Screamer and Tube Screamer-esque circuits. These range from the classics, like the TS 808, to more recent cult classics, like the TS-10, to a few other non-Ibanez sounds yet in the Tube Screamer neighborhood, such as the Boss OD-1. As Josh demonstrated with the new gear, “As you turn this [knob] it’s not emulating anything, it’s exactly replicating with all analog signals and railways. People kept asking, ‘Do you have anything like a Tube Screamer?’ Well, yes!”
Dan & Mick caught up with Colt from Walrus Audio and had a go with the new Fathom Reverb pedal. As Colt described, “it’s a four algorithm reverb with two traditional settings (hall and plate) and two more custom Walrus settings with low-fi and sonar, and sonar is like an octave reverb.” Despite the noise of the NAMM exhibit hall, the pedal rang out from the depths. For Dan, the sign of a solid reverb is one that “in a mix will stand out far beyond the average one.” Mission accomplished, Walrus.
As Dan & Mick commented back in studio, the reverb pedal market has exploded recently due to interests in ambient soundscapes. With tongue in cheek, Mick reflected, “Yes, Joe Bonamassa’s favorite style of playing.” 2017 was a big year for reverb releases, with the Fathom showing up at the start of 2018, it’s looking like another wonderfully washy year.
Already in the days leading up to NAMM 2018, Fender made some big waves. We’ve got new specs on their most classic Deville, Deluxe, and Junior amp series, the refreshed and renamed American Original guitars, and the brilliantly unexpected Parallel Universe range. At NAMM, however, Fender did a little show and tell with some new stompboxes.
Dan & Mick caught up with designer Stan Cody at the Fender booth to hear about Fender’s much anticipated line-up. With Stan’s history in audio design of epic items including Neve consoles, the engines underneath the new Fender effects pedals distill years of wisdom and expertise in music electronics. Yet with all this background, Stan commented, “This is a whole new line for us and they all started from scratch.”
The lineup includes the Level Set Buffer, Bends Compressor, Santa Ana Overdrive, Pugilist Distortion, Mirror Image Delay, and Marine Layer Reverb. Each box is packed with innovation and attention to detail. As Mick commented, “What’s interesting about those Fender pedals is that, with features like analog dry through, even including a buffer at all in a pedal line, kind of indicates that they’re serious about pedals…They’re a serious entry into the pedal market for sensible money.”
One of the big stories of the entire NAMM 2017 show was the launch of the D&M Drive, the signature pedal of Dan & Mick. (Check out our review here). Not only did that pedal signal a new type of signature gear inspired by creators, it sparked a flurry of interest in dual stacking pedals and tandem effect boxes. This year at NAMM, Robert Keeley revealed a few new pedals that carry on this heritage.
Keeley commented on two pedals in particular as he caught up with Dan & Mick. First up, the aptly named Duet, which is a conjoined delay/reverb and drive pedal. Second, there’s the Aria, an overdrive reminiscent of Keeley’s Super Phat Drive on one side, paired up with his famous compressor circuit on the other.
Not only are these pedals innovative on their own, as Keeley remarked, they rethink how players imagine and structure the interaction of pedals on their board. “[The Aria] is designed to work with the D&M and give you the compression, to give you yet a different drive sound than you might get out of [the D&M]…so I think they work together well…I can see these three being a fly day type of pedal board.”
As things drew to a close on the Keeley couch, Robert let out a secret of yet another tag team of a different sort to watch out for: in the not-too-distant future we can expect a Supro pedal platform amp developed in partnership with Robert Keeley and David Koltai of Supro and Pigtronix fame. Wow…
A stop in to see Brian Wampler never disappoints. The newest items of gear launched just for NAMM include: the EQuator, a combined graphic and semi-parametric EQ pedal, and a set of new reverb pedals, the Reflection and Mini Faux Spring. With the emerging trend of reverbs at NAMM, Wampler’s Reflection comes in as a plate-style reverb, with sounds ranging from tight echoes to infinite plate with resonance for days. The Mini Faux Spring nailed what is becoming a common descriptor of reverbs, as Brian commented, “That’s drippy!” As Dan & Mick had a play through these, it also gave the chance to showcase the gritty sounds of the new(ish) Tumnus Deluxe.
One of the big stories out of NAMM was Marshall’s return to the sounds that started it all. The Origin lineup capitalizes on the best of their all-tube tonal know how, while including clever, yet simple, modern appointments. For example, the “tilt” knob which allows players to mix between two classic voiced analog preamps, and “Power Stem” switching to enable low, mid, and high voltages for any playing environment. And all this at a middle-of-the-road price point.
As Dan noted, Marshall “is that sound that changed the world.” So, it’s good to see them back with an amp that reminds all of us why they’re poised to do it again. Hopefully, we can watch out for some Origin amps landing in the TPS shed sometime soon so they can be put through their paces and hit with some pedals.
With that, the NAMM O’Clock News drew to a close. Thanks for the coverage, Dan & Mick, and keep your eyes of for loads of new gear over at Riff City in the weeks and months ahead.