NAMMbulating 2010
NAMM Convention January 2010, Anaheim, CA


NAMM 2010.  The economy sucks.  What would the convention be like?

Comfortable shoes, AirBorne, a couple of aspirin, lots of water.  Yeah, I was set.

I parked over on a side street near Katella and Walnut, ate breakfast at Tacos Mi Pueblo, and walked over to Hall E, which frequently has innovative things from smaller companies.  This year, I traveled light, taking the little Leica point-and-shoot instead of the Nikon DSLR.  Much easier on my shoulder during the long NAMM day.

Hall E was decimated.  Okay, I exaggerate, but there were a LOT of empty booths.  I have been going to NAMM shows since the mid-'90s, and I've never seen that before.  But Hall E has al of of smaller companies, and apparently they just don't have the budget to put together a booth. Upstairs had some empty booths as well, again, a rarity.

One of the innovative things in Hall E was ToneRite, a device you place on your guitar or other stringed instrument when you're not playing it.  It vibrates softly, mimicking the physics that occur naturally when you play.  And why would you want to to do that?  According to the rep, the ToneRite® can significantly accelerate the play-in process and provide you with increased tone, playability and balance, giving you the sound of a mature, vintage instrument in less than a week.  Apparently Kronos Quartet agree.  They use them on their stringed instruments.

Grid1 is a beautiful sounding 60-watt battery-powered tube guitar amp - they say it might be the first such amp - with a proprietary double lush reverb circuit on two channels (clean and distorted, of course), and can last on battery power for 4-6 hours.  It uses a rechargeable lithium battery (7 amp hour, 26 volt).  Oh, yeah, it uses a plug, too.  And it takes pretty much any voltage.

I stopped by Pigtronix mostly because I saw all the Supro amps and was curious.  I watched their stomp pedal demonstration, and ended up plunking down dough for the Pigtronix Echolution.  Yeah, I know, I already have several delay pedals, some really nice.  So why did I get this?

This pedal has an astonishingly beautiful bloom like I've rarely heard before, and by far the widest three-dimensional stereo image I've ever heard from a pedal.  Beautiful lush delays flow forth from the two-delay pedal. 

Aside from the gorgeous sound, I was also captivated by the Multi-Tap toggle switches which introduce any combination of five additional echoes at musical fractions of the master delay time.  And since it was a full frequency range pedal, I licked my chops at the possibility of running my Korg MS-20, Roland MKS-70 analog synths or my Nord Electro 2 through this baby.  And then, there are the signal processing capabilities with Pro Tools.  Yeah.

The short setting (10ms-120ms) provides stereo chorus, reverb and slapback sounds. The medium setting (100ms-1.2sec) covers classic BBD and tape echo territory with lush modulation and rich analog sound. The long setting (1sec-12sec) allows for sound on sound, looping and reverse playback as well as rhythmic multi-tap patterns and pitch bending madness.

Yeah, I mentioned *reverse* playback.  Instant psychedelia.

So, yeah, tap tempo, modulation (independent - and you can toggle between 'em - hell yeah!), a drive control for saturation, true bypass, true stereo, ability to freeze loops.  The Echolution pedal is a unique hybrid of analog and digital circuit design, which apparently provides the tonal richness of analog echo machines with the flexibility of a programmable digital delay.  The delays, they said, were controlled digitally.  Whatever it was, it sounded big and warm and fat, and as I said, really wide 3-D like I've never heard from a pedal.  I't being shipped to me...I can't wait to get it.  $300 NAMM special.

Primacoustic kick mic stand.  You get the idea...similar principle as the Primacoustic Recoil Stabilizer.  No idea how much this'll cost.

The Voice Capo is, according to them, the world's first true chord-forming capo.  Seemed to work great in the demonstration.  What a clever idea, and at $59, really not a bad way to go.  The rep said that people have been trying to do this for over two hundred years, but they seem to have gotten it right and have patented the device.  Wow.

Every year, I think that this will be the year in which I try and learn to play lap steel.  And every year I try it at NAMM.  And every year, I walk away thinking it's too damn hard.  This year, I didn't try to play it.  I just admired this '50s lap steel guitar.

Should I buy one and learn this year?  Sure, between my photography, recording bands, my acid folk project, my ambient improvisational project, possible gigs recording Linda Perhacs' album and a hip-hop artist named Khyair and my health benefits being slashed at my job, yeah, this is a great year to learn!! 

Sound Control to Major NAMM, you're getting very loud...


Went to the Digide-, er, Avid Booth.  Er, I think it was.  Yes, it was.  Gus was there.  Always great to see him.  He explained that the usual Digidesi-, er, Avid booth, with the ongoing demonstrations, all the gear, all the structures, cost $500,000.  And here, they had put together the booth for $40,000.  "We have nothing new," Gus said.  And it was true.  Nothing to show.  There was still a lot of activity at the booth, primarily meetings and deals, but no Pro Tools 8 demonstrations, no new M-Audio widgets, no new nothing displayed.

For me, no visit to NAMM is complete without a stop at Big City Music's booth.  This is the Analogue Systems System 8500 Modular Synthesizer.  Whreeeeeee!!!!!  And the Mellotron had this new Chamberlin model. 

At some point, I walked out of the Anaheim Convention center & out into the fresher air, walking down Katella for fifteen minutes or so to go back to Tacos Mi Pueblo.  The breakfast had been pretty good, and fish tacos for $4.25 was satisfying.  Dropped off some stuff at my car to lighten the load and walked back, ready for more yelling over the din and aimless traipsing.


I walked down the 6800 Aisle looking for Dave Bryce, who worked for Summit Audio.  Didn't see him the first time.  Or the second time.  But the second time, I looked closer at sign that said "Summit Audio", finally realizing that it was a sign for their new line of digital mixers!  Crap, could they be any dumber?  Just down the aisle was Summit Audio, who have been making high-end pro audio gear for decades, gear that my acquaintance Bryan Carlstrom has been using for over twenty years.  Yeah.  We'll probably be hearing more about that.


After 6pm, Kurzweil had a special after-hours event.  This is Ray Kurzweil of Kurzweil Music.  He also talks of the Singularity.  What is that exactly?

According to Kurzweil's website, "An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense "intuitive linear" view. So we won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century -- it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today's rate). The "returns," such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There's even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity -- technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light."

Anyway, Stevie Wonder was due to perform.  We hung for a while, but then left for a dinner gathering of twenty or so people, all super friendly.  That was not to be missed.

Sherri and Gus at Buca di Beppo at the dinner.

The monochromatic look that we've switched to here?  Purely artistic, I assure you, and has nothing to do with me not being able to figure out how to change the white balance on the little Leica point-and-shoot, oh no.

Jeff da Weasel and his girlfriend Program Girl amazed all actually appearing at a gathering, albeit for a couple of minutes for what Geoff Grace described as a "dinner drive-by".  But no, Jeff, stopping for two minutes and not sitting down does not constitute showing up for dinner...

Geoff ponders harnessing Dave Bryce's infinite energy to light large cities.

Dave Bryce ponders the menu, with Sherri looking on.  Dave ended up ordering a bunch of cool stuff, and the fine organization that Stephen works for ended up paying for some of the bill, particularly generous in this sad economy.

I don't have photos of anyone else at the dinner because I was hemmed in.  And I was lazy. photos of Fortner, Markyboard, Bob, Eric, Marzzz, or anyone else.  Doesn't that suck?

Geoff, Gus, Dave, Sherri, and I.

On the NAMM floor, I also ran into Steve (Extreme Mixing on Craig Anderton's SSS forum on Harmony Central) and EveAnna Manley of Manley Labs, who had an eventful year, getting married, buying a house, and breaking her foot.

Other cool stuff that I didn't have photos for include the Waves Vocal Rider, the Yamaha CP1 piano, the Reunion Blues Continental guitar case (their video of someone heaving a guitar off a three-story roof onto concrete repeatedly with the guitar not even being scratched was fascinating), and some other stuff was cool too.  Lots of cool gizmos.  But I go to NAMM largely to hang out with my friends...and it's not so much to get a hoarse voice, breathe pukey air, get sore feet, and feel like I survived something.

Lastly, I want to thank Dave Bryce for everything, including organizing the dinner.

NAMMbulating 2010 - NAMM Show, Anaheim, CA


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