NAMM 2020 Gear Roundup: Guitars, Amps, Recording, Microphones and More

American Songwriter is back from the sunny oasis that is the NAMM show and we’ve got a slew of new products for you to add to your wishlist. If you’ve never attended, imagine every musician and music lover in your town crammed into someone’s basement, wailing away and geeking out on the latest, must-have instrument. Whether you’re a casual strummer, ace guitar slinger, pro singer or the go-to recording engineer in your town, there’s something here to make your music sound better in 2020. Check this photo gallery of press releases and look for in-depth reviews of some of these products and more throughout the year. Stay tuned for Part Two of our NAMM coverage next week.

PRS Guitars 35th Anniversary Dragon Guitar

Paul Reed Smith Private Stock 35th Anniversary Dragon Limited Edition

Paul Reed Smith is celebrating the historic Dragon model in 2020 with the ninth installment since the company’s first Dragon model in 1992: the Private Stock 35th Anniversary Dragon Limited Edition.

The visual star of the guitar is the elaborate, fantastical dragon inlay commissioned from Jeff Easley, a fantasy artist famous for some Dungeons & Dragons rulebook covers, who has contributed to several PRS Dragon guitars. PRS again engaged longtime partner Aulson Inlay to deconstruct Easley’s artwork and recreate it into several distinctive parts that have been embedded into the fretboard of the guitar and conclude with the dragon’s breath of fire extending onto the truss rod cover. More than 225 parts were used to create the inlay.

The Private Stock 35th Anniversary Dragon is based off of the PRS McCarty model, featuring a McCarty-thickness back, PRS Stoptail bridge, and a classic volume, push/pull tone control, and 3-way toggle electronics layout, but with TCI model pickups from Paul’s Guitar and tweaked Phase III Locking tuners for a unique balance of vintage and modern specifications. The extraordinary Private Stock grade tone woods were hand selected for this limited series and include a curly maple top, African ribbon mahogany back, and a chaltecoco Pattern neck with a 25” scale length, 22 fret ziricote fingerboard.

The Private Stock 35th Anniversary Dragon will be limited to 135 pieces worldwide and will ship between February and June 2020. From more information, please visit www.prsguitars.com/privatestock.

Fender Acoustasonic Strat

Fender American Acoustasonic Stratocaster

Fender expands the Acoustasonic series with the all-new American Acoustasonic StratocasterFender built on the huge success of the first Acoustasonic Telecaster and what they knew and loved in the original Stratocaster electric guitar, and translated it’s sound and design into a new genre blending tool. The latest addition to the series explores new sonic territories where electric meets acoustic, but with a more twangy and bright sound that cuts through a mix.

The Acoustasonic Stratocaster is an elite tool for the modern player looking to push the boundaries of guitar playing and music forward. The Acoustasonic Stratocaster offers players a new palette of electric and acoustic voicings in line with iconic Stratocaster DNA.

This new iteration of the Acoustasonic series continues to provide more accessibility for aspiring musicians by providing artists with a range of voices and full sonic pallet previously unachievable without buying and hauling around countless guitars. The power of the Fender and Fishman®-designed Acoustic Engine is sure to deliver true inspiration for artists across all genres. From acoustic shapeshifting to electric rhythm tones, this extremely versatile guitar creates a brand-new lane in Fender’s Acoustasonic series of guitars.

Earthworks Vocal Mic Capsules

Earthworks Launches New Vocal Capsules for Live Sound

Earthworks Audio has taken another bold step into the live sound reinforcement market with the release of the SR3314 and the SR5314 wireless vocal microphone capsules. These wireless capsules bring studio clarity to the stage. 

The sound is achieved by coupling the studio-quality small diaphragm cardioid condenser capsule with a Class A amplifier circuit that leverages Earthworks patented and proprietary technologies. This combination makes this the most responsive and fastest microphone capsule on the market. 

The SR3314 is designed to work with any handheld wireless transmitter that utilizes a standard 3-ring concentric connector. This includes wireless microphone models made by Shure, Lectrosonics, Sony, Line 6, Audio-Technica and others with a compatible 3-ring connector. 

The SR5314 is designed to work with the following from Sennheiser: Digital 9000 Series, Digital 6000 Series, 2000 Series, Evolution G4 500 Series, Evolution G4 300 Series, and Evolution G4 100 Series. 

Both capsules have a MAP of $699 and will be available through all traditional pro audio and MI channels starting in February.

Yamaha NCX5 and NTX5 Guitars

Yamaha NX Series Nylon-String Acoustic-Electric Guitars

Yamaha launched the NX Series of six nylon-string acoustic-electric guitars featuring contemporary body styles, along with proprietary preamp and pickup systems developed with the needs of live performers in mind.

The NTX models (NTX1, NTX3 and NTX5) were designed to make it easy for electric and steel-string acoustic guitar players to add the warmth and beauty of nylon-string sounds to their tonal palettes. NTX guitars have slimmer bodies, shallower neck profiles, and narrower fingerboards than classical guitars, providing a more familiar playing experience, while 22-fret and 24-fret (NTX5) necks extend their range beyond that of standard nylon-string instruments. The NCX models (NCX1, NCX3, and NCX5) have classical-style neck profiles and fingerboards and were designed primarily for experienced nylon-string players in search of superior amplified sound. All include strap pins. The NTX3, NTX5, NCX3 and NCX5 guitars incorporate the Atmosfeel® preamp and pickup system, which provides consistently balanced and natural amplified sound even at full performance volumes. An integrated undersaddle piezo pickup with individual string sensors captures only the mid and low frequencies (eliminating the characteristic brittleness of piezo pickups), a unique synthetic sheet transducer captures the highs and an internal microphone captures overall body resonance and “airiness.”

Taylor Guitars Builders Edition Group Shot

Taylor® Guitars Builder’s Edition Collection 816ce, 324ce and more

Taylor Guitars​ announced the expansion of its popular ​Builder’s Edition collection​. Crafted by Master Guitar Designer Andy Powers, these new enhanced “director’s cut” models showcase Powers’ emphasis on elevating the sound, playing comfort and visual appeal of each instrument, incorporating Taylor’s award-winning V-Class™ bracing, unique ergonomic features, and fresh aesthetic details. The models include the Builder’s Edition 816ce, Builder’s Edition 912ce, Builder’s Edition 652ce (12-string) and Builder’s Edition 324ce — with each revealing a distinctive sound and feel.

The Builder’s Edition concept was originally developed to celebrate the debut of Taylor’s breakthrough V-ClassTM bracing architecture in 2018, marrying its sonic virtues with equally envelope-pushing improvements in playing comfort. As a design platform, Builder’s Edition gave Powers freedom from the normal constraints of Taylor’s standard line, and a place to deliver an ultra-premium class of guitars.

“​The Builder’s Edition concept is meant to be a limitless expression of our instrument-building imagination,” said Powers. “​I want to make guitars that are more player-centric than anything we’ve done before​.”

Cole Clark Humbucker Acoustic Guitar

Cole Clark Humbucker Acoustic Performance Guitars

Cole Clark is known for having the most natural plugged in sound available, with no more feedback than you get off a Piezo system. A big part of this is Cole Clark’s Patented Pickup System, the second part is the engineering of the guitar.

Cole Clark’s Humbucker guitar is engineered with a Spanish heel, which stops bottom end rumble, and a carved top to focus the sound. This all means less feedback. Using a double V-Brace system, which they have been using since 2003. In the middle of this, Cole Clark uses a small, scalloped X-Brace. They simply exchange the small X with a piece of timber to mount the humbucker.

The end result, is a guitar which has the worlds most natural plugged in acoustic tone, and a Humbucking pickup which sounds the same as traditional guitars with Humbuckers. The pickups each have a separate output to go to the right amplification required for each type of pickup. There is no feedback, other than normal musical feedback that you would expect from solid humbucking guitars.

There are 4 models, a Fat Lady Dreadnought and an Angel Grand Auditorium in 2 Series with all Australian Blackwood, a Lollar Imperial High Gain Pickup. Then there is a pair 1 Series, with the same body shapes, with a Bunya top and Blackwood back and sides, with a Korean Alnico Humbucker. These will be arriving in the USA at the end of January 2020 for a starting MAP price of $2,899.00. For more information visit www.ColeClarkguitars.com.

Mackie SRM-Flex Portable PA

Mackie SRM-Flex Portable Column PA System

Mackie’s all-new SRM-Flex Portable Column PA System. Featuring an ultra-lightweight design, legendary SRM Series sound quality, a full-featured 6-channel digital mixer, and complete wireless control and streaming, SRM-Flex is perfect for solo acts, small bands, presentations, events, DJs, and more. Packed with premium features and capability, SRM-Flex offers an incredible value not before achieved at this price point.

The modular design of SRM-Flex features a 10” LF woofer in the molded cabinet base module which also contains the 1300W amplifier and built-in digital mixer. The 3-piece tower houses a wide-dispersion array with 6 x 2” high-performance HF drivers for clear, whole room coverage. This modular tower design allows the user to easily change the height of the mid and high frequencies to match the ear level of the audience.

“Portability is a major factor with a portable PA, and SRM-Flex delivers,” said Craig Reeves, Mackie Product Manager. “At under 30 pounds, the SRM Flex is easy to carry one handed, and it’s small size means it will fit easily into the trunk of your car – or even on the bus.”

KickBlock

KickBlock is a breakthrough product for drummers. It totally stops your bass drum from sliding. So say goodbye to bass drum creep and get back to focusing on your music.

Invented by pro drummer Will Butera, KickBlock is different from anything you’ve tried. It grips your drum rug with 27 square inches of special military-grade Velcro and puts a tuned shock-absorbing wall in front of your kit. So your kick drum can’t move– ever– no matter how hard you play.

Mackie Element EM-89D microphone

Mackie Introduces EleMent Series Microphones

Mackie introduces their new EleMent Series microphones. The series consists of three models: the EM-89D Live Vocal Dynamic, EM-91C Large-Diaphragm Condenser, and EM-USB USB Condenser microphones. The EM-89D dynamic microphone features a cardioid polar pattern and is primarily designed for stage use but also makes a fine addition to a studio microphone collection.
The new Mackie EM-91C’s audio quality and classic cardioid polar pattern makes it suitable for a wide variety of studio applications. Choose the EM-91C when you want warmth and brilliance for vocals, to capture the nuances of stringed instruments, and much more.
With the Mackie EM-USB condenser microphone, you can get down to recording, live streaming, podcasts, and online content creation quickly, without requiring a separate audio interface. Connect directly to your laptop or mobile recording device using USB-C. The EM-USB features a built-in headphone output with independent volume control. Available in January 2020, the EM-89D carries a US MAP of $69.99; the EM-91C is priced at $79.99 US MAP; and the EM-USB is available at $149.99 US MAP. www.mackie.com/element.
Steinberg Dorico SE notation software

Dorico SE Free music notation software

Steinberg adds a new member to the Dorico family of music notation software products: Dorico SE allows beginning composers and arrangers to create beautiful sheet music for one or two players, and is completely free to use.

Phil The Tip Jar

Phil The Tip Jar

Phil the Tip Jar is the world’s first interactive thank you-card-dispensing tip jar complete with LED lights and sound effects. Bands will now be able to custom print their logo, upcoming show dates, social media handles, etc — anything they want on Phil the Tip Jar’s unique thank you cards which are dispensed whenever someone tips the band. Bands can also upload their logo and color scheme and create custom branding for the Phil the Tip Jar unit itself.  

Features:

  • Professional design
  • Money Drop Slot with infrared motion sensor
  • LED Light Effects illuminates blue, red and green or cycles through all colors
  • Contact card storage slot
  • Special sound effect – with audible “cha-ching” sound when a tip is received and contact card is dispensed. (this can be disabled when necessary)
  • Power cord (battery option coming in late 2020)
  • Phil the Tip Jar is now available online at www.tipfortipjar.com/phil for $195.00.  Bands can customize their own Phil on the site at the time of purchase.  
Zylia ZR-1 Portable Recorder and ZM-1 Microphone System

ZYLIA ZR-1 Portable Recorder

Zylia debuted the ZYLIA ZR-1 portable recording device. Designed for professional users of the innovative ZYLIA ZM-1 microphone system, the powerful new ZYLIA ZR-1 recorder offers a convenient laptop replacement for outdoor and ambient sound recordings, 3rd order Ambisonics recording, and 360-degree recording.

“In response to user requests and feedback, we are launching a product that enables recording independent of the laptop,” said Tomasz Zernicki, Zylia co-founder and chief technology officer. “This highly efficient portable recorder simplifies outdoor recording while making 3rd order Ambisonics recording easy. With this uniquely portable and powerful solution, users have the freedom to record hundreds of hours of 360-degree audio in virtually any environment.”

Measuring 206 mm by 196 mm by 58 mm and weighing around 1 kg, the rugged ZYLIA ZR-1 fits neatly into a standard field recorder bag and requires only a USB connection to the ZYLIA ZM-1 to support audio recording. Convenient control, status, and monitoring options help users make the most of the ZYLIA ZM-1 and its exceptional recording capabilities while working in the field. Equipped with an SDXC memory card (up to 2 TB) and powered either by eight AA batteries or an external 5V power source, the ZYLIA ZR-1 allows users to record over 220 hours of 19-channel 48kHz/24bit PCM audio or around 300 hours of compressed data (Wavepack). Stored files can be transferred to other external devices to free up space on the ZR-1 for further recording.

Blackstar Sonnet Acoustic Amp

Blackstar Sonnet Series Acoustic Guitar Amp

The Blackstar Sonnet Series faithfully amplifies the natural response of your acoustic instrument, capturing every nuance of its tone and your performance.

Each model has two independent channels, microphone and instrument, with their own EQ and reverb level settings and a host of player-friendly features such as XLR and USB outputs. The addition of Bluetooth audio playback makes them the ideal solution for solo performers or duos.

These amps are powerful, light and compact, with an adjustable tilt-back stand to project the sound for any performance.

Blackstar Sonnet Features:

Natural Sound
Hear the natural tone of your acoustic instrument through the unique Natural 60 and Natural 120 speaker. The essence of a natural acoustic tone is delivered by the custom-voiced Natural speaker. Hear the clarity and authenticity of your acoustic tone the way nature intended.

Performance Versatility: instrument, microphone, Bluetooth, Line In – 4 simultaneous inputs
Instrument and vocal microphone inputs, MP3/Line In, and Bluetooth connectivity for wireless audio playback. All 4 inputs can be used at once for ultimate versatility.

Acoustic Control: High Pass Filter and Brilliance control
Acoustic-minded High Pass Filter (HPF) and Brilliance controls to adjust the crucial body resonance and piezo high-end of acoustic instruments.

Pro Connections

Capture tones easily with simple low-latency USB audio out, plus mix D.I. XLR for perfect recording and mixer connections.

Bluetooth
Sonnet has easy-to-pair Bluetooth audio streaming for playing along to music or backing tracks.

MP3/Line in:
Sonnet has an MP3/Line in for jamming along, listening to music or adding a line level instrument to the mix.

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