For a musician, a visit to NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants' annual confab, is a lot like being a kid in the candy store. How does one take in products by more than 5,000 brands from around the world? Dizzyingly.
Paris-based Audionamix demonstrated their newest tool, ADX TRAX, the world’s first automated audio separation software. The cloud-based technology offers a unique way to achieve high-quality extractions of vocals from the music. The software helps musicians, mixers, audio engineering professionals and producers reduce time=consuming manual editing, which is usually required to effectively isolate a lead vocal or create an instrumental. An annual, prepaid software license for ADX TRAX starts at $240 (www.audionamix.com).
NAMM attendees flocked to the ESP Guitars booth to marvel at the hand-crafted, custom one-of-a-kind guitars and basses. This custom "Angel" guitar from the ESP Guitars Custom Shop in Tokyo, Japan took years to be constructed. James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett of Metallica performed with their ESP Guitars on the Grammy Awards Jan. 26. New for this year, the James Hetfield Signature Series Iron Cross is available in Snow White finish in both ESP ($4899) and LTD ($1099) versions.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the greatest electric guitar of all time, the Fender Stratocaster. To mark the occasion, Fender introduced spot-on period-accurate recreations of the 1954 Strat, alongside modern-day versions featuring solder-less technology, sound cards and iOS compatibility.
The 120th anniversary of the "Double Diamond" series guitars were also on display. A one carat weight of diamonds, hand-painted art deco pin-striping, 24-carat gold plating and hardwire are crafted on the instrument. Gibson's NAMM booth also showcased artifacts and historical instruments including an 1894 Orville Gibson 10-string guitar, a 1902 big red harp guitar, 1890s butterfly guitar, 1946 Wurlitzer 1015 and the world’s first drum machine.
Martin Guitars unveiled two new custom shop models, the EricClapton OM-ECHF Navy Blues and the CS-00S-14. This is the third in a series of collaborations between the iconic guitar company, Clapton and HiroshiFujiwara. Among their feature: the neck and body are lacquered and polished with a striking dark navy combined with an East Indian rosewood back and sides and a European spruce soundboard. Each Navy Blues six-string bears an interior label, individually numbered and personally signed by Clapton, Fujiwara, DickBoak and C. F. Martin IV. Quantities will be limited to 181 guitars. (MSRP: $6,999).
This Bluetooth-enabled pocket-sized device pacifies the process of tuning by doing it automatically as the string is strum. The gadget recently launched through Kickstarter, having raised 296 percent of its goal. According to co-founder HassaneSlaibi, it is three times more accurate than the human ear. The product will also include an electric guitar adapter and will be available in June for a retail price of $99. (www.roadietuner.com)
Johnny Depp Artist Series
A collector of vintage instruments, Johnny Depp has been a longtime fan and owner of Germany's Duesenberg Guitars. Returning the love, the company debuted the limited Johnny Depp signature guitar NAMM 2014. With only 52 of the hand-signed guitars available worldwide, Duesenberg promises a production version later, with a portion of the proceeds going to charities of Depp's choice. Other Duesenberg Artist Series guitars include custom designs for RonnieWood of the Rolling Stones, MikeCampbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, DaveStewart of Eurythmics, and the 40th Anniversary Eagles Signature Guitar.
An acoustic piano with a volume control? A digital piano with strings? At NAMM 2014, Yamaha introduced the new U1TA PE Professional, the first instrument of its kind to reproduce all sounds (acoustic piano plus 19 additional instruments) from the soundboard rather than from a traditional speaker. TransAcoustic technology turns the entire piano into one big loudspeaker, In addition, Bösendorfer, the oldest premium piano manufacturer in the world, displayed its Opus No. 50,000 grand piano. The finely crafted handmade instrument was recently unveiled during a grand ceremony at the Wiener Musikverein in Vienna celebrating the company’s 185th anniversary.
U.S. Music Corp.'s Washburn Guitars has had a long relationship with virtuoso Nuno Bettencourt (Rihanna, Extreme), and for NAMM 2014, they updated his popular N4 signature model guitar, adding in a carbon fiber fretboard and stainless steel frets. The N4CV retails for $3,999.90. Bettencourt is currently working with sister company Randall Amplifiers to develop the next generation of his signature line of guitar amplifiers.
Looking to invest in your first guitar? Check out Taylor Guitars, which counts such artist as JasonMraz, ZacBrown and TaylorSwift as devotees and celebrates its 40th year in business. New for NAMM 2014: the sleek 200 Series Deluxes which feature a layered rosewood body with solid Sitka spruce top and an optional sunburst finish.