Headlines From NAMM 2015

NAMM 2015 is finally here! The show is always huge, with every manufacturer in attendance. Reverb is on the hunt for the newest gear, with pictures and video content to follow. Here are the biggest trends from the show this year:

Innovation is down, improvements are up.

Every company except Gibson (more on that later) seemed to really focus on making incremental improvements to their products based on player feedback, rather than launching new products or paradigm-shifting breakthroughs. The best example was Pedaltrain, who completely overhauled their line, tweaking every board to allow for smaller box pedals to fit better, and for power supply cables to run through easier. They even cut the weight of their cases by 35%.

Taylor similarly redesigned their popular 600 series, with many small changes that add up to huge improvements. New features include torrefied (aged by roasting) spruce tops, hand-rubbed stains, new inlay shapes, a thinner finish, protein based glues (which behave more like hide glue), shifted braces for unique maple-body voicing and an improved Expression System pickup. The aged spruce tops are meant to look and sound broken-in fresh from the factory.

A top highlight was the Variax Standard, the first innovation to come out of the new partnership of Line 6 and Yamaha. At a amazing street price of $799, the Variax technology is offered in Yamaha Pacifica format, a classic Strat shape with the entire Variax system seamlessly integrated.

The next great American Guitar is Canadian.

Godin really upped the ante with its redesigned Core series, aiming for the hearts of Les Paul fans everywhere. The parts lists is premium: set neck, maple top, Graphtech bridge, Seymour Duncan USA pickups (humbuckers, P-Rails, or P-90s) and Ping tuners, plus Godin's switchable preamp. For $1095-$1895, there is not a guitar made in North America that can touch it.

Student models finally get the reissue treatment.

Guitars are constantly being recreated in their old image, but it was surprising to see reissues of low-end vintage guitars, such as Silvertone and Harmony models. Surprisingly, the Danelectro-style Silvertones are being remade with upgraded parts, but also with solid bodies, an odd choice for fans of their classic hollow forefathers.

In the same vein, Ibanez came out with a few '60s-inspired new models, a Strat/Jag offset shape and a Ric/LP Junior-esque model. Nice to see their non-metal offerings take form.

The $1000-1500 guitar has gotten a lot better (and is made abroad).

Countless makers were aiming at the mid-range price point with really great results. Dean has countless new Mustaine models (even a semi-hollow!), which is great news for the V-Lovers.

Schecter and ESP had a number of high-quality models in this price range as well, with the ESP/LTD 40th anniversary editions being two great examples.

Schecter has new SG, Les Paul, and V-inspired models in that price range, with top quality pickups and hardware. Their new Banshee Elite has their USA pickups, a Sustainiac, and a Floyd Rose and neck-through construction for only $1260.

Guild lives on with Cordoba.

Great news for Guild lovers: the electric side of Guild will live on under the new Cordoba ownership. Cordoba is committed to bringing Guild back to the forefront, and has introduced several Korean made reissues of the Guild jazz boxes and solid bodies aimed at the sub-$2k market. They expect to be making a Guild electric line in the US by 2016, while acoustics are already rolling through production.

Gibson goes out of the box, Fender stays the course.

Lastly, news from the giants. Gibson revamped its 2015 Nashville line enormously- too much to go over in one article, but thankfully they assured me that the semi-hollow Memphis line will remain robot-tuning-and-brass-nut-free. The rare L6S returns as a short run of Ronnie Wood Signature models, which seems like and odd choice. The 335/339 Studio was redesigned again, with the binding and traditional shape returning at a great $1600 price point.

Gibson is all-in with their pro-audio market, making high-end Les Paul-themed monitors and headphones, with flamed maple on everything.They also introduced some very festive looking microphones.

Fender offered new finish colors for most of its Jackson, Charvel, and EVH lines. Also included was an affordable Wolfgang with a Tune-o-matic bridge, which seems very un-EVH. Finally, the American Special line has a new sandblasted ash body option, which makes each figure of the grain more pronounced and textured. Very cool in person, and an interesting feel.

Those just a few quick highlights from NAMM - stay tuned for more pics and videos here on The Tank and through our social media. Did you go to NAMM? What were your highlights?

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