Reverb Picks: The Best New Gear of NAMM 2018

Another NAMM in the books and another overwhelming array of new instruments, gadgets, and toys to consider and covet. It's been a whirlwind of a weekend, and if you've been following our main NAMM page at all, you already have a sense of just how many fantastic new releases are set to hit the street this year.

Compared to last year's show—which to most felt a little flat—the 2018 release log is definitely looking like one for the books. And despite notable absences like Moog, Dave Smith Instruments, and Gibson from the floor, the payload of new releases from various corners of the industry has been second to none.

Today, we're going to take a moment to highlight just a small selection of our favorites from this year's show. This list is far from exhaustive, and I encourage you explore our main NAMM hub for even more highlights.

Coolest Pedal: Chase Bliss Thermae

Choosing a favorite new pedal from the vast selection of the NAMM floor is a near-impossible task, especially in a year that saw releases like the long-awaited Line 6 HX Effects, the hugely ambitious Zoia from Empress, and the endlessly enjoyable Bonsai from JHS.

Of all the new pedals, though, we're going to give a special callout to Chase Bliss Audio, who announced two pedals this year. Chase Bliss designer Joel Korte is easily one of the most creative and innovative pedalsmiths in the business. While tons of pedal designers create effects that can create Wonka-like variety of imaginative sounds, Joel is on a unique level with the artfulness of his approach. His pedals aren't about replicating classic tones so much as they are about unlocking new planes of sound and playing. The Thermae, for instance, is "an analog, pitch-shifting, harmonizing" pedal but is ultimately more than the sum of all of those parts.

Most Intriguing Guitar: Suhr Aura

If sublime, high-end guitars are your bag, this year's NAMM show is a true embarrassment of riches. Every turn and step in the main guitar hall of the convention center revealed another inspiring stash of guitars representing the known universe of guitar styles, formats, shapes, and sizes.

From what we saw, the Suhr Aura made the biggest impression on the guitar scene. A highly influential and respected builder, Suhr has made a huge range of different guitars over the years, but the Aura marks the brand’s first major entry into the single-cut LP-style template.

While the current plan is to only offer this model as part of a limited run, there's always the possibility that it becomes a more regular fixture in the future.

Biggest Impact Synth: Korg Prologue

This was a great show for synth launches. Elektron dropped the new FM synth box, the Digitone, while Pittsburgh Modular showed off their charming new self-contained unit, the Microvolt 3900.

And while the CS-80-esque Deckard's Dream from Black Corporation may take the prize for straight-up raddest synth we got to play with, as far as the most impactful synth for the wide world of music, we have to give it up to the Prologue from Korg.

The Prologue marks a major step forward for Korg and its analog synths by branching from the entry-level sphere of the Minilogue and Volca series, and offering an analog unit with some real heft. In doing so, the Prologue is going up against higher-end makers like Moog and DSI, while also giving the legion of synthists that got hooked on their lower-end line something to upgrade toward when their ambitions really take off.

The Prologue is a new flagship for the bold Japanese firm, and a bellwether for the state of analog synthesis at large.

Smartest Drum Set: Ludwig Neusonic

At every NAMM show, there are always dozens and dozens of fantastic show piece drum sets and no real way to tour them all. As far as new products that are sure to make a splash on the market, we have to call out Ludwig for the new NeuSonic series. These attractive sets are U.S.-made and priced at a point that is attainable for many players looking to upgrade from a lower-tiered entry kit.

While not the only mid-level line on the floor at NAMM this year, the Ludwigs seem to be the one making the most noise. They're durable, strike an excellent middle ground between historic Ludwig legacy and modern drumming demands, and, most importantly, sound fantastic.

We also had a chance to swing by the A&F booth this year to take a look at their snappy Nickel Over Brass kit. Take a look at our video from A&F for a view of this unique build.

Most Impressive Outboard Unit: Retro Instruments Retro Revolver

This year's NAMM saw most of the pro-level recording companies exhibiting in a separate building with a similar layout to what we see at the AES convention every year. Nestled in the corner of Hall A, though, we found Retro Instruments and their Retro Revolver stereo compressor.

Based off of EMI's legendary modified Altec 436 compressor used during the recording of The Beatles' albums, the Revolver is certainly not the only vintage-tuned outboard compressor on the market, but the sound and overall presentation of this unit makes it a standout from the NAMM floor.

See more New Products and Highlights from Winter NAMM 2018
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