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NAMM 2008

From Jan. 17-20, the 2008 NAMM trade show took place in sunny Anaheim, Calif., where tens of thousands of buyers, sellers, players and writers converged to gawk at new gear. Due in no small part to the shaky economy, this more conservative show brought fewer innovations but still plenty of shiny new toys worth taking out a loan for (especially if you’re a guitar player). Here’s a rundown of some of the best new stuff, so make note of what you like here and go purchase it at your nearest mom-and-pop retailer.

Guitars & Basses

Ibanez showcased a limited-run 30th-anniversary George Benson model with a metallic-flake finish, a new PM35NT Pat Metheny signature model that accommodates students with a list price just over a grand, and a few new additions to the Artcore line. For smooth-fusion fanatics, Gibson’s Custom Shop is releasing in limited quantities a Lee Ritenour ES-335 replica, complete with a relic aging process: It’s the closest you’ll get to owning Ritenour’s ax without stealing it from his tour bus. On the opposite end of the price spectrum is Godin’s 5th Avenue ax (pictured), a handsome traditional laminate archtop made in Canada with great playability and an old-school Gibson feel-all at a $625 list price. The artisans at Paul Reed Smith unleashed an avalanche of new product, including some sexy single-cutaway hollowbodies: Look up the SC Jumbo Thinline (with Bigsby tremolo), the SC Hollowbody I and the SC Hollowbody Standard. In solidbody instruments, acoustic manufacturers Taylor made news with their long-awaited foray into electric six-strings. Not quite the radical departure in instrument design Taylor’s ad campaign suggested, they are extremely versatile, sounding at home in fusion-friendly high-gain settings but cleaning up nicely at lower levels and with the tone knobs turned back. The big to-do at Fender’s booth (by far the coolest space at the show) was the redesigned American Standard series of Strat, Tele, Jazz Bass and P-Bass. Especially welcome are the new case designs-sturdy flight-style protection custom-manufactured for Fender by SKB. Other bass guitars of note include Yamaha’s RBX5 and RBX4 A2M models: futuristic, ultra-light-weight designs with sleek finishes and fast necks. On the bluesier side, National Reso-Phonic introduced the ResoJr-II, an affordable hybrid resonator perfect for electric players looking to pick some rusty-sounding country blues. Speaking of country blues, that genre’s premier clinician, Stefan Grossman, has a new signature dreadnought from Martin; it features a unique C-shaped neck, 14 Jumbo frets and a beautiful Sitka spruce top. For ax-slinging Hammond B3 freaks, Hammond/Leslie has released the G37, the company’s first rotating speaker cabinet with an integrated guitar amp, and the G27, a rotating-speaker cab sans amp.

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