NS Design NXTa Radius Bass
These new instruments from game-changer Ned Steinberger’s NS Design are all about comfort and playability, and feature a wildly ergonomic “Diradial” body with a radiused front and concave back, plus Steinberger’s signature headstock-less design that puts the ax in perfect balance (not to mention the tuning stability). The Dual Mode Output Electronics include pickups designed by NS in collaboration with EMG, with a push-pull tone knob that allows the instrument to go between passive and battery-free active modes (through an included AC adapter, 60 seconds of charge equals 16 hours of play). Two models are available: the four-string NXT4a ($1,749 online) and the five-string NXT5a ($1,849).
Waves Bass Slapper
When you need a bit of that Marcus Miller vibe in the studio or onstage, Waves’ Bass Slapper plugin will deliver not only the requisite tones—including an array of effects—but also the essential techniques, among them muting, popping and thumbing, on a five-string bass with automatic string switching and 11 playing positions. Through a good set of studio monitors at the NAMM Show, the Bass Slapper sounded strikingly lifelike. $69 online.
Yamaha’s new “Casual Wind Instrument” sits in the median between the recorder and the saxophone—think the former’s portability and easy-to-master fingerings with tone and projection that evokes the latter. Weighing less than half a pound and constructed using strong, water-washable ABS resin, the Venova should fulfill many functions: a quirky single-reed, two-octave ax for avant-gardists; an education tool for potential sax students; and a picnic-ready woodwind analogy to the ukulele or travel guitar. $99.99 online.
Ernie Ball 40th Anniversary Volume Pedal
Like a Tube Screamer or a DS-1 Distortion or a Cry Baby Wah, Ernie Ball’s Volume Pedal has been a bandstand staple for decades. To celebrate 40 years of atmospheric swells and screaming leads, Ernie Ball has released an anniversary-edition VP, boasting an attractive yet durable black aluminum chassis—actually the smaller VP Jr size—and an internal cord made out of Kevlar, for added playability and longevity. $129.99 online.
Gon Bops Roberto Quintero Signature Congas
Dave Samuels, Brian Lynch, Dafnis Prieto, Arturo O’Farrill, even Roy Haynes—all have called on Roberto Quintero to give their recordings the necessary percussive fire. Quintero is now the very deserving recipient of signature congas (and bongos) from Gon Bops. The big drums, available in Conga, Tumba and Super Tumba sizes, feature fiberglass shells, custom REMO Skyndeep heads and Gon Bops’ California Series Contour Hardware. $634.99-$699.99 online.