It is quite evident that Summer Namm is significantly the junior to the January show. In speaking to several UK retailers, they pretty much order in for most of the year at Winter NAMM. The big issue with that of course is that a significant part of what was announced and ordered back in January still hasn’t been delivered yet. And the worst time to receive stock is in the off-season, which is right about now. This is why very few of the UK retailers attend the summer show.
One retailer I spoke to had ordered in a number of Custom Shop guitars, and they were still nowhere near materialising. There were a slew of products that were announced ready for ordering at Winter NAMM, but there is still no sign of several of those in retail channels. This includes the Synergy Modular Amp, the Diezel VH4 MKII pedal, and the Source Audio Ventris Dual Reverb. At least with the Ventris, the demo pedals are in their final production enclosure - a dark grey with black rather than the prototype’s white dials. They seem to hint at an Autumn launch now, but are still not crystal clear on dates - you can understand vendor frustrations therefore.
From a consumer point of view there’s not as much that catches the eye here - I did not really see anything that intrigued me in the area of new guitars or amps, except perhaps for the re-launch of the USA-made Peavey HP2 guitars which are kind of cool - I really like the headstocks on those:
The only area with significant innovations was pedals, and as usual Jake Behr and Gabriel Tanaka of Best Guitar Effects did the best roundup with their ’Top 28 Best Guitar Effects Pedals of Summer NAMM 2017’ piece. I had picked out most of those myself through watching various YouTube coverage, but had somehow overlooked the Neunaber Inspire.
Anyway, I’ve picked out 9 of the pedals that captured my attention at this show, most likely acquisition from those is probably the Pigtronix Mothership 2 - as I’m in the market for a synth pedal, and that one looks and sounds amazing.
This one is best described as an 80's console game glitch pedal - it produces all manner of 8bit -type computer noises via 4 dials - Sample, Code, Mix and Tweak, and a separate 'Hold Alt.' button. Definitely a very specialist / niche pedal, but great for those who like to make unusual guitar noises - fans of the Knobs channel for instance. I really love what it does, but am not necessarily in a position to be adding pedals of this nature quite yet, I still have a wishlist of higher priority swap-outs to get through first - but this one is definitely on my radar, it the perfect form factor, and is surprisingly versatile in the kinds of glitches it produces - watch the above video for examples. By the way I really love the Alexander La Calavera phaser pedal - it sounds phenomenal.
Joel Korte's fabulous analogue delay pedal has had a major update - he's doubled the number of Bucket Brigade chips to 4 for an even longer 1100ms max delay time and in his usual way he has smoothed out all the tiny niggles he had with the original blue-knob version. All this has bumped up the pretty hefty price tag by another £100. The regularly priced Chase Bliss pedals were already high at £349 a piece, and now Tonal Recall has jumped from £399 to £499 - I'd really have to question if it fully justifies that tag. I at one stage thought I might acquire all the Chase Bliss pedals, for sure I will get the Wombtone phaser to add to my other 3 - Brothers, Gravitas and Spectre; I'm not sure about the Warped Vinyl Chorus, and the sky high price of the new Tonal Recall means it drops down the wishlist a few places. Amazing pedals though - all of them.
DigiTech certainly know how to innovate, and look to do the same kind of thing they did with the Trio - just focusing on the drums this time. You use your lower strings to strum the kick beat, and the higher strings to set the snare. Much like the Trio, the pedal then fills in the groove with hats and rides, and allows you to sweep through a number of setting to mix things up. Like the Trio+ we have the ability to set Verse, Chorus and Bridge parts - with various options for drum kits and tempo. There are also two pads on the pedal which allow you to manually tap out the beats. While I haven't used the Trio+ for a while, I definitely think I would get some mileage out of this one. At one stage I was considering getting the Beat Buddy, but this beats that hands-down - more organic, and more versatile, better form-factor, and better price too - definitely one for the wishlist.
Fuzzrocious are one of the masters of odd-ball pedals - like the 'Feed Me'. The LunaReclipse simplifies the concept somewhat by having only a single 12-mode dial versus the 4 of the Feed Me. Each notch enables a different clipping effect from clean boost through to various degrees of overdrive and distortion via combinations of mainly Germanium and LED diodes. A very simple but versatile and effective pedal - for spicing up your tone.
So this is an update of the fairly long-standing Keeley Delay+Reverb pedal, now in a significantly larger enclosure with larger dials. The pedal is certainly prettier in some ways, but looses some practicality in its larger form factor. The key modes have switched from Modulated | Plate | Shimmer to Modulated | Spring | Shimmer, and the new pedal gains an additional modulation Rate dial, as well as new 3-mode modulation depth toggle. There have been a slew of ambient pedals recently - EQD's Avalanche Run, and Foxpedal's The Wave, this looks to gain ground on those two alternatives - while my favourite in that sector is probably the newish Wampler Ethereal - especially because of a more compact form-factor.
One of the most beloved compact analogue delay pedals gets an expansive luxury makeover. If you thought the new Tonal Recall's 4 BBD chips were impressive, this pedal has 8!, yet the increase in max delay time is imperceptible - from 1100ms to 1200ms. The larger pedal contains both the regular and 'Bright' pedal versions, and has tap tempo. My favourite part is the clear and elegant lit-up display of tap divisions. I have long admired the Carbon Copy for its clear tones, but frankly all iterations of the pedal are still rather too simple for my needs - and I totally love my Empress EchoSystem, which I believe is still king of the pack!
I alas saw no video coverage of this for Summer Namm - there still does not appear to be anything on YouTube either for Neunaber Inspire or Neunaber Summer NAMM. From the pictures alone this looks like a Chorus equivalent of the justifiably wildly popular Neunaber Immerse Reverberator. Here we have 8 chorus and vibe modes with complementary modulations applied and adjusted via dedicated dial - exactly per the Immerse. Neunaber's Tri-Chorus is very well received, and this particular execution should make this pedal almost as popular as the Immerse. I am personally not a huge fan of chorus, but I am a big fan of the Immerse, and this looks like more of the same.
Of all the pedals featured here, this one is the one that has me the most excited. Pigtronix have taken the vast majority of functionality they had inside their larger format Mothership pedal, and squeezed it into this regular enclosure. The only way they could achieve this is through some genius miniaturisation engineering and the use of 5 dual-concentric pots - replicating the function of 10 individual ones obviously. The new pedal is just 1/3 the size of its forebear and sounds every bit as good. I was considering getting the DigiTech Dirty Robot for a while, or the EQD BitCommander, but alas or fortunately, the Mothership 2 blows those 2 our of the water! This is exactly the kind of pedal innovation I love seeing, and the reason I like pedals like this and Chase Bliss - regular enclosures full of versatility and wonder. All pedal makers can learn from these.
I saw several mentions of this, but no video coverage for Summer NAMM. It's nice to see that the final production enclosure is ready now - they've chosen a carbon grey enclosure with black knobs, instead of the earlier demoed white on black. I still think the white dials would work kind of well. There are obviously some gremlins in the mix here, as this pedal was initially feted for a summer release, but they are now saying 'Autumn'. Hopefully it's just fine-tuning now, as all the major decisions seem to have been taken and are fully represented on the new chassis. This pedal is still of interest for me, as it goes head to head with the recently launched Boss RV-500 pedal. There have been some odd rumours about the Spring Reverb on that not sounding sufficiently authentic, but we know the engineers at Source Audio have spent months perfecting their own version of Spring Reverb. I can't take everything I've read as gospel - as there are plenty of trolls out their disparaging everything regardless. I still prefer a screen on my larger-range workstation pedals, so the Boss has the advantage there, but there are rumours that Empress might be doing something also. I genuinely love my big Strymon Pedals, but have already unseated one (TimeLine) with the Empress EchoSystem. There are total purists out there who rave about the 'pristine' qualities of Strymon, and they are right. But we must consider everything in balance, and if 'Spring' is the only weakness of the RV-500, I am still tempted - as I love everything else it brings. If Empress were to bring out their own Dual Reverb, I would likely go with that, if neither of those options are good enough - I'm back to waiting for this Ventris to arrive!