Winter NAMM and 2018 Predictions

If we put aside the whole ritual with the tree, the theme songs and the eggnog, what generally contribute to the whole Christmas anticipation? Gifts! More particularly the unknown factor of what gift we would get and what is hidden in those packages behind the wrap paper. We generally can imagine what they can be, based on our wishes, but we can never be 100% sure if it really will be what we think it would be.

There’s another kind of traditional anticipation that generally builds after Christmas. It’s called: Winter NAMM.

The Winter NAMM is one of the most important music trade show in the world. It’s generally during (or around) Winter NAMM that manufacturers are introducing their new products, sometimes wrapped behind a curtain like a Christmas gift. Unless you’re in the confidence of the manufacturers (generally after signing a non-disclosure agreement), there’s no way to really know for sure what will be revealed at Winter NAMM. All we can do then is to speculate and predict based on our own observations and wishes.

So here’s my quick list of the Top 10 predictions for Winter NAMM and 2018.

1- PRS “Strat” & Tremonti Archon 15W
Paul Reed Smith has been beating around the bush for few years now, trying to release the perfect PRS version of a bolt-on neck three single-coils guitar (a.k.a. Strat). We saw many attempts with the EG, the 305, DC3 or even some Super-Strat such the Brent Mason signature, but it’s probably because of John Mayer that we might finally get it. Since John Mayer shown some kind of “strat-like” prototype during shows in 2017, there’s now a great anticipation for this coming new model. It’s said to be pretty close sounding from Mayers ’62 Vintage strat. So let’s hope it will be an affordable S2 or Core version and not just another high-end super-limited over-10 grand Private Stock model.

If the PRS “Strat” is affordable, it would be a great companion for the Tremonti Signature Amp that should also come sooner or later. Tremonti himself did mention in many videos and revealed in some instagram pictures what his PRS Amp signature would look like: A 15 watts mini version of the PRS Archon that he would hope to see on the market for $700. The PRS Archon is a high-gain amp that has been well acclaimed the last years. But not everyone needs a 50 or 100 watts. So, a small and affordable 15 watts to be usable in small venues and bedroom practice… it could be a real winner!

So let’s hope for PRS to be influenced by John Mayer and Mark Tremonti inputs for their new products in 2018.


2- Fractal Axe-FX 3
Like it or not, Fractal Audio has been one of the game changer companies out there, by making what might be considered as one of the best digital amp system. And even if there will always be this whole debate with analog/tube and debate with other digital systems (Kemper, Bias, Headrush, Helix, etc…), we can’t deny the fact that the Fractal Axe FX does sound pretty good… good enough to be used by a lot of recording and touring artists/bands (from Vai to Periphery, from Metallica to Guthrie Govan and many others). Unfortunately, the whole Axe-FX UI (User Interface) is really not up to current standards, mainly when compared to other systems such the Line 6 Helix and Headrush.

So we can easily expect Fractal to finally announces the Axe-FX 3 in a 3U chassis to accommodate a nicer and larger color display, and with 5 knobs under it to have an easy access to parameters to quickly tweak, like we do with the Gain, Bass, Mid, Treble and Volume on any other amp. And because of the current competition amongst digital modelers, we can also expect the Axe FX 3 to be Made in China to come on the market at a lower price to be more competitive.


3- Rocktron ValveSonic preamps
If you’re a fervent follower of the Tone King, you know that 4 years ago, many people were saying: Racks are coming back!

Let’s be honest, it was probably a little bit too anticipated, like a kid talking about the Christmas gifts around April’s fool. But be assured, it was absolutely not a joke and racks will eventually come back, that’s only a matter of time. Rocktron might even be contributing to make it happen by finally having the ValveSonic Preamp series on the market… finally!

The early version of the 4 units was already pretty interesting, flexible and capable of emulating the tones from Marshall, Vox, Fender, Mesa and other high-gain amps. So let’s see what the 2018 versions will finally be.


4- Better quality built affordable guitars
Ok, this prediction isn’t really a big surprise for 2018, it will only be a constant evolution of the last decade trend. Always better quality guitars at a lower and more affordable price point. During the year we will dedicate more articles regarding this whole trend and how it can actually be done, but for now, let’s just say it has never been a better time to play, create, record and share music.


5– Strymon “SunSide”
I have no doubt the final name will be different, but if we look at Strymon history, we can see they often released a larger version with more knobs, display and midi of some of their pedals.

So it would be perfectly logical for Strymon to release a pedal that would integrate both the Sunset and the Riverside in a single larger box with midi (such Timeline, BigSky and Mobius). Maybe they would even throw the OB-1 features in that one to build one of the best comp/boost & distortion/saturation pedal on the market. One sure thing is that the anticipation for this kind of product is pretty high.


6- More Boss 500 Series
Just like for the Strymon, it would be no secret by now that Boss is following the same trend to build higher digital pedals with multiple algorithms and midi integration. After releasing the DD-500, the RV-500, as well as the MD-500 last year, it wouldn’t be a big surprised to anticipate the release of the DS-500 (orange) distortion, the OD-500 (yellow) overdrive and CP-500 (navy blue) compressor.

Maybe they will combine both DS and OD as an ODS-500. That would definitely be the kind of product to compete with the Strymon Sunset and Riverside. And it would be the continuity of the Boss DS-1, OD-1, CP-1 and then the newer DS-1x, OD-1x and CP-1x.

7- Suhr PT-50
I know many people out there are still in love of the large 100 watts amp. But this is a brave new world today and almost nobody play large stadiums or arenas… and surely not without a mic and PA system.

That’s also why in the mid 2000s, we did start to see the new trend of lunchbox and small wattage amps. Also every year at NAMM we see more and more small wattage amps (15, 20, 25 or 30 watts amps… sometimes 50 watts for high headroom cleans).

Pete Thorn has an amazing signature amp, the PT-100, designed to be a stage beast. Unfortunately, it’s probably too much of an amp for most of us playing in a (home) studio or bedroom, or for gigging at the local bar. So, we can easily anticipate for Suhr to release a lower wattage of the PT-100, probably a PT-50. We can maybe even hope for a Hedgehog 25W… just maybe.

8- Friedman BE-OD Deluxe Pedal
Dave Friedman is now a world wide known name. His amps and pedals are loved by many users and he had some great success products already. The BE-100 is one of them. Lately, he just released a new 50 watts Deluxe version of his BE-100, the BE-50 Deluxe. However, at $3,500, it’s a pretty pricey amp.

But Friedman also has the BE-OD pedal in his product line. It’s a very successful pedal that allows users to get a tone similar to the BE-100. So, we can probably except him to also release a BE-OD Deluxe pedal.

9- New Yamaha electric guitars
Yamaha is often the forgotten child when it comes to electric guitars; that’s sad because they have some great models. But Yamaha doesn’t give up and is always very strategic.

They bought Steinberg company in 2006; and after couple of years we started to see more integration of the Yamaha hardware with the Steinberg software, up to recently release fully integrated products such the Yamaha/Steinberg Nuage system. This is the same Yamaha company that also bought Line 6.

So it would be very surprising if they wouldn’t try to capitalize on this purchase too by bringing some new Yamaha electric guitars line that would probably include or integrate some of the Line 6 technologies; maybe a new Variax version, who knows? I don’t, but I’m really curious to see what will come from them in 2018…


10- Marshall new tube amp?
When we look at the whole Tube Amp market right now, it seems like almost every amp manufacturers on the planet know how to build some great “Marshall-type” amp… except Marshall, which is kind of sad since Marshall is a very iconic brand.

But when looking at Blackstar, Victory, Friedman, Metropoulous, Dr.Z, 65 Amps, and more… in comparison, the Marshall product line seems pretty sterile and unattractive. Why? Because they either have the same large high wattage amps that almost nobody wants anymore, or they try the whole digital system (with the CODE) that isn’t quite right (or least not yet). They actually missed one of the big trend: the small wattage amp with multiple characters, like Fender did with their Bassbreaker (not say it’s perfect, but at least Fender tried).

So based on that, we can maybe hope for Marshall to follow Fender’s steps and finally come with a small wattage amp (probably around 25W) with multiple gain structure from the JTM, JMP and JCM, all in one head with a way to select the tone you’re going after.

And finally, my most anticipated deception to come in 2018:

11- Boss MS-5 and MS-8
Boss has been pretty robust with their new ES-5 and ES-8 pedalboard switchers. And last year, they came with a MS-3 version that does also include their best digital effects from their GT-1 platform. So it wouldn’t surprise anyone for them to come with a MS-5 and MS-8 version based on the same specs.

Unfortunately, as much as I’d love to see this kind of products, I fear that they still wouldn’t get the design right. Actually, no current pedalboard switcher actually do; from Boss ES-8/MS-3, Mastermind PBC, TheGigRig G2, MusicomLab EFX, G-Lab, Voodoo Lab, One Control, you name it, they unfortunately all fail at designing a GREAT and PERFECT pedalboard switcher.

So I don’t think it would ever come from Boss. I don’t even think Boss would ever come with a ES-12 or MS-12 either. But we can still hope and still wait for NAMM to see or for Boss to prove me wrong. I would love that!

What’s your predictions for Winter NAMM and/or 2018?

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About the Author: French by birth but Texan by heart, I had different careers in multiple areas that don’t really make sense when they’re all laid down on my resume. Amongst them I’m a former military officer (mainly confidential stuff I can’t talk about) — I’m a former network architect (the stuff with switches, routers, optical fibers, satellites and wireless things that allow people to be connected) — I’m a former R&D engineer and product designer (mainly for electronics instruments in the Music Industry) — I’m also a former sound engineer that worked in professional recording studios (but nobody cares about that anymore) — and I even thought once in my life I was someone almost important doing things almost awesome... Now I’m just a professional amateur spreading my 2 cents online about anything and everything to anyone with too much time in their hands — and if you’re reading this bio, you might be one of them that just wasted 2mn of your life you will never get back. Sorry...

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