Wow! 2011 already?? We are always asked by our customers "how was the NAMM show?" The answers we most often give is "it was great!" or "it was a zoo!" These answers are applicable again for the 2011 NAMM show, however "it was a zoo!" may now be the number one answer. There were over 90,000 people in attendance this year and we found navigating the main aisle ways during midday was best avoided! We met with our good friends from JJ Electronic and discussed what will be next in the way of new tubes. Having just completed the new JJ EL844, 6550, Big bottle 6CA7 and the new directly heated JJ 5Y3 you might think that JJ would take a well deserved break, but you would be wrong. More great tubes are already in the works! Quite a few of the big manufacturers had a number of new offerings for 2011. VOX expanded it's "Night Train" in both directions adding bigger a Night Train 50 using a pair of EL34's for power and also adding the "Lil' Night Train" using a couple ECC83's and an ECC82 for power. This thing is so small that I think it will be added to the "where did I put my keys" category. VOX also showed the new "Bruno" amp which is a Tony Bruno design using a quad of 6V6's for power and sporting a tube driven verb. Mesa also expanded it's "TransAtlantic" amp adding the Royal Atlantic which runs a quad of EL34's, six 12AX7's and one 12AT7. The big news here is that Mesa has incorporated onboard attenuation which is assignable to any, and or all of the three voices. The midsize addition is the 30 watt version of the TA-15 from last year. The 30 watter is switchable from 15 to 30 watts, the TA-15 and the new TA-30 are very nice sounding amps but again don't get caught in the "pure Class A" hype, these are not single ended, they are push pull. Marshall arrived with two heavy hitters, the Yngwie Malmsteen YJM100 running on a quad of EL34's and four ECC83's and the Slash AFD100 running on a quad of 6550's for power and five ECC83's. The YJM100 is based on Marshall's 1959 circuit with onboard boost, noise gate and attenuation. It does scream, and it sounded very defined at any gain setting. The AFD100 Slash amp has a real decent clean and goes to "Slash like gnarly" at the click of the switch. Both of these amps also incorporate Marshall's new "auto bias" circuit. We have always been pretty leery of so called auto bias circuits which in the past have been nothing but hype for the most part. After inquiring around the Marshall booth Jay came back with a tip, he was told to hunt down Santiago Alvarez who was the designer. We revisited Marshall several times over the next couple of days asking for Santiago until we finally ran into him Sunday afternoon. I introduced myself and asked if he could drive us thru his Auto bias circuit? He responded "I know who you are!" and then he proceeded to explain the circuit in detail. It doesn't get much better than that! Santiago explained the circuit in detail and the bottom line in layman's terms is when in the auto bias mode, the circuit samples each of the four power tubes thirty times a minute over a three minute period and calibrates each tube with the bias adjustment trim pot which if you look closely actually reads in milliamps right on the back panel. So once you go thru the auto bias sequence then you can adjust the bias you would like to run at. We always stop by Orange to see what's new and this year it was the TH100 which is the big brother to the TH30. Orange announced that they made a deal with DIVO (Dynamic Intelligent Valve Optimisation) ((their spelling, not mine)) which will be offered on the new Rockerverb 100. It appears to be another auto bias system. Not too much going on at Peavey, the XXX got a face lift and an upgrade with the XXX II which looks better to me than the original. Matchless was showing off their new eXcalibur 30 and 35 watt models which sounded much like the Avalon with a bit more gain on tap and a little different voicing.   Fender added a little 5150 III two channel Mini amp and it sounded pretty nice, but there was no one around that knew anything about the little sucker and they wouldn't let me take my screwdriver to it so we really don't know what the tube format is other than it's fifty watts! Engl was showing off the new VS Victor Smolski limited E646 so if you're into all things Metal check it out. Digitech tube amp?? Yup, and it's pretty beastly! We spoke with the Digitech reps and their mission with the new TH150 was to make it big, fat, warm and keep it simple. They wanted an amp that was an ideal backend for all of their pedals and effects units. It uses a quad of JJ KT88's and five ECC83S's and it sounds "big, fat and warm". The overdrive channel with boost has lots of gain on tap and the amp loves pedals, so I think they accomplished their mission. Laney came out with the new Ironheart Metal amp and it was hard to get much info on it let alone really hear it because Laney has no sound booth... Ampeg came out with the reissue of the original flip-top Portaflex B15. Having been around these amps for ever I was happy to see the attention to detail, these amps are just plain cool! Ampeg is now using JJ power tubes and ECC83S's and ECC82's in all applicable amps, sweet! We stopped in the Dunlop booth where we ran into a customer of ours, Remington Atcheson. Remington works for Dunlop in sales so while we talked tubes for his JSX, Eddie and Michael gave their pedals a big working over! We played LOTS of guitars! Below is Eddie with an exquisite Heritage 335 plugged into a Mad Professor "Old School 21". As usual we just had to stop by the Breedlove booth. Breedlove has now partnered with "Two Old Hippies". On our way out of NAMM on Sunday we stopped at the Evertune booth for a demo. The Evertune bridge is pretty amazing! No matter what you do, short of breaking a string, this thing will keep your guitar in tune even if you manage to bend a string around the neck! OK, time for the 2011 NAMM quiz, is the pic below of a Romulan Buffalo herder? Or the famed Reinhold Bogner, purveyor of some of the finest amps on this planet? It's Reinhold!! Some of you might wonder where Jay was this year? Well, he hit the ground running and spent most of the time seeking out performances and schmoozing with celeb's. I did sneak one shot of Jay and Michael on the way home while we awaited our flight, I think the facial expressions speak for themselves, it was a nonstop three day weekend at NAMM.
NAMM 2011
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