Every year, I try to compile an annual report of the interesting things that I saw at the NAMM show. For those unfamiliar with this show, it is the National Association of Musical Merchants annual convention. In the USA, this is the largest gathering of manufacturers and suppliers of musical gear. It is held each year in Anaheim, California and is general closed to the public.
As with every year, I am giving the disclaimer that I am only going to comment on the positive items that I saw at the show. I will not discuss things that I had a negative opinion about. Obviously as well, many of these items are items that I will sell in my store, but not all of them. This is not a complete report of every item but rather just a glimpse of the show from my point of view.
The Changing Demographic of NAMM
One of the first things I noticed this year was the attendance of exhibitors. It was noticeably up from previous years. There is a joke in the industry that NAMM will always say that each year was the “best attended” show ever… and in previous years it really wasn’t. 2014 though had more exhibitors and it felt like it. However, what I really noticed was that the number of actual manufacturers seemed to be drastically down but the number of distributors was up.
What does this mean? Well, one of the reasons I attend NAMM is to find new manufacturing partners. When the economy was poor, the number of middle-man distributors goes substantially down and this is when we saw the actual OEM partners show up. Well, the opposite is true and as the economy improves, the smaller distributor attendance does as well. Combined with the close proximity in date to the Chinese New Year equated to a drastic drop in the OEM suppliers.
Overall, I think this bad for the consumer because the distributor will be a middle-man raising the price. They buy from the OEM and sell to the retailer who then sells to the consumer. More middle-men = more money. But such is life and business!
Antigua had prototypes of their upcoming Pro One soprano and Bari Sax. While I agreed in the need for them to improve their bari sax offerings, I was very skeptical about the Pro One soprano. This is because the current sopranos offered by Antigua are phenomenal both in performance and value. The current models are modeled after a Yanagisawa and are a very decent replica.
So improving on that concept and platform seemed like a potential lost cause to me. And I couldn’t be more wrong.
The Antigua Pro One soprano was VERY impressive. We will have to wait to have one in store before giving a final review, but when played side by side with the current 4290 series Antigua, the Pro One was substantially richer, bigger, rounder and more complex in tone. It was AMAZING.
The horn is a true 1 piece straight body. There is no bore shift like most one piece bodies (where you see the bore drastically increase as it transitions from the neck to the body) but is a straight taper. The horn features many of the features of the Pro One altos and tenors.
Still no word on price or availability, but as soon as I do, we will put it up online.
The Big Guys (Selmer, Yanagisawa, Keilwerth)
Sadly this year, none of them had anything really new. Yanagisawa is launching a replacement series to their professional A9 series alto saxophones called the “WO Series” but this was not displayed as they are not yet available in the USA. They will be launching in March of this year and I will post a separate review when they are out.
Selmer Paris was showing the 2nd Generation of their top-tier model Privilege Bb Soprano Clarinets. We had a chance to play them about 2 months ago and were VERY impressed with them. They have done several modifications to keywork and bore and in the end have really made a phenomenal clarinet.
Theo had a few new models and modifications of mouthpieces. Theo has modified the DURGA alto sax mouthpiece. The change was in the back bore ring where they used to shrink down, they now actually expand open. The idea is that the groove in the bore will create a turbulence layer giving the same compression concept that the ring did, but do it with less resistance to the player.
Theo also had his new MANTRA alto sax mouthpiece that is designed to give his level of performance at a lower price level. We will be getting this new model in soon!
Kessler Custom Products
We do not show at NAMM but we always time new items to coincide with NAMM as that is what people are used to. We have several new products coming out this year and have at least one more in the works. That one in the works you are going to have to wait a little longer to hear about, but it should be a good one!
New for 2014, we are releasing 3 new items to our Kessler Custom saxophone line:
– Handmade Series Low A Bari Sax
– Handmade Series 1 Piece Soprano (high G)
– Performance Series Curved Soprano Sax
All of these will have a small batch coming in around April and then rolling out in full production shortly after that.
We are working on potentially adding a Piccolo in to the Kessler Custom line that will be targeting the same combination of performance/price as our Kessler Custom flutes. More on that soon!
The last one that I won’t tell the specifics about right now is a Bb Clarinet. We thought we had a design and partner finished this time last year, but after receiving production level prototypes, we simply were not able to resolve certain build quality issues and as a result cancelled that project. We have not abandoned the concept yet and are working on a few possible approaches, one of which is my favorite and I think will really turn heads! Here’s to hoping we can pull that one off!
Yes, this is already the conclusion. Normally I would have more to report but to be honest, I didn’t find a whole lot that really wowed me this year at NAMM.
If there was something specific at NAMM that you were curious about and want to know my thoughts, please contact me directly.