17 Companies to Watch As The 2018 NAMM Show Gets Into Top Gear

Daniel Knighton/FilmMagic
Over 100,000 attendees are expected at the annual NAMM Show at the Anaheim Convention Center.

From amateurs to superstars, all musicians have one thing in common: They need gear. They perform with various instruments, and recording artists capture their creativity with hardware and software.

The NAMM Show, which runs Jan. 25-28 at the Anaheim (Calif.) Convention Center, is the world’s largest trade show for the music-products business, an industry whose $17 billion in worldwide sales (according to NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants) makes it larger than the recorded-music business ($15.7 billion in global value, according to labels trade group IFPI).

Over 100,000 attendees from 120-plus countries are expected at this year’s event, flocking to Anaheim for networking sessions, artist performances and awards shows -- and most of all, to check out the latest in gear and music technology. Some 2,000 exhibitors will be on hand, showcasing over 7,000 brands, from startups to iconic firms with deep roots in American culture.

Take C.F. Martin & Co., for example, which began selling custom-made guitars on Hudson Street in New York in 1833. At NAMM, the company will introduce an entire Reimagined Standard Series line of guitars: including the OMC-28E, an acoustic cutaway model equipped with an electronic pickup for amplification. Martin also continues its long history of creating custom instruments: It will unveil a new John Mayer edition of its classic D-45 dreadnought acoustic guitar, its fifth guitar design collaboration with the singer-songwriter and guitarist for Dead & Company. Only 45 copies of the instrument will be manufactured.

“I do feel like the guys who work at Martin are artisans,” said Mayer at a previous NAMM gathering. “None of my guitars have been expressly for fans of mine. They’ve been made for guitar lovers -- part of my evil plan to get everyone to like me.”

Here are 16 more companies to watch at the NAMM Show this year.

BandLab Technologies

The company behind the social music platform BandLab, which allows musicians to share their creative process with peers and fans worldwide, will unveil a new version of its BandLab software designed for schools. BandLab for Education will allow students and teachers to work together on projects across all of their devices. The Singapore-based firm (which in 2016 bought a 49 percent share in Rolling Stone parent company Wenner Media) reports that the BandLab platform has over 2.5 million users.

BlipTech

Proving you’re never too young to create your own beats, BlipTech is launching its flagship product the BlipBlox, “a fully functional synthesizer and beatbox for all ages,” says company founder Troy Sheets. He says the BlipBlox was created for children as young as age 3, with “big, bright, child-friendly controls.” But the BlipBlox also features a MIDI input port and an audio output jack so it can function as a professional music production device.

Blue Microphones

Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons has sung the praises of Blue Microphones, describing the company’s Blue Bottle model as “one of my favorite mics.” Blue Microphones will present two new headphone lines: the Satellite wireless model and the Mix-Fi headphones. It also will showcase USB microphones designed for home studios, gamers and podcasters. And it will display custom-crafted versions of its Blue Bottle mics.

BOSS

The Katana-Air from BOSS is described as the first fully wireless guitar amplifier. The compact, battery-powered amp features a wireless transmitter that plugs into any electric guitar. It also will make it possible to play along with audio streamed through Bluetooth from any iOS or Android smartphone, and to edit tones and effects from the BOSS Tone Studio app.

Dean Markley

Australian rock guitarist Orianthi, who teamed up with former Bon Jovi band member Richie Sambora in 2017 to form the group RSO, will do meet-and-greets at the Dean Markley booth at NAMM to promote the company’s Orianthi Signature Series of guitar strings.

DW Drums

Jack White’s drummer, Daru Jones, has endorsed his eponymous New Yorker Kit from DW Drums, a four-piece setup designed for sound (with a hybrid poplar/maple shell), portability (with short-stack toms and lightweight hardware) and looks (a “gold-to-black sparkle fade lacquer finish”).

Fender

The guitar brand associated with many of rock’s greatest players, from Eric Clapton to Bruce Springsteen, will introduce its American Original Series. It’s a new line of electric basses and electric guitars designed to look and feel like classic Fender models of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, but with slight modern tweaks. The instruments are available in 13 different models and no fewer than 13 colors. Take your pick from Aztec Gold, Candy Apple Red, Butterscotch Blonde and more.

Gretsch

Steve Ferrone, the longtime drummer for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, lends his name, design and hand signature to each unit in a new snare-drum line from Gretsch. In a bittersweet touch, Gretsch’s booth at NAMM will display Ferrone’s drum set from his tours with Petty, who died last October.

IK Multimedia

A portable music production station, the iRig Keys I/O series will be unveiled by IK Multimedia, which creates software and hardware for digital music creation. The company says that its new unit is the only one on the market that offers 25 or 49 full-sized keys with a fully featured computer interface.

McSwain Guitars

Original designs from artist Ralph Steadman, who memorably illustrated Hunter S. Thompson’s 1972 novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, will grace a new, limited “Fear and Loathing” guitar line, says company founder Stephen McSwain.

NEXI Industries

Founded by self-described “frustrated guitarists and boutique analog stomp-box fanatics,” NEXI Industries unveiled a pedalboard in 2016 branded as The Solution to simplify the onstage setup for its own proprietary guitar effects pedals. At NAMM, the company will introduce the ConNEXI to allow use of vintage effects gear with its modern pedalboard.

Peavey Electronics

The HP 2 Guitar bears the initials of company founder/CEO Hartley Peavey and combines classic looks with cutting-edge electronics. Manufactured in the United States, the guitar is distinguished by its carved maple top, neck and fretboard, basswood back, asymmetrical body design and two custom-wound pickups.

Pioneer DJ

Pioneer DJ made news last fall when it announced a partnership with the Canadian performing rights organization SOCAN to use its KUVO technology to relay information on tracks played by DJs to increase the accuracy of royalty payments. At NAMM, the company will introduce the DDJ-1000 controller and version 5.1 of its rekordbox music management software, as well as a new interface to create light shows.

Roland

Musicians aren't the only ones who need state-of-the-art recording equipment. Roland will introduce the handheld R-07 high-resolution audio recorder designed for artists, journalists and students. It’s equipped with Bluetooth for remote operation and streaming, and connection to Bluetooth-equipped headphones and speakers.

Universal Audio

Marking its 50th anniversary, UA will showcase its Arrow Desktop Audio Interface, allowing compact, portable access to the company’s extensive library of plug-ins that capture the sound of classic analog instruments. Its new Ox Amp Top Box is designed to let guitarists to coax the ideal tone from their tube amps, with multiple built-in effects.

Yamaha

Yamaha will introduce no fewer than 88 products at NAMM. They include the Genos, an advanced digital workstation keyboard; the EAD10 acoustic drum module system (which allows drummers to digitally capture the sound of an acoustic drum set); the APX600 and CPX600 acoustic-electric guitars; the TRBX604FM and TRBX605FM electric basses; and updates to its Steinberg lines of software for producing, mixing, audio editing, mastering and musical notation.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 20 issue of Billboard.