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Strung Out by Zach Fjestad

Strung Out by Zach Fjestad
  Zachary R. Fjestad is a former author of the Blue Book of Acoustic Guitars, Blue Book of Electric Guitars, and Blue Book of Guitar Amplifiers, as well as the author of the revised edition of the Gibson Flying V book. Fjestad has been covering the music industry at Blue Book since 2002 and regularly attends guitar trade shows along with several vintage guitar shows. He also reads and makes notes on music industry trade and vintage guitar magazines and is in contact with several musical industry representatives.
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2017 NAMM Top 10

I recently returned from my annual pilgrimage to Anaheim, CA for the Winter NAMM show. This is the largest trade-only music products event in the world and it provides a perfect opportunity for Blue Book Publications, Inc. to gather information, specs, and pricing on all the new guitar and amp related gear that will be hitting the market throughout the year. This show seems to get larger and busier every year and they are adding on a whole new hall to the Anaheim Convention Center for 2018 to accommodate the growing number of exhibitors.  Here are the ten most intriguing products I saw at NAMM 2017 in random order:


1. PRS Private Stock John Mayer Super Eagle - This beautiful semi-hollow guitar was designed by John Mayer and Paul Reed Smith to create the perfect instrument for John's run of shows with the remaining members of the Grateful Dead. It features a unique 25.375" scale length and specially-wound pickups. This model is a limited production run of 100 guitars and includes a custom label hand-signed by John Mayer. Street Price: $11,500.


2. Collings Parlor Guitar - I'm a sucker for vintage parlor style guitars and this beauty jumped out at me as soon as I stepped into the Collings booth. The slotted headstock and all-mahogany construction reminds me of a Martin 2-17 model from the 1920s. This is a prototype and the Collings representatives wouldn't tell me if they planned to push this model into production but I hope they do for all the "Parlor Junkies" like me out there.


3. Ibanez Steve Vai JEM777 30th Anniversary Model - The Ibanez JEM made it's debut at the Chicago Summer NAMM show in 1987 and turned out to be one of the most successful and iconic instruments they've ever produced. To commemorate their 30 year relationship with Steve Vai, Ibanez has released this limited edition JEM777 model that is available in three eye-catching colors and features Vai's signature DiMarzio Evolution pickups, a certificate of authenticity, and a hardshell case. List Price: $4,666.65.


4. Yamaha SLG200N Silent Guitar - The Yamaha "booth" is actually a giant ballroom in the main level of the Marriott Hotel adjacent to the Anaheim Convention Center. It was worth the short walk over there just to see this SLG200N nylon string guitar. The SLG200N is part of the 3rd generation of Yamaha's Silent Guitar series which is designed for players on the go that don't want to travel with a full-size guitar or those that may live in close proximity to their neighbors. It doesn't have much acoustic volume but truly comes alive when you utilize the included headphones/jack or plug in to an amp via a 1/4" output jack. Even traditionalists would appreciate the sweet tones that come out of this contemporary instrument. Street Price: $629.99.


5. Hayden DB-2 Series Amplifiers - Hayden, which is a sister company of Ashdown Engineering, debuted it's DB-2 Series amps at Winter NAMM. I really loved the vibe of this stack that features a head with EL34 tubes and a cabinet with Celestion Alnico Gold speakers. The DB-2 range is made in Hayden's Essex, UK Custom Shop and features marine grade birch plywood construction, blue diamond vinyl coverings with cream piping, and a silver blue grille cloth. Price: TBD


6. Walker Electric Guitar - Hidden in the middle of the labyrinth that is the NAMM show is the Boutique Guitar Showcase. This is a co-op of sorts that features around 30 luthiers. Each luthier has two or three instruments displayed on their table and it has a much more inviting, personable atmosphere than the rest of the show. In this area I stumbled upon this gorgeous solidbody guitar built by Scott Walker. Scott got his start in the guitar industry working on acoustics at Santa Cruz Guitar Company and has set off on his to make acoustics and electrics under his own brand name. Custom Walker Instruments start at $3,500.


7. Takamine Double Neck Acoustic - The Takamine/ESP booth was rockin' with live performances on their stage  all weekend but I was most impressed by this Takamine double neck acoustic guitar featuring all Koa construction. This instrument was protected in a display case so I didn't get the chance to play it but if it sounds half as wonderful as it looks then it's well worth the $10,000 asking price.


8. Orange O-Bass Electric Bass Guitar - Orange is widely known for their amplifiers with bright orange coverings. They've recently entered the electric bass guitar market with their O-Bass. It has a bit of a Gibson Les Paul meets Fender Precision Bass look to it and is offered in Orange (Duh!), Black, and Sunburst finish options. This is a great instrument if you're looking for a traditional style bass without breaking the bank as it carries a Street Price of $429.


9. Gibson HP Acoustic Series - New to the Gibson Line is the High Performance Acoustic Series. These guitars are built in Bozeman, Montana and feature a number of new specifications including updated body depths, neck profiles, and pickguard shapes. There are five different guitars available in this series with various options on body shapes, cutaways, tonewoods, and electronics. Street Prices range from $1,599-$3,349.


10. Martin D-420 - With NAMM being in California, it's fitting that Martin would debut it's new D-420 model at this show. When I think of Martin I think of traditional, simple, and classic acoustic guitars. They unveiled a lot of cool new guitars at this show, including signature models for two of my favorite artists John Prine and Dwight Yoakam. However, this is the instrument that stood out the most after taking a couple laps around their booth.  This guitar was inspired by the recent passing of Prop. 64 which legalized marijuana in California and features an illustration on the top by artists Robert Goetzl. No matter your stance on the issue, you have to applaud Martin for stepping outside their comfort zone. I assumed this was a one-off NAMM show only type guitar but you can actually purchase this model from your local Martin dealer for $2,359.


Ryan Triggs
Guitar & Amp Division
Blue Book Publications
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Strung Out - by Zachary R. Fjestad
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