If you are a lover of music gear, you’re probably dying to figure out what new instruments are debuting at the winter NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) trade convention! Held January 24 to the 27, the Orange County confab attracts executives, DJs and famous musicians from all over the world.

And with the expansion to 1 million square feet of exhibit space, the Anaheim Convention Center is the perfect place to hold the four day music conference. “For the past 40 years, the NAMM Show has called Anaheim ‘home,’” said Joe Lamond, the nonprofit organization’s president and CEO.

“Each January, our annual gathering welcomes over 100,000 members from 130 countries, 2,000 exhibitors and over 7,000 music products, pro audio and event technology brands to the Anaheim Convention Center and surrounding hotels, businesses and entertainment attractions. We are grateful to the city, and to the many community members who continue to warmly welcome our organization and its members.”

Irving Weekly’s Susan Hornik talked with a number of O.C.-based exhibitors about their NAMM plans and industry trends they are seeing.

Quilter Performance Amplification

1700 Sunflower Blvd., Suite A
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Website: www.quilterlabs.com

Why attend: For CEO Christopher Parks, NAMM is very much like a family reunion. “We attend the show as a means of connecting directly with our many dealers, distributors, channel partners, and of course, our treasured customers to share new ideas, talk about how the business is going, and all in all, just shake hands and see each other.”

Attending NAMM is more important than ever before, acknowledged Parks: “The music industry has seen many punishing blows over the last several decades. The de-funding of public music instruction and the tragic devaluation of creative artistry first by pirating and now by mega corporations that profit enormously by selling the artist’s lifelong work for many thousands of times less than pennies.”

Parks continued, “Music manufacturers are feeling the effect, as they see the rapid decline of interest in making music resulting in music becoming a hobby for a few. Nevertheless, the good news is it’s a hobby shared by many.” 

That said, fretted musical instruments are at all-time highs in terms of raw dollar sales.

New products: At this year’s NAMM, Quilter Performance Amplification is featuring the InterBlock 45, which represents a new direction in guitar amplification.

“This focuses on the nexus of integration between typical guitar equipment such as speakers all the way through PA systems and Digital Audio Workstations,” said Parks. “The InterBlock 45 excels on all fronts and empowers the guitarist to connect to anything, anytime, anywhere.”

O.C. roots: “We love Orange County and Costa Mesa. QSC, our founder’s other company, got its start back in 1968 but found its home there in the 1970s and has spent many years growing up in this idyllic wonderland and musical oasis,” explained Parks.

“We are truly a California company with a mission and a vision to not just accept things the way they are but to find a way to move forward.”

Trends: Parks is thrilled to see more women interested in playing guitars.

“Perhaps the proudest feeling I have personally,” he said, “is that we have seen the objectification of women thankfully ending in our industry and the friendship and support of many, many women guitarists growing.”

One of Quilter’s competitors showed in an industry report that nearly half of all beginning guitarists are female today. “This might go far in explaining why our market is growing. It is amazing what happens when we cease marginalizing half of our population.”

Yamaha Corporation of America

6600 Orangethorpe Ave.
Buena Park, CA 90620
Website: usa.yamaha.com

Yamaha, the world’s largest musical instrument manufacturer, will be bringing more than 80 new products to NAMM, said Roger Eaton, chief marketing director.

New products: While the roster of brand new products that will be unveiled at NAMM is still very hush-hush until the first day of the show, the recently launched MODX synthesizer, TransAcoustic TA2 family of pianos, Bösendorfer 185VC concert grand piano, P-121 compact digital piano, Recording Custom/Tour Custom wood snares,
DZR loudspeakers with Dante integration, Steinberg Cubase 10 digital audio workshop software and Steinberg Dorico 2.2 music notation software will be making their NAMM debut.

Kyle Yeung

O.C. roots:  Yamaha set up shop in Orange County in 1960, noted Eaton: “This was because it was, as it is now, an excellent commercial environment that is situated in and around a longtime American cultural and musical hot spot. Southern California offers us access to some of the finest artists and performance spaces, helping us keep our finger on the pulse of modern musical tastes and trends. It’s this proximity and attention to the heart of the music world that has helped make and keep us the world’s largest manufacturer of musical instruments.”

Trends: One ongoing trend in the industry Eaton is seeing is the use of cutting-edge technology to help people make richer, more intricate music with instruments that are easier to pick up and learn. “The melding of high tech with traditional instruments has the dual effect of making the creative process both more interesting and less intimidating.”

Yamaha also creates concert events like the NAMM Night of Worship, headlined by Grammy-winning Christian musicians Matt Redman and Ellis Hall; the All-Star Concert on the Grand, and the Junior Original Concert, featuring performances by remarkable Yamaha music students.

Fullerton’s Kyle Yeung is one of the 10-year-old kids who will be performing.

“I am very excited to be at the NAMM show!” said Yeung. “I have never performed at a convention before! I have seen pictures of other students performing there, and they look like they were really enjoying it.”

Ultimate Ears

3 Jenner Street Suite 180
Irvine CA 92618
Website: pro.ultimateears.com

Ultimate Ears will have their complete lineup of custom in-ear monitors, said Brian Geller, sales manager. “So no matter the instrument you play or role you have in the industry, we have an in-ear monitor that suits you.”

Photo courtesy of Ultimate Ears

New product: This year, the company will have a new flagship, Ultimate Ears LIVE, which they launched earlier this year. “This is the ultimate option for stage performers,” Geller enthused.

“It is ideal for musicians playing festivals, arenas and stadiums, incorporating one of the most complex and powerful acoustic systems we’ve ever developed. It feels like you have the PA system right at your ears.”

Plus, now each of their monitors come with a new IPX Cable System, also launched in the spring.

“We know musicians, especially those who are on the road, put their in-ear monitor cable through a lot, from sweat, dance, makeup, hairspray, humidity and more,” Geller tells us. “The Superbax cable and IPX connection system can handle the rigors of touring. In fact, this roadworthy cable is strong enough to carry a 12-pound barbell, but it’s so lightweight and transparent that it disappears on stage.”

At NAMM a few years ago, Ultimate Ears introduced industry-pioneering digital ear scanning as a way to have your ears fitted for custom in-ear monitors.

“This has been huge for us, as well as a highlight of our NAMM booth,” said Geller. “Prior to digital ear scanning, people had to exclusively be fitted through an ear molding process by an audiologist. Now, through digital ear scanning, people can be fitted for in-ear monitors in only a matter of minutes.”

O.C. trends: Geller has been excited by how strong business has been: “Being strategically located between Los Angeles and San Diego gives bands on the road the opportunity to visit our corporate office in Irvine on a weekly basis. This, coupled with the ever-growing Houses of Worship market in the O.C., makes Irvine the ideal location.”

“Irvine is a fantastic place to be based,” he added, “It’s an international city with people from all over the world, with diverse perspectives. The music industry takes place all over the globe, but nearby Los Angeles is certainly a major hub. It’s important that we’re close to the pulse, right down the road.”


1675 MacArthur Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA  92626
Website: www.qsc.com

QSC is presenting their many Live Sound products and solutions, including the newly released CP Series Compact Powered Loudspeakers. Also featured at NAMM will be a preview of new, advanced capabilities for their TouchMix Series of digital mixers.

“The NAMM Show, as the definitive music products industry trade show, is conveniently located just a few miles up the road,” noted senior director of global marketing, Ray van Straten. “Of course, that not only makes it logistically friendly for us, but more importantly, allows a number of our employees an opportunity to experience the live sound aspect of our business first-hand, in context with other brands in our space and within the industry as a whole.”

Straten said employees always come back from the show excited about their company and “energized by the passion” customers have for their brand.


1575 N Gower St., Suite 170
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(though their offices were originally based in Fullerton)
Website: www.fender.com

While Justin Norvell, EVP of Fender Products, can’t give away too much prior to the exhibit floor opening, the company will be debuting new products across every category at NAMM, including their new American Performer Series of electric guitars and basses.

“This series, which replaces our American Special line, was built to provide solutions for performers,” said Norvell. “We put a lot more into these than prior iterations, including all-new Yosemite pickups and patent-pending DoubleTap™ humbucking pickups. As music changes and people record and play differently, as sound evolves, we re-voice our instruments for optimal performance.”

Industry trends: The archetype of the “guitar god” in music and culture has evolved and musicians are playing guitar now more than ever, said Norvell. “According to The Music Trades magazine, in 2017, the industry saw an 8.9 percent increase in the fretted instrument market, which includes acoustic and electrics guitars, ukes, amps, effects and strings.”

O.C. roots: “Fender was born and raised in Orange County, so winter NAMM is always a homecoming of sorts for us,” Norvell explains. “We continue to support artists and bands in the area, like Young The Giant, Cold War Kids and so many more, because our roots are here.”

Bad Cat Amps

1515 West Alton Ave
Santa Ana, CA 92704
Website: badcatamps.com

Bad Cat is bringing two new amplifiers, the “USA Player Series Hot Cat” and the “CUB IV Legacy Series,” said president, John Thompson.

Trends: “The gear business is rapidly changing,” said Thompson. “There is a huge upheaval going on right now. … There is a push toward direct sales to consumers by manufacturers. Many of the dealers and distributors are fighting it, but the market is moving toward direct to consumer. The validity of doing the NAMM show is diminishing greatly.”

O.C. roots: “I was born and raised in the O.C., so this is my home. I like the proximity to Los Angeles. I have to deliver amps to many of the L.A.-based TV shows.”

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