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A new year means new gear! And that’s especially true when you take into account the entire catalog of brand-spanking new unveils at this year’s Winter NAMM Convention. Of course, there were plenty of awesome guitars and basses from the biggest names to get out dirty little hands on along with the usual assortment of pedals, cables and drum kits. Even a bit more exotic units made the show room floor such as turntables, trombones, tambourines, triangles and other instruments that don’t necessarily have to start with the letter T, but you get the point. And of course, tons of amplifiers – too many to talk about in one day in fact – but here are a few standouts that definitely caught our attention!
Fishman LoudBox Amps
Some of you out there might have at one time or another messed around with – or currently owns – a member of Fishman’s LoudBox line of acoustic amps. Although I have never owned one of these myself, I was able to mess around with a few of them when I headed over to Fishman’s booth. Sure, these babies aren’t brand spanking new – more of a modest upgrade to last year’s upgrades to be more exact – but they still make for an nice fully featured acoustic amp, especially if you’re looking to rock on the 180 watt LoudBox Performer. And speaking of the performer, this beast features 180 watts of clear bi-amplified acoustic sound and two flexible mic/instrument input channels that accept both ¼” and XLR sources. Each channel includes Fishman 3-band EQ (shelving bass and treble with resonant-style midrange), feedback-fighting Phase switch and Notch filter controls, and a new dual digital effects section with Reverb, Chorus, Flanger, Delay, Echo and Slap Echo.The Performer’s 3-way design delivers clear, full-sound with additional low end to balance the premium neodymium tweeter and dedicated midrange driver. The lightweight cabinet design features a built-in 100 tilt with an improved, integrated kickstand design that allows the Loudbox Performer to be tilted back 500 for optimal sound projection.
Enhanced features for the Performer include independent channel and effects level controls; an auxiliary stereo input with level control plus ¼” and 1/8” connectors; balanced XLR D.I. outputs on each channel and main mix, and Channel Mute to silence both input channels. Weighing in at an easy 30 lbs., the Performer also features a Headphone output; a dedicated effects loop; a Footswitch (available separately) to control Channel Mute or Chorus Mute; and 24V phantom power for condenser microphones. The ¼” and XLR inputs include a 10dB pad and clip indicator. If 180 watts might be a bit more than what you are looking for, you should definitely check out the 120 watt LoudBox Artist or the 60 watt LoudBox Mini.
Fender Mustang Series And The Acoustasonic
From left to right: the Fender Mustang 15 and the Acoustasonic 15
The Mustang series of Fender amplifiers are some of the best-selling amps in the world and this year they’re back with all new features, a new look and a lot more added flexibility. The new Fender Mustang V.2 amplifier series pretty much raises the standard for modern guitar versatility and muscle, including five new amp models, five new effects and intelligent pitch shifting which should make guitarists very excited. The new Mustang Series features USB connectivity and Fender FUSE software which Fender tells me is for “letting your musical creativity and imagination run wild.” Mustang amps feature 18 amp models including five new ones, such as ’57 Twin and ’60s Thrift; 24 onboard presets (unlimited storage with computer); additional new effects including big fuzz, green screamer and intelligent pitch shifting (with even more available through Fender FUSE); new low-noise power amp platform; chromatic tuner; USB connectivity for user programming and audio recording output; auxiliary input for media player; Fender FUSE application for deep editing, preset storage, patch swapping and free artist content; Ableton Live Lite 8 Fender Edition studio-quality recording software compatible with Mustang USB recording output. The Mustang I (V.2) is a 20 watt amp featuring one 8" Fender Special Design speaker; the Mustang II (V.2) is a 40 watt amp with one 12" Fender Special Design speaker; the Mustang III (V.2) pumps out 100 watts through one Celestion G12T-100 12" Speaker; the Mustang IV (V.2) is 150 watts and features two 12" Celestion G12P-80 speakers; the Mustang V Head (V.2) is 150 Watts (2 x 75) in stereo; the Mustang V 412 Cabinet (V.2) is 200 watts with four Celestion Rocket 50 12" Speakers.
Alright, this one might not be anywhere near the size of its Mustang brethren but if a nice practice amp is what you’re looking for – along with that signature Fender sounds and feel – then this little amp is definitely worth checking out. The Acoustasonic 15 amplifier offers exemplary portable amplification for acoustic-electric guitar and a vocal microphone, with enough simplicity and flexibility for a variety of musical performance and basic public address uses. The 15-watt amp features one 6" Special Design full-range speaker with whizzer cone for enhanced high-frequency response, two channels (XLR microphone and 1/4" instrument) with individual volume controls, Chorus effect (for instrument channel) with level control and on/off switch, Bass, Middle and Treble tone controls, 1/4" headphone output, classic Fender cosmetic treatment with brown textured vinyl covering and chrome hardware for durability and great looks.
John Lennon Line of Fergen Amps
Although these strikingly simple – but beautiful nonetheless – amps look more like collector’s items than live stage workhorses, they’re definitely not lacking in the tone department, well, if you’re a Lennon fan that is. But hey, when the front of the amp features one of Lennon’s signature doodles (which admittedly aren’t technically impressive as much as they are nostalgic), you know the manufactures had a very specific group in mind! Fergen tells me that the John Lennon Signature Series amplifiers provide these different tones via their “Decade Switch” which enables you to switch between different classic sounds and gain structures, morphing between completely different classic preamp circuits. This means that with a flip of a switch, you can move between Lennon’s signature Beatle tones a la Hard Day’s Night to the more distorted Plastic Ono sound along with everything in between. Each of these amps is custom-built in California by master builder and sound engineer Ben Fargen who is said to have selected the finest components, many of which Ben designed on a proprietary basis specifically for the John Lennon series. You too can own one of these babies for just $4,999 -- don't you all go rushing out the door at once to get one, there should be plenty to go around! [... trust me]
Ampeg Heritage B-15N
And for all you bassists out there, Ampeg has added another model to its Heritage line of amplifiers — The Heritage B-15N. Like all Ampeg Heritage models, the Heritage B-15N is designed and assembled in the U.S.A. out of premium components with extreme attention to craftsmanship and finish. The Heritage B-15N delivers the sought-after B-15 performance in a new, circuit-board based, all-tube design with a beautiful flat black finish. Here’s what the very neutral Ampeg Product Manager Zane Williams had to say about his new beauty:
“No expense is spared when we build a new Heritage model. We are dedicated to breathing life into classic Ampeg designs in our U.S.-manufacturing facility.The B-15N is all-tube with the exact circuit paths and incredible tone of the iconic original. Plus, the new flat black look of the head is really sleek.”
I trust him. Anyways, the Heritage B-15N features distinct 1964 and 1966 channels, Ampeg’s flexible Baxandall EQ and selectable bias modes for ultimate tone control. The high-quality flip-top, double-baffle cabinet is covered in black diamond tolex and factors heavily into the amazing tone of the iconic original. Built to exacting standards, the Heritage B-15N meticulously recreates the world’s most recorded bass tone. The Ampeg Heritage B-15N is available in a 2013 limited edition run of 250 units. Each Heritage B-15N features commemorative badges on both the head and cabinet.