Rob Mestric presents his choice for the Gotta Stock It category — the PRS SE Custom 24 Solid Body Electric Guitar.
Jesse Grant/Getty Images for NAMM

'Best In Show' Highlights Great New Gear at NAMM

Best In Show, the popular Sunday-morning NAMM U breakfast panel discussion, featured 18 top new products as well as six "Companies to Watch" from The NAMM Show 2018.

Six expert retail buyers shopped NAMM for three days and presented their favorite products in four categories. On the morning of Jan. 28, in the Anaheim Hilton Hotel, they discussed their choices in front of more than 750 NAMM attendees. The categories included:

Best In Show — The best product or service that panelists saw at NAMM.
Gotta Stock It — A product that retailers want to stock right now, if they haven't already.
Companies To Watch — Exhibitors with trendsetting products and/or services.
Best Accessories And Add-ons — A great product from the small-goods arena.

This year's panelists were:

• Sammy Ash, Chief Operating Officer, Sam Ash Music, Hicksville, New York
• Brad Boynton, Owner, Rhythm Traders, Portland, Oregon
• Robert Christie, President, A&G Central Music, Madison Heights, Michigan
• Rand and Cindy Cook, Owners, Candyman Strings & Things, Santa Fe, New Mexico
• Rob Mestric, Port Mac Guitars, Port Macquarie, Australia
• Brandon Zunker, Director Sales & Procurement, Kraft Music, Wisconsin

And here are this year's selections:

Best In Show
EHX Performance Loop Laboratory 95000 (Selected by Sammy Ash)
"In my company, the hottest thing I have in the effects business is loopers. We sell every one that we get. Everyone has a favorite, but they all have certain limitations. [The 95000] is $550, but it delivers. I have no problem saying that this is one of the hottest things that's going to be out this year."

DW Performance Series Low Pro Travel Kit (Brad Boynton)
"This is a kit that takes up very little space. It sounds terrific out of the box. It's pretty quiet, and it comes in three or four-piece configurations. It's made in the USA, which is really cool. But what's even cooler is that it fits in one bag."

Buffet Crampon Legende Clarinet (Robert Christie)
"When you think about the clarinet, you think about the Buffet company. They've perfected the instrument, and they've perfected it again. Now, they bring us the Legende Clarinet."

Taylor Guitars with V-Class Bracing (Rand & Cindy Cook)
"The sustain on this [guitar] is unbelievable, and you have never heard such a pure tone in your life."

Freedom Custom Guitar Research (Rob Mestric)
"They make beautiful-looking and playing electric bass guitars. There are plenty of great-looking guitars and basses around the show, but there is something they do that caught my attention: the style of the neck joint. The resulting sound is like a vintage tone. It's just magic. It inspires you to play differently."

Korg Prologue Synthesizer (Brandon Zunker)
"I chose the Korg Prologue because it's awesome."

Gotta Stock It
PRS MT15 (Selected by Sammy Ash)
"I chose the PRS MT15 because it's $650 but it sounds like $3,000. It's not as loud, but it does have that tone characteristic to it. I think it's a hot product, Mark Tremonti thinks it's a hot product, and I think the customers will agree."

Tackle Instrument Supply Roll Up Stick Bag (Brad Boynton)
"Most of the stick bags out there have the same design. This one's nice. You can put in a dozen pairs of sticks and some mallets and brushes. It fits in a pretty small footprint so that you can stick it under your arm, in your backpack or your hardware case. If you put these on the counter and show how it's displayed, I think you're going to sell them all day long."

Yamaha EAD10 (Robert Christie)
"Why do you have to stock it? It can be for a lot of reasons: it solves a problem that a lot of customers have, it appeals to a wide audience, it has a cool factor or it just makes creating music fun — the Yamaha EAD10 accomplishes all of these things. You've got to hear it to believe it."

Ortega Quantum Loop (Rand & Cindy Cook)
"This is designed for the classical flamenco guitar player in order to create a rhythm with their foot. It has 16 presets and four user-definable tones that you can hook up to a computer and model your own drum sounds in there. It's also a looping device. It's just a totally cool product. It's very well built. We just love it."

PRS SE Custom 24 Solid Body Electric Guitar (Rob Mestric)
"We've been selling the SE range for a lot of years. They're well-made products and have a great price point. We look forward to selling many more."

Alesis Command Mesh Kit (Brandon Zunker)
"There's so much value packed into this intermediate level drum kit. The command module that comes with it has almost 700 sounds and an ability to load in samples. I'm looking forward to selling lots of them."

Companies to Watch
Taylor Guitars (Selected by Sammy Ash)
"I sat down with the Taylor people in a private showing the other day and heard about the vision where Bob Taylor is stepping back and Andy Powers is going forward. They told me about forests they're growing in Hawaii. In addition, [I heard] Bob is personally taking control of an initiative in Africa to make sure ebony is not an endangered species anymore. The last thing they did was explain how [the V-Class Bracing System is] going to affect dealers. I applaud them for doing this. They're very open and upfront. I really think they have some really good times in front of them."

Big Fat Snare Drum (Brad Boynton)
"Big Fat Snare Drum keeps coming up with really fun products. Most of them are between $15 and $30. They've only been around since 2014 but, for me, I've been watching them."

Hal Leonard (Robert Christie)
"They do all the things that we can expect: they care about their dealers, they take care of [musicians]. But they also innovate and recreate themselves in how they deliver the products to us in a way that's admirable."

Cordoba Guitars (Rand & Cindy Cook)
"A few years ago Cordoba took Guild over and really put a breath of magic back into the instruments. I'm proud of them. I love the guitars."

Cole Clark Guitars (Rob Mestric)
"They seem absolutely obsessed with innovating. They don't just want to be another beige guitar on the wall. They want to stand out from the crowd."

Gator Cases (Brandon Zunker)
"A lot of exciting things are happening with this company. At The NAMM Show, Gator Cases announced that they acquired Levy's Leathers. Even more importantly, I think they set a really good example as a vendor partner. They have top-notch products and top-notch service."

Best Accessories and Add-ons
Cling On Pickups and Tuners (Selected by Sammy Ash)
"I have a guitar collection, and many of those [guitars] have a very nice thin lacquer [finish]. I don't like things going on and off on my finishes constantly, and this [product] is magnetic. The little dime-size piece goes on the inside of the guitar and then this product clips to it. It's got a great little package. It's inexpensive, and it serves a great purpose."

Remo Colortone Drum Heads (Brad Boynton)
"It feels like we see the world in black and white and now, all of a sudden, it's in color. What I recommend doing is taking a five or six piece — it doesn't have to be a clear acrylic drum set; it can be almost anything — and put one head of each color on the kit. It will be a terrific display, and the heads should sell themselves."

Guitar Grip Zombie Hand Guitar Hanger (Robert Christie)
"It truly is a handmade product, and it's a portable product for you and your customer. They mount to the wall like any other guitar hanger: You can put them on a slat wall, or you can screw them to your wall. There are right and left-handed versions. They tilt and swivel, so whether you have a Stratocaster headstock or an acoustic guitar or a Les Paul, they'll all fit and they're a lot of fun."

Boss Pedalboard Cable Kits (Rand & Cindy Cook)
"We have a lot of customers that are DIY pedalboard enthusiasts. This product is going to rock their world. On a pedalboard, the connectors make it so that your pedals have to be spaced pretty far apart. [Boss] figured out how to cut that space down to just 1 centimeter. It comes with a little installation kit. It takes seconds. It's genius."

SIM1 Sound Imprinting XT-1 (Rob Mestric)
"This is a pedal that allows you to imprint your guitar sound. It's pretty amazing. I've seen it in amplifiers, but I haven't seen it in guitars before. The realism is scary good. There's also an app that will allow you to take other users' print sets and load them into the pedal. It's an awesome product."

Zoom H1n Handy Portable Recorder (Brandon Zunker)
"I really like that it's an accessory and an add-on that has a higher value so that you can bump your average orders up. Zoom also has an optional accessories pack for your recorder, so you can add on to your add-on which is cool." MI