From left, Robert Christie, Todd Johnson, Matt Knobel, Jim Tuerk, Glenn Noyes, Leslie and Mike Faltin, and Frank Alkyer.

'Best In Show' Highlights Top Gear from Summer NAMM

Best In Show, the popular breakfast panel discussion at NAMM U, highlighted a taste of the best gear at 2018 Summer NAMM.

On June 30, in the Davidson Ballroom of the Nashville Music City Center, six retail-buying experts shopped the show and presented their top products in four categories. They discussed their choices in front of more than 300 NAMM attendees.

The categories were:

Best In Show — The best product or service that panelists saw at NAMM
Companies To Watch — An exhibitor with trendsetting products or services
Gotta Stock It — A product that retailers want to stock right now
Add-ons & Accessories — A great product from the small-goods arena

This summer's panelists were:

• Robert Christie, President, A&G Central Music, Madison Heights, Michigan
• Mike Faltin, Founder, Instrumental Music Center, Tucson, Arizona
• Leslie Faltin, Ringleader, Instrumental Music Center, Tucson, Arizona
• Todd Johnson, Manager, Groth Music, Bloomington, Minnesota
• Matt Knobel, Sales Specialist, Vintage King, Nashville, Tennessee
• Glenn Noyes, Director of Merchandise/Drums & Percussion, Guitar Center Management, Westlake, California
• Jim Tuerk, Director of Business Development, Reverb, Chicago, Illinois

And, here are this year's selections:

Best In Show
Jammy Guitar (Selected by Robert Christie)
"It's a digital guitar, but when you pick it up it, it plays just like a regular guitar. It's got a 1/4-inch out, so you can plug it into an amp."

Goldtone Little Gem Banjo Ukulele (Selected by Mike & Leslie Faltin)
"They call this the little gem. It sounds really great. It has a good pluck sound to it. It's not a toy. It's got a two-way truss rod. It holds its tune. It even has this cool little thing to help set it up. It's super fun. We can't wait to get it in."

Phil Jones Double Four Bass Amp (Selected by Todd Johnson)
"It's the coolest amp, and it sounds great. It's really affordable, too. It comes in red, white and black."

API TranZformer GT and LX pedals (Selected by Matt Knobel)
"These are essentially full API channels in a pedal. A lot of guitar players want to have that studio-quality sound on the road. I'm pitching these guys to tours, and the rock bands are using them on tour. This is the best product I've seen at the show."

Pearl e/Merge Electronic Drums (Selected by Glenn Noyes)
"This [product] blew me away. Pearl worked with Korg and combined their powers together. There are hundreds of sounds, 35 effects and you can record up to 12 hours of audio."

EVH Eruption '78 Electric Guitar (Selected by Jim Tuerk)
"This is a recreation of the original Frankenstrat that Eddie Van Halen made on his mom's kitchen table. It's just a super cool-looking piece. It has a cigarette burn in the headstock. They put together a bunch of photos that his mom took when he was growing up. It's a cool piece of history."

Companies to Watch
D'Addario (Selected by Robert Christie)
"D'Addario does business in an admirable way. It seems like they're focused on making the experience better for their customer. When you look at how they operate, they're focused on what's in it for their customer, and then the second question they ask is, 'What's in it for us?'"

Gibson (Selected by Mike & Leslie Faltin)
"We're not a Gibson dealer, and I'm not sure what they're making right now that's so special, but I know that everyone in this room is thinking about their future. We want Gibson to survive, and we want them to flourish."

RBI Music (Selected by Todd Johnson)
"[RBI is] now getting into Toca Percussion and Vintage guitars. They're starting to branch out and come out of their comfort zone. If you haven't been carrying their products, reach out to RBI out of Fort Worth, Texas."

BAE (Selected by Matt Knobel)
"There are a lot of companies that are remaking classic modules, but this is one of the best companies out there doing this. There's been a lot of demand lately for lower-cost items, but these guys are making super high-quality products at super affordable prices. This is going to revolutionize a lot of home studios."

KHS (Selected by Glenn Noyes)
"A lot of companies every year come out with a new color, but [KHS] tries new things. Over the last couple of years — especially with their Mapex brand — they've come out with the SoniClear Bearing Edges and a line called MyDentity. The fact that they're willing to take risks is something that keeps this industry exciting."

Gamechanger Audio (Selected by Jim Tuerk)
"Their product design looks so cool. It's engaging. It sounds really great. It's fun to play. I'm excited to hear what they do and how they approach their next product. I'm probably going to buy it as soon as I hear about it."

Gotta Stock It
Louson CajonTab (Selected by Robert Christie)
"I think of this [product] as a ukulele of the cajon. You can throw it over your shoulder, and it plays just like a cajon. You can change the tone a little bit. On the front, it has a set of snares that you can either turn on or off. It's available in two different ways: in a regular CajonTab and a pro model, which is [constructed of] solid wood. It's beautiful and they sound great."

D'Addario Auto Lock Guitar Strap (Selected by Mike & Leslie Faltin)
"This has a built-in strap lock. Basically if you lift it, it snaps right on. It will fit on any normal strap button. It's very strong and elegant."

Mukikim Rock and Roll It SpecDrum (Selected by Mike & Leslie Faltin)
"What's cool about [this item] is that it's an impulse item that anyone can buy as a gift. It's a toy. It's a gag gift. It's a first drum set for a 4-year-old. It has a booklet that comes with it that gives kids basic rhythms."

Kala Dolphin Series Ukuleles (Selected by Todd Johnson)
"They come in a lot of different colors. They're very affordable. The Kala Dolphin series is a no-brainer."

Latch Lake Products, Xtra Boom (Selected by Matt Knobel)
"Latch Lake has an extension for its mic stands. This is a brilliant piece because you can put this on any existing mic stand. You can mount this directly to drum hardware or to any surface. It just clamps on. It comes in many sizes. It's very affordable. People buy them. They're really fantastic."

Alesis Nitro Mesh Head Kit (Selected by Glenn Noyes)
"I picked this as a Gotta Stock it because it's already a proven winner. This year at the show, [Alesis] introduced their new model, the Nitro Mesh Kit. For our company, the [previous model] was our No. 1 selling SKU out of all divisions for Q4 during the holiday season. It's a great entry-level kit. And now with the mesh heads, it's very quiet. It's a complete eight-piece electronic kit. The module itself is very powerful with 385 drum sounds, 40 drum sets and 60 tracks to play along to."

BandLab Link Analog (Selected by Jim Tuerk)
"This is a mini interface that connects with your phone. It would be an understatement to say that phones are one of the instruments of the future. People already are using it in extremely powerful ways to create music. Devices like this can help make more musicians by meeting them where they are. It's going to do really well."

Best Accessories and Add-ons
Fluid Audio Strum Buddy Stick-On Guitar Amp (Selected by Robert Christie)
"It's a rechargeable six-watt guitar amp that you plug into your output jack. You can stick it on the top of your guitar. It's a lot of fun. It creates opportunities to have your electric guitar without carrying around a big amp. It has a couple of onboard effects: distortion, chorus and reverb. It goes three-and-a-half hours on a charge."

OnStage Stands LED2214 Rechargeable Music Stand Light (Selected by Mike & Leslie Faltin)
"One of the cool things about it is that it also goes red. If white is too bright of a light, the red is perfect just to let you see what you're doing. It doesn't create a lot of spurious light to blind people in the audience. It lasts 25 hours on one charge."

Sheetminder (Selected by Mike & Leslie Faltin)
"It seems so simple. It's a cardboard piece of paper that can be ripped apart. It's got these little stick-on things, and you can stick your sheet music to it so that it becomes just one piece of music. It's not going to blow off the stand. It's a one-time use [item], but for two bucks, you should buy lots of them."

Portastand and Mighty Bright (Selected by Todd Johnson)
"I don't know why I didn't pick them years ago, but it's one of the greatest accessories. Look for the Troubadour. They've got great features. They're great stands."

Latch Lake Stands (Selected by Matt Knobel)
"In the recording studio, you have a lot of different options for mic stands, but Latch Lake is the company that has the most durable, strongest stands in the world. It's a small footprint, but it's a great product."

Yamaha Crosstown Advanced Lightweight Drum Hardware (Selected by Glenn Noyes)
"This is the lightest weight hardware available on the market. It's 34 percent lighter than anything else. The entire bag is 17 pounds. It's all aluminum. It's very affordable. It saves your back after a long gig."

Gizmotron (Selected by Jim Tuerk)
"It really is a whiz-bang electronic piece. It's super cool and mounts right onto a guitar or bass. When you press down on the button, this little disc spins — so it's super analog in that way — and it excites the strings. It sounds like a cello or a violin. It's a really cool product." MI