Photo information: The photo I took shows a working prototype of the POCKETRAK 2G Pocket Recorder. The Yamaha-made device is on my wish list of things to get in 2008!
With Yamaha Corporation of America being the world's largest music products manufacturer, its not surprising the Buena Park-based company is celebrated for digital and acoustic keyboards, state-of-the-art mixing boards, as well as drums, guitars and an assortment of band and orchestral instruments.
However, it was the smallest of products that created a bona fide buzz at the 106th NAMM show (NAMM is the acronym for the International Music Products Association's previous name, but is still used for the convention) held at the Anaheim Convention Center, Jan. 17-20.
The POCKETRAK 2G Pocket Recorder seems poised to do for the home recording industry what Apple's portable iPod digital player did for those who enjoy listening to music.
Weighing a mere 1.7 ounces, the 1/2-inch wide gizmo has a built-in USB 2.0 computer connection, a high-sensitivity tilt-up microphone and a built-in speaker. The device is able to record three hours of CD-quality music, while several MP3 modes provide up to 19 hours of continuous recording with a single rechargeable battery.
"It is a built-in studio that doubles as data storage. This allows you to record lectures, record music and then drag and drop (the files) into your computer," said Athan Billias, who is a member of the Yamaha team that developed the revolutionary product that is scheduled to hit the market in April 2008.
But just as impressive were a number of digital drum kits and a Concert Silent Violin that Yamaha unveiled at the show.
"This is a prototype. It will come out in July '08. Every string player will want one," said Las Vegas-based violinist Lisa Viscuglia of the SV-150K Concert Silent Violin. "It's more comfortable to play than my 200-year-old Italian violin."
The new SV-150K Silent Electric Practice Plus Violin takes silent practice to the final frontier, thanks to a built-in tuner, metronome and approximately 25 processed effects including reverb, distortion and vibrato. It will retail for $1,295.
Local multi-instrumentalist Kevin Moran of Gypsy's Kiss saw a number of things that impressed him this year.
"I got to demo an acoustic guitar preamp from Seymour Duncan that neutralizes the pick-up and restores a natural acoustic guitar sound. It's definitely something I'd like to try with the band," Moran said.
Moran also made it a point to swing by the Martin Guitar Company's large exhibit, an impressive celebration of America's oldest guitar manufacturer's 175th anniversary.
"It's always great to see what's new at NAMM. I always check out the guitars and Martin had some beautiful stuff, as always, including a reproduction of one of Elvis' guitars," Moran said of the new D-28M Elvis Presley leather-covered acoustic guitar.
Gypsy's Kiss will perform at the Harp Inn, 130 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, from 4-7 p.m. on Jan. 27. Admission is free.
No trip to NAMM would be complete without a visit to the Rickenbacker booth. The Santa Ana-based company continues to be celebrated for its wonderful line of guitars, bass guitars and mandolins. Tom Petty and R.E.M.'s Peter Buck are among the famed modern-day players who champion Rickenbacker instruments.
"We have a two-year backlog. Everything is made in Santa Ana; we have more than 60 employees and they all work in Orange County," said John C. Hall, owner and CEO of Rickenbacker.
Huntington Beach-based singer-songwriter James Grey is a longtime user of acoustic Taylor Guitars and has an endorsement deal with the El Cajon-based company, so he had to check out the company's first solid body electric guitar that made its debut at the NAMM show.
"The buzz this year is that Taylor came out with a full-on electric guitar," Grey said of the Taylor SolidBody.
Indeed, the Taylor SolidBody boasts an original design and uses magnetic pickups developed specifically for the electric guitar. "I'm a lefty and they are talking about doing this (making a left-handed model) for me. What I liked is it is well balanced and light."
Checking out the latest in high tech gear and old school style is not the only draw for those hitting NAMM. The trade show has increasingly become a place to see pop icons in a more intimate setting (Stevie Wonder, John Legend and Jon Anderson headlined at a Yamaha dealer show for 2,000 at Disney's California Adventure Park's Hyperion Theater on Jan. 18, while John Mayer played in front of an invitation-only crowd at the nearby Hilton the same night), as well as up-and-coming artists.
Among the young artists making their first appearance at NAMM was Jacob Jeffries, a superb 19-year-old singer-songwriter-keyboardist based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who appeared on Jan. 19. Performing on a prototype of a new Baldwin Gallery Series piano, Jeffries tore through a 25-minute set of brilliant original songs, including the infectious "Wonderful," confessional "And I Say" and poetic "Fairfax."
And despite the wealth of high-tech keyboards and digital pianos on display at NAMM, Jeffries takes a decidedly-retro approach when it comes to writing his songs.
"I write them all on the (acoustic) piano," he admitted.