For four days, we ventured into the chaos of the packed Anaheim Convention Center to scout all of the greatest new bass gear for 2017 during the biggest music-instrument event of the year, Winter NAMM. We scoured the halls and searched through the masses of full stacks, combos, Class D heads, 4-strings, 6-strings, 27-strings (probably), and the heaps of pedals and newest novelties to hit the shelves. The result was a bout of hearing damage, calloused feet, and a full report of all the exciting and amazing products debuting in the bass world.
Between talking shop with the best luthiers, builders, and low-end gurus in the world, and catching up with some of our bass heroes, the yearly conglomeration of all things music was a wild success that left us lusting for new basses, amps, and pedals of every variety. There’s really nothing else in the world like the NAMM show, so for those who have never been, here’s our best attempt to recount it for you with some choice items that caught our eye from the wonderland of bass.
Offering 700 watts of powerful punch, the newest amp from Aguilar is a solid-state powerhouse that weighs in at only 4.9 pounds. Its innovative deep and bright EQ switches summon the deepest lows and highest highs to give a serious boost.
Classic Analog Bass Preamp, Scrambler Bass Overdrive
After unveiling its popular SCR-DI unit in 2015, Ampeg has split the key components in two and is now offering them as cost-efficient and pro-level bass preamp and overdrive pedals. Now they’re designed to fit on pedalboards of any size.
Street $100 each
Stuart Zender Funk Face Pedal
Ashdown Engineering teamed up with original Jamiroquai bassist Stuart Zender to create this twin dynamic filter pedal that gives you a wide range of envelope tones. The three-knob, two-switch layout allows you to customize just how funky you want to get.
Street £300 (about $375)
b-axis J55J L/S Pickups
These dual inline, hum-canceling J pickups are tremendously versatile in their range and are already gaining the attention of bassists and luthiers alike. Delivering on all sonic fronts from harmonics to deep notes, Bartolini’s latest are as precise as they are rich.
Piccolo 333 Amp
Remarkably small and portable, the Piccolo 333 is the latest and most compact of Epifani’s UL series of Class D amps. The 333 uses Epifani’s Vintage circuit, which adds a warm and tube-like ’60s vibe to any bass.
Combining the inner workings of keyboard and modular synthesizers, EHX has unleashed its latest pedal for bass players with the oddly named Blurst. Built as an envelope filter controlled by an internal oscillator, this modulated filter takes funk to the next level.
We just kept coming back to check out this stunning 5-string made with a Canadian maple and northern ash body. The transparent seafoam green finish gives it a classic look, while its Aguilar 5J-HC pickups and F Bass preamp under the hood provide impressive power.
American Professional Precision 5-string
Staying true to its vintage roots, this American Professional build has a ’63 P-Bass neck profile, narrow- tall frets, and all of the tone of a classic Fender bass. Adding modern touches of V-Mod pickups, fluted-shaft tuners, and a fifth string only make it better.
Monarch P-Classic & Emperor J-Classic
Trading exotic wood finishes for more traditional approaches—pickguards and all—Fodera’s new Monarch P-Classic and Emperor J-Classic basses give a boutique feel to timeless designs. Available in an array of wood options and finishes, these passive beauties are serious workhorses.
Slap with it, strum with it, tap with it, pluck with it. We had a blast testing out this innovative accessory that allows you to enhance your techniques and add some punch to your playing. There are many ways to utilize this compact little gadget.
This little electro-mechanical gadget attaches to the body of your bass and allows you to create bowed-string sounds organically, thanks to the small wheels that spin against your strings. While it may seem like a novelty, it has endless creative potential.
Ashula SRAS7 Hybrid Fretted/Fretless 7-string
Ibanez really put everything into its new Ashula bass. With an ADGEADG tuning and purpleheart fretted and rosewood fretless split fingerboard, this 7-string beast turned a lot of heads, and for good reason.
Kilian Duarte KD-5ES Signature Bass
Bass newcomer J Ferro was on display in full force, where it impressed with its large family of basses, including the Kilian Duarte Signature series. As an extension of J Ferro’s Escalon series, this 5-string has a mahogany body, solid flame-maple top, and a five-piece neck.
Multiscale Vanquish VM49K Bass
The VM49K Vanquish is Kiesel’s first attempt at crafting a multiscale bass, and they knocked it out of the park. Beautifully balanced, with an alder body and ebony fingerboard, the VM49K is a comfortable bass to play with great tonal range.
Hartke’s newest combo amp pairs two of the company’s revolutionary 10" HyDrive speakers with a 500-watt Class D amp in an enclosure that weights only 35 pounds. Perfect for the stage or studio, the HD500 is a great deal that won’t break your bank.
Classic ’57 P-Bass
Young Joon Park of Moollon has done it again with his latest bass built for Tim Lefebvre. This Classic P is a tribute to the Fender ’57 Precision Bass that nails every detail and nuance, even 60 years later.
Ninja 102-250 Combo
If Richard Bona has a hand in a product, we’re bound to take notice of it, and his Markbass signature combo is no exception. This slim 2x10, 250-watt amp has booming sound that could be clearly heard even in the Convention Center hall.
Street €670 (about $710)
Hadrien Feraud 5 Signature Bass
With a spruce top, swamp-ash body, and antique brown finish, Mayones’ Hadrien Feraud Signature was one of the sharpest-looking basses at the show. Hearing Feraud himself test out its rich tone and dynamic range was the icing on the cake.
Bubby Lewis Super5 Signature
With a slick black matte finish, maple body and neck, and a toasted-maple bird’s-eye fingerboard, MTD’s Bubby Lewis Super5 Signature is a unique work of art. And with 19mm string spacing, it has a feel all of its own.
BigRig HC Pickups
In an effort to achieve big single-coil sound while eliminating any hum noise from the strings, Nordstrand, with help from Alberto Rigoni, has created its new BigRig pickups. Available for 4-, 5-, and 6-strings, these new soapbars are making big waves.
Phil Jones Bass
There were rigs of all sizes at Phil Jones’ booth this year, but the amp that caught our attention was the compact Double Four. With two 70-watt 4" speakers and a weight of only eight pounds, this is a bassist’s dream for travel and practice.
Vintage Single Cut 5-string
Combining a beautiful, classic look with a pickup system that can switch between ’60s and ’70s tone, the new Chip Shearin-inspired Vintage Single Cut drew constant crowds to the Sadwosky booth, where bassists flocked to get their hands on this beauty.
Street $5,500 (base price)
Forty Eight 5-string
With a distressed finish that blends modern and classic touches, the Forty Eight’s Thunderbird-like appearance stands out in even the most colorful crowd of basses. And with a 2-band preamp and two variations of pickups on board, it sounds just as good as it looks.
Geddy Lee Signature SansAmp 2112
Geddy Lee teamed with Tech 21 to create a preamp tailored to his personal specs, allowing anyone to get close to his legendary tone. And even with powerful dual, all-analog circuits, the unit is small enough to fit in one rack space.
Timbre Acoustic Bass
Spector’s new Timbre series of basses feature a solid spruce top, three-piece mahogany neck, and rosewood fingerboard—but most important, they feature a surprisingly low price tag that allows any bassist to cop a high-end acoustic.
Most definitely the smallest bass head that we encountered at the show, the Elf somehow generates 200 watts while being able to fit in your back pocket (measuring just over six inches). It’s perfect for the busy bassist on the go.
Don’t let the compact size of the Small Mouth 210 fool you, because this versatile cabinet will out-power many of its larger rivals. With two 10" Eminence speakers and a HF Driver horn, it proves it’s the big fish in the pond.
RockBoard Flat Patch Cables
You may think that a mere ten-centimeter cable is not something to write home about, but if you’ve ever tried to cram a lot of effect boxes onto your pedalboard, then you’d be as happy as we are about these compact flat-headed miracles.