Every year, several of us here at Regent Sounds head to NAMM to see what’s new in the world of the 6-string that we love so dearly. A four-day extravaganza of everything musical, the 2019 NAMM Show saw the city of Anaheim swarming with exhibitors, musicians, dealers and music fans alike, as the most influential brands in music set the trends for the upcoming year, with their biggest product announcements, often supported by legions of famous musicians ready to show off their latest gear in its finest light. In what is probably the single, biggest annual gathering of the music industry on the planet, NAMM 2019 did not disappoint; and here, at Regent Sounds, we managed to get up, close and personal with not only the latest guitars to hit the market, but also some of the rarest and most sought-after instruments being made, today.
Our NAMM experience started the night before the main gates opened, as we had been invited to Fender’s Custom Shop event; an annual occurrence where Fender gathers a select number of dealers and collectors for a private viewing of some of their finest stock. The Fender booth was packed – not only with people, but also with guitars. Hundreds of examples of Custom Shop guitars were on show – some being die-hard classics, and others, guitars dressed in the some of the weirdest, most characterful and wonderful finishing livery you could imagine. In an interesting raffle system, dealers calmly fight tooth and nail for the guitars they are eyeing up this year; making their mark by simply inserting a card with their details into the strings of the guitar they want. At the end of the event, Fender collects all the dealer names associated with a particular guitar, and picks one at random, with each guitar being assigned a winner. And you can bet we had our eyes set on some of the gems on offer. One giant raffle later, and we are proud to say that we won a 2019 Limited Edition Roasted Tomatillo Relic Strat in Taomatillo Green our very own 2019 NAMM-exclusive Custom Shop. And it’s a true beauty. You can expect to see this guitar gracing our Custom Shop wall in a few months. In the meantime you can check it out or pre-order it here https://regentsounds.com/collections/latest-products/products/fender-custom-shop-stratocaster-2019-ltd-roasted-tomatillo-relic-rw-aged-tomatillo-green
Aside from the raffled guitars, Fender’s Masterbuilt instruments were proudly on display, many being showcased and run through by the master builders themselves. John Cruz could be seen explaining the inspiration of one of his quirkier offerings this year to an excited Greg Koch; John built a guitar that is quite literally perfectly divided down the middle. A y-axis-divided, relic’d and vintage-inspired design on one side, and a minty closet classic on the other – both combined into one guitar, serving as proof that if you can imagine it, Fender can build it.
But perhaps the biggest news from Fender in recent years, was the announcement of their collaboration with rock guitar legend, Jimmy Page. Two beautiful Telecasters would be launched this year, harking back to Jimmy’s iconic guitars and historical custom designs: the Mirrored Tele, and the Dragon Tele. Limited in number, only 50 Masterbuilt sets containing one of each Telecaster, have been made, and all 50 have pre-sold, with each guitar in the set being priced at an astonishing £23,259. That’s nearly £50K for the set – complete with armoured flight cases, coiled cables and violin bows. Luckily, Fender are releasing standard, factory-built versions of both guitars that are accessible to the less well-heeled hobbyist, and we have a number of these on order for people to try, in-store.
Fender’s product announcements continued, with their reinstatement of the Acoustasonic Telecaster – an instrument that had once been on the production line, before. But for 2019, it has been painstakingly rethought, and redesigned from the inside, out. A beautiful guitar capable of producing ten very different tones, these instruments are light-weight, loud and resonant, yet electronically complex, allowing you to achieve anything from a plugged-in electric sound, through to a full-size acoustic dreadnaught tone, courtesy of a collaboration with Fishman who loaded the instrument with its Acoustic Engine system. And if ten starkly different tones wasn’t enough, Fender’s blend knob, allows you to achieve the gradient of tones in between them all, too. Available in a myriad of classic through to custom print finishes, these guitars drew crowds as large as their appearance, as scores of people could be seen patiently waiting in line to get a glimpse of Fender’s electric-acoustic hybrid. At Regent Sounds, our Acoustasonic social media posts garnered an explosion of attention that we couldn’t ignore, and so we decided to bring back a number of Acoustasonic Telecasters to our Denmark Street store, for our customers to see and hear in the flesh.
The news keeps coming, but in summary, Fender has also announced a new pedal line-up, adding to their attractively priced, high-quality effects product line, together with new instrument lines such as the American Performer, Rarities and Alternate Reality Series. The American Performer guitars marked a wonderful new entry point into USA-made Fender instruments, with an artist line-up and promotional campaign targeting the younger players, evidenced by Fender’s advertising with guitarists such as Tom Misch and Curt Henderson.
The new Rarities Series sees Fender creating slightly more ostentatiously-adorned instruments, made in America, but offering a more boutique look than what we’re used to, while Alternate Reality stems from the established Parallel Universe series, which considers how Fender’s classic designs would have looked, had they ‘evolved in an alternate reality’. Most notably, this series sees the introduction of newer models such as the Tenor Telecaster and Meteora.
It is clear to see that Fender really delivered for the NAMM Show this year, and we would even go as far as to say their booth may have been one of the top highlights for us this year, here at Regent Sounds. Why not check out our NAMM playlist, over on our YouTube channel, so you can see some of the video footage we captured with Fender’s own product specialists, while we were there?
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