NAMM 2024 Bass Gear: Day 1
The 2024 Winter NAMM Show marks the return of North America’s largest music trade show back to its January timeline for the first time since 2020. The four-day event is akin the Superbowl of music gear as companies from around the world display their latest and greatest.
Although it’s back to its normal winter schedule, the show has not totally bounced back in scale. Some of the largest companies in the guitar industry – notably Fender and Gibson – opted not to attend this year. However, the energy on the floor is as electric as ever. Attendees and exhibitors alike are buzzing with excitement to be back and connecting with industry friends.
The No Treble crew is on hand to find all the new bass gear and catch up with artists on the scene. We eased into the show for day one, but here are some of the highlights.
Though the main focus from ESP this year was on the trebly side, their wall of basses had two new additions with LTD signature models for Soulfly’s Mike Leon and Kreator’s Frédéric Leclercq.
The MLB-4 takes its cues from the LTD B Series basses that Leon has used for years on the road. Features include a 35-inch scale, a swamp ash body in a textured sandblasted finish, Nordstrand Big Splits pickups, and Gotoh Hardware.
The FL-4 is the latest LTD sig for Leclercq and has a unique body shape that takes ESP’s F Series body and puts a cutout on the tail. It’s built with a five-piece maple and purpleheart neck and an alder body that’s fitted with a single active EMG 35P pickup.
Canada’s Riversong Guitars had the prototype of their Graduated Scale Bass on display. The acoustic/electric has a multi-scale neck and is crafted with Chillakwian maple back and sides, a Sitka spruce top, and a walnut fretboard.
The music publishing giant always has a huge booth at NAMM, and this year was no exception. One title stuck out for us: The Jaco Pastorius Omnibook. The 272-page combbound book contains detailed note-for-note transcriptions of 43 recordings spanning his career from Little Beaver’s “I Can Dig It Baby” to “Portrait of Tracy” to Weather Report’s “A Remark You Made” to Joni Mitchell’s “Hejira”. The Jaco Pastorius Omnibook will also be available in digital formats.
Swan Custom Basses
Argentina’s Swan Custom Basses made the pilgrimage to NAMM to show off their new headless tuning system. Here it is on a six-string version of their Alpha Infinity model. The Russian chestnut body is chambered and ported with a slick design. They loaded the body with a pair of Lake Triple Agent pickups and a Mike Pope 4-band preamp.
They’re finally here. The long-awaited Darkglass combo amps have arrived. The company launched an analog combo series called the Microtubes 500 with 210 and 112 variations as well as a digital line with the Infinity 500. Christos Kollias walked us through the mind-boggling capabilities of the Infinity 500 Combo 210. Every knob on the control panel has a secondary function for incredible flexibility and power. First of all, its drive knob can be pressed to cycle between all of their drive types: Leo Bass, Vintage Microtubes, Microtubes B3K, and Alpha-Omega. From there, you have compression and an octaver. You can save all of your settings in the preset. The six-band graphic EQ sliders have LEDs in them that shine red or blue to help you dial into your saved setting and adjust from there.
All of the features are great, but at the end of the day it comes down to sound and these amps just sound amazing.
After 40 years of building solidbody basses and guitars, Stuart Spector launched Esopus Guitars to focus on acoustic instruments. His offerings so far have only been Dreadnought and OM models, but his longtime collaborator PJ Rubal gave us a sneak peak of what he’s working on next. This acoustic/electric bass is just a prototype, but it’s a darn good one. The details are not finalized, but it has a beautiful spruce top with an integrated thumb rest as well as a sound port on the back. We’ll certainly keep you updated with this one as more becomes available.
Valiant Guitars had a beautiful collection of both guitars and basses on hand, but this Mini Bass stopped me cold. Finished in Olive Mash and given a distressed treatment, the thing is just oozing cool. The “mini” in its name is due to its super short 27-inch scale and certainly not from its sound.
Big Johnson Bass
Bassist Troy Johnson toured for a decade with Ratt vocalist Stephen Pearcy. An acoustic tour made him realize that there was something missing in the world of acoustic bass guitars. Unhappy with the volume of unamplified ABGs, he designed a trapezoidal flatback body the size of a guitarron with an extended harp arm that connects to the headstock. The effect is similar to a grand piano, and with that construction and that much air, the Big Johnson Bass is loud. It can be played vertically or hanging from a strap and comes with a K&K pickup for when you really need to plug in. It’s a wild looking beast, but it sure is fun to play.
The NAMM Show’s Boutique Guitar Showcase houses some of the rarer and exotic instruments for players to experience. (We’ll be talking about more of them soon, I’m sure.) I was immediately drawn to the Stradi booth where I met luthier Marek D?bek. He had several iterations of his Symphony Bass on display including these two fretless models. On the left is a new option he’s calling the Big Bro. It’s built with an extra deep body crafted from one piece of iroko and topped with a flamed, roasted oak top. The single humcancelling Delano pickup can be switched between bridge single coil, series, and neck single coil operation.
After taking the bass to a demo room, I can say that Stradi basses are not just about looks. This is one of the finest fretless basses I’ve ever played. The tone is deep and sweet and the neck is a dream. Of course, I’ll be stopping by the booth a few more times just to make sure!
Day one is in the books. Check in tomorrow for more bass gear from the 2024 NAMM Show.
Check out our NAMM 2024 index for all the bass news from the show.