This year, the NAMM Show added a new hall, increased its attendance numbers, and rearranged the Show floor significantly. One thing did not change; there was a TON of fabulous gear on display! We bring you the best of the best – the Bass Gear Magazine 2018 Winter NAMM Best of Show Award winners:

Fender – Rumble Studio 40 and Stage 800 Bass Combos

Fender has been quietly taking over the bass amplification world. Sure, they have been in the market as long as anyone, but over recent years, they have been really killin’ it with regard to bass amps. The Super Bassman is one of the best all-tube heads on the planet, and the Rumble series has been not only a price point leader, but highly competitive with the top of the market. Last November, I was invited out to Hollywood to spend some hands-on time with the newest Rumble combos, the Studio 40 and Stage 800. These new combos really wowed me, but I was sworn to secrecy until the big reveal at the NAMM Show. All of the BGM staff who played through these combos were blown away. The 40-watt Studio 40 drives a single 10” driver, and is ideal for studio use (go figure!) and jamming at home. The Stage 800 features two 10” woofers, and puts out 400 watts when using the internal drivers, and 800 watts when also powering an 8-ohm extension cab. Both of these combos utilize the same impressive front end, which brings the latest modelling technology from the Mustang GT guitar amps to us bass players. The modelling includes a variety of Fender amps and cabs, as well as models of other iconic brands. The new Rumbles offer a huge range of effects, as well. All of this would not matter, of course, if they didn’t sound great. Fortunately, they do. The amp models quite usable, and the effects are not only super fun but musical. I look forward to bringing you an in-depth review in the future, but for now, let me just say that the new Studio 40 and Stage 800 impressed the heck out of us. I’m willing to throw out the phrase “game changer.” Seriously, folks, these new Rumbles are great!

Marleaux BassGutiars – mBass 2000

Regular BGM readers may note that we have previously doled out the Best of Show hardware for Gerald Marleaux; twice previously, in fact. This makes Gerald our first three-peat winner, and deservedly so. The first Best of Show Award was for the Marleaux Diva, a lovely and unique fretless design. The second went to the Contra Bass, which blends the materials and techniques used when building violins and violas with those used when building electric bass guitars. For this award, Gerald went back to a prior model design – the mBass – but with a very special treatment. This 6-string bass represents Gerald’s two thousandth build; that’s 2,000 instruments, which is a lot from such a small shop. The neck-through mBass 2000 features attention to the woodwork and details above and beyond the normal Marleaux high water mark. The pickups were custom-wound for this specific instrument after playing the bass with a variety of other pickups. Likewise, the preamp was custom-voiced for this bass. The result is an instrument which has notes that leap off the fingerboard, and somehow manage to hit like a ton of bricks, while sounding clear as a bell. I do not normally play a 6-string, but somehow, I felt right at home on this bass. We had some stiff competition for the Best of Show instrument this year, but in the end, it was a unanimous win for Gerald Marleaux with the mBass 2000.

Darkglass Electronics – Alpha · Omega Ultra Bass Pedal

Another repeat winner, Darkglass Electronics, continues to impress with their relentless quest to take over the bass amplification world. Perhaps not coincidentally, Darkglass won their first Best of Show Award the same year that Gerald Marleaux won his first – 2014 – and they, too, celebrated a milestone: the 10th Anniversary of Darkglass Electronics. Douglas, Hugo and Franco not only offer up the best lineup of bass pedals in the industry, they have also been making their mark with killer bass heads and cabs. The Alpha · Omega Ultra is their latest pedal, but it is far from ordinary. First off, it offers the two distinct distortion circuits (Alpha and Omega) and Growl/Bite functions offered in the previous Alpha · Omega pedal, but adds not only a 6-band foot-switchable graphic EQ, but also a cab sim function. This last feature is easy to overlook, but after Douglas showed us how it works, we realized how much it brings to the table. You can only load one cab sim at a time (and turn it on or off, of course), but you can access a number of different cab sims (aka, “digital impulse-response cabinet emulations”) on your computer and then choose which one to download to the pedal. These cab sims are modelling not only the particular bass enclosure, but also the specific microphone used to record it, and the positioning of the mic (on-axis, off-axis, etc.). The end result is that the ability to punch in a cab sim allows you to dramatically change the tone/response/feel of your overall signal, which basically doubles down on the very versatile Alpha · Omega Ultra overdrive tone. The cab sim option will be especially attractive to users of in-ear monitors who miss some of the tactile response of playing through a great cab. If you can’t find a compelling distortion tone in this box, then you shouldn’t be playing around with distortion to begin with.