26th Annual Dealers’ Choice Awards

by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • Dealers' Choice Awards
  • December 2018
• Created: December 3, 2018

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While there are plenty of awards and accolades that organizations or publications hand out to specific instruments, brands, and music-related gear, the DCAs are uniquely significant. Unlike honors determined by a panel of “experts” or an editorial staff, the recipients of these trophies are chosen by MI dealers. There’s no agenda at play, no bias, no angle. It’s the folks who represent “boots on the ground” in our industry who determine what gear was superior – at least in terms of sales and profits – this past calendar year. MI retailers have told us what suppliers have been defining and driving our industry in 2018 and now we share their selections with you. Our congratulations to the winning brands.

Last year we celebrated a quarter-century of Dealers’ Choice Awards (DCAs) and did so in style, with more readers participating in both the nomination process and the actual voting than ever before. The 2018 DCAs topped even those figures, though, and marked the fourth consecutive year of record-setting involvement on the part of thousands of registered MMR subscribers. As I noted in 2017’s DCA report, for anyone curious as to why a particular brand or instrument wasn’t nominated, or wondering “Why didn’t I get an opportunity to vote?” the simple answer is: please check your emails and regular mail closely next year – we’ve been sending out alerts and invitations to participate since early summer! And your opinions are absolutely of great importance to us. If you’re a subscriber, you get a vote; If you’re not currently receiving MMR, please head over to www.mmrmagazine.com and navigate to the “Subscribe” link in the upper-right. We want to connect with anyone and everyone in the MI industry – and qualified applicants subscribe for free!

Many thanks to everyone who participated in the nomination process this past summer and who then cast their votes this fall. Read on to learn more about this year’s Dealers’ Choice Award winners…

 

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR: ALLEN & HEATH SQ SERIES

By refining and in many ways outright redefining compact digital mixers, with their SQ Series, Allen & Heath has produced a line of product that clearly resonated with both end-users and retailers in 2018 – and likely will continue to. Built on the company’s 96kHz FPGA XCVI core, SQ mixers supply clear, high-res audio signal with a class-leading latency of less than .7 milli seconds. Each of the three models – the SQ-5, SQ-6, and SQ-7 – are feature-rich, 48 channel/36 bus digital mixers that are both powerful and user-friendly. With prices starting at just below $3,000, these consoles are putting the capabilities of high-end recording spaces in the hands of users from nearly all budgets and skill levels. Nicely done, Allen & Heath!

allen-heath.com

 

ACCESSORY LINE OF THE YEAR: D’ADDARIO

Not only does D’Addario field product offerings across a wide array of sub-categories within the larger “accessories realm” – guitar strings, cables, capos, tuners, picks, straps, and more – but dealers point to the excellent design and quality of the gear asstrong selling points. “Accessory Line of the Year” is always a hotly contested, crowded category, but it’s been a while since D’Addario has been unseated as top of the heap – and 2018 was no different.

daddario.com

 

ACOUSTIC GUITAR OF THE YEAR: TAYLOR V-CLASS

Traditional X-bracing has worked just fine for over a century, so why mess with success? “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and all that. Well, the folks over at Taylor observed that with X bracing there exists a compromise between an acoustic guitar’s volume and sustain. That volume that we all want and need comes from the flexibility of the guitar’s top, while sustain comes from the stiffness. Increase one and you automatically decrease the other. By employing V-Class bracing, these innovative instruments are both stiff and flexible in ways that enhance both sustain and volume. Players and retailers have been impressed with these guitars since their introduction in January of this year.

taylorguitars.com

 

ACOUSTIC PIANO LINE OF THE YEAR: STEINWAY & SONS

While there are a number of celebrated makers out there, Steinway occupies a unique space in the piano market. The company’s stature in the realm of high-end pianos is legendary – and based on those who voted in the 2018 Dealers’ Choice Awards, that reputation is as robust as ever. “Their pianos are of extremely high quality and well-respected the world over,” observed one voter. “For many, nothing compares to a Steinway.” Be that as it may, this win was by no means a cakewalk for this storied brand. With the leading vote-getter changing nearly every day leading up to the deadline, “Acoustic Piano Line of the Year” was perhaps the hardest-fought category this year. Congratulations to Steinway on an impressive win.

steinway.com

 

AMPLIFIER LINE OF THE YEAR: BOSS KATANA

I don’t know that I could better summarize what makes these amps such a hit any better than I did last year, so…

With a range that includes versatile combos, powerful heads, and even a compact battery-powered unit (I have one – it’s great!), BOSS’ Katana amplifiers connect with players of all styles and budgets. Select functions derived from the celebrated Waza amp series, integrated access to a wide range of BOSS effects, Tone Setting memories, and inspired design that allows the units to excel both on-stage and at lower volume, home settings all combine to make the Katana amps an across-the-board hit. Dealers pointed to the line’s popularity with end-users and nice profit margins as reasons why these truly innovative products are the Amplifier Line of the Year for 2018.

roland.com

 

BAND & ORCHESTRA LINE OF THE YEAR: YAMAHA

Yamaha’s reach and presence across so many instrument and product categories is truly impressive, but what’s even more extraordinary than the fact that they make so much is the fact that it’s all so good. B&O Line of the Year is just one of many awards that Yamaha was in contention to win this year, but it’s one of their two 2018 DCAs (more on that later) where they were the clear winner. Innovative design, quality construction, and an impeccable reputation make Yamaha’s B&O instruments the go-to for professionals, students, and educators of all varieties and backgrounds.

usa.yamaha.com

 

DJ LINE OF THE YEAR: ROLAND

With instruments such as the DJ-808 – a sophisticated DJ controller featuring built-in sequencing, 4-channel mixer, vocal processing, and Serato DJ Pro integration – it’s no wonder that DJs have been embracing the Roland brand. Add to those types of products a wide array of synths, samplers, voice transformers, and more and Roland becomes something of a “one-stop shop” for the growing number of users who are seeking to go beyond “just” mixing, scratching, and sequencing. This is usually a tough category to call, but in 2018 “DJ Line of the Year” was owned by Roland.

roland.com

 

ELECTRIC BASS OF THE YEAR: ERNIE BALL MUSIC MAN STINGRAY

Since its introduction in the mid-‘70s, the StingRay has been embraced by players (and dealers!) as an iconic, instantly recognizable bass guitar. Signature features such as the instrument’s distinctive alnico humbucker, 3+1 tuning key configuration, hardened steel bridge, and oval pickguard almost place the unique StingRay in a category unto itself. While there were a few other instruments that came pretty close in the voting, retailers ultimately were clear in their selection of this year’s “Electric Bass of the Year.” Well-deserved.

music-man.com

 

 

 

 

ELECTRIC GUITAR OF THE YEAR: FENDER STRATOCASTER

Haven’t I been here before…? The venerable Strat is one of those items that frequently finds its way to the winner’s circle and, if I’m being honest, I’m running out of ways to celebrate the guitar on yet another victory. What’s left to say? It’s one of the two most iconic electric guitars in history that is beloved by players across virtually all genres of music. If it’s good enough for Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, Yngwie Malmsteen (this could go on for a while)… Whether a person picks up a Stratocaster because he or she wants to be like a favorite guitar player, or whether that person wants to become the next guitar hero, him- or herself, the Strat has loads of appeal. Don’t be surprised if our 2019 DCA tally finds this legendary six-string once again taking home a trophy.

fender.com

 

HOME DIGITAL KEYBOARD OF THE YEAR: CASIO PX-870

The Privia line of digital pianos has been a massive global hit, with impressive sound quality and performance features. As the flagship model, the PX-870 represents the best of what these instruments have to offer: AiR Sound Source with four-layer stereo grand piano, featuring realistic damper resonance; key action sounds, key off simulation, adjustable hammer response, and a lid simulator; string resonance; 19 instrument tones; 256 notes of polyphony; a 60-song, built-in music library; two-track MIDI recorder; and USB connectivity to any PC, Mac, iOS, or android device. Add to all of that a stylish appearance and a very competitive price-point and you have a winner across the board.

casio.com

 

LIGHTING LINE OF THE YEAR: CHAUVET DJ

Last year, I noted that “Lighting Line of the Year” is always a tight category. “Always” is no longer applicable because dealers showed up in droves for Chauvet DJ this year. I’d love to be able to say that it was close, but…. nope. Clubs, DJs, music halls, and venues of all varieties turn to Chauvet DJ when in need of luminaries, atmospherics, controllers, accessories, and trussing. With many consecutive wins under their belt and no indication of slowing down, these folks are putting this category on lockdown.

chauvetdj.com

 

 

MICROPHONE LINE OF THE YEAR: SENNHEISER

Last year, I shared the story of how I accidentally spilled an iced coffee on a vintage 441 while I was a student at Berklee and how I legitimately thought my professor was going to strangle me. This year, I’ll regale you all with my tale of assisting on a vocal session with a well-known and frequently… effervescent? celebratory? queen of the mid-‘90s grunge scene. This semi-coherent artist (who refused to stop chain-smoking during the session) kept lurching towards another vintage Sennheiser with lit cigarette in hand, causing the well-known producer (and owner of the mic) no small amount of anxiety. What’s the point? Well, Sennheiser has been designing and producing microphones of such legendary performance and quality that they inspire this degree of affection and concern within those who own them. Whether for broadcast, live music, theater, mobile recording, or studio recording, Sennheiser has industry-leading solutions across a number price points – meaning they represent all types of sales for all types of dealers.

en-us.sennheiser.com

 

PERCUSSION LINE OF THE YEAR: PEARL

From the Roadshow Jr. kits to the Export Series through to the Masterworks drum sets, Pearl truly has something for everyone. It’s this wide-ranging product line and its subsequent appeal for players of all skill-levels and budgets which voters singled out as the primary reason why this brand was the one to beat in 2018. An impressive roster of endorsing artists spanning from punk rockers to jazzers to adult contempo “rockers” to country, metal, pop, and beyond only serves to underscore how Pearl’s got “something for everyone.” Nicely done, Pearl!

pearldrums.com

 

PRINT MUSIC PUBLISHER OF THE YEAR: HAL LEONARD

An extensive catalog of titles, coupled with industry leading customer service and dealer support continue to make Hal Leonard unbeatable when it comes to this category. There are those DCA winners where I often find myself thinking, “Ah, how do I talk up this brand (or instrument) once again?” and then there’s Hal Leonard. Not only have they won “Print Music Publisher of the Year” for each of my own 17 years with MMR , but, to date, HL is the only company to win in the same category, without interruption, in each of the 26 annual Dealers’ Choice Awards. Respect.

halleonard.com

 

PRO DIGITAL KEYBOARD LINE OF THE YEAR: KAWAI MP SERIES

Kawai snuck by the competition in this very competitive category, and voters cited the company’s dealer-support and commitment to quality and innovation as the main reasons. The MP Series resonates with performers and discerning pianists, with class-leading action, authentic keyboard, articulate control, and a wide array of sounds. These truly are a favorite of professional keyboardists, too – if you’ve watched any award show or gone to more than one or two concerts in the past year, odds are you’ve seen an MP11 or MP7 on-stage.

kawaius.com

 

 

RECORDING LINE OF THE YEAR: STUDIOLIVE SERIES III ECOSYSTEM

Designed to function as a complete audio ecosystem that integrates digital console and rack mixers, personal monitor mixers, AVB networking, and digital stage boxes that communicate and interconnect with each other, the StudioLive Series III is a versatile and expandable system that evolves with a user’s needs (and budget). As such, this suite of products has proven to be a massive hit with customers and retailers – and the DCA votes were there to prove it. Last year, the fine folks at PreSonus got the nod for “Recording Line of the Year” in reference to the overall line of products offered. In 2018, voters got more specific, singling out this innovative recording and production Ecosystem as having been something special this year.

presonus.com

 

SOUND REINFORCEMENT LINE OF THE YEAR: YAMAHA

YCA is nearly always in a “multiple win” situation when it comes to the Dealers’ Choice Awards and 2018 proved to be no exception. Joining their shiny, new “Band & Orchestra Line of the Year” award in the trophy case this year will be the honor in this category. As previously stated, Yamaha just does so much, so well, it’s no surprise they snagged this win. Loudspeakers? Yup, got ‘em. Mixing consoles? What size do you need and with what features? Signal processors, enclosures, amps? Yes, yes, and yes. Whether you’re doing sound for an arena tour, coffee-house, or Friday night bingo in the local church basement, Yamaha’s got you covered.

usa.yamaha.com

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