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27th Annual Dealers’ Choice Awards

Christian Wissmuller, Victoria Wasylak • Dealers' Choice AwardsDecember 2019 • December 4, 2019

MMR’s Dealers’ Choice Awards (DCAs) are singular amongst the many end-of-year accolades bestowed upon MI suppliers by both consumer magazines and websites and trade organizations. While we’re lucky here at Musical Merchandise Review to have on staff or within our circle of stringers and advisors a number of professional and semi-pro guitarists, bassists, recording engineers, lighting technicians, singers, orchestral players, and more, none of the winners outlined in this report before you were determined by us.

Others look to in-house or outside “experts” to select what instruments or product lines deserve praise, but that’s not how we roll. This magazine is for and about musical instrument retailers and only they know what gear was helping them generate profits in the past year and turn customers into friends. Is it going to aid some MI dealer’s bottom line if I volunteer what I think the coolest guitar out there is these days? Maybe, but it’s more likely that learning what the majority of DCA voters – retailers – say is tops in a given category might provide useful, actionable insight.

As with the past five years, 2019 saw more folks participating in both the nomination process and the actual voting than in the last calendar year. If you are reading this summary and wondering, “Well, why didn’t I vote? Why didn’t anyone tell me to vote?” – please pay close attention to our e-newsletters, website, and the actual magazine. We do try to make it pretty obvious when the DCA process gets off and running, starting in mid-summer. If you read MMR, but don’t actually subscribe, please join us! Drop by www.mmrmagazine.com and click the “Subscribe” button in the upper-left. You’ll be qualified to vote in next year’s Dealers’ Choice Awards – and you’ll also get industry leading news and insights throughout each issue.

To all of those who helped determine the nominations and who then voted for the ultimate winners: Thanks! Keep reading to learn about the 2019 DCA champs…

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR: ALLEN & HEATH SQ SERIES

Allen & Heath Limited

Last year, I wrote the following: “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.”

Well, add “soothsayer” to my CV, because the SQ line continued to resonate to such a degree that Allen & Heath are walking away with their second consecutive “Product of the Year” nod. It’s really no surprise that these mixers are still scoring points with customers and dealers. Loaded with features, user friendly, and beginning at absurdly reasonable price points given the performance capability, the SQ Series – which last year became the first ever mixing console to win this category in the history of the DCAs – is truly a special entry in the market. Congrats on back-to-back victories, Allen & Heath!

allen-heath.com

 

ACCESSORY LINE OF THE YEAR: D’ADDARIO

D’Addario & Company

There are lots of accessory suppliers out there to choose from – it’s quite probably the most crowded DCA category – but few, if any, offer the breadth of offerings that D’Addario does. Everyone knows the brand for excellent fretted instrument strings (check out the UpFront Q&A on page 18 in this issue), but factor in Evans drumheads, Promark sticks, woodwinds accessories (Rico, Royal, Reserve), capos, picks, tuners, and much more and we’re talking an absolute juggernaut and an “Accessory Line of the Year” champ that’s going to be tough to knock out of the ring.

daddario.com

 

ACOUSTIC GUITAR OF THE YEAR: YAMAHA TRANSACOUSTIC

Yamaha Corporation of America

With MSRPs beginning at just over $900, the TransAcoustic line offers excellent, high-performing instruments at price-points that are within reach for nearly all. Superb build quality, impressive built-in effects, easy to use controls, and top-notch playability make these guitars stand out from the pack. While TransAcoustics can be plugged in, the nifty feature that in part defines the TA is the “actuator” installed directly on the inner surface of the guitar back that vibrates in reaction to the strings’ own vibration and generates genuine chorus and reverb sounds within the body. Innovative, sturdy, aesthetically pleasing, and affordable = a win. Nice job Yamaha!

usa.yamaha.com

 

 

ACOUSTIC PIANO LINE OF THE YEAR: YAMAHA

Yamaha Corporation of America

The sheer volume of offerings makes it almost unfair that Yamaha is eligible in this category, but you can’t fault a brand for covering all the bases – and I do mean all the bases. Upright pianos in the low $10,000ish range? Check! Flagship, hand-crafted grand pianos pushing $200,000 in price? Check! Industry standard instruments embraced and championed by educators, professionals, families, and casual performers? You bet! This was a hard-fought category in 2019, but

usa.yamaha.com

 

AMPLIFIER OF THE YEAR: FENDER

Fender Musical Instruments Corporation

If you’re an electric guitar dork (guilty!), then you already know all the many, many classic amps that Fender has churned out over the decades: Princeton Reverb, Bassman, Hot Rod Deluxe, Twin Reverb, Custom Deluxe, et cetera – what’s your favorite? Whether a relative beginner or a platinum-selling rocker, odds are Fender makes an amp with the features you need at a price you can manage. Dealers appreciated the reputation, brand recognition, and healthy profit margins in the past 12 months, leading to FMIC once again reclaiming the title of “Amplifier of the Year.”

Fender.com

 

BAND & ORCHESTRA LINE OF THE YEAR: YAMAHA

Yamaha Corporation of America

Yamaha is anomaly in the realm of the DCAs. While some suppliers are competitive in multiple categories (think brands likely to be in the running for the “Electric Guitar of the Year” and “Electric Bass of the Year” groups, or the “Home Digital” vs. “Pro Digital” Keyboard Line of the Year categories), Yamaha is consistently in the running for essentially every trophy except Print Music, Accessories, and Lighting. Band & Orchestra was one of the three wins for YCA in 2019 thanks to the same qualities that nabbed them victory in 2018: Innovative design, quality construction, and an impeccable reputation.

usa.yamaha.com

 

DJ LINE OF THE YEAR: PIONEER DJ

Pioneer DJ Corporation

With breakthroughs such as the XDJ-XZ, Pioneer DJ is raising the bar in this product category – and both retailers and customers took note. While there is, of course, plenty of DJ gear from Pioneer DJ, let’s stick with the XDJ-XZ: a 4-channel system with 14 pro Beat FX and six Sound Color FX, trigger software-specific features using the 16 multicolored Performance Pads all within one sturdy unit. You just can’t beat that type of creative gear development – and in 2019, at least according to DCA voters, nobody did.

Pioneerdj.com

 

ELECTRIC BASS OF THE YEAR: FENDER VINTERA ‘60S MUSTANG BASS

Fender Musical Instruments Corporation

For something that could have been looked at cynically as a simple rebranding of an already existing line, the Vintera guitars and basses made quite the impression in the past year. The Vintera ‘60s Mustang Bass features era-correct pickups, vintage colors, and the “vibe” and appeal of classic Fender basses. With a single split-coil pickup, 30” scale neck, offset body, and prices starting at around $950, it’s easy to see why bassists and dealers flocked to this gorgeous 4-string.

Fender.com

 

 

ELECTRIC GUITAR OF THE YEAR: PRS SILVER SKY

Paul Reed Smith Guitars

An axe borne out of a close collaboration between Paul Reed Smith and guitarist John Mayer, the PRS Silver Sky is a vintage inspired model that marries the best of the past with present-day innovation and resultant advantages. The “inverted PRS headstock” shape helps maintain a consistent length of string behind the nut, which makes staying in tune more reliable; The steel tremolo is inspired by vintage design, but incorporates PRS’s Gen III knife-edge screws and trem arm; Silver Sky’s molded metal jack-plate is curved specifically to make plugging and unplugging cables easy; the double-action truss rod is accessible from the front of the headstock… The list could go on for paragraphs, if not pages. The thought, care, and craftsmanship that went into designing this guitar is virtually unparalleled in a mass-produced instrument and end-users and dealers noticed. Home run, PRS!

Prsguitars.com

 

HOME DIGITAL KEYBOARD OF THE YEAR: PRIVIA PX-S3000

Casio America, Inc.

When Casio “reimagines” one of their own products, they don’t hold back. Releasing the Privia PX-S3000 this year (as well as its sibling, the PX-S1000), this new keyboard from Casio brings players a chassis that is 42.7 percent smaller than previous models. The new set of keys is straight from the future; featuring not only a new touch panel control surface, but also an app that allows you to control the device from a smartphone, this model has tech fans in mind. Add in Casio’s new Sound Source, which offers an authentic grand piano sound, and the Privia PX-S300 is well-worth its considerable price tag. A “reimagined” gem from Casio, indeed.

Casio.com

 

LIGHTING LINE OF THE YEAR: CHAUVET DJ

Chauvet DJ

Belgium, France, Zimbabwe: Was there a country – or continent, for that matter – that Chauvet DJ fixtures didn’t travel to in 2019? Consistently one of the most relied- upon lines for lighting and stage effects the world over, Chauvet DJ products fueled the art realm this year, and dealers took notice. From being mainstays in lighting rigs for tours traveling the world, to providing enticing visuals and backdrops for galleries, musicals, and clubs, Chauvet DJ remains one of the most ubiquitous brands on the list, and that likely won’t be changing in the foreseeable future.

Chauvetdj.com

 

MICROPHONE LINE OF THE YEAR: SHURE

Shure Incorporated

You’d be hard-pressed to enter any show – whether it be a local gig or a major-production concert – and not see some Shure gear onstage or working magic backstage. There’s good reason for their ironclad reputation, and a huge chunk of it comes from being a 94(!!) year-old company synonymous with quality and consistency. Add innovation to that list of descriptors, too – just recently, Shure unveiled VPH, a long microphone handle made specifically for interview and reporting, and a new version of their MXA910 Ceiling Array Microphone, equipped with IntelliMix DSP. Without a doubt, this brand will easily cross the hundred-year milestone, thanks to the support and faith of dealers, musicians, and live production engineers everywhere.

Shure.com

PERCUSSION LINE OF THE YEAR: DW

Drum Workshop, Inc.

Founded in 1972, this Oxnard, California company hasn’t stopped climbing the ladder of success since their modest beginnings in Santa Monica. Their largest accomplishment in recent history (besides their 47 years in the MI biz thus far), of course, was adding names like Latin Percussion, Gibraltar Hardware, and Gretsch Drums to the Drum Workshop brand family. As this year’s DCA results show us, DW is called the “drummer’s choice” for a reason.

Dwdrums.com

 

PRINT MUSIC PUBLISHER OF THE YEAR: HAL LEONARD

Hal Leonard

We say it every year, and this December issue of MMR is no different – Hal Leonard remains the only brand to take home the “Print Music Publisher of the Year” in the history of the Dealers Choice Awards – ever. Longtime readers no doubt are familiar with the brand’s long-running record with MMR, but for new subscribers, allow us to explain: not only has Hal Leonard won this award for all 27 years of the DCAs, but no other brand has held such a dominance in any category at all. It’s easy to see why their popularity remains at soaring heights – on top of their books sharing golden oldies tunes, they also offer songbooks for some of the most in-demand singers of 2019, like Lizzo, Taylor Swift, Khalid, and Billie Eilish. That’s certainly one way to stay with the trends.

halleonard.com

 

PRO DIGITAL KEYBOARD LINE OF THE YEAR: KAWAI MP SERIES

Kawai America Corporation

This year, MMR readers cast their vote for a line that proudly hosts “the performer’s stage piano” and “the pianist stage piano.” Nabbing this DCA category for the second year in a row, the MP11SE and the MP7SE are models that players clearly can’t get enough of: boasting realistic sound, articulate control, and a variety of Virtual Technician sound editing parameters, the Kawai MP Series are the keyboards we see onstage over and over again, in every kind of setting.

Kawaius.com

 

 

RECORDING LINE OF THE YEAR: PRESONUS

PreSonus Audio Electronics, Inc.

This was a particularly tight category in 2019, but PreSonus came out on top for yet another year. After praising their StudioLive Series III last year when they took home the trophy in the same category, it’s clear that the StudioLive Series III – and other new releases, like the PX-1 and PM-2 Recording Mics – are still in the minds of voters, players, and MI retailers alike. What’s more, as of this past July, the StudioLive Series III includes PreSonus’ entire Fat Channel Collection Volume 1 plug-in collection free with every StudioLive Series III S console and Series III rack mixer. Now that’s how you craft a winning ticket.

presonus.com

 

SOUND REINFORCEMENT LINE OF THE YEAR: QSC

QSC, LLC

QSC understands that sound reinforcement isn’t just about concert and club-thumping beats. Sure, their loudspeakers serve thousands – if not millions – of eager concertgoers in any given year, but the California-based company taps into the entire world of live sound and entertainment, not just the world of dancehalls. For every venue that needs a new sound rig, there’s a house of worship that needs one too, and for every DJ on the go, there’s a presenter scrambling for an audio solution. Weddings, parties, corporate get-togethers that are actually cool – QSC is serious about all kinds of events, and that’s why QSC takes home the DCA for “Sound Reinforcement Line of the Year” in 2019.

QSC.com 

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