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28th Annual Dealers’ Choice Awards

Christian Wissmuller, Victoria Wasylak • Dealers' Choice AwardsDecember 2020 • December 2, 2020

Product of the Year – Allen & Heath’s Avantis

Allen & Heath was the first company to win “Product of the Year” for a mixer with their SQ Series two years ago, followed by a repeat 2019 win on the strength of the continual software updates for SQ. Now a three-peat for Allen & Heath in this coveted category with the “big brother” to SQ, Avantis.

Sharing the same next-generation horsepower at its core with the company’s XCVI FPGA, Avantis sets a new standard for sub-$10K feature-packed live and broadcast sound digital consoles. From the local high school theater to the church down the street to a key role in FOX Sports broadcasts of the World Series and the NFL, Avantis holds down the audio fort.

With its easy integration with industry-standard audio-over-IP standards like Dante, plug and play networkability with the rest of the Allen & Heath digital consoles (this year’s “Sound Reinforcement Line of the Year”), and plethora of readily available interface cards, Avantis was able to pivot into broadcast and live stream world as more traditional live sound events dwindled. 


Acoustic Guitar of the Year – Taylor Builder’s Edition 652e

The first 12-string to take home a victory in this category, the Builder’s Edition 652e exhibits all the innovative design and meticulous craftsmanship that players and dealers have come to expect from Taylor. A reverse-strung setup on this maple beauty provides fuller sound, while “electric guitar inspired” contours allow for excellent playing comfort.



Accessory Line of the Year – D’Addario

D’Addario has a virtual stranglehold on this category – and it’s easy to see why. Be it strings, clip-on tuners, slides, picks, capos, straps, or pretty much anything else that qualifies as a “musical accessory,” these guys make them and consumers snap them up (providing retailers with a tidy profit).



Acoustic Piano Line of the Year – Steinway & Sons

This year, dealers gave the nod to what many consider to be the finest high-end piano brand out there. In addition to the flagship Steinway line, the company also fields the popular, lower priced brands: Boston and Essex.


Amplifier of the Year – Fender

With an unsurpassed legacy based upon decades of use on popular recordings and on stages of all sizes the world over, Fender amps are tough to beat. Add to that the sheer volume of models available throughout an impressive roster of specialized series – Bassbreaker, Hot Rod, Tone Master, Acoustasonic, and Champion, among many others – and it’s no surprise that FMIC is in the winner’s circle again this year.


Band & Orchestra Line of the Year – Yamaha 

YCA is always a strong contender – and a frequent winner – in this category and 2020 was no exception. Dealers pointed to the expansiveness of Yamaha’s B&O offerings across a wide scope of price points, as well as consistently high quality and value, as reasons for selecting the brand this year.


DJ Line of the Year – Allen & Heath

Few brands can claim the fanatical devotion inspired by Allen & Heath Xone DJ products. The trailblazing Xone:92 has been the instrument of choice for many of the world’s best DJs since its debut in 2003. Xone:96 is the long-awaited follow-up, taking the soul of the :92 and redelivering it, enhanced, and with state-of-the-art digital connectivity. Dealers have spoken and when it comes to DJ creativity, it’s go Xone or go home.


Electric Bass of the Year – Ernie Ball Music Man

A go-to bass for the likes of Cliff Williams, John Myung, Tony Levin, and Gail Ann Dorsey, Music Man basses are equally popular with “normal” end-users – and MI retailers have taken note. This year’s voting in this category was extremely tight, but in the end there was a clear winner.


Electric Guitar of the Year – Fender Vintera ‘70s Telecaster Custom

With all the swagger of a vintage Tele, but benefitting from the technological, design, and construction know-how of today, Fender’s Vintera ‘70s Telecaster Custom proved irresistible to many players in 2020. Another solid win for Fender!


Home Digital Keyboard of the Year – Roland FP-30

Over 150,000 players can’t be wrong – the Roland FP-30 was made to fit into every home and on every stage, and dealers voted in droves to confirm this. Portable and loaded with tech-forward features, the 88-note format keyboard made waves this year with built-in practice and recording functions, as well as its Bluetooth wireless support for connecting with MIDI music apps on phones or tablets.


Lighting Line of the Year – Chauvet DJ

In a year where live music as “normal” came to an abrupt halt, CHAUVET DJ kept lighting the way for musicians, venues, companies, and events who craved to get crafty and keep the entertainment flowing. Their eighth consecutive win in this category solidifies their status as solution-finders for unique lighting situations across the globe.


Microphone Line of the Year – Shure

It’s fitting that during the year of their momentous 95th anniversary, Shure has taken home another DCA for “Microphone Line of the Year.” Shure’s integral roles at this year’s Super Bowl and the HBO broadcast of “David Byrne’s American Utopia” demonstrate how even after 95 years, Shure’s reliability simply never falters – and dealers and users alike know it.



Percussion Line of the Year – DW

DW locks down this tight category for the second straight year in 2020. Including brands such as Gretsch Drums, Slingerland Drums (also nominated!), and Latin Percussion, the DW family is an all-encompassing one that has long served dealers who need a well-rounded stock of percussion items on their shelves (recall their “cocktail kits” and gong drums, anyone?). Put simply, DW kept the beat of 2020 strong and steady during uncertain times.


Print Music Publisher of the Year – Hal Leonard

Hal Leonard still locked in this category for 2020 – perhaps from the major expansion of Essential Elements Interactive, free use of Noteflight Learn during the spring, or the release of Digital Books, a new streaming platform “designed to provide musicians of all instruments and skill levels with a fully-interactive, multimedia experience for hundreds of their most popular titles.” Regardless of the reason(s), Hal Leonard remains the only company to win this category in the history of the DCAs.


Pro Digital Keyboard Line of the Year – Kawai MP Series

For the third year in a row – and for the fourth time, total – dealers expressed their love for the Kawai MP Series, proudly billed as the “the Pianist’s Stage Pianos.” The MP11SE and MP7SE carried this category with their authentic acoustic grand piano sounds, variety of Virtual Technician sound editing parameters, and 4-channel MIDI master controller functions. Well-earned, Kawai!


Recording Product Line of the Year – Universal Audio

Universal Audio nabs this category after the launch of their new fully-featuredDAW: the LUNA Recording System. Combined with Universal’s already-impressive selection of UAD accelerators, analog hardware, and audio interfaces, Universal Audio found  themselves with an enviable winning ticket.


Sound Reinforcement Line of the Year – Allen & Heath

To say that 2020 has been a challenging year for the live sound community would be an understatement of epic proportions. Yet the global Allen & Heath team was able to deliver a steady stream of impressive product updates, completely new award-winning products, end-user and dealer-focused in-person and virtual training and certification programs… and maintain an incredibly supportive, fun and upbeat vibe through it all.

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