Best in Show: What’s Old is New
Fender American Vintage II Series
All of us here know that it’s not the easiest thing to come across a real ‘51 Telecaster or a ‘60’s P bass. And not everyone has their own secret Cayman Island’s gear bank account to cough up the cash for one on a whim. That’s okay though. Thanks to the “American Vintage II” series, everyone now has access to vintage Fender guitar recreations crafted with impeccable precision and attention to detail. Period correct neck profiles, gorgeous nitro finishes, and “Pure Vintage” pickups span across the line to make each instrument as close to its origin as one can imagine. Our personal favorites? - The 1963 Telecaster in Surf Green, 1963 Telecaster in 3-color sunburst, and the 1966 Jazzmaster Electric Guitar in Lake Placid Blue.
Best in Show: Doom Forward Design
EarthQuaker Devices Sunn O))) Life Pedal V3
We love a sonically heavy cocktail. If you’re on the same page, we recommend trying this classic recipe; 1 part EarthQuaker Devices, 1 part Sunn O))) amplifiers, and tweak it with 3rd footswitch for octave tone shaping. It’s called the Life V3 Octave Distortion + Booster. Actually, scratch that. Why mix it yourself when you can grab them pre-packaged straight from our shelves.
Best in Show: Some Assembly Required
There are few better feeling accomplishments than building something with your own two hands. If you’re looking to one-up that feeling and have your finished product, be an easy-to-use analog synthesizer, then the Moog Mavis is the next project for you. Portable, versatile, and complete with plenty of your favorite Moog sounds and features. It also features a Moog first; an analog wavefolder, allowing for even more synth-based experimentation.
Best in Show: I Think We Need a Bigger Boat
Martin Custom Shop Super D
Martin Custom Shop seems to have misjudged the demand for the new Super D by at least as much as its internal air volume increase over a regular dreadnought. In plainer words, you all thought a bigger dreadnought was a cool idea, and our in-house tone hounds concur. A stretch and pull here and there leads to a notable volume increase without being impossible to play for anyone under 7 foot tall. More are coming next year but, in the meantime, you can gobble up all the Martin Super D details, backstory, and videos by clicking that beautiful picture below.
Best in Show: Limitless Possibilities
Teenage Engineering OP-1 Field and TX-6
Teenage Engineering shook the world when it introduced the OP-1 Synth 10 years ago. Fun and immersive music making devices don’t need boundaries or rules. (Of course, you should be able to control the delay function of your signal via a cartoon representation of a cow and we appreciate the opportunity to do so!) The brand new “OP-1 Field” has 100 new features, including but not limited to 24-hour battery life, “dimension” synth engine, new speakers, and low-profile aluminum body. Whatever your musical taste is, this multi-faceted sound generator is a great addition to any gear arsenal.
The TX-6 mixer puts powerful 6 channel stereo (or 12 channel mono) mixing in the palm of your hand. Connect to your iPhone or favorite DAW and even use the built-in synthesizer mode to create music on the go. This unit is so pretty we’d buy it if it was just a basic alarm clock, but the fact that is does all this audio mixing stuff is a nice bonus we’re happy to enjoy.
Best in Show: The Forest for the Trees
Taylor Guitars 500 Series Urban Ironbark and 700 Series Koa guitars
From fantastical Hawaiian forests to California city streets, Taylor Guitars spent the year spreading the gamut of wood sourcing with its re-invention of the iconic 500 and 700 series guitars. The Urban Ironbark back and sides featured in the new 500s hovers on the line somewhere between Indian Rosewood and Ebony, bridging a gap between two more commonly used materials to create a new sonic expression. Paired with a torrefied Sitka Spruce top, the result is an astonishingly clear dynamic response and projection power. The 700s meanwhile feature solid Koa tops, backs, and sides to create a tonal palette befitting of such a visually exotic wood. If you can make equally beautiful sounding and looking guitars out of a common city wood AND one of the rarest woods on earth, you’re pretty good at what you do.
Best in Show: The Science of Protection
D'Addario Electric XS Strings
Every guitarist has a tried-and-true loyalty to their favorite guitar strings. Coated strings are notoriously loved by many but feared by some who in the past have taken issue with their feel. Last year, D’Addario graciously gave the world acoustic XS Strings to strike that fear down. This year, they’ve added electric guitar string options. With their patented protective coating that is ten times thinner than a human hair, they are engineered to withstand wear from play time and environment at an extraordinary level. And thanks to that, you’ll find that their tone will live on in the purest form for even longer.
Best in Show: Celestial Soundscapers (say that 10 times fast!)
Boss RE-2 and RE-202
In 1974, the Roland Space Echo (RE-201) was born. This tape echo-based effect has been used on more recordings than anybody has the time or mathematic prowess to count. 2007 brought us the RE-20; a BOSS pedal made to bring the iconic sounds of the original effects to our pedalboards. Now, 48 years after the RE-201 changed music forever, BOSS has released the RE-2 and RE-202. Every detail and nuance from the original designs were gone over with a fine-tooth comb by their R&D team so that we all can reap the benefits of all its best sounds and features combined with modern day pedal tech. Yes, that means MIDI, tap tempo, expression pedal input, and more tweakability than ever before with the truest Space Echo sounds you can get your hands on.
Collision Devices Nocturnal
France’s Collision Devices plays off the success of the Blackhole symmetry with their latest combo device that joins reverb, delay, and tremolo in a unique way that’s all Collision Devices. Notable mention to the sleek and simple form factor that makes so many controls as digestible as this one does.
Death by Audio Space Bender
NYC’s Death by Audio, on the other hand, applies their borderline “Mad-Max” aesthetic to their new Space Bender Chorus Modulator. Use their cold-war-esque toggles to control the delay time, modulator, and intensity with two simple speed and control knobs. You can read our full review here
Best in Show: Smooth Satin Strummers
Gibson Original Collection Faded Series
Gibson decided to revamp a fan favorite this year when they brought back the faded series. This time around it extends across acoustic and electric from Les Pauls and SGs to Hummingbirds and J-35s. If you’re the type that likes the worn in feel, but scoffs at pre-distressed guitars, then these are for you. Just enough satin sheen to feel new but comfy in all your favorite vintage inspired flavors.
Best in Show: Deep Dive Digitals
So good they're sold-out, but we still thought we'd mention these two super-computers.
If you're looking to dive into the deepest depths of delay, then the Meris LVX Modular Delay System is the perfect adventure for you. The brain power and intuitiveness of this machine are nothing short of groundbreaking, and its manipulation of sounds limitless. With 99 presents available in 33 banks, you will never be without your favorite settings on the fly. Guitar, synth, bass, percussion; no matter what you send into it, you will forever be blown away by what comes out.
Another breakout late-year hit comes from NJ’s own Eventide. The H90 expands on the ever-popular H9 Max and brings rack quality studio magic to your toe-tips. 62 pre-loaded algorithms including 7 brand new just for H90 and 3 from the rackmount line push H90 into a new stratosphere for multi-effects.
Best in Show: Pint Size Pluckers
Epiphone Power Players
How many ½ size discount electric guitars do you think are rotting underneath racecar beds and at the bottoms of closets due to an overall lack of comfort, quality, and playability? Epiphone has answered the call with the new Power Player Series of 22.73” scale SG’s and Les Paul’s. Deserving of being anyone’s first foray into the world of guitar, while at the same time earning space on professional tour busses, the Power Players rise far above the stigma of economy kid-size guitars.Read the 2021 Year in Gear Part 1
Read the 2021 Year in Gear Part 2