The Russo Music 2023 Year in Gear

With 2024 (we know, it's scary) right around the corner, it's important to sit back, relax, and look in the rearview mirror 2023: 365 days chock-full of fresh Russo Music releases. Our annual Year in Gear is here again to help revisit some noteworthy 2023 releases that even the biggest gearheads may have missed, as well as some items we were particularly excited about this past year. Strap in:

Shop the 2023 Year in Gear

Best In Show: Plug It In!

Electric Guitar Highlights of 2023

Fender Vintera II Series

Fender had a huge 2023, marked by releases of some items that pushed the company's boundaries, as well as revisiting some classics, like their new Vintera II series of guitars and basses, a series that brings us back to the good old days. The Vintera II's are built in Fender's Ensenada, Mexico facility and build upon the excitement of the initial Vintera release, providing thoughtful, era specific reproductions of some of the most iconic Fender guitars from the '50s, '60s, '70s and more. The Vintera II also boasts upgraded performance features, detail in vintage specs, the reintroduction of Rosewood fretboards, era-specific pickups, and some new models that can only be found in this line, like the Blackguard Blonde '50s Nocaster, or the Competition Orange '70s Mustang. The Vintera II's are on the more affordable side as well, because Fender is aware that modern players deserve to be able to use some of the most iconic guitars in history without having to take out a loan to do so.

Shop Vintera II Guitars & Basses

Fender Limited Edition Suona Jazz Bass Thinline

While we're on the topic of Fender, we can't help but mention another one of our favorite releases of this year, Fender's Limited Edition Suona Collection features some unique pieces, even in Fender's terms. Earlier in the year, Fender announced this line, jam-packed with performance features and unusual specs that would make even the nerdiest Fender fans turn their heads for a second look. The guitars in the line include a J-Bass, Strat, and Tele, all of which feature Italian spruce tops, roasted flame maple necks, custom "Suona" pickups, and an amazing Violin Burst finish. Surely, it's Suona.

Shop Fender Suona Guitars & Basses

Gibson USA 2023 '80s Flying V & Explorer

The '80s style has a way of creeping in and out of the mainstream, but one facet of the music defining decade that seems to be a timeless staple, is the iconic guitar designs of Gibson's Flying V and Explorer models. Break out the hair dryer, because in a no-brainer move, Gibson brought back these two heavy-hitter 1984 models in an all new way in 2023, featuring '80s-style "Tribute" pickups, Indian rosewood fingerboards, and of course, those unmistakable body shapes, duh. 

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Epiphone 150th Anniversary Guitars

150 years is a long time for any business to be operational, and although they were absorbed/began being produced by Gibson in 1957, the story of Epiphone's guitar building still very much merits the mention of its own history, as well as a commemorative guitar for its 150th anniversary as a manufacturer and designer. The 150th Anniversary collection features four Epiphone classics: a Wilshire in Pacific Blue, a semi-hollowbody Sheraton in Cherry, a full-hollowbody Zephyr DeLuxe Regent in Aged Antique Natural, and a classic solid body Crestwood Custom in California Coral- all of which pay their dues to some of the company's more iconic models while boasting a modern level of playability that's expected by today's guitarists.

Check out our Epiphone Casino Thinline Archtop Hollowbody demo below.

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Epiphone Kirk Hammett "Greeny" '59 Les Paul Standard

Produced by Epiphone and collaboratively designed by both Epi and Gibsonthis Les Paul is modeled after arguably one of the most famous guitars in history, that's become known simply as "Greeny". This '59 Les Paul is known for its bizarre, out-of-phase pickup configuration that is largely responsible for its unique voicing, a unique finish, and a series of high-profile owners that include Peter Green, Gary Moore, and most recently, Kirk Hammett. While the Epiphone variant of this legendary Les Paul is in much better shape than the original one which has been played consistently for decades, it does feature lots of the same specs, including its reverse polarity middle pickup, crown maple top, and flame maple veneer.

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Fender Limited Edition Mikey Way Jazz Bass, Silver Sparkle

"When I was... a young boy". You know the rest, right? If so, it's probably due in part to the bass playing of My Chemical Romance's Mikey Way, who collab'd this year with Fender to create this wildly cool limited edition, custom J-Bass in a sleek silver sparkle. This bass presents a unique combination of sound, style, and performance, featuring a '70s "C" style neck, Vintage-Style '70s Single-Coil J-Bass pickups, and the ability to play as good as Mikey Way. Just kidding about that last one, but it is a really cool instrument that we thought was worth mentioning on this list. 

Shop Fender Mikey Way Limited Edition J-Bass

Gibson SG Custom Color Series

Gibson's new Custom Color Series was rolled out in late 2023 and offers that classic Gibson greatness in new colors, including a sleek TV Yellow SG and a Les Paul in Translucent Fuchsia, among many others. This series doesn't just sport a new look, though- it also offers a great deal of attention to construction of the instruments and the electronics within them. These SG's come equipped with Gibson 490's in their neck and bridge, while all the models offer unique color options. This series is an eye-catching way to sport classic Gibson sound, and show off the fact that your guitar is a cooler color than whoever is on stage right.


Shop Gibson Custom Color Series Les Pauls

Shop Gibson Custom Color Series SG's

Fender Waylon Jennings Custom Shop Telecaster and Phaser Pedal

This is a cool one. Waylon Jennings is about as iconic as they come, so when his estate collaborated with the Fender Custom Shop on this one-of-a-kind Tele, they knew it needed to be something special. The Fender Custom Shop Limited Edition Masterbuilt Waylon Jennings Telecaster Relic is essentially an exact recreation of Waylon Jennings' famous 1954 Telecaster, to the spec: the Flying W logo, Butterscotch Blonde nitro lacquer wrapped in leather, quartersawn maple neck, and hand-wound ‘50/’51 Blackguard pickups, just to name a few. This guitar isn't just a collector's item, however, as the master player himself would never want to collab with Fender on an instrument that doesn't play well. Fender also created a new pedal this year in Jennings' honor, a classic phaser featuring 2-, 4-, or 6-pole phasing, true bypass, top mounted jacks, and a "Sweet" switch, honoring the use of phaser in Jennings' music. 

Shop Fender Custom Shop Waylon Jennings Telecaster

Shop Fender Waylon Jennings Phaser

Fender Gold Foil Collection

We know, we know. "How many times will Fender make the list?". It's not our fault they had a huge year in 2023, and the Gold Foil Collection really isn't helping our case, here. These incredible new Fenders offer just what you'd imagine, gold foil pickups. Not just any, though- these pickups are inspired by '60s garage rock bands and the weirdo, cult classic guitars they used to bring a genre to the forefront of music. The series features a handful of TelesJazzmasters, and J-Basses, with tons of color options and spec choices for those who want a little wiggle room, while still getting that gold foil charm. 

Shop Fender Gold Foil Guitars & Basses

Gibson Les Paul Supreme

The original Les Paul Supreme quickly became a cult classic among Gibson fans and was shortly discontinued after its release in 2003. Gibson reissued this Les Paul in 2023, and it features upgraded pickups and electronics and gold plated harware, as well as multi-ply binding on its sides and back and Supreme-only inlays on its fingerboard. While lovers of this iconic Gibson staple treasure it for its playability, the Supreme also boasts a unique collectible side to it that sets it apart from any old Les Paul, and comes in Ebony BurstWine Red, and Fireburst finishes. 

Shop Gibson Les Paul Supreme

Best In Show: Gizmos & Gadgets

The Best Items of 2023 with Unique Personalities

Teenage Engineering EP-133 KO II, TP-7 Field Recorder & CM-15 Mic

Swedish wizards Teenage Engineering have a habit of breaking the internet with their new releases, and have developed a rabid and loyal fanbase for their unique gadgets that include synths, samplers, sequencers, drum machines, and now microphones- all of which are known to offer a vast amount of functionality. Since the unveiling of their OP-1 at NAMM in 2011, the company consistently keeps its consumers on the edge of their collective seat, and this year was a big one for them, including releases of the EP -133 KO II, TP-7 Field Recorder & CM-15 Mic.  

The EP -133 KO II is a high-res, small and lightweight sampler/sequencer and composer that offers a stereo output, "Punch-In" FX 2.0, and MIDI capabilities. It was also one of the most high-profile Russo releases of the year, and has been touted by users as a suitable and more cost efficient way to scratch the OP-1 itch for anyone who loved earlier Teenage gear, while also offering a ton of functions that are unique to itself.

Earlier in the year, Teenage also dropped the TP–7, a compact and lightweight field recorded that features an internal mic and speaker, a USB interface with super flexible IO options, 128GB of internal storage and a ~7 hour battery life. This device is designed to be integrated into any recording setup, and works specifically well with other Teenage Engineering gear, including TX-6, and even more particularly, the CM-15. This unusually shaped large diaphragm condenser mic can operate on a battery, has a built-in mic pre, and just honestly looks like something really cool out of The Terminator. 

*Exhales*- It's hard to squeeze all that we love about Teenage Engineering into a year-end recap, so if you want to take a deeper dive into what they're about, we recommend taking a stroll to their website and hearing it from them directly. 

Shop All Teenage Engineering

Fender Tone Master Pro

The new Tone Master Pro by Fender shook up the amp modeling game quite a bit in 2023. The Tone Master is a Multi-Effects Guitar Workstation with a sleek 7" touch screen display that is extremely user friendly, 10 wildly customizable footswitches, desktop app editing capability, super flexible signal routing, and MIDI in/out/thru, plus a lot, lot more. This modeler also has some siblings, announced at the same time it was: the Tone Master FR-10 1x10” and FR-12 1x12”, two full range powered speaker cabinets designed specifically to work with the brains of the operation, the Tone Master Pro- or any other amp modeler, for that matter. These cabs offer clarity, and an ability to project any tone you can conjure up in the Tone Master Pro with precision, all while boasting that classic Fender aesthetic. 

Shop Fender Tone Master Pro

Best In Show: Modulation Appreciation

2023's Best Delays, Phasers, Flangers & More

Spaceman Meridian Time Modulator Chorus Pedal

Spaceman Effects' new Meridian serves up the equivalent of having a vast assortment of chorus options handed to you on a silver platter. With an all-analog signal path, this out-of-the-ordinary chorus pedal features an innovative "flux shape" option that has the ability to churn out wild modulation, or more subtle ambience. It's also got sine and triangle wave shapes, and a Wet/Dry mix control to fully utilize the LFO. It's even possible to disconnect the LFO from the circuit, allowing doubletracking and comb filtering.

Shop Spaceman Meridian

Strymon Brig Multi Voiced dBucket Delay Pedal

Strymon also had a big 2023, and their new Brig Delay is an analog hybrid delay with flexible stereo routing and full MIDI implementation. Each delay type of this intuitive device features uniquely voiced modulation for lush effects at any speed or delay time, all adjustable by the simple controls it features. It also boasts a cool artifact-free tap tempo setting, a product of Strymon's relentless pursuit of creating devices that today's players will seek out because of the fact that these pedals are made to help them perform without any quirks or inconsistencies. 

Check out our demo of the Strymon Brig dBucket Delay below.

Shop Strymon Brig dBucket Delay

Old Blood Noise Endeavors BL Series Pedals, 2023 Releases

It may be old blood, but they're pumping out the new devices. Oklahoma City- based Old Blood Noise Endeavors are notoriously good at taking the system and flipping it on its head. Known for their always great and usually unusual effect pedals, the company released a handful of very notable pieces this year. On that list, are the BL-37 Reverb Variable-Clock Pedal, and the BL-82 Chorus Pedal, two pedals that are great additions to any rig, and work stunningly well with each other as well. 

The BL-37 is a modulated reverb that features a clock slider to adjust the system's timing, a feedback knob to control the reverb's intensity, and a dry/wet control. What sets it apart though, is its streamlined control set, that creates a fast and degraded-sounding glitched out reverb voice. It's also the fastest and most ambient reverb pedal Old Blood Noise Endeavors carries in their lineup.

The BL-82, on the other hand, is a chorus- but just like the  BL-37, it has its own way of being not quite average. This pedal also features an adjustable variable delay clock speed and reverser, plus a feedback control knob, and soft touch footswitch. The layout of the BL-82 is strikingly similar to that of the BL-37, which is why they share the moniker of "BL". Three knobs, a slider, an in and an out: a seemingly simple appearance. However, that doesn't represent the capabilities of this unique pedal, as even the tiniest tweak of a knob can offer outstanding results. 

Shop All OBNE Effects Pedals


EarthQuaker Devices Ledges Tri-Dimensional Reverberation Machine

Say that three times fast. It's a mouthful, because it's hard to fit the functions of a device like this into a readable title. The Ledges takes reverb to another dimension, and then to another after that, with its wildly customizable but oddly simple to use controls. The Ledges offers six assignable preset slots, three unique reverb modes, length and damping controls, and, like all EQD pedals, expression pedal capabilities for added versatility. With room, hall, and plate reverb settings, the Ledges' capability is so vast, we're surprised the full name of the pedal isn't longer than it is.

Shop Earthquaker Ledges

Death By Audio Disturbance Lockable LFO Modulator Pedal

An LFO, or Low Frequency Oscillator, is a term that's tossed around a lot in this industry, but Death By Audio laid out its functionality on their new Disturbance so clearly that you six year old brother can finally understand what it actually does. The Disturbance is a filter, flanger, phaser, and the best friend your pedalboard ever had. It sports a unique Freezable LFO setting that allows for making strange "wall-of-sound" type noises, and a Control Voltage output for powering other gear with.

Click below for our demo of the DBA Disturbance.

Shop DBA Disturbance

Earthquaker Devices Aurelius Tri-Voice Chorus Pedal

EQD is on this list a handful of other times, for good reason. Each of their pedals takes the obvious effect it's named after, and givces a player the authority to spin it around to their liking. Their Aurelius, inspired by the legendary Boss CE-1 offers a similar sound, but with capabilities that Boss didn't include on the original. These include six unique presets, assignable expression controls, and silent relay-based switching: all functions that fit into Earthquaker's mission statement of creating devices with "innovative and intuitive design".

Shop Earthquaker Aurelius


Fairfield Circuitry "Roger That" Modulator/Demodulator Pedal

Quebec-based Fairfield Circuitry has quickly become a favorite among the players here at Russo Music, and totally blew us away with the release of the Shallow Water a few years back. Their new Roger That did just the same- designed to replicate the sounds of an FM radio signal slowly dying (don't be sad), it features distortion and sonic deconstruction options that are essentially endless, thanks to its thoughtfully designed guts. It also looks like you accidentally found someone's prototype for a homemade nuclear device in a garage somewhere. This pedal has a mind of its own, but if you're into working with gear that can unexpectedly bring your sound to new heights, ***"ROGER"***, this one's for you.

Check out our demo of the Roger That below.

Shop Fairfield Circuitry Roger That


Mythos Pedals The Fates Chorus Effect Pedal

The Fates is Mythos' first venture into the world of modulation that honors this classic effect while also modifying it to meet the demands of what's expected from the modern pedal user. Featuring a MN3207 chip, The Fates delivers the quintessential BBD Analog Chorus shimmer that informed the music of the '80s, and true to the Mythos tradition of innovation, The Fates isn’t just a reiteration but a total overhaul of chorus. With Rate and Depth controls that allow for a precise fine-tuning, this pedal offers subtle ambience to pronounced swirls, while also featuring a stunningly unique Vibrato mode. For the audiophiles, there's also a JFET buffered bypass/input stage that offers a small output lift and an EQ profile that's tailored for making chorus shine.  

Click below for our The Fates demo.

Shop Mythos The Fates

Best In Show: Amplification with Attitude

Amps That Stood Out in 2023

Orange OR30 Amp Heads

Orange you glad I didn't play Stairway to Heaven? Great, because we're particularly stoked on this fresh new release from Orange Amps, the OR30 30-Watt Tube Head. This brand new head is all-tube, UK built, and features an accessible footswitchable volume boost, an fx loop, a versatile bright toggle switch, and 2w-30w switchable power for a "headroom/bedroom" ability to control this beast without annpying your partner while they watch The Vampire Diaries. Orange Amps are known for their classic, vintage-inspired Brit tone and this OR30 offers just that, while also boasting some modern features that even Jimmy Page would be excited to have at his disposal.

Check out our demo video featuring Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem and Brian Baker of Bad Religion, below.

Shop Orange OR30


Mesa Boogie Mark VII Guitar Amplifiers

Since 1969, Mesa Boogie has been known to offer consistently unwavering commitment to creating amps that set themselves apart, and have developed a loyal following as a result. The Mark VII Mesa Boogies are the smallest and most user friendly versions of the Mark series amplifier ever made, and feature a modern, high gain mode, three independent channels, variable between 20, 40, or 90 watts, a tape spring reveb, and USB connection for IR transfers among many other new improvements. This amazing and innovative new series also comes in the form of a combo, or just a head

Check out a detailed demo of the Mesa Mark VII combo below.

Shop Mesa Boogie Mark VII


Milkman Sound Beekeeper 18-Watt 4x8 Tube Combo

Milkman blew us away with their release of "The Amp", a pedalboard compatible amp head that boasts a classic tone and makes travel with a head/cab combination of gear much more manageable. The Beekeeper isn't quite that small, however it takes portability seriously as well its combo-with-handle design that features a custom Soursound transformer set, a 5AR4 tube rectifier, Jupiter ceramic speakers and an absolutely stunning vintage-inspired grill cloth. 

Shop Milkman Sound Beekeeper

Marshall Studio Series JTM Amps

Marshall is among the most iconic names in all of music equipment: we've all seen Pete Townshend running around next to giant piles of them on stadium stages. The Studio Series by Marshall offers a new take on the iconic name, and the JTM amps are an all encompassing representation of where the company has been, and where it's headed. These groundbreaking amps sport a classic Marshall tone, while boasting a portability that isn't usually associated with the Studio Series, as well as some upgraded features like two independent channels, a 3-band EQ, and a 20w/5w output toggle for those moments where you just need a little quiet, but still want to feel inspired. The JTM models come in the form of a combo, or as a separate head and cab, so pick your poison.

The amp is featured in the video below, played with the Suona Strat that Fender released earlier in 2023. 

Shop Marshall JTM Studio Series

Best In Show: Exclusive Russo Collabs

2023 Russo Music Exclusive Products

Mythos Chupacabra Overdrive, Tex-Mex Edition, Russo Music Exclusive

There's a specific tone that comes to mind when someone mentions "Texas", and this Chupacabra Overdrive by Mythos is essentially it. Dubbed "Have" and "Mercy," the output and gain controls are your only two knobs here, and simplicity is what Mythos leaned into for the creation of this pedal. You're either simply piping with gain, or simply and softly strumming with a touch of what this pedal offers. The range it delivers is a broad one, but it does one thing, and it does it well. 

Enjoy our demo of the Chupacabra below.

Shop Mythos Chupacabra

Greer Amps Lightspeed Organic Overdrive, Russo Music Exclusive

Greer Amps is a small company out of Athens, GA that we absolutely love, whose pedals range from the more bizarre, like this Super Hornet octave fuzz, all the way to this Soma preamp clone, with lots in between. The Lightspeed, a Russo Music exclusive pedal, is a tone-shaping, drive-making machine. Sporting a sleek Light Grey/Burgundy colorway, this pedal offers rich, responsive overdrive tones via three simple dials for output, gain, and frequency, another diddy that maybe looks simple, but you know what they say about judging a book by its cover.

Shop Greer Lightspeed

Heritage Standard H-530 Hollowbody Guitar, Russo Music Exclusive Pelham Blue

The Kalamazoo based luthiers at Heritage are obsessed with crafting high-quality, handmade instruments that meet demands of modern players while also nodding to vintage-style aesthetic, tone and spec choices. The H-530 is loaded with Lollar Dogear P-90s, and features a classic, ES style control setup, including two volume, two tone knobs, and a 3-way toggle, and sports a cozy 12" fingerboard radius. What makes it exclusive to Russo Music, is its Pelham Blue finish that we decided to collaborate with Heritage on because, hey, why the heck not?

We demoed the Heritage H-530 in the video below. 

Shop All Heritage Guitar


Still with us? We know, that much gear in one single year can be overwhelming.

Wood & Strings that Really Sing

Acoustic Guitar Highlights of 2023

We're Happy to Now Carry Iris Guitar Company

Russo Music started as a small company in 1960, and we love seeing other brands grow the same way we have, which is why we jumped at the chance to work with Burlington's Iris Guitar Company. The company places an emphasis on one of the core values that Russo Music has revolved around as well since its beginnings: quality. Iris Guitars was born in 2018, and crafts amazing acoustic instruments that offer vintage-inspired tone and aesthetics. Their guitars, including their first OG model and beautiful RCM-000, draw inspiration from depression era flattops and mid-century classics. Iris Guitars are simple, beautiful, and quite simply, they sound great, and we're happy to add them to our collection at Russo Music.

Shop All Iris Guitars

Fender Highway Series Acoustic-Electric Guitars

When a company has been manufacturing guitars as long as Fender has, you might imagine they would run out of way to innovate. However, the new Highway Series marries the modern age of tech with exactly what Fender has always been known for: simply amazing guitars. This series features parlor and dreadnought style-guitars, boasting designs that cater to the modern troubadour, including cozy contoured edges, Fishman Fluence electronics, and premium tonewoods. If you're a fan of the Acoustasonics, these may be up your alley. 

Shop Fender Highway Series Acoustic-Electric Guitars

Taylor American Dream Baritone Acoustic Guitars

In 2020, Taylor launched their ever-expanding American Dream series in an effort to provide essential Taylor aesthetic and sound in an affordable guitar package, all without skimping on the details. Named after the guitar shop where Taylor Guitars was founded in 1974, this line spawned a handful of guitars in 2023 that we believe were noteworthy, including these two American Dream Baritone acoustics. Known for their longer necks and lower tuning, these Taylor bari's offer the unique characteristics of a baritone guitar combined with the signature profiles and playability that's become synonymous with Taylor's rich legacy. Both offered in a stunning Shaded Edgeburst and with Grand Symphony-style bodies, the 326CE variant offers a cutaway, while both the AD26E and 326CE sport a neo-tropical mahogany top, and sapele back and sides.

Shop All Taylor American Dream Acoustic Guitars

Gibson Acoustic Murphy Lab Acoustic Guitars

In 2021, Gibson's custom shop announced the launch of its Murphy Lab, a sect of the company dedicated solely to the obsessive and highly engineered aging of Custom Shop models. In 2023, they launched their Murphy Lab Acoustics, which was exciting to players who treasure the Murphy Lab finishes and wanted the same aesthetic experience in the form of an acoustic guitar. This line features some gems, including a 1933 L-00, a 1942 J-45, a 1942 Southern Jumbo, a 1960 Hummingbird, and a 1957 SJ-200. All of these instruments offer an obscene amount of custom performance specs playability to match their expertly aged appearance. 

Shop All Gibson Murphy Lab Acoustic Guitars

Taylor Builder's Edition 814ce Grand Auditorium Acoustic Guitar

Taylor's new 814ce is all about comfort and design, while still boasting the Taylor tone that players have grown to love over decades. This beauty is available in both a Natural and Black finish, with both variants featuring the same beveled cutaway and armrest, really placing a Taylor level of emphasis on player comfort, something the company has become known for. The 814ce also offers Taylor's own ES2 electronics, including an onboard pickup system and volume and tone controls on the body. 

Shop Taylor Builder's Edition 814ce

Best In Show: Too Much to Handle 

The Best New Full Collections of 2023

Universal Audio, UAFX Guitar Pedal Series

In 2023, universally loved Universal Audio, largely known for their illustrious history of producing analog studio and recording equipment, announced a line of guitar effect pedals known as the UAFX series. With UA's tremendous amount of knowledge and resources, there's no surprise that these pedals are as game-changing as they are. The line includes an LA-2A style compressor, a vintage trem, a '74 Tape Echo, and '63 Top Boost, plus fourteen more that cover a broad range of function and application. UA is also synonymous with producing top-quality audio plug-ins, many of which digitally replicate settings which can found on these pedals. All the UAFX pedals offer a robust compact form factor, sonically authentic vintage and modern effects, dual-engine processing, silent switching, stereo I/O, and extremely and simple operation.

Check out our short demo of the Heavenly Plate below.

Shop Universal Audio UAFX Collection

Ross Electronics Pedal Collection

Ross Electronics was founded by Bud Ross in 1977 but never attained the success of Bud's prior venture, Kustom Amplification. Due to financial problems, the ownership of Ross changed hands several times, until 2020, when JHS Pedals founder Josh Scott collaborated with Ross' current ownership to revive the once thriving pedal company due to a demand of vintage pedals and the notoriety of the original Ross lineup. The new line of Ross products launched in 2023 revives a handful of the flagship Ross classics, including phaserdistortionchorusfuzz, and iconic compressor.

Shop All Ross Electronics Effects

Best In Show: For the People in the Back

2023's Highlighted Drives, Fuzz, and Crunchy Sounding Toys

EarthQuaker Devices Zoar Dynamic Audio Grinder Distortion Pedal

EarthQuaker's Zoar has a lot of knobs, six to be exact. Sometimes that can be overwhelming to someone looking for a simple effect to use, and the word "grinder" doesn't exactly offer much description, either. EQD, however, has a knack for making things simple, even when they appear not to be. The Zoar is an oddball distortion pedal, but very different than something like, say, the Bowman Audio Overdrive. It's not exactly "transparent"- in fact, it's quite the opposite. This device offers a robust amount of character to a tone, and with an all-analog circuit and 3-band EQ, that's all fine and dandy because once you get it dialed in, you won't want to go back. You can check out our demo of the pedal below.

We had a lot of fun trying out this pedal, and you can check it out below.

Shop Earthquaker Zoar


Fender Kevin Shields Blender Fuzz/Octave Pedal

This one is for the nerds out there, and who better to listen to than Kevin Shields when it comes to fuzz? In 2023, Fender collaborated with Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine to create a super-unique, Fender Blender inspired fuzz with a '70s style fuzz circuit. It sounds exactly how you might imagine, if you know anything about Kevin Shields and can imagine him being handed the keys to the Fender factory for a project like this. The Blender sports four footswitches designed for easy and quick transitioning between settings, two channels of different styled fuzz, and a sag circuit that morphs and reacts based on how hard you pick, creating real-time sputters and splats.

Shop Fender/Kevin Shields Blender Fuzz

Origin Effects Halcyon Gold Overdrive Effect Pedal

Gold is synonymous with being great: a staple of all of Origin Effects devices. The Halycon Gold Overdrive is no exception to that, offering a circuit based on the legendary Klon Centaur and a dry blend, plus a VOICE switch for selecting mid/clipping styles to choose from. When it comes to driven tones, transparent drives like this one are a favorite among Russo Music's players for the simple fact that they're great at adding a color to your tone without smothering it, and the dry blend is a huge plus to this one. Dialing it in is as easy as twisting a couple knobs, and boom: you have a great drive that still sounds like your guitar, and your amp. Go for gold, champ.

Shop Origin Effects Halcyon

Origin Effects DCX Bass Tone Shaper and Drive Pedal

"Guitar! Guitar!" That's all you ever hear these days! What about bass? FINALLY, someone thought about the low end (just kidding, we actually really love some other bass-geared pedals, like the Darkglass B1K). Origin really did something special with their new DCX, though, a pedal modeled after pushing the DI side of a Universal Audio 610. This bass-centric box offers the same warm, gritty sound that you get when you drive a mic pre, except it's functional through a speaker, right out of your bass. Rhythm section, rejoice!

Shop Origin Effects DCX Bass Drive


Keeley Noble Screamer Overdrive

The Keeley Noble Screamer Overdrive pedal features a 4-in-1 design, allowing players to harness two time-honored drive circuits alongside two amp-esque overdrive and distortion elements. This awesome sounding, all analog piece is about as versatile as pedals in this price range come, and filled with tweakable options to maker sure your driven tone is exactly what you're searching for. A 'Spectrum' control is largely responsible for that, allowing flat EQ to become one accentuating treble and bass with the flick of a switch, while a 'Low Pass Filter' does the opposite. Sporting a "Vitamin K" Infused Buffer fora clean signal, Oklahoma City based Keeley Electronics designed the Noble Screamer to be robust and a great addition to any board that needs to scream a little louder. 

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Surfy Industries SurfyFuzz Effect Pedal

Known initially for their creation of the Surfybear Reverb based on the legendary Fender 6G15, Surfy Industries has steadily expanded from a fledgling DIY pedal company into one that more befits the word "Industries" being a part of its title. The SurfyFuzz is a unique style of fuzz pedal that was created to provide a spectrum tone, while still allowing the user to maintain in control of their sound. Developed in collaboration with fuzz freak Garrett Immel who's known for his work with Satan's Pilgrims, the SurfyFuzz is designed with a fully analog circuit that's been gutted and reimagined with modern fuzz-seekers specifically in mind.

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Electro Harmonix Lizard Queen Octave Fuzz Effect Pedal

EHX has been in the game since 1968 and has made their name as popular as it is by the consistency boasted in their products. In 2023, they collaborated with pedal behemoth JHS to create a new reptilian beast of a device, the Lizard Queen. While the Lizard Queen isn't exactly the next Big Muff, it's still worth noting on this list due to its uniqueness, including an octave up blend knob that allows for a deeper deconstruction of a classic Electro Harmonix sounding fuzz. It's also cased in EHX's Nano-sized stomp chassis, which makes it incredibly compactand board friendly. 

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Best In Show: Saturation Appreciation

The Best Reverb Pedals of 2023

Walrus Audio Melee Wall Of Noise Reverb and Distortion Pedal

There must be something in the water, because Oklahoma City seems to be packed with manufacturers of some our favorite gear. In that mix, Walrus Audio has carved a nook for themselves by creating quality, long lasting and incredibly sounding audio devices that commonly blend multiple effects into one box. This Melee Wall of Noise is aptly named, as it creates a whirlwind of noise if you want it to, but also has some "more than meets the eye" type functionality to it, including joystick control for getting weird, and a latch function for freezing sounds. Who's the walrus now, John Lennon?

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Strymon Cloudburst Ambient Reverb

Last but absolutely not least, we have the Strymon Cloudburst: an ambient reverb pedal that, in Strymon fashion, does things differently than most. Capable of producing sounds from the simplest room reverb to a borderline over-the-top "Cloud" decay, the Cloudburst features five knobs and a switch that work harmoniously to function in a way that's tailored to whatever you're feeding it with. No surprise here, but it also boasts an analog JFET input, and it designed to be used in live setting (obviously), but also any studio setting as it offers TRS MIDI connections, allowing for a creative take on reverb from the desk in your control room and keep your head in the clouds.

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Thanks for joining us for the annual Year In Gear review. We're happy to be a part of so many cool releases, and hope to see all you tone hounds next year. 

Shop the 2023 Year in Gear |  Shop All New Arrivals