Get ready for another trip down memory lane. Sure, we’re probably still missing some, but these are even more of our favorite releases from 2022. We love what we do here, we love that you love our gear, and we can’t wait to show you what we have in store for next year.
Best In Show: Low Wattage Winners
Mesa Boogie Badlander 25
Mesa Boogie Rectifier amplifiers are world renowned for being towers of tone, and the recent addition of the Badlander series are no exception to that. This year, they added the 25-watt Badlander head and combo in the mix. Packed with all the goodies from their 100 and 50-watt models, these lower wattage, light weight options provide more than plenty of volume for any application while offering versatility, user-friendliness, and that undeniable Boogie sound.
Fender Tone Master Princeton Reverb
The punch from a 10” speaker inside a Princeton Reverb amp is without a doubt one of the most recognizable sounds that Fender has ever produced. The ‘62 Chris Stapleton Edition, ‘65 and ‘68 reissues are some of the most popular new guitar amplifiers on the market today. And now, we have another model option, the Tone Master Princeton. It’s got all the original Princeton sound you’d hope for, with some modern-day accoutrements that are sure to excite any player. 5 levels of attenuation, cab simulation, a balanced line out, and weighing in at under 20 lbs. This amp shows incredible digital performance of tube emulation and can even have its firmware updated via USB. The future of the Princeton is here, and we’re here for it.
Orange Amplifiers Marcus King MK Ultra Head
Marcus King’s Grammy-nominated playing has been ringing in our ears for quite a few years now. He’s made his way into the world of guitar heroes and heroines, so much so that Orange Amplifiers has designed his own 30Watt signature head. Limited to 150 hand-wired-pieces worldwide, the Marcus King MK Ultra Head is the first Orange USA amplifier to be designed and built right here in the states. While its 3 knob controls might seem overly simplified, we can assure you that between volume, “deep” (bass), and “sing” (treble) you can dial in perfect tones for any genre.
Darkglass Electronics Alpha-Omega 200 Bass Amplifier Head
It’s no secret that Darkglass Electronics provides us with some of the most powerful professional bass gear on the planet, and in small packages. This year they’ve outdone themselves yet again with the Alpha-Omega 200 Head. We know its hard to believe something so slim and light could deliver such booming low end and clarity on stage and in the studio, but we promise you, its true. A 3 band EQ, push/pull master volume/mute, and full control over the amount and type of distortion you want to blast through your cabinet or headphones.
PRS HDRX 20
We’ve all gone down the Hendrix riff rabbit-hole at one point or another (for some of us it’s daily, let’s be honest here). Whether you’re trying to perfect one of his licks, or write a new one yourself in the same vein, mimicking his tone itself plays a very big part. PRS did us all a huge solid and took a peek inside one of his personal amps used at Woodstock, took a few notes, and built us the brand new HDRX20. Two 5881 power tubes are the core ingredient to this lower-wattage recipe with their ability to break up nicely and always articulate clearly. You won’t find the need for a jumper cable between multiple channel inputs on this amp because PRS already went and took care of that internally and made sure to add individual bass and treble controls to boot. Match it with your favorite existing cabinet, or pair it with its closed back counterpart, the HDRX 1x12.
Best In Show: Yes, More Modulation
Old Blood Noise Endeavors Excess V2
It’s actually a job requirement to love all the sounds of the 80’s for anyone working at Russo Music. So naturally we got pretty stoked when we found out that the OBNE Excess was getting a bit of a revamp. The Excess V2 Distortion with Modulation features a smaller enclosure than its predecessor, and even more opportunity for mod experimentation. Choose from chorus, delay, and fifths from the modulation side of the brain, and choose to run them before, after, or parallel with the distortion. The range of different tones achievable by switching around the order of the effects flow is astounding. And, if you want to grab on to a note for just a hot second, the mod footswitch can be used in momentary function.
Line 6 DL4 MKII
Back in ‘99, Line 6 changed the delay game forever with the release of the DL4 Delay Modeler. This big, bright green box has been a staple on pedalboards in studios and on stages for over two decades. The intricacies in delay manipulation you could find by ever so slightly turning a knob or two seemed never-ending. Well, take all the aforementioned and put it in a more rugged yet somehow smaller package. Then add 15 brand new delay sounds. Throw in hours of looping capabilities with a MicroSD card. Maybe you want to connect an expression pedal or optional footswitches for more on-the-fly control. Bypassing options? You’ve got three to choose from. The Line 6 DL4 MKII has been reimagined in so many ways while maintaining its legacy sounds, once again carving its signature into our collective tone temples’ walls.
Old Blood Noise Endeavors Float Dual Moving Filter
So, we may have a little bit of a crush on OBNE this year, or more so than normal. We can’t help that they just keep putting out incredible new releases. Guess we’ll just have to keep telling you about them. The Float Dual Moving Filter is quite the expansive sound generator and happens to be their first digitally-controlled-analog pedal. Multiple output choices (parallel/series mono, true stereo) are ready to run to any rig set up. Filter in-synch or individually, seek out phaser-esque movements and tremolo-like patterns. There’s plenty of shapes and levels of reactivity to choose from to use this filter phenomenon to its fullest potential. You can read our full review of Float here.
Caroline Guitar Company Arigato Phaser/Vibrato
Maybe a bit of a crush on Caroline this year too? How can you help it. First we got to meet CROM and that changed our view of fuzztortion forever, all while conjuring up the Saturday afternoon WPIX Conan The Barbarian vibes that raised some of us. Then Arigato warmed our cold little hearts with its wooshy blend of wobbles and warbles. You can check out our review, and even watch a little video we made if you're so inclined.
Best In Show: Guitars Your Parents Didn’t Warn You About
Gibson Custom Shop X Russo Music J-45 Sinker Mahogany
In 2022, the Russo Music family grew larger by one. The Exclusive Gibson Custom ‘50s J-45 Original Sinker Mahogany Acoustic Guitar. The first ever Gibson constructed with Sinker Mahogany. This exclusive and limited release is easily one of the most exciting things our company has ever done with any manufacturer, and we are so very grateful that we get to share it with you. Underneath the hood you’ll find ‘30s style hand-scalloped “open X-bracing" that allows the Sitka Spruce top to vibrate verbosely in unison with each string you strum. Its stunning sunburst hand-rubbed VOS finish allows the instrument to breathe easily, sing loudly, and age graciously. This guitar coming to fruition is all thanks to the master craftsmen at Gibson’s Bozeman, Montana factory and our loyal customers who helped us decide what we’d want in our very own J-45.
Fender Aerodyne Special Series
There is a lore to “Made in Japan” Fender guitars that many of us hold oh so dearly and continue to spread. In 2022, the Aerodyne Special Series gave us yet another batch of guitars and basses to rave about. Slim basswood bodies, carved tops, matching painted headcaps, Babicz bridges, new Aerodyne pickups, and locking tuners are just a handful of the appointments that make these modern works of guitar art an excellent addition to any collection. There are plenty of new finishes to choose from across the entire line for both bass and guitar models.
Fender Kingfish Telecaster Deluxe
A Tele truly fit for a king. And we wouldn’t have it without one of the youngest and most inspirational guitar players in the biz, Christone Ingram. His Kingfish Telecaster Deluxe was released this past summer and has made quite a name for itself very quickly, just like the artist it was designed for. It sports a roasted maple “v” neck, slab rosewood fingerboard, and custom Kingfish humbucking pickups, all dressed in a “Mississippi Night” finish. Whether you’re trying to imitate Christone’s take on modern blues, or choosing your own adventure, the Kingfish Tele Deluxe is more than equipped to get you where you need to go (we can’t promise any Grammy nominations, but you can sure try). And if you don't want the whole guitar, you can stuff Kingsfish's wide range humbuckers into your old Tele Deluxe!
Best In Show: Tone Shapers, Makers, & Shakers
EarthQuaker Devices Special Cranker Overdrive
What could possibly be more special coming from EQD HQ in 2022 than The Special Cranker Overdrive? If you thought the answer was a Russo Music Exclusive Colorway Special Cranker, that is correct. Its guts are just the same as the production model. Switchable between Germanium and Silicon clipping with adjustable level, gain, and tone. It pulls inspiration from its predecessor, the Speaker Cranker, but with souped up powers to even further enhance your distorted/driven analog experience. We went for bold with an aggressive pink over silver enclosure for our exclusive run, to make sure you’re not just turning ears at the gig, but eyes too.
Mr. Black Black LTD Power Drive Overdrive Effect Pedal
Powerful in its simplicity. Angry by nature. Controllable if approached delicately. Limited in quantity. The Black LTD Power Drive is a thick beast of an overdrive, naturally saturated with tones similar to that of a dimed out high wattage amp. It can most definitely move mountains just by plugging and playing but can also be tamed to be more of a tone shaper with the right pick articulation and volume control via guitar. Only 40 units were made available, and we made sure to snag as many as we could.
Mythos Cestus Treble Booster
Originally created as booster, the Cestus is now genetically enhanced and reborn. A switch from Germanium transistors to Silicon put this boost’s focus on treble, and can be further adjusted to your taste via a 3-way voicing toggle. A friend to all guitars, amplifiers, and pedal combinations, this treble boost is a great utility-like-tone-tool to keep close by at all times.
MXR Duke of Tone
If you were the captain of your pedal team and got first-round picks, you would probably want to get MXR and Analog Man on your side as quickly as possible. So, when these two pedal builders teamed up to make the MXR Duke of Tone Overdrive, it’s no surprise that the end result was a resounding “win.” Their playbook is simple, compact in size, and wildly effective. Overdrive, boost, and distortion selectable via switch and powered by 9-18V depending on how much head room you need on the inside.
Walrus Audio Eons Five-State Fuzz
It’s hard to believe how much Fuzz Walrus actually crammed into the brand-new Eons. Silicon, germanium, LED, and combo clipping settings just weren’t enough for them all on their own. These pedalsmiths threw in the option for 3V-18V control to allow even more tweaking to your favorite fuzz setting. From dialed back to 3V gated greatness to all the cavernous head room you can fathom, this is not a pedal to be underestimated.
Subsection 1a: Year of The Supreme Screamers
Origin Effects Halcyon Green Overdrive
Origin Effects have been relentlessly making their mark in the pedal community in the recent past. With the release of the Halcyon Green Overdrive this year, they have once again proven that they are superior builders, designers, and innovators. The Halcyon is Origin’s take on the TS808 circuit, and while this has been done by many companies MANY times, we have not seen one quite like this. With their proprietary Adaptive Circuitry and the highest-grade components on the inside, this is one of the most reactive and versatile “screamers” you’ll ever have the opportunity to play.
JHS 3 Series Screamer
Leave it to JHS to take the tones from an iconic pedal we all know and love and add their own flare to it to bring the world of noise something different. We all love it even more when it happens at an incredibly affordable price point. The JHS 3 Series Screamer has the “TS” functionality, sound, and response you’re used to, but they’ve gone and given a little more. With their own “Strong Mod” circuit, you’ll find loads of additional headroom to play with. If you’re looking for classic overdrive without breaking up too quickly, this becomes incredibly useful.
Thanks for joining us and we will see you all next year. Fingers crossed for more of everything from tube screamer inspo-pedals to more exclusive Russo Music runs. Have a happy new year and we will see you tone-dragons on the other side.