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If 2012 was an indicator, 2013 will be a promising year for new gear. We asked our gear-review staff to take a look back at the best gear they sampled. Here’s what they said.
FENDER AMERICAN VINTAGE REISSUE“The best of 2012 for me would have to be, hand down the new Fender American Vintage reissues; from their thin nitro “flash coat” finishes in killer retro colors and spot-on vintage-sounding pickups, to the small details like neck shapes, body contours, hardware, pickguards, knobs, and even the period-correct cases and case candy. Even if reissues aren’t your cup of tea and those details don’t mean a hill of beans to you, there are just simple great sounding, great playing, well crafted instruments.” (Phil Feser)
CARVIN SH550The SH550 is a hybrid design that falls between a semi-hollowbody and a chambered solidbody. It’s feedback resistant for live work and also highly versatile for rock, jazz, blues and country. The guitar further has one of those super-speedy Carvin necks, plus you can add extra options like deeply AAAA quilted or flamed-maple tops; coil taps for the humbuckers; and acoustic piezo and guitar synthesizer pickups. In my opinion, the SH550 is one of the best production guitars coming from a major US builder. It’s a beauty. (Pete Prown)
COLBY AMPLIFICATION DTB-50The best amp of 2012 was the Colby Amplification Dual Tone Booster 50. Despite its name, the DTB offers many variations ranging from shimmering cleans to heavy dirt. And no matter how thick or distorted the tone becomes, notes blossom. With peerless sensitivity, the DTB-50 allows the player to retain control at any volume in a package offering superior construction. (Tom Guerra)
ROLAND MICRO CUBERoland’s tiny tabletop amp scores high points all around: it sounds terrific, packs a nice array of digital effects, and gives you everything from cool clean and acoustic tones to impressive crunch sounds for metal. Best of all, it costs about the same as the average stompbox. This mighty midget is so much fun it should almost be illegal! (Pete Prown)
MIKE LULL FXIf you’ve ever dreamed of owning a classic Firebird, consider the FX. It has a flat-out gorgeous build and just screams through a good tube amp. Lull has also fixed some of inherent problems with this body design, such as dreaded neck dive. As we wrote in the original review, “With the meticulous, almost astonishing FX, Mike Lull clearly demonstrates what the art of handmade guitars is all about.” (Pete Prown)
TEYE EL TORERO & LA GUITANAFor sheer beauty and craftsmanship, it’s hard to argue with the guitars from Teye. The combination of mahogany with etched aluminum faceplates and cool metal knobs makes these solidbodies wonders of solidbody artistry. They play and sound great, too, thanks to Lollar humbuckers and some seriously fat necks. (Pete Prown)
JOE BONAMASSA GIBSON CUSTOM ES-335Based on one of his vintage models with a spliced top, Joe’s signature 335 is a superb sounding and playing 335 with the best looking sunburst we have seen out of Gibson in years. Additionally, it has a woody tone and level of responsiveness to touch that is missing in many modern instruments. (Zac Childs)
STRYMON FLINT Strymon continues to raise the bar on what players can expect out of a stompbox. Having already stifled analog traditionalists with offerings like the El Capistan digital tape echo, these guys recreated the tremolos and reverbs from classic amps in a single pedal named Flint. (Rich Maloof)
ST. BLUES’ 4-STRING DELTA BLUES BOXThe St. Blues’ 4-String Delta Blues Box could be overlooked as just a fun toss-around instrument for a pro or for a kid, but its playability and dark tone make this skinny little cigar-box guitar a real heavyweight, especially for slide playing. Mine hasn’t gone back in the case since the day it arrived. (Rich Maloof)
ERIC CLAPTON TWEED TWINThe Fender EC Twinolux has all of the great tone of the hand wired custom shop tweed twin along with a handy attenuator, and the ability to shut off one of the speakers for EC approved tone at a more reasonable volume. Having the “EC” logo on the front of the amp doesn’t hurt the cool factor either. (Zac Childs)
GOODTONE ROAD RAGEThe best pedal of 2012! Finally, a great clean boost that is incredibly transparent. A great option for gigging guitarists who want a boost for solos but that maintains the inherent dynamics of any instrument. (Tom Guerra)