Chicago amp wiz Tim Schroeder is good
enough to win the favor of noted gear junkies
Jeff Tweedy and Wilco. And these days,
that means you also have the ear of otherwordly
axe genius Nels Cline. The DB7
is essentially the same amp that Schroeder
built for Cline—one that’s since become
his main squeeze onstage because it satisfies
the sonic alchemist’s need for wide sonic
spectrum and sky-high headroom in a midpower
Reviewer Adam Perlmutter found the
6L6-powered, 45-watt DB7 to be “a sustain
machine, making the plainest of sonorities
a thing of wonder.” He remarked that
the “simple act of hitting a first-position
chord on the guitar summoned a tone that
was uncommonly full-bodied, sweet, and
complex.” Perlmutter was also knocked out
by it’s beauty, quality, and brilliant design.
And if we heard a nicer amp this year, quite
honestly we can’t remember anymore—we
still hear the sweet chime of the DB7 ringing
in our ears.
France’s Vigier Guitars is renowned for
uniting evolutionary design with style that’s
at once individual and rooted in cherished
visual motifs. There’s certainly a whole lot
of Les Paul and PRS-style cues evident
in the G.V. Wood, yet this guitar is really
about the details and the sonic dividends
derived from attention paid to little things.
The slick, phenolic, resin-based fretboard
is a string bender’s dream, even if it’s
a tad hyper at times. The amber body is
light and balanced, and the coil-tappable
Amber pickups pack tone options for days.
Reviewer Jordan Wagner remarked that
the G.V. Wood “feels like a guitar for every
occasion,” adding that “it yields a beautiful,
full-spectrum signal that’s exceptionally
responsive to touch.” Given how this guitar
reminded all of us how you can still refine
the familiar into something spectacular, it
was a no-brainer to bestow the G.V. Wood
a Premier Guitar Award.
There could easily be a “Coolest Looking
Amp” award set aside for whatever
Tone King brings out in a given year, but
there isn’t. The reason the Galaxy received
a Premier Gear Award in 2011 is because
this swingin’ 60-watt, 6L6-powered bachelor
pad fixture sounds crazy sweet on top
of looking fit for the Dean Martin Go-Go
combo that never was.
Premier Guitar found it capable of
everything from “surf-able cleans to biting
blues,” and was driven to qualify the output
as some of the cleanest, punchiest, most
harmonically rich tones we’ve ever encountered.
The onboard attenuator makes it
truly usable as a sonic living-room fixture.
But we also found it “blisteringly loud” and
ready for the stage. It was just about impossible
to find a flaw in construction anywhere.
Did we mention it looks cool? Dang!
Z. VEX INSTANT
It gives us great faith to see how far Z. Vex
has come while indulging such sick pedaldesign
impulses. The Lo-Fi Loop Junky
was one of the most glorious symptoms of
the illness. And with the new Lo-Fi Junky
(which takes the looper, if not the loopy, out
of the equation), Z. Vex has consolidated
some of its more delightfully obscene tones.
We could talk tech about how compression
and vibrato combine to create its reality-
twisting sounds and more mellow and
unique textures. But what matters is that
this is a ticket to a truly new Tonelandia if
you’re willing to buy a ticket. From chorus
to wacky warble to a compression that
reviewer Jordan Wagner called “staggeringly
good,” this is one twisted genius of a pedal.
Some of us don’t mind too terribly if our
guitars sound like they were tuned by a
sleep-deprived member of the Kingsmen
from time to time. Most of us, however,
like to tune a lot and prefer that our guitars
stay that way. And others have the nerve to
prefer alternate tunings that stay in tune,
which no matter how you size it adds up
to a whole lotta peg-twisting. That reality
apparently got guitar innovator Trev
Wilkinson thinking. The result is the Fret-
King Super-Matic, a self-tuning marvel that
really works in standard and alternate tunings
The real magic of the Super-Matic is
the latter capability. It makes the guitar
a real solution to the guitar-that-can-doit-
all dilemma, if that’s your concern.
Features like the Vari-coil pickup coilsplitting
system and the fact that you can
store your own preset tunings make this a
guitar you can personalize for a multitude