Hordes of great guitars, basses, amps, stompboxes, and accessories came through our doors this year, but these specimens caught our eyes, ears, and wallets with their exceptional performance, tone, and value.
Bradford Sterling (September)
An amp that so seamlessly fuses the sounds of an AC30 and a Marshall plexi would be impressive if you made it out of burlap sacks and bubble gum wrappers, but stick that circuit in a head and cabinet with an heirloom-furniture vibe and you’re talking about magic. The 18-watt, EL84-powered Sterling is really two amps in one. But because you the can blend the Vox-like and Marshall-style channels, the Sterling becomes an amp of uncommon, even spectacular depth, complexity, and downright explosive potential.
$1,895 street (head), $600 street (1x12 cab with Weber Legacy or Silver Bell speaker), bradfordamps.net
A year’s worth of gear at Premier Guitar adds up to a whole lot of wood, wire, silicon, germanium, aluminum, and steel. It also makes up a whole universe of musical possibilities, which is what strikes us as we look back on the Premier Gear Award winners for 2014. From luxurious acoustics to ridiculously buttery-sounding amps and furiously frantic vintage-style fuzzes, there are almost infinite sounds to be extracted from this roster of favorites.
As always, you’ll see the full spectrum of manufacturers represented, too—from garage circuit tweakers to industry giants. And apart from the beautiful sounds that you’re likely to extract from these instruments of expression, that diversity among builders might be the thing that makes this industry so fun and special. We all share the joy, ecstasy, emotion, and rush of creation that music brings. And from these 43 award-winning guitars, pedals, amps, audio interfaces, and accessories, we expect y’all will brew up more than a little magic in the years to come. Happy music making, and enjoy the ride.