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.

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Andrews Spectraverb (January)
When it comes to endless tone possibilities, it’s hard to top Fender’s blackface designs. And as Senior Editor Joe Gore discovered the Andrews Spectraverb is one of the most interesting refinements of the blackface template out there. At 40 watts, the Spectraverb occupies a sweet spot where headroom and natural drive and compression meet. Joe Gore put it more colorfully when he called the Spectraverb “spectacularly dynamic,” and noted that “It’s easy to find a sweet spot where you can pilot the gain by touch, or go from china shop to lava pit via guitar volume knob adjustments.”

$1,895 street, andrewsamps.com

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.

Can a bona fide funk guru help design a better Klone?

Wide range of gain. Very useful EQ.

Doesn’t do the Klon clean boost as well as original.

$349

Jackson Audio The Optimist
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Jackson Audio’s pedal collaboration with modern funk hero Cory Wong could have taken a few different paths. Considering Wong’s style, a compressor would have been an obvious choice. Instead, the Optimist is a dual overdrive that builds on a Klon-inspired baseline, adds a second overdrive, and has a clever EQ to create a super-flexible overdrive. Named after Wong’s second album, The Optimist suits Wong’s exuberant and fun-loving personality. But it also describes the way you might approach a gig with this pedal in hand. Together, the two separate overdrives and active EQ give you enough tones to cover almost any gig this side of Slayer cover band.

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See a sampling of picks used by famous guitarists over the years.

Marty Stuart

Submit your own artist pick collections to rebecca@premierguitar.com for inclusion in a future gallery.

How does a legacy artist stay on top of his game? The pianist, hit singer-songwriter, producer, and composer talks about the importance of musical growth and positive affirmation; his love for angular melodicism; playing jazz, pop, classical, bluegrass, jam, and soundtrack music; and collaborating with his favorite guitarists, including Pat Metheny and Jerry Garcia.

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