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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.


Carr Skylark (December)

The Skylark, from North Carolina Builder Steve Carr, is a descendant of Fender's Harvard, an amp that gained fame from Steve Cropper's classic Stax recordings. Senior Editor Joe Gore found the Skylark an admirable extension of the Harvard's best qualities—richly chiming tones, superb dynamic response, and gratifying overdrive at modest volume. The dual-6V6 circuit transitions smoothly from clean to crunch and the tone controls are more flexible than its vintage Fender counterparts. Gore put it simply, “The Skylark sings no matter how you set the knobs.”

$2,390 street,

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.