Refined And Luxurious
Call them sublime. Masterful. These are pieces of gear that ooze excellence in the categories of craft, execution, and performance. They’re either put together like the Parthenon, sound like the gods singing from Mt. Olympus, or leave us shaking our heads at their engineering brilliance. And they’re the kind of gear you end up being unable to live without or insist on taking to the grave!

David Munn Small Jumbo
“Small jumbo?” you ask incredulously. We say, “Who cares what you call it when it sounds this good?” Dimensions (and related puns) aside, this latest work from David Munn’s shop is a beautiful convergence of gorgeous tonewoods (padauk and Sitka spruce) and playability-enhancing design—most notably a Manzer wedge that makes this big-bodied 6-string much more comfortable to play. Gayla Drake Paul was understandably effusive when it came to describing her playing experience with the Small Jumbo (July 2010). She found it “brilliantly velvety and shimmeringly warm,” adding “this guitar takes my breath away every time I pick it up. It has fantastic low end. There’s bass to burn, but it’s so clean—there’s not a bit of mud to be found.” Smooth and balanced, the Small Jumbo proved ideal for recording. And Paul found it equally suited for alternate-tuning fingerstyle work or strumming. So, with this much tone and versatility, does it really matter what oxymoronic moniker it bears?
Street $3200

Flammang Grand Concert

Sometimes there’s just no purer embodiment of guitar art than a beautiful, well-built, perfectly proportioned acoustic. And that’s certainly what we got in the Flammang Grand Concert (March 2010), an elegant and understated Carpathian Spruce and Brazilian rosewood beauty that sounded like a slice of heaven. Gayla Drake Paul was bowled over by her experience of playing the Flammang, saying “this is what guitars are supposed to sound like: rich and brilliant, full and warm with no nasal midrange, and no mushy, muddy bottom end. Just play an open chord, like an Em7, and let it go.” And while the Flammang Grand Concert is most likely intended for fingerstylists, Paul found it to be a great vehicle for flatpicking, as well as an even-voiced tone machine tailor-made for the microscope of the recording studio—and free of “crunchy or snotty overtones” or “unmanageable boominess.”
MSRP $7900 (as reviewed)

Jetter Jetdrive Dual OD

With a lot of low- to medium-gain overdrives on the market, it’s not unusual to feel like you’ve got limited options. Not so with the dual-channel Jetter Jetdrive Dual OD (December 2009 web exclusive), which offers up a truly impressive palette of OD hues, superior responsiveness, and transparency that lets your amp do the things it does best. The Jetdrive’s two basic channels—the 6V6-ish “Blue” channel and the more Anglo-sounding “Green” channel—offer two distinct worlds of overdrive to work with. But with the capacity for one channel to drive the other (depending on which gain knob you set higher) and channel-specific Tone controls that can be used together for even more complex blends, the Jetdrive easily inhabits tonal territory all its own. Reviewer Michael Ross found that “sustained single-note bends bloomed into the kind of high harmonic found only in the best boutique amps,” and that humbuckers used with the blue channel “sent it to fat-city, without a trace of mud.” Ross summed things up by calling the Jetdrive a “two-channel boutique in a pedal.”
Street $249