Tried And True—With a Twist
There are a lot of ideas in the gear world that just plain work—and always will. The sounds they make are all but hardwired into our musical memories and subconscious, often because of how intricately they’re intertwined with classic songs and the tones of our heroes. But even the best ideas leave room for refinement, evolution, or variation. Each item in this category of Premier Gear winners bravely attempts to add something extra to these totems of great guitar thinking. And in every instance, they’ve gotten something really right.

3 Monkeys Grease Monkey
The 30-watt Grease Monkey (December 2009 web exclusive) is powered by four EL84 tubes and serves up a British flavor that’s truly gargantuan. Reviewer Gary Guzman noted that the Grease Monkey might have more accurately been called King Kong for its massive output. He also called it a “tonal monster,” noting its “extreme touch sensitivity and dynamic range.” Players that gravitate toward bare-bones amps will love the Monkey’s simple control set, which features Cut and Shape controls that enable a little more roar than an AC30 and a little more clean headroom than a Marshall. The Grease Monkey is one of the cooler-looking amps we’ve seen around the PG offices, too.
Street $2250

BC Audio Amplifier No. 7
You can pack a lot of stuff in an ammunition box—your baseball card collection, your guitar cables, and a couple stompboxes. But an amplifier? Naturally, there’s a lot more to Bruce Clement’s ammo box amp, dubbed the No. 7, than visual gimmicks. Reviewer Steve Ouimette found that the 15-watt, point-to-point-wired, 6V6-powered No. 7 (January 2010) had an exceedingly unique voice that sounded much more akin to an AC30 or a baby Marshall Super Lead than a 6V6-driven amp. He found headroom aplenty by simply rolling off his guitar’s tone control, but he was also able to drive the amp to saturated, Hendrixian heights by setting the amp’s controls to the max. Ouimette also found the BC No. 7 exceedingly pedal friendly when he ran octave dividers, fuzzes, and distortion boxes through it. “It’s like having a handful of your favorite classic tube amps at your fingertips but still hearing something new and fresh. This is an amp that you can play for hours and never get bored with.” Pass the ammo!
Street $1795

Creation Audio Labs Holy Fire
Tired of overdrives that suck tone and shrink the sound of your guitar and amp? The Holy Fire (April 2010) might just be the fix. Reviewer Steve Ouimette found it to be capable of tones ranging from warm and subtle overdrive to brutal fuzz perfect for wall-shaking stoner rock. But Ouimette also found that the Holy Fire never diminished bass response in return for high gain. He also found the Holy Fire to be exceedingly clean, remarking “the overdrive sound is thick without being muddy, and you can bring it up to the highest settings without adding significant noise. In fact, this pedal has got to be the quietest OD pedal I’ve ever heard.” Ouimette surmised that part of the Holy Fire’s quiet and fiery magic is attributable to the 48-volt power supply that comes with the box. But whether he was using it for thick gain or subtle overdrive, Ouimette found that the Holy Fire had a “unique ability to bring the best out of your guitar and amp.”
Street $195