What makes a Premier Gear Award winner—particularly when about 90 percent of the gear we saw this year could be considered for the distinction? Well, above all, what it really means is that a guitar, bass, pedal, or amp spoke to the reviewer in a deeply personal way and opened up a sense of possibility or an avenue of expression. It means that, somewhere, a manufacturer, designer, garage-based pedal builder, or sawdust-churning luthier has applied their talents to create something extraordinary by any measure.
But perhaps most important, each of these tools spoke up in their own voice and said, “There is music within these wires, wood, and circuits. Come! Take it and make it yours!” We’re quite certain you’ll find your own tune lurking in one of these objects, however beastly, beautiful, or bizarre. We can’t wait to hear what you come up with.
In its original incarnation, the Way Huge Green Rhino was one of those effects that, in the eyes and ears of some players, grew to be more adored than its inspiration. Way Huge’s take on the TS-808 was never built in large numbers but it was treasured for taking the Tube Screamer tone template and widening its sonic spectrum.
We gave this reissue a Premier Gear Award because it so beautifully manages to pull the same trick twice. As we noted in our original review, the Green Rhino jumps off from the bluesy, thick tone made popular by the Tube Screamer and adds a little more clarity, low end, and bite.
Reviewer Jordan Wagner praised it for “delivering gritty, vintage blues tones with a little extra width and clarity.” He also noted that the “100 Hz boost/cut control is capable of transforming the Green Rhino from a blues lead powerhouse into a gutsy, standalone overdrive that preserves pick dynamics for everything from 16th-note riffage to Stonesy rhythm work.” It’s enough to make us scream, “Welcome back Rhino!”
When we first heard about the Dumkudo Overdrive, it was in hushed whispers of a “Dumble in a box.” As it turns out, the Dunkudo Overdrive is much more than that. Gear Editor Charles Saufley declared that it’s “one of those seemingly living, breathing pieces of musical gear that will talk back to you, point you down a different path, and holler encouragement. Or give you just what you need when you want to play it safe and speak up within your comfort zone.”
PG found that the three switchable voices give the Dumkudo a flexibility that’s “bound to appeal to everyone from blues and roots-rock players that like a little more horsepower under the hood to jazzers willing to dabble with more impolite tones.” The Dunkudo can move from mellow to menacing at the drop of a hat—and it looks pretty freaking cool doing it, too.
We were onboard the minute we heard that Richard Goodsell was building an amp powered by 6973 tubes—the tube of choice behind many low-to-mid-powered 1960s Valco, Supro, and Gretsch amp circuits. We also knew that in the hands of Goodsell it would become something very special all on its own.
Editor in Chief Shawn Hammond dug the wide range of tones, from the fat and slightly scooped Wes Montgomery sounds to the bright, biting, and twangy textures. But he was bowled over by the tremolo, remarking “I’ve never encountered a warble that sounded so fat and three-dimensional… at about 10 o’clock and Depth cranked—it was like Hendrix playing “Machine Gun” through a Leslie!”
We’re used to Richard Goodsell building great stuff. It was especially nice to see him venture out from the tried and true templates this time around—and with such spectacular results.
Nick Cave sideman and Grinderman multiinstrumentalist Warren Ellis may not seem like the most likely candidate for a signature axe—heck, he spends half his time playing fiddle. But anyone who witnessed Warren the Wizard conjure everything from sweet jangle to hellhound howls from his Eastwood tenor on the last Grinderman tour could will understand the massive potential of both Ellis and this cool, little guitar.
PG Gear Editor Charles Saufley found that “the string spacing makes fingerpicking this thing a delight. And adapting clawhammer banjo techniques to electric guitar tones resulted in some very interesting approaches to both composition and cool-sounding versions of old folk and country standards.”
And while it’s two strings shy of what most of us would consider a full house, he also found the Eastwood to be a guitar of “remarkable versatility—one that can lend thrilling new flavors to roots music, Americana, and internationally flavored jams, as well as worlds of texture to the music of boundary-obliterating experimentalists.” Trust us, you’ll never think of four strings the same!
At this point, we could probably call Strymon relentless. This mad scientists’ club of tone-tweaking kooks keeps obliterating expectations about how analog digital signal processing can sound. But they’re also happy to exploit digital’s potential to explore more exotic sounds and analog emulations in the same unit. And that breadth of vision births wonders like the TimeLine, a studio-grade Delay that leaves few permutations of the effect unexplored in a package that’s surprisingly easy to navigate.
Strymon’s amazing tape delay emulation technology is just one of the delay options on a menu that runs from analog delay staples to super-out-there intergalactic textures. It’s full of cool preset capabilities, filters, and modulation for coloring your repeats. It also has an all-around, can-do aura that we found “infinitely tweakable to suit a musical situation.” This is one tough-to-top delay.