Chicago amp wiz Tim Schroeder is good enough to win the favor of noted gear junkies Jeff Tweedy and Wilco. And these days, that means you also have the ear of otherwordly axe genius Nels Cline. The DB7 is essentially the same amp that Schroeder built for Cline—one that’s since become his main squeeze onstage because it satisfies the sonic alchemist’s need for wide sonic spectrum and sky-high headroom in a midpower amp.
Reviewer Adam Perlmutter found the 6L6-powered, 45-watt DB7 to be “a sustain machine, making the plainest of sonorities a thing of wonder.” He remarked that the “simple act of hitting a first-position chord on the guitar summoned a tone that was uncommonly full-bodied, sweet, and complex.” Perlmutter was also knocked out by it’s beauty, quality, and brilliant design. And if we heard a nicer amp this year, quite honestly we can’t remember anymore—we still hear the sweet chime of the DB7 ringing in our ears.
France’s Vigier Guitars is renowned for uniting evolutionary design with style that’s at once individual and rooted in cherished visual motifs. There’s certainly a whole lot of Les Paul and PRS-style cues evident in the G.V. Wood, yet this guitar is really about the details and the sonic dividends derived from attention paid to little things.
The slick, phenolic, resin-based fretboard is a string bender’s dream, even if it’s a tad hyper at times. The amber body is light and balanced, and the coil-tappable Amber pickups pack tone options for days. Reviewer Jordan Wagner remarked that the G.V. Wood “feels like a guitar for every occasion,” adding that “it yields a beautiful, full-spectrum signal that’s exceptionally responsive to touch.” Given how this guitar reminded all of us how you can still refine the familiar into something spectacular, it was a no-brainer to bestow the G.V. Wood a Premier Guitar Award.
There could easily be a “Coolest Looking Amp” award set aside for whatever Tone King brings out in a given year, but there isn’t. The reason the Galaxy received a Premier Gear Award in 2011 is because this swingin’ 60-watt, 6L6-powered bachelor pad fixture sounds crazy sweet on top of looking fit for the Dean Martin Go-Go combo that never was.
Premier Guitar found it capable of everything from “surf-able cleans to biting blues,” and was driven to qualify the output as some of the cleanest, punchiest, most harmonically rich tones we’ve ever encountered. The onboard attenuator makes it truly usable as a sonic living-room fixture. But we also found it “blisteringly loud” and ready for the stage. It was just about impossible to find a flaw in construction anywhere. Did we mention it looks cool? Dang!
Z. VEX INSTANT
It gives us great faith to see how far Z. Vex has come while indulging such sick pedaldesign impulses. The Lo-Fi Loop Junky was one of the most glorious symptoms of the illness. And with the new Lo-Fi Junky (which takes the looper, if not the loopy, out of the equation), Z. Vex has consolidated some of its more delightfully obscene tones.
We could talk tech about how compression and vibrato combine to create its reality- twisting sounds and more mellow and unique textures. But what matters is that this is a ticket to a truly new Tonelandia if you’re willing to buy a ticket. From chorus to wacky warble to a compression that reviewer Jordan Wagner called “staggeringly good,” this is one twisted genius of a pedal.
Some of us don’t mind too terribly if our guitars sound like they were tuned by a sleep-deprived member of the Kingsmen from time to time. Most of us, however, like to tune a lot and prefer that our guitars stay that way. And others have the nerve to prefer alternate tunings that stay in tune, which no matter how you size it adds up to a whole lotta peg-twisting. That reality apparently got guitar innovator Trev Wilkinson thinking. The result is the Fret- King Super-Matic, a self-tuning marvel that really works in standard and alternate tunings alike.
The real magic of the Super-Matic is the latter capability. It makes the guitar a real solution to the guitar-that-can-doit- all dilemma, if that’s your concern. Features like the Vari-coil pickup coilsplitting system and the fact that you can store your own preset tunings make this a guitar you can personalize for a multitude of situations.