If you’re among the more visionary folk who agree that an amp can look like something other than a vinyl- and cloth-covered fruit crate, the Anacon Technology Zagray! is your white knight. It certainly won’t hurt that it sounds amazing, too.

The 23-watt, 7591-powered head, which evolved very publically on forums, much to the delight of circuit nerds, was built by tinkerer extraordinaire Aleksander Niemand. While it looks like a handful, PG reviewer Steve Ouimette found the Zagray! quite capable of everything from simple clean Strat tones to Montrose- and ZZ Top-style crunch—praising a midrange voice that he claims “smokes just about every amp on the market.”

He was also very reluctant to let it go when Niemand needed it back, saying: “few amps I’ve played over the past few years offer the flexibility, performance, tone-shaping options and pure fun of the Zagray! If I had to choose a single studio amp for my work, this might be it.”

We may not have moved along enough in our musical evolution to require the extended possibilities of things like fanned frets. But when the time comes that a regular old four-string is standing in the way of you playing your best, the Dingwall Z3 5-String is waiting to launch you to the next level.

According to reviewer Dave Abdo, you could sum the Dingwall in the words “versatile” and “balanced.” In fact, he “was able emulate the punch of a StingRay or the warm, plucky sounds of a jazz bass with a simple turn of the pickup selector.” No mean feat for a single bass.

The fan frets had Abdo counting himself as a convert in no time at all—finding the layout comfortable and intuitive after a spell. Most of all, he really came to appreciate that the Dingwall could do it all, from rockin’ moves that seemed almost incongruous to its advanced appearance, to the fancy fretwork it looks born for.

If the Totally Wycked Audio Triskelion TK-1 looks more than a little like an instrument sent across space by some sinister Klingon-ian kingdom to do harm, well… it kinda is. Inspired in many ways by the Maestro Parametric Filter and Systech Harmonic Energizer, it’s a filter that boosts and modifies specific frequencies—often in radical ways.

The TK-1 proved to be a multi-dimensional weapon. And we noted that it was easy to set the Triskelion to take advantage of a guitar’s given strength, hone in on the harmonic sweet spot of a guitar or pickup and boost it. But as its aggressive visage suggests, it’s just fine with getting mean, and we were moved to remark that it’s “graceful and at home when heavy, and will drag you and your guitar happily screaming in pursuit of lingering notes and harmonics.” Clean or dirty, we found lots of reasons to love the TK-1. For bringing so much life to our axe work in spite of its Wycked appearance, we felt it most deserving of a Premier Gear Award.

Acoustic guitars don’t get much prettier—or prettier sounding—than this. Santa Cruz’s Don Edwards Cowboy Singer honors one of America’s genius cowboy poets, but it’s also about the nicest interpretation of the classic, all-mahogany Martin 00-17 that you’re likely to see.

Like so many Santa Cruz guitars, the Cowboy Singer oozes with understated luxury. And while it may be inspired by a classic, it has a personality all its own. Gear Editor Charles Saufley remarked, “the Santa Cruz has a dimension, brightness, and crystalline tone that you could safely call uncommon for this tonewood recipe.

He also noted “the fact that Santa Cruz gets such a wide spectrum of sound and projection out of a small-bodied mahogany acoustic speaks volumes about Hoover’s extra-mile manufacturing methods, which include thin nitrocellulose finishes and timeconsuming, tap-tuning of tops. And the payoff comes in the form of an extremely dynamic, touch-responsive guitar that can gracefully accommodate stylistic shifts.” A sweet singer to be certain.

The Nolatone Rotten Johnny was in the running for the prettiest amp we saw all year. The beauty went more than skin deep. The 15-watt, 12" speaker equipped, 6V6-powered amp proved to be quite capable of clean and nasty tones thanks to a well-designed control set and circuit.

Reviewer Steve Ouimette was prompted to remark that “the Rotten Johnny doesn’t lack headroom. Because there is so much control via Pre and Post gain over how hard you hit the tubes, I found myself digging deep into the wealth of Strat-friendly clean sounds you can get with less aggressive use of those controls.”

On the flip side, Ouimette noted that he “was able to dial in AC/DC rhythm tones with just the right amount of kerrang and chime to create the illusion of a blaring baby JTM45.” All that and a cabinet that drove many of us to drool, left us little choice but to bestow a Premier Gear Award.

The cult of Gilmour is a mighty army. It even has a team of engineers dissecting his tone around the clock—picking it apart down to the very last brick in the wall, so to speak. Sometimes they yield discoveries for the rest of us. Take the Skreddy Lunar Module Deluxe—unabashedly created to transport us to the microgrooves of the Dark Side of the Moon LP, but also a fuzz of wild flexibility.

Reviewer Joe Charupakorn was quick to note how beautifully the Lunar Module Deluxe tamed the more temperamental side of silicon Fuzz Faces like Gilmour’s. He further observed that the Skreddy “gives the player even more control over this notoriously hairy circuit with a variable-gain input transistor, as well as a tone control for added brilliance that’s helpful for tailoring the pedal to different guitars and amps.” Great for Gilmour-heads, but a sweeter Fuzz Face clone for the rest of us, too. Meet you on the dark side, then?