Holiday Gear Finds 2022
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
The new Gibson Les Paul™ Standard 50s Faded returns to the classic design that made it relevant, played, and loved -- shaping sound across generations and genres of music. It pays tribute to Gibson's Golden Era of innovation and brings authenticity back to life. The Les Paul Standard 50s features a satin nitrocellulose lacquer finish that gives it the look and feel of a long-treasured musical companion. It has a solid mahogany body with an AA figured maple top and a rounded 50s-style mahogany neck with a rosewood fingerboard and trapezoid inlays. It's equipped with an ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic bridge, an aluminum Stop Bar tailpiece, Vintage Deluxe tuners with Keystone buttons, and gold Top Hat knobs with dial pointers. The open-coil Burstbucker™ 1 (neck) and Burstbucker 2 (bridge) pickups are hand-wired to audio taper potentiometers and Orange Drop® capacitors.
The PRS SE Standard 24-08 is a mahogany-body workhorse guitar with powerful humbucking and true single-coil tones in one instrument. Its PRS TCI “S” pickups are paired with a 3-way toggle switch and two mini-toggle coil split switches that individually split the humbuckers into true single coils for a total of eight pickup configurations. Players can enjoy two full octaves thanks to the 24-fret, 25” scale length rosewood fretboard and wide thin maple neck, and the PRS patented, molded tremolo gives players added flexibility and control over their playing. With sonic range and rock-solid reliability, the PRS SE Standard 24-08 will keep you playing without compromise.
Explore new guitar voicings and open tunings with the new Kaepo™, Gruv Gear's creative tuning guitar capo! Removable fretting pads can be set to any combination for nearly unlimited possibilities. Move the Kaepo quickly up and down the fretboard like a regular capo, without any tedious clamping or setup. Adjust the 7 individual fretting pads without any tools. Kaepo is also compatible with Gruv Gear's new Twistune™ rechargeable color tuner, for quick and convenient tuning on-the-fly. Works with most 6- and 7-string acoustic and electric guitars.
The Gruv Gear Kaepo is available on its own or bundled with the new Twistune tuner. Combine two or more Kaepos to open up even more tuning creativity!
The FlyBy Ultra comes packed with sleek upgrades while keeping the break-away laptop bag design of the original FlyBy. New features include an ultra-tough 1680D Ballistic Nylon exterior, reflective trim for visibility, waterproof zipper tape and new, larger compartments. The FlyBy Ultra also brings ergonomics to the next level with a luggage pass-through, and upgraded straps.
This is the tour pack that DJs and digital creators around the world carry and swear by. Get ready for the ultimate creator experience.
JBL 3 Series MKII powered studio monitors make JBL performance available to every studio. The JBL Image Control Waveguide and refined transducers offer stunning detail, precise imaging, a wide sweet-spot and dynamic range that enhances the capabilities of any workspace. Featuring patented technologies derived from the JBL 7 Series and M2 Master Reference Monitors and, sporting a sleek, modern design, JBL 3 Series delivers outstanding performance and an enjoyable mix experience at an accessible price. Special sale pricing begins Thanksgiving day with the 305PMKII at $109 EA, 306PMKII at $149 EA, 308PMKII at $199 EA, and the LSR310S subwoofer at $299.
Oh no! Stripped a tiny screw on your favorite guitar? Or even worse, scratched your guitar when the wrong screwdriver slipped? Never have that awful feeling again. StewMac has put together the ULTIMATE screwdriver set for every guitar owner. They tracked down all of those tiny specialty and hard to find bits—and we added a few of their favorite problem solvers. The StewMac Guitar Tech Screwdriver Set replaces a whole drawer full of bulky tools with exactly what you need. The set includes 36 essential bits for guitars, basses, and more, plus an easy-grip handle and extender. The included compact hard case is spill-proof and easily fits in your toolbox or guitar case (it’s a must-have for gigs). You won't find this at any hardware store—it’s only at StewMac.
Xvive’s U2, U3 and U4 wireless systems make going wireless easy, reliable and affordable, all with high-fidelity 24-bit/48kHz sound! They all recharge with any 5V USB power source, broadcast over a range of up to 90 feet, and have an imperceptible 5 ms of latency.
U2 Guitar Wireless System is the go-to plug-and-play solution for guitarists and bassists, giving you five hours of trouble-free wireless freedom on a single charge.
The U3 Microphone Wireless System turns any dynamic microphone into a wireless mic, in seconds. It can also be used to replace an XLR cable in other applications—for example between a mixer and a powered speaker cabinet!
The U4 In-Ear Monitor Wireless System gives you a beltpack receiver for your in-ears or earphones and a transmitter to connect to the mixer; up to six musicians can use the system at a time, even with separate monitor mixes.
For more info on these and other Xvive products, visit www.xvive.com and Play Free!
Engineered for great tone and long life, our proprietary, featherweight coating keeps strings sounding and feeling new for longer. Tone-killing elements like corrosion, dirt, oil, and sweat are no match for Elixir® Strings.
Our Phosphor Bronze with NANOWEB® Coating is rich and full-bodied with sparkling high-end clarity and a smooth feel.
See a line up of all of our acoustic guitar strings here - https://www.elixirstrings.com/guitar-strings#acoustic
Revolutionary Design and Features:
Optimize your pedalboard layout with durable, snug fitting, strong and lightweight risers. Tailor your pedalboard to fit your stompbox collection and your style of playing!
Space Saving, Easy Wire Routing:
Our riser footprint is virtually the same as the pedal for which it was designed. Whether it's Boss, Wampler, Strymon, MXR, Ibanez, Electro Harmonix, Walrus, Earthquaker Devices, TC Electronic, JHS or any of the popular pedals, our risers take up no more space than the pedal itself. An added benefit of the Elephant Foot design is the ease with which you can route signal and power cables. There's plenty of space under each riser and multiple attachment points for tie-wraps.
Unique Features of Elephant Foot Risers
• Strong yet lightweight
• Cables route easily underneath
• Anchor point for tie wraps
• Hidden screw holes for a super-strong connection to either wood or metal pedalboards
• Works with hook & loop, cloth cable ties or tie wraps
• Unique Pedal "Frames" for your first row of pedals
• Risers can be customized
• 3D printed from eco-friendly PLA
Available in seven standard colors and custom colors available on request.
Benefits of Elephant Foot Risers
• No more accidental pedal stomps
• No annoying pedal wobble when stomping
• No more sloppy pedalboards
• Optimized Pedalboard layouts
• Easy, neat cable routing
• Custom riser sizes available in multiple colors
• Preserve resale value of pedals
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
XPND is the pedalboard that adapts to you. With XPND's patented telescoping technology, you can easily adjust the length of the board to add, subtract, and rearrange pedals how you want, when you want.
The original Cloudlifter® Mic Activator® adds tons of ultra-clean gain to dynamic and ribbon microphones and are the perfect stocking-friendly gift for any musician (or yourself)! Made in the USA. Get Lifted. Get Gifted!
The Horus-WB-FX is the latest model to be developed within the popular Caparison Horus range.
This newly designed fixed bridge version features a carefully considered body construction featuring a Walnut top and an Australian Blackwood back. This unique fusion produces a full rounded tone with a sweet emphasis on the upper mids ensuring clarity, focus and a distinct separation of notes, even with the most extreme gain-saturated down tunings.
When combined with an upgraded Caparison designed, sustain rich, high mass bridge (which effortlessly copes with a myriad of acute tunings and string gauges) Jescar jumbo stainless steel Frets and a specifically designed set of Caparison pickups, the Horus-WB-FX is more than capable of producing arena filling rock tones or creating more subdued, distinctively rich and bell like cleans.
The Horus-WB-FX plays like an absolute dream and features all of the beautiful aesthetic qualities that you have come to expect from Caparison Guitars. The striking body design is complimented by three stunning new finishes and also comes with a choice of either an Ebony or Maple fret board..
The Woman Tone is Aclam’s tribute to Eric Clapton’s amazing sound during his Cream era. The sound that turned him into a god. An accurate approach to the unique tone he attained with a simple yet effective combination of a P.A.F equipped Gibson and 100W Marshall stacks all the way up.
- Eric Clapton's Cream Sound in a box:
Aclam has distilled and bottled in a stompbox the key elements that shaped Eric’s rig. Reproduce his unique rhythmic and solo tones, fine-tuned using both live and studio recordings of Cream.
- Artwork by The Fool's Guitar artist: Marijke koger:
Responsible for the psychedelic decoration of Clapton’s Gibson SG nicknamed “The Fool”, Marijke has created a unique artistic interpretation of the Woman Tone that looks stunning!
- Custom humbucker pickup simulation circuit & tone control:
A pickup simulation circuit emulating the tonal characteristics of a P.A.F style pickup has been incorporated to reproduce the “Woman Tone”. With its buffered input, the guitar signal won’t be affected. Use compressors, fuzzes or whatever effect you want in front of the Woman Tone, and it will retain its tonal characteristics.
- Touch sensitive plexi-inspired overdrive using discrete components:
Inspired by Clapton’s 100W full stacks it results in a powerful overdrive with a great British character! Designed having blues-rock in mind, it will perfectly suit any guitar player seeking a vintage tone!
A hot new gear company from Canada, Templo Devices jumped on the scene with their flagship lithium-battery powered amp aimed at electric guitarists.
Focused on creating problem-solving products with tonal excellence, they've since released several small-batch pedals with wide appeal. Including SPLYCE, a versatile mini-mixer for using a microphone with a guitar rig, the atmospheric TRIPLO modulation pedal and the REEL DEAL tape preamp, as well as their exciting upcoming release, the Pocket Studio Compressor. There is always something exciting coming from this northern innovator.
With plenty of great deals for the holiday season, they have a little something for everyone.
Meet the Taylor GS Mini, one of the world's most popular acoustic guitars: a smaller body and a compact feel with a big, bold tone that punches far above its size. Based on a scaled-down version of our Grand Symphony body shape, GS Mini guitars boast solid tops and a variety of tonewood options serving up different flavors of vibrant acoustic tone. The GS Mini family is also home to the GS Mini Bass, a super-compact four-string acoustic bass with a slinky feel and a punchy response. Whether you're looking for a campfire guitar, a songwriting tool or just a great-sounding acoustic that's up for anything, the GS Mini has you covered.
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
The TASCAM DR-05X stereo handheld recorder is a great-sounding portable recording solution with helpful workflow options. Use the TASCAM DR-05X's built-in omnidirectional condenser microphones to capture vibrant stereo recordings anywhere, anytime. Use Auto Recording mode to automatically engage recording when audio signals reach a certain level. Use the Overwrite function to make easy punch-in audio replacements. Or use the TASCAM DR-05X as a 2-input/2-output USB audio interface with your Mac or PC. Whatever your portable 2-channel recording needs are, the TASCAM DR-05X has you covered. It's a fantastic and easy way to record your ideas, rehearsals, or gigs. Simply remove the SD card and pop it into your computer and send your song ideas to bandmates or collaborators. It's small enough to take with you everywhere and fits easily in a guitar case or small bag.
The cardioid MD 421 has been one of Sennheiser’s most popular dynamic microphones for decades. The large-diaphragm, dynamic capsule handles high sound pressure levels, making it a natural for recording guitars and drums. The MD 421's full-bodied cardioid pattern and five-position bass control make it an excellent choice for most instruments, as well as group vocals or radio broadcast announcers. One listen and you'll know why it’s a classic.
Every once in a while, a product comes out that makes you go “Wait… WHAT?!?!”. Well, those words are music to our ears! This game-changing pedalboard allows you to power all your pedals, including pedals that need isolation and different voltages, with a single power source. Yep, either our rechargeable battery or AC adapter fires up all your pedals without additional power bricks. No more Velcro carpet to rip pedals off! You can literally change pedals on the fly. But the flexibility of EARTHBOARD doesn’t end there – Our Lifeline Tether carries power off the board to connect a WAH, or daisy-chain multiple EARTHBOARDs together. EARTHBOARD comes in 2 sizes: double row (holds 12 standard size pedals) and single row (holds 6 standard size pedals). They are available as Complete Pedalboard Systems (includes all necessary components to play) or as a Build-a-Board and "ala cart" accessories!
See video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3iwDgLnN6w&t=8s
The Nobels ODR-1(bc) has bass cut, 9-18 volt input, and glow-in-the-dark knobs. The ODR-1 is rated the best overdrive by Nashville studio guitarists and creates a natural, tube-amp style overdrive that is versatile, amp-like, and affordable. The ODR-1 has been on the market for over 30 years and remains the number one choice. Creates crunchy rock and blues sounds or extra boost for soloing without smothering the natural character of your guitar's tone. The Spectrum controls optimizes tones from single coil chime to powerful humbucker rock. When adjusting the Spectrum control up or down the circuit ensures you have plenty of clarity and full dynamic range.
Bass cut switch
Solid metal chassis
Nobel's remote control jack switching system
German Engineering. Made in China.
Click here for Audio Clips
Modeled after Orangewood’s full-size Oliver guitar, the Oliver Jr. is a scaled-down version of Orangewood’s best-selling grand concert model. But don’t let the small body fool you. Sporting a beautiful, woodsy solid mahogany top, this junior guitar sings a bold and bright tone that’s easy to love. Whether you’re looking for your new travel companion or simply want a compact guitar to live near your couch, you can’t go wrong with this perfect-sized guitar.
Prefer a full-size model? This holiday season, every Orangewood guitar includes a professional set up and free shipping right to your door with a premium gig bag included. Plus, get extended holiday returns until January 31st. That’s over 60 days of commitment-free playing, so you can gift a guitar that they’re sure to love.
Jump straight in and explore 100 presets, the CODE50 has all you need to start performing and recording with. 50W of power that’s portable enough for you to practice at home or in the garage. Sync with your phone or online so it’s always with you for those creative moments. This fully digital amp is loaded with 14 MST preamps, 4 MST power amps and 8 MST speaker cabinets for you to create sounds that suit you. Using the Gateway App you can connect via Bluetooth to control CODE and stream music from your iOS or Android device. MyMarshall has a global library of user presets that you can upload to and download.
Catalyst® 100 is a 100-watt, dual-channel 1x12 combo amplifier that performs like a traditional guitar amp—while providing the increased versatility of a modern amp. Catalyst 100 offers six Original Amp Designs—ranging from pristine clean to modern high-gain—crafted using our renowned HX® sound design techniques to ensure exceptional tone and feel. Ideal for stage or studio.
• 100-watt, dual-channel 1x12 combo amp (with optional LFS2 footswitch)
• Catalyst 100 operates like a traditional amp—but provides increased versatility
• 6 Original Amp Designs—pristine clean to modern high-gain
• Dedicated Boost and Reverb sections (6 reverb types), 18 Effects (3 types)
• Power attenuator (half power, 0.5 watts, Mute) for reduced volume
• XLR line output for pro connection to P.A. or recording devices
• Effects loop and Power Amp input for integrating external devices
• MIDI In via DIN connector
Every Tool You Need in One Acoustic Pedal
We created the Venue DI so you can travel light, set up fast, and sound incredible anywhere you plug in. The Venue DI gives you complete control by combining a full-isolation DI output, 5-band EQ with adjustable low & hi-mid bands, variable clean boost, and chromatic tuner all in one acoustic pedal. With its all-discrete signal path, hi-graded semiconductors, and exclusive use of audiophile grade film capacitors, the Venue DI is on par with the world’s elite preamps and provides a studio quality sound for the stage.
The LP-6 V2 is Kali's best-selling studio monitor, and it's made its mark in studios across the globe ranging from humble home setups to state-of-the-art recording facilities.
Kali's innovative 3-D imaging waveguides create a crystal-clear stereo image, and also help the speakers to perform their best in challenging acoustic spaces. Kali-programmed boundary EQs take this a step further, tailoring the sound of the speaker for its placement on stands, on a desk, or close to walls.
With accuracy and translation at the forefront, the LP-6 delivers transparent, full sound that gives you a complete picture of your mix. Whatever you mix on the LP-6, you can be sure that it will translate nicely to other speakers, earbuds and headphones, car systems, or whatever else your listeners are using for playback.
The H90 Harmonizer® is Eventide's next-generation multi-effects pedal. Whether you want high-quality bread and butter effects or experimental sounds unheard, the H90 has everything you need to inspire your creativity with an intuitive UI designed with players in mind. Discover why top artists and producers have chosen Eventide through the years with 62 effect algorithms and hundreds of Program combinations curated for a variety of instruments and genres. With its comprehensive I/O and flexible routing options, the H90 is designed to be the heart of your rig.
Wilkinson's R series range of pickups are the result of Trev Wilkinson's years of creating and listening to thousands of pickups. Time spent with legendary and iconic individuals such as Seth Lover and Leo Fender, with whom Trev questioned about all aspects of sound, construction materials and production methods. All this combined knowledge has been the template for the R Series range of pickups, a pickup range Trev is proud to place his signature on, and say " These are the finest pickups Wilkinson has produced in the history of the company".
Featuring Single Coil's for both S and T style guitars, P90 and Humbucker models, the R Series has era specific models to capture the tone and vibe of the time and the players that influenced generations of players and Hybrid designs to influence future players.
For a limited time only, get two FREE expansion packs with the purchase of a five-piece guitar rack. Showcase your collection while safely and securely storing seven to ten guitars. The Hercules GS525BP-HA205 is covered with Specially Formulated Foam rubber at all contact points and features a one-piece design that sets up and tears down easily. The guitar yoke is designed for acoustic, electric, and bass guitars with four pick slots on each yoke. This special pack comes with a total of seven guitar yokes leaving room to expand to ten. Available while supplies last.
Ultimate DSP 2 channel noise reduction pedal. Patented technology that will remove the 50Hz or 60Hz and all associated hum harmonic components with total transparency. Combined with the patented Decimator G technology and dynamic sliding low pass filter, the Hum Extractor is the pinnacle of noise reduction technology. The Hum Extractor technology is dynamic in operation which compares the level of the audio signal to the hum harmonic components. Dynamically removes hum components when they become dominant. Made in the USA.
Click here for video
With the multi-touch display integrated with HILAVA OS, the LAVA ME 3 provides easy access to play and customize tons of built-in effects and loops.
Comprising eleven of Brian Wampler’s favorite delays, the Wampler Metaverse is a full-featured, small-footprint multi delay stomp box that is fully programmable, preset capable, has stereo inputs and outputs, allows full MIDI control, and has an expression input that you can assign to ANY of the parameters. The Metaverse also comes with a software version of the pedal via a set of 11 AU and VST3 plugins compatible with most popular DAWs - FREE to all customers that register their Metaverse online.
• Studio quality conversion 48 kHz Sampling rate with 24-bit audio
• Full 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response
• 11 Studio-quality vintage and modern delay effects
• Simple user interface
• All parameters controllable via an outboard expression pedal
• 8 onboard preset locations to save your favorite patches, 128 total via MIDI
• Full MIDI control with CC and PC commands
• Stereo or Mono I/O
Gator's Transit Series acoustic gig bags provide rugged case-like protection without sacrificing the lightweight portability of a bag. The red soft-lined interior and thick foam padding safeguard your guitar from drops and bumps, just like a regular case. A weather-resistant blended fabric exterior protects against the elements and features backpack straps, each with a concealable zipper pocket to switch between backpacking and briefcase carry modes. So for the gear you love the most, Guard it with Gator.
Experience exceptional clarity and articulation in a Filter’Tron format with Lindy’s unique Fralin’Tron design. Featuring a focused single-coil vibe with a rich, warm midrange and crisp attack, you’ll wonder where this pickup has been all your life. When Lindy started designing the Fralin’Tron, he did so with a particular goal: to get as much clarity and articulation as possible out of this design.We’re thrilled with the result! Our Fralin’Tron features a scooped midrange and defined bass and highs. In addition, you can expect more nuance out of the wound strings, unlike the original design. Furthermore, the treble strings have a round, warm quality, making our Fralin’Tron perfect for all styles of music – from clean to dirty. Lastly, this pickup features a dynamic and punchy attack that gives you back what you put into it.
The DL-225 is handcrafted exclusively from all mahogany, producing a warm and brilliant sound. The soundboard of the DL-225 features a vintage bracing pattern resulting in outstanding projection and tone with brilliant highs, strong midrange and subtle but full bass. The DL-225 has an extremely bright and dynamic sound. This guitar has the sound of a large body guitar. In a fingerpicking demonstration comparison we did with a name brand dreadnought the DL-225 was +3 dB louder.
Its smaller size and depth make the DL-225 a very comfortable guitar to play.
Click here for video and audio examples
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
If you are looking for a single pedal solution with multiple degrees of gain from light overdrive to full out saturated fuzz tones, then you’ll surely love the Ratsbane. The Ratsbane is based on a true benchmark sound amongst guitarists that has been heard on thousands of famous recordings.
In typical Wampler fashion, Brian improved the circuit’s flexibility by adding two new switches. The Gain switch offers three distinct choices. In the middle gives you the “stock” gain for this pedal. The left position offers a firm, yet smooth boost in gain, whereas the right delivers an insane level of creamy distortion. The Voice switch subtly alters the compression and clipping of this pedal. It tightens the distortion to be more manageable with greater levels of gain, while rolling back some of the fuzz qualities, to deliver a modern, high gain distortion.
Click here for video clips
Whether you’re looking to conjure crisp clarity or crunchy character from your steel-string, these 10 soundhole pickups cover a range of sounds and prices.
LR BAGGS M1 Active
This active pickup promises 1,000 hours of playing time on a single battery. Its built-in volume control, gold-plated 1/8" jack, and adjustable pole pieces offer flexibility and high-quality feedback-resistant sound.
With a custom-designed internal preamp and adjustable pole pieces, this pickup is built to deliver clarity with a low noise floor and a broad frequency response.
DEARMOND Tone Boss
This passive humbucker includes an onboard volume control and adjustable pole pieces, and comes in black, cream, and tortoiseshell trim options.
RECORDING KING Gold Foil Soundhole Pickup
For lo-fi, old-school sounds, it doesn’t get any simpler—or more affordable—than this.
CURTIS NOVAK DA-1200 Soundhole
This customized copy of the iconic DeArmond soundhole pickups comes in three coil options—vintage, hot, and GT. It’s available with either 250k or 500k volume pots, and can be configured with various cable options.
Available in both humbucking and single-coil models, this low-current active neodymium pickup runs for up to 240 hours on a set of batteries.
SEYMOUR DUNCAN Woody HC
With a custom maple, walnut, or black-stain housing, these double-potted humbuckers deliver an elegant look.
MOJOTONE Quiet Coil NC-1
This active option is voiced to mimic the sound of a condenser mic and promises over 500 hours on a pair of lithium batteries.
BARTOLINI 3AV Acoustic Guitar Soundhole Pickup
Designed to be installed on a soundhole’s bridge side, this stacked-coil hum-canceling pickup features ceramic magnets and B-string mass compensation.
This active neodymium humbucker features a mahogany-capped birch housing and comes with a 1/8" to 1/4" cable.
How do different magnet mixes help us find sonic bliss? Fender pickup guru Tim Shaw explains the laws of attraction behind our favorite guitar sounds.
Close your eyes for a second and imagine your favorite electric guitar sound. What do you hear? Whether it’s a crystalline clean, a bulldog-growl crunch, or a hurricane of distortion, what do you envision?
Maybe you’re seeing the contours and finish of your guitar, the different pieces of wood that comprise the whole; a certain brand of strings ricocheting in microscopic variances; the woven grille in front of your amp’s speaker vibrating in a sonic windstorm; or perhaps your hands, both working in harmony to create exactly the right sound. It’s unlikely that when you think of your specific sonic nirvana, you picture the little bits of metal compounds that we call magnets.
Yet it’s magnets which are the catalyst for the boundless wealth of sounds we can produce with modern electric guitars. Beginning with their first applications in guitar pickups in the early 1930s, magnets have evolved into one of the most critical factors in how we get the tones we love. They’ve bloomed from a rustic and rudimentary technology to a precise, booming cottage industry. And while dedicated tone hunters spend a lot of time discussing pickups, the particulars of the cylinders and strips of precision-machined magnetized materials that give each pickup its tonal signature aren’t often in the spotlight.
These mysterious bits of earth elements and their invisible force fields—the strengths of which are measured in a unit called a Gauss—breathe life into everything from hushed fingerstyle jazz acrobatics to industrial-grade doom-metal sludge. So how do we know what magnets can help achieve which tones? We need to understand some science, for sure. But we also need to know the history that created the pickup magnets we know and love.
This blueprint, filed along with the patent application in 1934, demonstrates the A-22’s ingenuity, and the pickup magnet’s configuration.
A History of Attraction
The very first electric guitar pickups, circa 1931, probably wouldn’t be much fun to play through. They were created by American inventor George Beauchamp and Swiss-American engineer Adolph Rickenbacker, who together founded—you guessed it—the Rickenbacker company, first named Ro-Pat-In, then Rickenbacher, before they settled on their final designation. The duo built the Electro A-22, nicknamed the Frying Pan (take a quick look and it’s fairly easy to guess why), an aluminum lap-steel guitar constructed to capitalize on the popularity of Hawaiian music at the time. It was the first stringed instrument to bear pickups.
The A-22’s chunky pickup magnet, crafted from an iron alloy with around 36 percent cobalt steel, was incredibly weak and unfocused. But it established a universal principle that shaped the future of the guitar: A magnet’s field can magnetize guitar strings, and together with a spool of wire, the magnets can generate enough output current to send to an amplification system. The basic process of capturing and amplifying sounds hasn’t changed much in the 90 years since Beauchamp and Rickenbacker slapped a big, magnetic rock on a guitar that looked like kitchenware, but the tools to accomplish it have.
“A lot of what Leo Fender did involved war surplus stuff in Southern California ’cause there was tons of it around for all the aircraft factories.”
Tim Shaw, chief engineer with Fender, has been building pickups for the past half century. He’s spent the last 27 years in various capacities with Fender, prior to which he ran research and development for Gibson, operated a repair shop, and helped Fishman establish their OEM pickup system. But before all of that, he learned how to make pickups from Bill Lawrence, the German-American builder who changed Gibson’s trajectory in the late 1960s. Lawrence, says Shaw, was the real deal—he had a coil-winder in the trunk of his Cadillac, which was functionally the same as Leo Fender’s original winder. And he didn’t suffer fools.
“He was pretty crusty,” Shaw recalls. “He would cuss me out in Polish and German. But I learned a tremendous amount from him. He would explain these things very clearly, very logically, in a very German way. It was priceless.” Lawrence, who came to pickup design with a respectable music career and a background in physics, instructed Shaw on which magnets to use, and how many turns of what gauge wire were required for certain sounds.
Tim Shaw has been building pickups for nearly half a century. When it comes to magnet materials, he says guitarists stick to what they know.
Perhaps the most important lesson that Lawrence taught Shaw was that he shouldn’t get into the pickup business to be an artist. “Most of the time, you’re not making something which never was,” says Shaw. “You’re working with an established vocabulary. So much of what we do is ‘in the style of.’” The reality of magnet selection and pickup design, says Shaw, is that there isn’t a whole lot of room for experimentation. “The big fight with all of this is guitar players,” he says. “There’s a conservatism: We know what we like, we play what we’ve played. If you have something that’s interesting but radically different, there aren’t as many people as you would like to think who will just a priori accept that and go for it. I could literally do a pickup brand from all the stuff that people didn’t want.”
Instead, when he designs pickups, Shaw follows the same three principles that guide musical instrument production: They have to give us the sound we want, at the volume we have to play, and we have to want to play them. “If you don’t get all three of those things right,” says Shaw, “you’ve got a decorative wall hanging.”
From alnico to neodymium, magnets have gotten stronger and changed how our electric guitar playing sounds and feels. They’ve radically altered how pickups themselves are designed and built—if a builder worked with the same design specs and material ratios for a ceramic-driven pickup as they did for an alnico-powered pickup, the result would probably be unbalanced at best.
Let’s look at the popular magnet materials that have been wired up by pickup designers over the last century. Along the way, we’ll dig into how their construction, physical composition, and magnetic properties change how our guitars sound.
The first alnico alloy—aluminum (Al), nickel (Ni), and cobalt (Co), plus iron—emerged in the late 1930s. Since then, five different versions of the alnico magnet have grown in favor among pickup builders: alnicos 2, 3, 4, 5, and 8. The first four are the most common ones and can be used in both rod and bar form.
Alnico 3, which paradoxically contained no cobalt thanks to a Korean War-era embargo on the substance, is the least powerful, but it became the first go-to alnico alloy in Fender’s early electrics. I think a lot of what Leo Fender did involved war surplus stuff in Southern California cause there was tons of it around for all the aircraft factories,” says Shaw. “So he had access to a lot of alnico 3 rod material, which he got cut into lengths that made sense for him.” Gibson, meanwhile, was cutting it into bars to outfit their P-90 pickups.
Making alnico magnets was a nasty business. Shaw describes alnico factory lines as “14th-century-looking stuff,” where a massive ladle is filled with over 600 pounds of iron, cobalt, copper, and aluminum shot, heated to the materials’ respective melting points, then poured into molds. But the magnets that came out often varied massively in composition and sound. Aluminum has a much lower melting point than its ladle-mates, and as it boiled off while waiting for the others to melt, the mixture’s composition would change. One would need to continue adding aluminum through the process to maintain the correct ratios. The magnets made on a Wednesday morning shift could be totally different from the ones poured the night before, explains Shaw. “That’s one of the explanations for why vintage pickups do not all sound the same,” he notes.
Technically speaking, alnico 2s are slightly more powerful than 3s, with 4s and 5s topping both for magnetic strength, and, therefore, output. In terms of sonic characteristics, Shaw says the alnico 3s have the slowest attack, and the “warmest and woofiest” sound. Alnico 2 dials back that thick character a bit, while alnico 4, says Shaw, is sharp but “polite:” “It almost has a smirk to it,” he grins. Shaw describes alnico 5s as the boldest of the bunch—the magnet that says, “Yeah, we’re gonna go for it, guys.” Fender P-basses were initially outfitted with alnico 3s until Leo Fender realized it tends toward what Shaw dubs a “drunken elephants dancing” tonality. He swapped in alnico 5s around the mid 1950s for their brighter, harder sounding magnets, a decision that cemented the brand’s signature sound. “Leo was all about attack,” observes Shaw.
The high-output alnico 8s are the strongest of their alloy class thanks to their inclusion of titanium. The 8s are so powerful that they can pull strings out of their arc in the right conditions: if you raise your neck pickup too high and play above the 12th fret, you might hear weird tones thanks to this phenomenon.
Like Leo Fender favoring cheap metals that he could get in bulk nearby, other regional pickup-design characteristics—and the sounds they encouraged—can also be traced back to geographical and industrial particulars. The former Chicago-based discount guitar manufacturer Harmony turned to Toledo, Ohio’s Rowe Industries and lead designer Harry DeArmond to find cheap pickup materials. In response to booming demand, Rowe was turning out rubberized ferrite magnets—the kind you’d find on your grandparents’ refrigerators—which Harmony popped into their jazz guitar pickups. These are the magnets that power the infamous gold-foil pickup.
By the early ’70s, barium and strontium ferrites (compounds which are “deadly poison to be around,” notes Shaw) were developed. These were much stronger than their rubberized ferrite predecessors, and cost far less to produce than alnico alloys thanks to the elimination of the need for smelting. Instead, they’re created through a compacting and heating process called powder metallurgy. They became popular across a huge spread of sectors, and before long, pickup designers like Rick Turner at California manufacturer Alembic Inc. began to recognize that these stronger, harder ferrites—now known as ceramics—could be applied in guitars.
“I could design a whole guitar around a magnet if I wanted.”
Under Bill Lawrence’s direction, Gibson began employing these bar-shaped ceramics in humbuckers, which lent their guitars a sharper attack that paired well with players’ growing interest in heavier overdrive and gain. Lawrence’s Super Humbuckers were the first major pickups produced with ceramics. To deal with unwanted feedback and to prevent their covers from vibrating, designers like Lawrence epoxy-potted the pickups.
Ceramics found in pickups are usually ceramic 8s, which on a Gauss meter typically clock in at around twice the power of an alnico 4. Thanks to their magnetic flux at the pole pieces, ceramic 8s grab the strings quicker than regular humbuckers, and deliver a brighter, harder attack. These qualities make them especially well-suited for high-gain guitar playing without sacrificing definition, and builders like EMG and players like Kirk Hammett have gravitated toward them since.
The original patents for the cunife magnets, made from copper, nickel, and iron, date back to the late 1930s, at which time there was a growing need for a magnetic material with high ductility—the ability to be manipulated and reshaped without breaking. Cunife magnets of all different shapes were used in speedometers, altimeters, and tachometers (a function that lent them the nickname ‘tach-rod’).
“The big fight with all of this is guitar players. There’s a conservatism: we know what we like, we play what we’ve played.”
By the early 1970s, Fender was looking for a response to Gibson’s humbucking pickups. Seth Lover, who created the humbucker for Gibson before switching teams to Fender, came up with a unique opponent: the wide-range cunife pickup. The cunife magnet’s ductility meant that, unlike alnico, it could be machined into screw-like pole pieces like the humbucker’s steel slugs, and Lover discovered that when paired with more winds of wire, cunife’s higher inductance translated to more bottom end and low mids without sacrificing Fender’s classic high-end clarity. By the end of the decade, though, digital appliances were becoming more prevalent, so cunife’s industrial and consumer utility was swept away and production lines for the magnet vanished. Pickup builders like Lover realized there wouldn’t be any material left to build with, so it was abandoned in most pickups—until a few years ago.
Tim Shaw managed to track down some incredibly expensive cunife magnets to design a new, revitalized line of vintage-correct wide range cunife pickups for Fender. But building with the magnet was tricky—he had to balance the physical and aesthetic demands with the cunife magnet’s needs—namely, a larger wire coil. “It could only be so tall if I wanted to fit it in a vintage guitar,” says Shaw. “I could design a whole guitar around a magnet if I wanted, but what I ended up doing from a practical standpoint was finding something that worked inside that form factor.”
Cunife-loaded pickups tend to strike a balance between humbuckers and single-coils: As their trademark name implies, they capture a wider range of frequencies than your average Strat pickup, but they don’t quite dive to Les Paul humbucker depths on the low end.
Neodymiums are the strongest pickup magnets around, and builders like Q-tuner have pioneered eye-catching new designs around the material.
Neodymium is a powerful, expensive rare-earth metal that’s still relatively rare to find in guitar pickups. Commonly used in iPhone speakers, neodymium’s strong magnetic field means that its application in pickups looks different than other magnets—thanks to its high output, only a small amount is required, which impacts how it’s inserted and oriented in a pickup context. Proponents celebrate the magnet’s ability to capture a wide dynamic range with detail and sensitivity. Fishman fits their magnetic pickups with neodymium magnets, for example, and builder Q-tuner has been churning out eye-catching neodymium pickups for almost 30 years.
But while some pickups can be swapped out without much worry to achieve different tones, stronger materials like neodymium require a bit more engineering. For example, Shaw says it wouldn’t be wise to simply replace a Strat’s alnico pickups with neodymiums. “I have, and you wouldn’t like the way it sounded,” he says. “It’s bright, and very forceful. Insistent, if you will.”
The rockabilly icon struts onstage with a trio of Gretsch 6120s, a pair of early ’60s Fender Bassmans, and a silky Roland 301 Chorus-Echo.
Two-time Grammy Award-winning rockabilly hero Brian Setzer recently played a sold-out show at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium in support of his new solo album, The Devil Always Collects. Tyler Sweet, who has teched for Setzer for 17 years, took PG’s John Bohlinger through the rig that rocked this town, and just about every other town in the world over Setzer’s 40 years of twanging and sanging.
Brought to you by D'Addario XSRR Strings.
With his recognizable arsenal of plucky semi-hollows, Setzer has probably done more for the Gretsch brand than any other player in the last half-century. On this tour, Setzer brought out some old friends, like this 1959 Gretsch G6120 with gold hardware, rebuilt and restored by TV Jones. Jones treated it to a total overhaul, including a neck reset, a refret with a new radius, new inlays in the upper register, fresh binding side dots on the bass side and lacquer on the neck, a new bridge, reversed toggle switches, and an upgraded Wilkinson Delrin nut—plus, he removed the zero and fret-fill behind the nut. Like all of Setzer’s guitars, this supercharged swing machine stays strung with D’Addario EXL 110s (.010-.046), which Setzer strikes with medium celluloid picks.
In a 2014 interview with Setzer, PG featured had a sidebar with guitar guru TV Jones who detailed what he did to Brian’s guitars and how he created his signature pickup: “TV Jones mastermind Tom Jones—who’s been rehabilitating old pickups and winding new ones for Brian Setzer for 20+ years—explains the process behind the Stray Cat’s new signature pickups.
“It’s my job to ensure that all of Brian’s guitars play and sound the absolute best they can possibly be,” says Jones, who debuted the pickups at the March 2014 Musikmesse gear show in Frankfurt, Germany. “A few years back, I found that a few of Brian’s new Hot Rod signature guitars—which were sent to me by Gretsch to set up for his upcoming tours—sounded slightly brighter acoustically. So I decided to design a new pickup to bring out the best in these guitars—higher fidelity on top, with a slight punch in the bottom end—by using sonically unmatched coils and custom steel-alloy pole screws. The results were beyond my expectations.”
Jones also reworked this 1960 Gretsch G6120, which bears nickel hardware. He scraped a new shape in the neck, then refinished the lacquered neck and face cap. Like his work on the ’59, Jones also removed the zero fret and filled behind the nut (another Wilkoloid Delrin), manipulated the pickups, replaced the fretboard binding and inlays with side dots, fit a new bridge, turned around the toggle switches, and gave it a refret and new conical fretboard radius.
For a more modern accent, Setzer plays his 2004 Gretsch G6120T-HR Brian Setzer Signature Hot Rod in magenta sparkle. This guitar is all stock.
Setzer tours with two blonde Bassmans—one from 1962 and the other from ’63, but both with a 6G6-B circuit. They run into matching Bassman 2x12 cabs, which run 12" Oxford speakers. Setzer usually uses one amp and has the other as a backup, but has been known to run both when it makes sense for the venue.
Setzer has a Boss TR-2 Tremolo in his line for the occasional tremolo, and brings as many as six of the stompboxes on the road with him, just in case. Ditto his Roland 301 Chorus-Echos, which range between 1983 and 1986. The units are old and fragile, so in case one taps out, there’s another to take its place. Setzer wires his set up with Mogami cables, with Amphenol silent ends.