Another year, another dazzling parade of pedals, guitars, amps, modelers, and accessories that made our noggins spin.

Fractal Audio Systems AX8

Fractal Audio System’s rackmount Axe-Fx units awakened many players to the possibilities of digitally modeled amps, cabinets, and effects. The AX8 puts Fractal’s realistic modeling technology into the pedalboard format and provides plenty of juice for most applications. The ruggedly built unit sounds stellar, and if you invest the effort to get acquainted with this open-ended device, you’re likely to be inspired.

$1,299 street
fractalaudio.com

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This year’s Premier Gear Award winners are, as usual, an eclectic set—full of old-school vintage homage, leading-edge digital developments, and imaginative meetings of those worlds. Dig in and dig it as we revisit the gear that fired the enthusiasm and wonder of our editors and contributors in 2017.

This rare English Tonemaster was made circa 1957.

The Valco-produced English Tonemaster is a rare, lap-steel-inspired gem from the 1950s—when genres and guitar design were fluid.

The 1950s were a peculiar time for the electric guitar. Innovators, designers, and tinkerers were pushing the boundaries of the instrument, while musicians were experimenting with various playing techniques and sounds. There was an evolution of sorts (or de-evolution, depending on your slant) from solidbody “sit-down” guitars, like pedal and lap steels, to “stand-up” or “upright” solidbody electrics. If you look at an early Fender catalog—let’s say from 1953—you’ll see the Telecaster (and Esquire), the Precision Bass, and then a whole bunch of steel guitars. There was a shift underway, and many manufacturers began to blur the lines of what a guitar should look, sound, and play like.

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PRS Guitars and John Mayer officially announce the PRS SE Silver Sky, an affordable version of the original with PRS trademark bird inlays and three single-coil pickups.

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