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Amps

The guitar universe gathered momentum in a big way in 2022—which is easy to see in this year’s wildly diverse parade of Premier Gear Award winners.

Here's a look at 2022’s most notable new guitars, amps, effects, and accessories, reviewed by our editors and writers:

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Rig Rundown: Ariel Posen [2023]

The silky smooth slide man may raise a few eyebrows with his gear—a hollow, steel-bodied baritone and .017s on a Jazzmaster—but every note and tone he plays sounds just right.

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The good doctor refines an old mid-power favorite that dishes beautiful American-style clean and overdriven tones while packing a muscular punch.

A killer reimagining of an already great design. Bold cleans and toothsome overdrive in an impressively portable package.

No effects loop.

$2,049

Dr. Z Z-28 Mk. II
dr.zamps.com

5
5
4.5
4

Though he’s built bona fide iconic modern guitar-amp designs—and a reputation that he could happily ride into the tube-glow sunset—Dr. Z’s head honcho, Mike Zaite, has always stayed creative. He’s steadily revamped his lineup over the years. And the new Z-28 Mk. II represents a thoughtful update of an amp that many of us assumed couldn’t get much better. The original Z-28, discontinued in February 2018, was a robust 22-watter that reveled in simplicity and thick, versatile tonality. Players loved it. And more than a few lamented its discontinuation.

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A 50-watt tube combo that weighs just 24 pounds.



Light! Powerful. Wide range of sounds.

Channel one can sound flat without pedals.

$1,299

Blackstar St. James 50 EL34 Combo
blackstaramps.com

3.5
4.5
4.5
4

Whether or not the push toward lightweight amplifiers is a lasting trend (and why wouldn’t it be?), the quest for less tonnage is definitely yielding interesting amps. Fender’s recent digital simulacrums of the Deluxe and Twin demonstrated that light weight and vintage-correct style can co-exist. Blackstar, too, has made “lighten the load” its modus operandi for the new St. James series. But rather than using digital means to drop pounds, Blackstar stuck with tube amp architecture. That leads us to the St. James 50 EL34 reviewed here: a proper 50-watt, 1x12" tube combo that, remarkably, weighs just 24 pounds.

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A modeling amp in vintage disguise.

Pros: Great balance between digital power and simplicity. Lightweight and super affordable. Nice app for editing.

Cons: Footswitch not included. Some functions are not intuitive and require a look at the manual. No digital readout.

$399.99

Line 6 Catalyst 100
line6.com

4
4.5
4
5

Line 6’s Catalyst series is the latest in a generation of amplifiers bridging the gap between digital modeling’s enormous possibilities and many players’ desires for old-school simplicity. These amps offer detailed, convincing amp models—but not too many of them—in a compact, vintage-style design that makes avoidance of option fatigue a priority. The very accessible prices also make the series a direct competitor to Boss’ ultra-successful Katana amps. The Catalyst is offered in three models: Catalyst 60 and Catalyst 100 (both of which have one 12" speaker), and the Catalyst 200, which has two 12" speakers. For this review I tested the Catalyst 100, which sells for a very modest $399.

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