Gear Award 2021

We crawled under the hood, got dirty, and dissected dozens of pieces of gear in 2021. Here are the 10 pieces of kit that resonated with you the most.

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We've reviewed a ton of cool gear over the past 12 months, but these stood above the rest and won our coveted Premier Gear Award.

This year more than 40 guitars, basses, effects, and amps from a diverse group of gear makers earned the coveted Premier Gear Award from our discerning editors. Here is our gear of the year.

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Is this the ultimate metal head for 21st-century tube-amp addicts on a budget?

Great range of heavy tones. Useful effects, IRs, and noise gate. Killer value.

Limited clean-channel headroom. Only three included IRs. Somewhat lackluster reverb.

$1,499

Engl Ironball E606SE Special Edition
engl-amps.com

4
5
4.5
5

Once upon a time, lunchbox amps intrigued us because of their simplicity, smaller footprint, lighter weight, and the fact that they were more affordable than the big-ass heads that dominated rock for decades. But over the 15 years since Orange's Tiny Terror sent amp makers down this path, mini amps have become progressively more nuanced, diverse, and powerful. Some of the biggest changes have come in just the last year, with intriguing new designs packing both stunning tones and flexible routing and recording capabilities into über-transportable housings. Engl's new Ironball E606SE illustrates this trend wonderfully. Where some lunchbox amps have minimal controls, the high-gain Ironball has 29 knobs, switches, and buttons in a package that's only slightly bigger than Orange's Tiny Terror. At $1,499 street, this EL84-driven 20-watter isn't cheap, but even amidst an increasingly crowded field, it stands out for its sheer number of features and bang-for-buck ratio.

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The Rush maestro's mega-versatile signature Les Paul at fraction of the price of the original.

Killer axe that offers tons of tones. Amazing value.

Pickups can be susceptible to radio frequency noise.

$899

Epiphone Alex Lifeson Axcess Standard
epiphone.com

5
4
5
4.5

Gibson's Alex Lifeson Les Paul Axcess was released in 2011. It's a drool-worthy instrument that, with a price tag of $5,500, is unfortunately out of reach for most. But Epiphone's new Alex Lifeson Les Paul Axcess Standard distills the essential elements of Lifeson's signature model into an axe that streets at just $899.

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