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Gear Awards

Three brawny, chiming British amp voices, and a million colors in between, shine in an immaculately conceived and constructed 16-watt, EL84 combo that roars and sweetly sings.

Oodles of Brit tones that sound fantastic at low, or shockingly loud, volumes. Built like an old Benz. Touch-responsive and dynamic. Deep, addictive tremolo.

Expensive!

$3,240

Carr Bel-Ray
carramps.com

5
5
4.5
4

Playing the 16-watt, EL84-driven Carr Bel-Ray is, at times, flat-out, ecstatic fun. It’s alive, reactive, responsive, dynamic, and barks and chimes with a voice that spans a siren’s song and a firecracker. It lends snap and top-end energy to humbuckers, can turn a Telecaster bridge pickup lethal, or make a Rickenbacker 12-string brash and beautiful at once. It can also make you forget stompboxes exist. Most of my time with the Bel-Ray was spent without a pedal in sight.

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A medium-high-gain overdrive that gives you room to move between fat boost tones and fuzzier fare.

A powerfully heavy but also surprisingly subtle and versatile distortion pedal. Great dynamics and articulation.

Some noise at higher gain settings.

$129

EarthQuaker Devices Zoar
earthquakerdevices.com

4.5
4.5
4.5
5

What’s in a name? In dubbing their latest “Zoar,” maybe the pedal pushers from Akron, Ohio, are referencing the falcon from Masters of the Universe. More likely, they are referring to the communal village in Ohio named for the Biblical hamlet spared during the Old Testament razing of Sodom and Gomorrah. Maybe it’s just EarthQuaker Devices’ idea of the kind of ominous name a chunky medium-high-gain distortion should have. The latter scenario isn’t out of the question. It becomes clear pretty quickly that the name totally suits this teal, hammer-finished machine. Yet the Zoar is more than a tool for aggression. It’s a dynamic device that straddles both sides of the distortion/fuzz fence and achieves great touch sensitivity via a discrete transistor-based circuit.

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The updated loop pedal from Mooer is a user-friendly blast at a budget price.

Easy to use. Intuitive controls and layout. Auto record mode is handy.

Multiple layers can get muddy.

Mooer Micro Looper II
mooeraudio.com

4
4.5
5
4.5


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Small Supro-inspired simplicity leads to growling, raunchy, bad-attitude drive tones and lead sounds with venom.

Dynamically responsive. Sounds a lot like a little amp made enormous when used with bigger amplifiers. Great build quality.

Some players won’t dig the midrange focus here.

$215

Skreddy Skunk
skreddypedals.com

4.5
5
5
4

Most of the pedals I play that are built by Skreddy’s Marc Ahlfs feel like the product of a lot of deep listening and diligent research. They always seem to go a layer deeper—more detail, more authentic, and just more moving when you plug in and play loud. That certainly goes for the new Skunk Drive Model 1606, a simple, straight-ahead stomp designed to add vintage small-Supro sounds and dynamics to a player’s crayon box. Skunk nails a sort of sound, feel, and responsiveness that strongly evokes Supros and other low-wattage classics. And it can transform the sound of a high-headroom amp while retaining a very organic sense of touch.

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The octave fuzz section from the Atreides Weirding Module gets its own star turn in a buzzing bruiser that can be absurd and beautiful.

Unusually flexible and sustain-rich octave fuzz. Fat, rubbery synth-like sounds. White-hot fuzz. Versatile tone and fuzz and sub octave levels.

Can’t entirely remove fuzz or octave signal.

$169

Way Huge Stone Burner
jimdunlop.com

5
4.5
4.5
4.5

Way Huge’s Atreides Weirding Module is one of Jeorge Tripps’ great gifts to the world. It’s a gift that keeps giving, too. The Attack Vector phaser and envelope was its first offspring. But the newest, the Stone Burner Sub Atomic octave fuzz is a killer, maybe the coolest, and probably the most practical pedal from the Atreides family. It’s an unusually useful and forgiving octave fuzz that will generate up to two sub octaves, which feature more or less prominently depending on the sub level.

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