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Charvel’s affordable metal machine offers incredible playability and crushing overdriven tones.

Since the ’80s, the name Charvel has been more or less synonymous with hot-rodded solidbodies. With strong Fender roots, Charvel adopted a no-frills approach to guitar design that helped usher in an era of streamlined shred machines for players seeking the perfect platform for acrobatic lead work, raunchy rhythms, and supreme tuning stability for tremolo dive-bombing.

Fast-forward to 2013, and Charvel—now operating under the umbrella of the Fender family—is still building guitars that expertly blend proven designs with stripped-down, shred-oriented elements. The Desolation Soloist DX-1 ST blends classic “super strat” concepts that metal players have grown to love with a silky, slender neck, a deeply carved neck joint, and mammoth-sized tone.

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Putting the basic recipe of a Custom Shop Cabronita Especial within reach of players on a humbler budget, Fender has shown that it’s heard the pleas of Tele forum members by introducing the Mexican-made Cabronita Telecaster.

In terms of ubiquity, it’s not a stretch to say that the Fender Telecaster’s no-nonsense simplicity has, in many respects, outpaced even its younger, more streamlined sibling—the Stratocaster. Other than medieval chant groups and maybe some North Indian chamber-music ensemble, it has twisted its way into nearly every musical genre on the planet—from Don Rich’s country to Muddy Waters’ blues, Joe Strummer’s punk, and John 5’s metal.

Of course, much of that is due to the raw utility of its form, but it’s also because the Tele has gone through a few mutations. In the ’70s, the semi-hollow Telecaster Thinline was all the rage for those who wanted to add more air to its sound, and punk and later alt-rock bands clamored for the brawnier response of the humbucker-equipped Deluxe models. In 2009, Fender introduced the Custom Shop Cabronita Especial, which was available with one or two TV Jones Classic pickups and became a hit with acclaimed pickers such as Keith Urban and John Mayer. To help the not-so-famous get their hands on a similar tone recipe, Fender introduced the Mexican-made Cabronita Telecaster last summer.

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Like other great Moog products, the limitless possibilities of the MF-104M analog delay lend themselves to happy accidents and experimentation.

To borrow a sentiment from Mel Brooks’ famous quote about sex and pizza, there are good delays, and there are bad delays—but they are all pretty good. Almost any delay has endearing, useful quirks and a place somewhere in the musical universe—regardless of cost. Occasionally, though, a stompbox like the Moog MF-104M Analog Delay comes along that truly stands apart in this very crowded field.

That Moog would deliver a delay with a little something is no surprise to anyone with even a passing knowledge of their science-project-looking pedals full of knobs, buttons, and sliders with technical-sounding labels. In 2002, shortly after Robert Moog reacquired rights to the brand name from Norlin, he set up shop in Asheville, North Carolina. Quality control in the latter years of the Norlin was spotty at best, so low volume and high quality became a focus of the new Moog Music. The company started out humbly—making theremins, just like the Moog of old. But effects boxes based on Moog synthesizer functions followed soon thereafter. Moog chose the name Moogerfooger for the line, and the product family—which now includes ring modulators, low-pass filters, phasers, and variable-control oscillators—is now coveted by the most demanding guitar alchemists and studio hounds in the world. The new MF-104M, which unites echo and modulation circuits, is a powerful unit that’s unlikely to let any of those folks down.

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