february 2012

Editor’s top picks from Anaheim—the cream of the crop in cutting-edge gear.

By the last day of the four-day Winter NAMM show in Anaheim, California, you see a lot of exhibitors, journalists, and gearheads walking around with rather glazed looks in their eyes. Believe it or not, this is a good thing. See, Winter NAMM 2012 was busy ... hoppin' ... cookin' ... happening. And that means business is good -- so good, in fact, that it's just plain hard to take it all in.

But blasted and dazed as we are when we emerge from the buzzing confines of the Anaheim Convention Center, there's a lot you don't easily forget. So here are some of the guitars, amps, pedals, and basses that blew us away, in full color for you to see for yourself.

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Hartke''s powerful new Kilo head features built-in compression, overdrive, muting, a slew of EQ controls, and multiple connection features.

Compared to guitarists, it seems bassists often get the short end of the stick when it comes to the sheer numbers of gear offerings. Granted, the past decade has seen much more gear released for low-end rumble than ever before, but the numbers still pale in comparison to how many tone tools guitarists have at their disposal. This isn’t because bassists are afterthoughts to most companies—it’s mainly because the average bassist has fewer tone-palette needs than the average guitarist. For evidence, all you have to do is compare the number of bassists carting around gargantuan pedalboards and rack systems to the number of guitarists doing so.

However, a handful of effects and tone-processing circuits are integral to a significant number of discerning bassists, and Hartke—a bass-focused company that’s been serving some of the biggest names on the scene since the early ’80s—took pretty much all of those into consideration when designing their monstrously powerful new Kilo head. It features built-in compression, overdrive, muting, a slew of EQ controls, and multiple connection features.

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This beautiful—and beautifully built—fuzz isn’t a clone of anything. But it is positively packed with fuzz voices generated by parallel germanium and silicon circuits that can be independently operated, blended, and tailored to create a technicolor circus of buzz, grind, fizz, fuzz, and crunch.

If you’re a real texturalist and sonic saucier—one that seeks to color every tune a little differently—one fuzz will never do. Muff tones. Tone Bender tones. Fuzz Face tones. Within each of these classics dwells a perfect fuzz monster, if not several. But when you’re in the middle of a budget recording project, or rehearsing for a show that’s 48 hours away, chances are you don’t have the time to mine your stompbox collection and tinker endlessly with a thousand fuzz permutations to get just the right sound for each and every riff and solo passage.

Imagine then, having the delightfully, functionally schizophrenic Spaceman Gemini III at your disposal. This beautiful—and beautifully built—fuzz isn’t a clone of anything. And it doesn’t promise access to dead-on emulations to every holy grail fuzz of all time. But it is positively packed with fuzz voices generated by parallel germanium and silicon circuits that can be independently operated, blended, and tailored to create a technicolor circus of buzz, grind, fizz, fuzz, and crunch. If you can’t find a fuzz tone here that fits the bill, you might as well consider work as a bongo master.

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