Another year, another dazzling parade of pedals, guitars, amps, modelers, and accessories that made our noggins spin.


Fractal Audio Systems AX8

Fractal Audio System’s rackmount Axe-Fx units awakened many players to the possibilities of digitally modeled amps, cabinets, and effects. The AX8 puts Fractal’s realistic modeling technology into the pedalboard format and provides plenty of juice for most applications. The ruggedly built unit sounds stellar, and if you invest the effort to get acquainted with this open-ended device, you’re likely to be inspired.

$1,299 street

Click here to read the full review

This year’s Premier Gear Award winners are, as usual, an eclectic set—full of old-school vintage homage, leading-edge digital developments, and imaginative meetings of those worlds. Dig in and dig it as we revisit the gear that fired the enthusiasm and wonder of our editors and contributors in 2017.

A fun-to-play, redesigned take on classic Muff-style filth.

Foxpedal’s Defector Fuzz is a modern take on the Russian-built version of the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, but with some somewhat secret features. There are two parts of the pedal: a rather gritty boost and a 4-stage transistor fuzz. The boost (controlled with the pre knob) feeds into the fuzz, but it can also be engaged independently. Unity gain for the boost is at about 9 o’ clock, although even here I noticed the bubbling influence of the fuzz. You get a little bit of dirt at lower boost settings, and when you crank it all the way it yields a medium-gain, classic-rock vibe.

In the center of the pedal is a small toggle that can move through three different fuzz flavors: silicon-diode clipping (classic Muff), no clipping, and LED clipping. Used without the boost engaged, the fuzz circuit is beefy and rich, with plenty of low end—especially in the LED mode. But the MVP here is the mid control: As you dial it counterclockwise it adds a hump, while turning it the opposite direction gives it the classic scooped Muff sound. If you can’t get over the old-school scooped sound, then this knob alone is worth the price of admission. Fuzz pedals aren’t meant to be timid, and the cranked Defector is fat and saturated without any fizziness. And it gets bonus points for its flexible tone controls and rock-solid construction.

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