gear award 2012

Meet the 41 guitars, basses, amps, and effects that blew our minds this year with their fantastic tones, innovative features, and all-around awesomeness.

When it rains it pours. That’s what we learned while assembling the roster for this year’s Premier Gear Award winners. After all, this glut of gear goodness meant we tickled our ears—well sometimes pummeled our ears—with tones dulcet, dangerous, daring, and delectable. It also means that you, faithful reader, will be swimming in possibilities—which is a damn good thing when it comes to making music. Traditionalist, futurist, minimalist, maximalist … no matter where you fall on the guitar geek chart, you owe it yourself to test-drive at least one of the instruments or gadgets among the winners’ ranks. Heck, we think you should try ’em all. So rip it up, readers—let those furious notes fly. This is the crème de la crème of 2012, and it’s there for the pickin’!

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The Chopper TL is a more classic, mid-century riff on the Chopper concept that marries Schroeder’s aura of handcrafted loveliness with semi-hollow tones.


No longer just an up-and-comer in the custom guitar universe, Jason Schroeder is a luthier whose instruments have found their way into the hands of players from Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham to Eric Gales, Tomo Fujita, and Matt Schofield. And his wraparound bridges are now sold through Stewart-MacDonald— all evidence that the Schroeder name is likely stick around for some time.

One of the latest creations from Jason’s Redding, California, shop—the Chopper TL “T-Pine”—is also one of his most traditional. It’s a cousin to the Chopper, a Tele-/PRS-inspired 6-string that’s found favor among blues and rock guitarists looking for a modern spin on a traditional platform. But the Chopper TL is a more classic, mid-century riff on the Chopper concept that marries Schroeder’s aura of handcrafted loveliness with semi-hollow tones. And, in all, it’s an extraordinarily capable guitar.

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When Fender gave Marr a chance to come up with his own version of the design, he responded with a smart, thoughtful, superbly executed take on this much-misunderstood, and ultra-expressive instrument.

Guitar heroes don’t come much more atypical, or antiheroic than Johnny Marr. Apart from hardcore fans, there probably aren’t many who can whistle a Johnny Marr solo. Heck, in his time with the Smiths—still one of the most influential and adored English bands of the last three decades—Marr rarely played a solo, at least in the rip-snortin’, fire-breathing, Jeff Beckian sense. What Marr contributed instead, is a virtual holy text on how to craft a hook and support a song. While there may not be a lot of fleet-fingered fireworks in his oeuvre, licks don’t come much more delicious and clever than the intro to “This Charming Man.” And the menacing, chugging, tremolo-pulsing, Bo Diddley-on-nitrous riff that anchors “How Soon in Now” is heavy enough to make Tony Iommi green with envy.

For Marr and Smiths fans, Fender’s introduction of the Johnny Marr Jaguar might seem odd and enigmatic. As a Smith, Marr was most closely associated with Rickenbackers, Stratocasters, Les Pauls, and Gibson semi-hollows. And in his work as a solo artist and sideman, he was seen with SGs and Telecasters more often than not. But if one thing stays the same about Johnny Marr, it’s that he never stops changing. When he surprised many by joining up with indie-rock superstars Modest Mouse, he threw guitar-spotters a curve by embracing the Jaguar too. And when Fender gave Marr a chance to come up with his own version of the design, he responded with a smart, thoughtful, superbly executed take on this much-misunderstood, and ultra-expressive instrument.

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