gear award 2016

Come with us, time travelers, as we revisit a year’s worth of axes, amps, stomps, basses, baritones, and other tools of our music-making trade—all deemed worthy of the Premier Gear Award.

Fulltone 2B JFET Booster

Much of what makes Fulltone’s Full Drive 2 and 3 such hits is their forgiving simplicity: They make dialing up great overdrive and boost tones a breeze. The 2B takes that simplicity a step further, extracting the boost section from the Full Drive 3 and stuffing it into a sturdy, ultra-compact pedal that packs a wallop and serves as a tone masseuse extraordinaire.
$103 street, fulltone.com

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Come with us time travelers, as we revisit a year’s worth of axes, amps, stomps, basses, baritones, and other tools of our music-making trade—all deemed worthy of the Premier Gear Award. This year’s list is as diverse as ever: Classics revisited, shred machines made affordable, fuzzes refined and made more fiendish, amps that blast and purr, basses that boom, and time-warping delays and reverbs that mock astronomers’ notions about the cosmos. From manufacturers big and small, these delights await you in the pages ahead. Enjoy the voyage.

This little purple prize packs classic sounds in a bulletproof and super-affordable package.

I love analog delay unabashedly. Along with a good fuzz, it’s probably the only effect I couldn’t live without. Over the years I’ve put up with the hassles of maintaining a Maestro Echoplex and a less-than-optimally-space-efficient Deluxe Memory Man to indulge my analog echo fixations. So when cool compact analog delays like the Carbon Copy, MF Delay, and DM-2w hit the market at reasonable prices, I rejoiced. Ibanez’s new Analog Delay Mini takes those reasons for celebration—low price and small size—to even more affordable and tinier extremes. The even-better news? It sounds fantastic.

The extra delay time dovetails nicely with the extra air and top-end presence—especially when gain pedals are in the mix.

Tank Tough
I don’t know about you, but once I get over the cuteness of tiny pedals, I start to imagine accidentally crushing them in a state of performance overzealousness—or worse, turning an ankle stumbling over one in some spectacular stage injury incident. The AD Mini is still small enough to feel unsteady underfoot if you don’t have it securely Velcroed or otherwise tethered to a board. But you can forget about other incidental damage. The Japan-built AD Mini feels as tough and solid as brass knuckles. The only points of vulnerability might be the small knobs used for the repeat and mix controls, although they are basically quite sturdy. Mostly the little Ibanez feels destined to last as long as one of its tough-as-nails forebears.

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The far reaches of octave-effect capabilities are made accessible via this compact new digital box.

Gibson Les Paul Standard into a Soldano Sweet Sixteen head.

Few effects can force a transformation in playing style quite like octave pedals. They can make single notes scream like birds of prey or add a beefy sub-octave thump that makes every string pluck sound like it weighs 300 pounds. But no matter which extreme you pursue, an octave pedal will make playing a familiar passage feel very different—and, on good days, prompt musical invention.

Digital design has made octave pedals more flexible and friendly to experimental, inventive approaches in recent years. And clever manufacturers can now deliver some of the wider, interactive functionality of treadle-based designs like the DigiTech Whammy in compact pedals. TC Electronic’s Sub ’N’ Up, the latest addition to the company’s TonePrint series, is a cool study in how much octave-tweaking fun you can stuff into a little enclosure without a treadle.

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