gear award 2017

Multiple shades of overdrive and boost come alive in a compact stomp built to last.

Radial is famous for reliable DI boxes tough enough to double as ball peen hammers. But the company’s utilitarian image often seems to obscure how thoughtfully designed and musical their stompboxes can be. Those qualities are easy to hear, see, and feel in the Tonebone Texas Pro.

Like Radial’s DIs, the Canada-built Texas Pro is ridiculously robust: heavy gauge steel, smooth, precise, and sensitive controls with perfect resistance, a smart effects loop, and switches and jacks that seem impervious to wear. The layout, too, is simple and sensible, with streamlined control sets for the boost and overdrive arrayed across the compact 4 1/2" enclosure.

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A long-overdue handwired classic knocks it out of the park with tones and no-brainer mods that more than justify the price.

From its “blackface” glory years (1963–1967) to the slightly less lusted-after “silverface” years (’68–’82) to the ’65 Reissue-series period (’93–present), the Fender Deluxe Reverb has boasted tonal flexibility and portability that have made it a wonderful all-around combo for everything from country to jazz, rock, experimental music, and beyond. Surprisingly, though hordes of players have long been willing to pay a lot for 50-year-old handwired DRs (unmodified blackfaces in good condition go for upwards of $2,500, while silverfaces go for $1,300 and up), Fender itself hadn’t offered a handwired Deluxe Reverb for more than 35 years—until this past summer’s unveiling of the ’64 Custom Deluxe Reverb.

Boutique’d and Slightly Modded
The ’64 CDR boasts many of the qualities that make vintage DRs so desirable, not least of which are a completely handwired circuit with Mylar-and-tinfoil Astron tone capacitors (just like the originals), and a solid pine cabinet (versus the Reissue series’ birch plywood housings). Tweaks to the original recipe range from the cool but sonically inconsequential (heavier-than-normal vinyl covering, reverb-tank cabling with woven metal sheathing) to those that greatly expand the platform’s utility. Foremost among the latter “mods” is the fact that both channels can access the tube-driven spring reverb and tremolo circuits. (Interestingly, the latter is output-tube-bias as opposed to the photoresistor type found on most Fenders.) Equally impactful, while the bright channel (previously called “vibrato”) features an authentic blackface-voiced preamp, the normal channel has had the capacitors responsible for yielding brighter tones removed—a popular aftermarket mod for those looking for more rounded tones from instruments with pointed treble attack.

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