The 60+ guitars, amps, pedals, basses, and accessories that stood out from the crowd and earned our coveted Premier Gear Award this year.

Swart Stereo Master 20


The SM20 celebrates contrasts. Whether you plug straight into its “amp-1” input or route stereo signals from your pedalboard to both its inputs, the Stereo Master sends your signal to two 20-watt, 6V6-powered amps, each of which can then feed either its own cab or the Swart 2x12 with its internally isolated pair of Celestion Creambacks. For Shawn Hammond, hypnotic tube-driven tremolo and glorious spring reverb sealed the deal.

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$2,399 street (head), $859 street (2x12 cabinet),swartamps.com

Plus! December Premier Gear Award Winners!
Read the full reviews on the pages indicated below!

1. Peavey Invective.MH$699 street, peavey.com
2. Chase Bliss Dark World$349 street, chaseblissaudio.com
3. Comins CGS-16 $2,399 street, cominsguitars.com
4. Ernie Ball Music Man Short-Scale StingRay$1,999 street, music-man.com
5. EBS MicroBass 3$349 street, ebssweden.com


It’s not difficult to replace the wiring in your pickups, but it takes some finesse. Here’s a step-by-step guide.

Hello and welcome back to Mod Garage. After numerous requests, this month we’ll have a closer look at changing wires on a single-coil pickup. As our guinea pig for this, I chose a standard Stratocaster single-coil, but it’s basically the same on all single-coil pickups and easy to transfer. It’s not complicated but it is a delicate task to not destroy your pickup during this process, and there are some things you should keep in mind.

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The emotional wallop of the acoustic guitar sometimes flies under the radar. Even if you mostly play electric, here are some things to consider about unplugging.

I have a love-hate relationship with acoustic guitars. My infatuation with the 6-string really blasted off with the Ventures. That’s the sound I wanted, and the way to get it was powered by electricity. Before I’d even held a guitar, I knew I wanted a Mosrite, which I was sure was made of fiberglass like the surfboards the Beach Boys, Surfaris, and the Challengers rode in their off time. Bristling with space-age switchgear and chrome-plated hardware, those solidbody hotrod guitars were the fighter jets of my musical dreams. I didn’t even know what those old-timey round-hole guitars were called. As the singing cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey strummed off into the sunset, the pace of technology pushed the look and sound of the electric guitar (and bass) into the limelight and into my heart. Imagine my disappointment when I had to begin my guitar tutelage on a rented Gibson “student” acoustic. At least it sort of looked like the ones the Beatles occasionally played. Even so, I couldn’t wait to trade it in.

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Need an affordable distortion pedal? Look no further.

We live in the golden age of boutique pedals that are loaded with advanced features—many of which were nearly unthinkable a decade or so ago. But there’s something that will always be valuable about a rock-solid dirt box that won’t break your wallet. Here’s a collection of old classics and newly designed stomps that cost less than an average concert ticket.

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