This compact box is a monster tone generator, with a dozen analog-synth-based core sounds and 171 variable presets, plus expansive tweakability.

A staggering amount of classic and otherworldly sounds that are easy to shape. Compact enclosure. Easy to use.

Really? There’s 171 preset voices and they’re not listed in the manual?

$299

Boss SY-200
boss.info

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Roland produced the first guitar synthesizer, the GR-500, in 1977. It was cumbersome—requiring multiple rack spaces or a tabletop stand, and a special guitar outfitted with hexaphonic pickups. Problems with latency and tracking were all too real, as anyone who tried bending a note learned. But, with the right coddling, they sounded heavenly. Check out David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” to hear the GR-500 at its best.

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Carlos Santana aims for “the same place Charlie Parker, Beethoven, or Stravinsky would go to” as he solos on one of his gold-leaf-finished Paul Reed Smith custom Singlecuts.

Photo by Marylene Eytier

The legend says the world needs to be “far out,” and he’s cut a new album, Blessings and Miracles, to take it there. He talks about his fabled tone, advice from Miles Davis, his search for universal melodies, and stepping outside the cage.

Carlos Santana plays like a superhighway. His notes—always exquisite and succulent—are founded on terra firma yet travel to many places. The 74-year-old 6-string guru often uses the word multidimensional to describe his technicolor sonic thumbprint. And, through more than a half-century of recordings and concerts, that multidimensionality speaks as articulately as the beautiful unison-string bends in his band’s classic “Samba Pa Ti,” projecting his devotion to melody, intention, the echoes of his influences, imagination, inspiration, awareness, fidelity to his art, and a desire to communicate.

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Gibbs’ Mesa/Boogie Big Block 750 is his core sound source. Whether playing DI on sessions or running a 2x15, his rig delivers a heavy tone but can still fit in a yellow cab.

How a bass adventurer discovered his ideal tone with a Mesa/Boogie Big Block 750.

To the names Shackleton, Hensen, Hillary, Coleman, Norgay, and Cousteau, let me add that of another great explorer: Gibbs.

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