Gear Of The Year 2012

artist: misc date: 12/24/2012 category: ug news
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Gear Of The Year 2012
There has been so much new gear released throughout 2012, and it would be overwhelming to try to talk about all of it.

Instead we've picked a few pieces of gear in different categories as an overview.

If you have anything you felt like belongs on the list, then please comment to let us know!

Electric Guitars:

Fender Johnny Marr Signature Model Jaguar

Fender has been on top of their game with new products lately, having released a lot of new lower and mid level gear in the past few years (the Pawn Shop series and the modeling Mustang guitar amps and Bronco 40 for bass), but the Fender Johnny Marr Jaguar is one of the few higher end releases from Fender in recent times to catch our interest. First of all, the pickups are 2 Johnny Marr signature single coil pups designed by Bare Knuckle pickups. There are 4 pickup positions to switch between, including bridge or neck, or both in parallel or in series. The saddle has been changed from the original design by adding a Mustang saddle, still sitting in the Jaguar bridge. The guitar is available in two finishes, Olympic White and Metallic KO. Johnny Marr's signature is also displayed on the headstock and there are a few modifications to the bridge for better tremolo stability. The MSRP is $2419 USD, but most online retailers have it listed for around $1700 USD.

Carvin Jason Becker JB200C Tribute

Carvin has been one of our favorite manufacturers for a long time, and for good reason. They make great products and sell direct in order to make those products affordable. They had a few new releases in 2012, but to us what stood out was the Jason Becker JB200C Tribute guitar. In 1988, when Jason Becker's career was just really beginning to flourish, he visited Carvin with his friend and bandmate in Cacophony, Marty Friedman. While there, Jason had Carvin build him a modified Carvin DC200 which went on to be the guitar that was most visible in Jason Becker's career. After being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, Jason Becker's career was cut short, but not without leaving a legacy. The Carvin Jason Becker JB200C Tribute gives you the opportunity to own a guitar made to the specs of Jason Becker's original Carvin DC200. Jason worked with Carvin when they began planning the release of this Tribute instrument, and they've went with some updated features as well as a lot of customizable options to get the guitar you want that retains the look and feel of Jason's original DC200. This instrument runs at around $1700 USD for the standard options or you can choose to customize the instrument as well.

We'll close this out with another video of the Carvin Jason Becker JB200C Tribute. We just happened to run across this video of a Jason Becker fan who visited him to show him the Jason Becker Tribute guitar in action...

Ibanez JEM70V

Steve Vai has proven himself over the years to be one of the most virtuosic players of the electric guitar, and along with Ibanez, has also shown that he is a genius in the design of his JEM series guitars. The Ibanez JEM70V is the model we're talking about today, which was released around mid 2012. The JEM70V is much more affordable than the classic JEM7V, while retaining as many of the key features as possible. Aesthetically, this model stands out with a stunning sea foam green finish and the matching Tree of Life neck inlay. Of course, you still have the Vai Monkey Grip and the DiMarzio Evolution pickups. The body is basswood instead of alder, but the neck is still the JEM Prestige neck and it still has 24 Jumbo frets. The tremolo also remains the same with Ibanez's Edge Tremolo system. Like all of the JEM series, the JEM70V is made in Japan. The Ibanez JEM70V has an MSRP of $1866.65 USD, but most online retailers have it for just under $1400 USD. This means you can get the Ibanez JEM70V for approximately half of the price of the Ibanez JEM7V.

Peavey AT-200

Peavey has always been better known for their amplifiers, but this guitar caught our attention. The Peavey AT-200 is a self-tuning electric guitar which contains the Antares Auto-Tune system. In addition to tuning your guitar immediately with the push of a few buttons, it also keeps your guitar in perfect intonation and with a little creativity (as shown in the video) you can have it immediately tune to altered and open tunings. This is a HH style electric with one volume and tone, each with push knobs to operate the auto-tuning feature, and a 3 way pickup switch. There is a MIDI input, a regular 1/4" jack and an 8 pin DIN connector for Antares accessories. The guitar is available in two finishes black or candy apple red. The price is just right with an MSRP of $999.99 USD, but available at a list price of about $500 USD.

Acoustic Guitars:

Seagull Entourage Grand Rustic

Seagull's Entourage series in general is very enticing, but we were especially interested in their parlor guitar from the series, the Seagull Entourage Grand Rustic. This guitar is smaller-bodied, as it is a parlor guitar, but the tone is big. The front is made from solid pressure tested cedar, and the backs and side made from wild cherry, and the neck made from silver leaf maple. There is only one finish available for this guitar, the "rustic burst" which looks about like a honeyburst finish. The width of the neck at the nut is 1.72 inches, which is a little on the wider side, but about standard for Seagull acoustics. This is a pure acoustic and not acoustic-electric, unless you choose one of the two "Quantum" options. Each of the options includes a Godin pre-amp with 3 band EQ and a built in chromatic tuner. Option 1 has a single source pickup a saddle transducer, and option 2 has a hybrid two source a saddle transducer and an electret microphone, with a blend knob. The standard all acoustic package has an MSRP of $595 USD, but is available at a list price of approximately $450 USD.

Cort SFX Exotic Woods Series

Cort is a manufacturer that we've been interested in for a long time, with an interesting product line and new products coming out constantly. Before the Cort SFX series we hadn't had much experience with their equipment, however. Our interest was especially captured by the 3 exotic woods models in the SFX series of acoustic-electrics. Each of the three is a real wood, non-laminate body, though the woods vary between each of the three models. They have a Dao wood version, a spruce version, and a flamed maple version. The electronics on all three is the Cort CE304T preamp with a ceramic pickup. Each model also includes advanced scalloped X-bracing that Cort calls "X-rebrovanie" and the necks are attached via a dovetail joint. They are a thinner bodied guitar, more of a "thinline" than anything, but they still project better than any other thinline we've played lately. They are very comfortable to play and have a great balanced tone either acoustically or amplified. The price between the models varies just a little bit, but they are all very affordable in the lower mid range.

LAG Tramontane T200ACE

The LAG T200ACE is an auditorium style single cutaway made by the French company, LAG. This acoustic-electric has a unique look with the rosette having an Occitan cross graphic on the side by the bridge, and the headstock being a solid Indonesian Rosewood with the LAG logo being a Maple inlay. The front is solid red cedar with mahogany backs, sides and neck. The fretboard is Indonesian Rosewood and the binding is completed in Rosewood and Maple. Overall, this instrument is stunning. The electronics are the Studio LAG Plus system, with a Nanoflex Piezo under the saddle. The entire guitar has a "French Satin" finish to top it all off, and this is one of the best sounding guitars in this price range that we have played. The MSRP on this model is about $700 USD and you can find these for around $550 - $600 USD, but they are a little more difficult to find in the U.S. than some other brands.

Gretsch Rancher Series

Gretsch has released a new series of acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars this year called the "Rancher Series", which are immediately identifiable by their odd shaped sound holes. While these guitars are laminate, they are still great values and very nice instruments for the price range. They all can be found online for $500 USD and under (depending on the model), which would make this Gretsch's first attempt at making entry level instruments. The Rancher Jumbo Cutaway and the Rancher Jr. each have Fishman Isys preamp systems, and the other three available models are purely acoustic. Each model has "thumbnail" fret markers, which along with the roughly triangular sound holes really make this series stand out. The most notable model is the Rancher Jumbo Cutaway, which comes in a burnt orange finish which Gretsch calls Savannah Sunset. The Rancher Jumbo Cutaway has an MSRP of $700 USD and you can find it most places with a list of just under $500 USD.

Amplifiers:

Orange #4 Jim Root Terror Head and Cab

Orange Amplification has consistently pumped out great products, and one that was released in 2012, which we had the honor of spending some time with and really giving it a workout, was the Orange #4 Jim Root Terror Head and the matching offset 212 cab. This amp is a 15 watt tube driven Orange Terror amp that is based off of the Rockerverb dirty channel's gain structure. There is a 3 band EQ, with a master volume and gain control, and a Pentode or Triode mode which allows you to change between 7 and 15 watts. This is absolutely the best 15 watt amp that we've ever played for hard rock and metal and you can dial it down quiet enough for your home and can get plenty loud enough to play at a small to medium sized gig. The power amp is running 2 EL84's, the preamp runs 3 12ax7's and the FX loop runs a 12ax7. With the head running at $699 USD and the matching 212 cab running at $599 USD you can own the entire unit for right under $1300 USD.

Blackstar Amps ID Series

Blackstar is relatively new in the world of amplifier manufacturing, having first released products in 2007, but they have definitely come out of the gate running. Their newest offering in 2012 was the ID Series of amplifiers, which is Blackstar's version of amp modeling. While these are solid state amps, they have a Blackstar patented feature called "True Valve Power" which lets you choose with a knob between 6 different tube voicings. In addition to the 6 tube voice settings, there are also 6 channel voices including clean warm, clean bright, crunch, super crunch, OD 1 and OD 2. There are built in effects for modulation, reverb and delay, 3 band EQ as well as an ISF knob. With 128 user storable patches, you can personalize your tone or tones and get back to them immediately. With an optional footswitch you are ready for performance, and there is also software for your computer to interface with the amp as needed. This is really one of the most intriguing modeling amps that we have seen this year, and with enough knobs and controls to personalize your tone you could spend some serious hours with this amplifier. The ID Series is available in a lot of different sizes from a 15 watt version for about $300 USD to a 120 watt combo for right under $700 USD.

Yamaha THR5 and THR10

Yamaha has come out with an interesting product earlier this year in 2012 with their THR5 and THR10 amplifiers. These are modeling amplifiers made solely for home/bedroom use and recording, and there are settings for guitar and bass. They are very compact about the size of a normal amp head, but with small built in stereo speakers, and can sit on the end table next to your bed or on a surface in your home studio. There are built in effects as well as several amp models and you can really customize your tone very well. Through VCM or "Virtual Circuitry Modeling", Yamaha promises the built in effects will sound more like analog effects than digital. From the short period of time we did get to spend with the THR10, it appeared to be promising. You can see the video above to watch an entire track being recorded with the THR, and you can also look forward to the release of 3 new amps in the THR series in the near future with the THR5A designed for acoustic-electric and silent guitars, the THR10X designed for those needing higher gain settings, and the THR10C which is designed to respond to playing dynamics more like a boutique tube amplifier. The models available now, the THR5 can be found for about $200 USD and the THR10 can be found for about $300 USD.

Vox AGA Series

The new Vox AGA Series of amps are acoustic and vocal amplifiers that come in 30 watt, 70 watt and 150 watt versions. Each amplifier has 1/4" and XLR inputs, and the 70 watt and 150 watt also have phantom power available if you want to run your vocals through a condenser mic. The AGA30 is the newest model in the series, with 30 watts of power and most of the options, with the exception of phantom power, as the larger models. This makes the AGA30 very desirable for affordability, while retaining the key features of its larger counterparts, including DI output, the Anti-Feedback Control, built in reverb and chorus and the optional VFS2 footswitch to control these effects on the fly. The Vox AGA30 is available for right at $250 USD at most instrument retailers.

Peripherals:

While we're not going to go into a LOT of details on peripheral devices that came out in 2012, we wanted to mention a few. We will start out with 2 products from IK Multimedia, the AmpliTube Slash app for iPhone and iPad, and the iRig Stomp. The iRig Stomp is basically a stompbox which acts as an iRig plug, but also allows you to run your AmpliTube tone from your iPhone or iPad straight to your amp or PA system. Of course, AmpliTube Slash is an app that allows you to get close approximations to Slash's tones on your iPad or iPhone with included amplifier and effects models, and with purchased extras gives multi-track recording capability. Next, we want to mention the Traynor DH25H QuarterHorse which is a micro amp head in the form of a pedal, which has some of the best tone we've seen in devices like this with a wide range of tonal options available. Lastly is the Tonebone PZ Deluxe Preamp/DI which released in 2012 and is absolutely one of the best acoustic-electric DI boxes/preamp pedals we have ever had our hands on.

In Summary:

There were a lot of good releases of new products in 2012, and we know that we didn't list them all. This isn't intended to be so much of a "best of" list, but instead a few pieces of gear that stood out to us. What gear released in 2012 really stood out to you?

By Brandon East
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