As 2013 draws to a close and Xmas approaches, I can't help but look back at some of the awesome new gear that was unveiled. I wonder if any of the products released will end up being an archetypical piece of equipment in the future, like what has happened with Strats and Les Pauls since their invention? Of course, with the new products released it is too early to tell, but there is definitely some equipment that caught my eye in 2013!
Fender Pawn Shop Series '70s Strate Deluxe and Super-Sonic
Additions to the Fender Pawn Shop series were released this year, such as the '70s Strat Deluxe and the Super-Sonic, which are both available new for $799 USD. While the price is a little bit higher than other guitars in the series, they definitely bring something worthwhile to the table and both are unique instruments for those who just aren't happy with a standard shaped guitar with the standard pickup configuration. Both guitars feature an interesting array of features and just look like interesting instruments.
Martin LX1E Ed Sheeran
In the realm of acoustic guitars, Martin has released a signature model for Ed Sheeran – the LX1E Ed Sheeran, but what helps this model make the list is the fact that it is one of Martin's most affordable offerings, available for approximately $399 USD at most retailers and is a smaller size making it convenient to carry along on outings. The model features a Sapele top, Martin's "X Series" bracing, and a Fishman Isys T preamp. The LX1E is available in either right or left-handed configurations. Cosmetically, the guitar features a "+" symbol on the headstock, as well as the logo etched onto the Sapele top. While I'm not usually a fan of signature models, I couldn't overlook this wallet-friendly, small-sized acoustic! Also, a portion of the proceeds of each sale go to East Anglia's Children's Hospices.
Fender Dimension Bass
In the realm of bass guitars what caught my eye were the new Dimension Series bass guitars by Fender. The series starts at the low end with the Modern Player Dimension Bass, which can be found for approximately $499 USD, to the higher end American Deluxe Dimension V HH, which are about $1799. Each model comes in a variety of finishes, but what sets these instruments apart is it is one of the largest additions that Fender has done on its bass guitar lineup in years. The Dimension Series is designed for the demands of modern music with a classy look.
Peavey Vypyr VIP Series
Something that has caught my eye lately is a few different amps that have come out that are designed to handle guitar and bass, and the most interesting of these is the Peavey Vypyr VIP series. The VIP doesn't stand for "very important person," but instead stands for "Variable Instrument Performance" with settings for electric guitar, bass and acoustic guitar. This makes this amp an interesting solution for those who play multiple stringed instruments, providing a single amplifier that does the job well no matter the instrument. The amp is available in 20, 40 and 100 watt versions and is compatible with the Peavey Sanpera pedals. The price tag on these amps is very affordable and the performance is impressive. Like their Vypyr predecessors, these jokers are good from anything from the beginner to the home studio guitarist.
The Marshall SL5 is one of the newer small tube amp combos to catch my attention, this one being the new Slash Signature Model, which has an EL34 driving the Class A power amp and 3 ECC83's driving the preamp stage. This little guy has 2 channels and switches between 1 watt and 5 watt, as well as having a full EQ section and built in reverb that can be footswitch-controlled (as well as the channels). The amp has a Celestion Vintage 30, as well as 8 and 16 ohm outputs to run to your favorite cab. The one concern for me is the price of $699, which is a little higher than most 5 watt tube combos on the market, but the features seem to back up that price.
The Vox AC4C1 is another little tube combo that I've been captivated with, especially its ability to push out the AC30 top boost tone that is almost legendary, but from a tiny portable combo at reasonably quiet volumes. First, the minuses to this model are that it only comes in a few colors that seem fairly obnoxious to me, as well as the absence of a "mid" control in the EQ. What you do get is a fairly accurate AC30 interpretation in a really portable package with one EL84 driving the power amp, and 2 12AX7's in the preamp. This ugly little beauty drives a 10" Celestion VX10 custom speaker at 16 ohms. This combo runs for approximately $299, or there is also a larger and more expensive hand-wired version available. As tacky as the available finishes for the AC4C1 look to me, I bet they would still look awesome under an Xmas tree!
Fender Pawn Shop Special Ramparte
The Ramparte is noteworthy mainly because of its classy appearance, and very fair price of $399. This is a 9 watt combo with separate "cool" and "hot" inputs, which are basically your clean and overdrive channels. This is an amp for those with significant others who don't want your ugly gear sitting in the corner; now they can instead be happy with this beauty sitting in the corner. The drawback is there is no EQ controls, just a separate volume for each "channel," but the amp still sounds near sublime for the aural atmosphere it operates in. The 9 watts have a 6L6 driving the power amp, and 2 12AX7's in the preamp. This all comes out of a specially designed 12" Ramparte speaker.
Eden EC210 Bass Combo
Eden has always been one of my favorite bass amp manufacturers, and the new EC combos just go to prove why. I was specifically mesmerized by the Eden EC210 combo, which is an 180 watt combo pushed through 2 10" speakers and a tweeter. There is a 4 stage EQ, which includes a "Mid Sweep" as well as your normal Bass, Mid and Treble. This model includes an XLR output, a 3.5mm jack for audio input, an onboard compressor and an effects loop. This combo can be had for $499, but doesn't seem to be shipping until mid-January 2014 as of the time that I'm writing this.
Budda Amplification, which I've had a kind of crush-from-afar on for quite a while, has just released a whole bunch of new pedals in 2013. I've been trying to get my hands on one of these stocking-sized gems, but so far I haven't managed so I've had to be satisfied watching video demos and listening to audio samples online. They are all in the upper end of the mid-priced pedal market, and they seem like they could be truly valuable additions to my pedal board. The new pedals are the Chakra Compressor, Karma Chorus, OM Overdrive, Samsara Delay and ZenMan Overdrive. There are audio samples of every pedal on their site, and definitely worth giving a listen.
Boss MDP Pedals
Boss has recently released 3 pedals using some new technology that they call Multi-Dimensional Processing. These pedals are the Tera-Echo (which is a kind of quirky delay pedal), an Adaptive Distortion (very awesome distortion) and then the Multi-Overtone (well, 2 out of 3 ain't bad). While I was especially impressed by the Adaptive Distortion, the Tera-Echo was almost as impressive. Check out the really well-made demonstration videos below:
EHX has been doing this interesting thing where they combine 2 or 3 of their analog effects into a single enclosure and sell them as a multi-effect, and so far the Epitome that came out earlier in 2013 has been my favorite. It combines the Micro POG, the Stereo Electric Mistress and the Holy Grail Plus. You want to sound like a psychedelic organ on your guitar? Want to create sweeping ambient soundscapes? Well now you can with the help of a single pedal. The pedal is priced at $368.88, which is still a good deal if you consider buying these 3 pedals individually instead. For those who like the concept behind this, the EHX Tone Tattoo is another great product.
Vox AmPlug Twin and Night Train
The Vox AmPlug products have always been really good at what they do, but you have to approach these products with realistic expectations. These little guys aren't going to give you amazing tone - they will give you passable tone for quietly practicing with some earbuds or headphones. We're talking about amps that fit in your pocket and cost less than a good guitar cable. We're specifically talking about two of the newer models - the Twin and the Night Train. They plug directly into your guitar, just as the previous models have, and they cost $39.99 each. The new models are based off of their full-sized counterparts and give a pretty passable tone for their function. Visit the Vox official website and go to the "AmPlug" demos section to hear some samples.
Ubisoft's Rocksmith 2014
When the original Rocksmith came out, I got it (of course) to see what it was all about, and it was a fun distraction and helped me learn the songs included with the game. When the new Rocksmith 2014 came out I couldn't help wondering what they did to really add enough value for a whole new edition of the game. After spending just a little bit of time with it, that question was answered for me. Rocksmith 2014 is much more focused on teaching songs and techniques, which is a plus in its own right, but the addition of the Session Mode is what really won me over. With Session Mode you can jam with other virtual instruments which follow your lead based off of the options you choose before beginning. This has definitely helped my soloing, as well as general playing skills, in the short time that I've had this game. This would make a great stocking-stuffer. You can check the game's YouTube channel that has a whole bunch of "success stories" and other videos (including an endorsement by Marty Schwartz himself!)
IK Multimedia's iRig PRO, iRig BlueBoard, and iLoud
These 3 products released in 2013 by IK Multimedia were each a small step towards being a "game-changer" for mobile music performance, practice and recording. I've been very outspoken about a lot of IK Multimedia's products in the past, and these 3 are a good cross-section of why. The iRig PRO is basically an all in one interface for mobile Apple devices, for guitar, bass, microphone, and MIDI controller/keyboard. The iRig BlueBoard is basically a programmable footswitch that operates by BlueTooth for AmpliTube. The iLoud is a very LOUD and portable speaker system that can operate via an AC Adapter or built-in rechargeable li-ion battery. The iLoud can be used as a cab for your mobile device and AmpliTube, as well as just playing outside audio sources, like any random MP3 player via wire or BlueTooth. At the IK Multimedia site you can find a lot more information on these products, as well as watch videos and check prices.