The Best Gear Of The Year 2011

Another year in the books, another year of putting off that really hard solo, and another year of gearglorious gear.

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Introduction

Another year in the books, another year of putting off that really hard solo, and another year of gearglorious gear. As we know by our gracious readers lists are impossible. We post them because they generally speak for the majority, but in actuality it is hard to put a good list together. Everyone has their own personal taste and preferences which make it impossible to win over the hearts of everyone. We knew we had to try though. There is just too much good stuff so we decided to take a crack at it. We played a lot of gear this year, stomped on way too many pedals, went to sleep far too often with ringing ears, but we did it for you. To say the least it was extremely hard to narrow this down to just several new items of 2011 but after hours of a debate, a few brawls, and a couple of pints we have narrowed it down to this, the best gear of 2011!

Guitars

Budget: Squier Classic Vibe Series
Arguably the most talked-about release from Fender/Squier to be hitting the gear-junkie forums are the new Classic Vibe series. Every guitar and bass in the lineup is getting phenomenal reviews from users across the board. You can get your hands on one of these for a great price and walk away with a great guitar or bass. Don't be fooled by the word Classic, these have the Vibe of the old ones with modern updates to make it suit the modern player. Mid-Range: Epiphone Limited Edition Joe Bonamassa Les Paul
Joe Bonamassa at the ripe old age of 34 has continually been gaining steam in his career with release after release of studio album and his current Super-Group outfit Black Country Communion. Not only is he selling well in those formats, his guitars that he partnered with Gibson and Epiphone are flying off the shelves. The Epiphone model is a great guitar as you don't just get some Alnico V humbuckers picked up off the factory floor; you actually get a Gibson Burstbucker 2 and Burstbucker 3. It will be tough not to get great tone out of this, hopefully the next Christmas wish you can have will to be get some of Bonamassa's chops. High-End: Gretsch George Harrison Tribute Duo Jet
There are winners and there are losers. This is clearly in the winner's circle. We were impressed with this back in January when we saw this at NAMM 2011 and were overly impressed with it when we got to spend a couple of minutes with it back in June. The George Harrison Duo Jet is flat out remarkable. We know this choice will come with much controversy as there are only 60 of these being produced and it falls in at about $20,000usd. You could say the Taxman would be after you after a purchase like this but this is a real tribute, this pays homage to one of the best and most influential guitar players and we can think of nothing better than to have his guitar be number one.

Amplifiers

Budget: VOX AC4VTV Series
True tube tone you can play at home without getting evicted. Isn't that what we all really want for Christmas? Solid construction, amazing tone, and all at an amazing price. These four-watt amps pack a punch and in some venues you might even be able to get by with using this. From clean blues to country twang and all the way to Rock n' Roll you will be covered. An absolute treasure for recording and great considering you can be a part of the Vox AC family without selling your car. Mid-Range: Orange Dark Terror
The Orange Tiny Terror has been along for quite some time and has received great fanfare over the years. With the beauty of the EL84's you are able to get a bright tone, some bluesy stuff, but don't be fooled you can still get the Led out. New for 2011 we saw the addition of the Dark Terror. It sounds menacing, it looks menacing, it is menacing. Orange added the Shape' control from the Thunderverb series in this tiny little package. If you are a Hard-Rock or Metal player, look no further, convince yourself this is a stocking stuffer, be brootal, and pick one up. High-End: Mesa/Boogie TA-30
Mesa/Boogie says this amp is a power experiment in the world of simplicity. I think that pretty much sums up all you need to know about this beast. This amp can be set to play 15 or 30 watts Class-A or 40 watts in Class A/B on either channel! Want a high wattage clean channel so you can stay really clean and a lower wattage overdrive channel to break up early? No Problem. Channel 1 is styled after the Vox AC30 series with a normal and top boost option. Channel 2 has a Tweed, HI 1, and HI 2 setting. Tweed is more of a warm clean tone, HI 1 is the British style crunch, and HI 2 is the Boogie tone! You can get it all with this amp so cross your fingers and hope you were a good boy/girl in 2011. Honorable Mention Marshall Class 5 Head
Marshall released their first version of the Class 5 combo over a year ago and let's just be nice and say it had some issues. Well at the end of Spring 2011 they came out with the head unit and the improved combo. Looks like a classic Plexi Marshall, sounds like a classic Plexi Marshall with tone offerings all the way up to a JCM 800. You get true tube Marshall tone without having to sell your Kidney on the black market all out of the EL84 powered beast.

Modeling

Budget: Zoom G3
New for 2011 came Zoom's G3 with its new fancy 32 bit processor. 13 amps and over 100 effects at the stomp of your feet. You have three individual LCD screens to set whatever you want. Being our budget choice it does not have all the bells and whistles as some of the big names on this list but it can get the job done for a fraction of the price. For a good deal you can get this and an absolute huge amount of amp and pedal effects just in time for your holiday ensemble. Mid-Range: Line 6 POD HD
This is the new POD for desktop and home use based on the extremely popular Line 6 HD series that we featured in last year's gear roundup. Just as others in the HD series this features 16 amp models and 100+ effects right out of the gate. Nearly every effect and amp setting can be tweaked with absolute ease. The amp models are spot on and you can have the most popular (and expensive) ones of the last 60 years. Depending on how or what application you use this with the HD series will probably have you covered. High-End: Axe FX II by Fractal Audio Systems
Coming back to reign in another title is the new Axe FX II. After making our 2010 list the Axe FX II is back in a big way. Fractal Audio Systems has doubled the processing power of this unit, has improved speaker and amp simulation, added a USB interface, and added a dedicated port for their footswitch. Any tone, through any speaker in any cab configuration you can possibly imagine and you can dial it all in with your fingertips. Don't buy anybody else presents this holiday season and this could be yours!

Stomping Ground

Budget: GFS Guitar Pedals
Wait who? Exactly. Guitar Fetish online has released an amazing amount of redone pedals for 2011. These are budget pedals right? Probably just some horrible buffers, messy electronics, sucks all the tone from your chain, etc. Well if you are saying this you were probably in the majority until you did some more research. ALL of their pedals are True Bypass, all have nice electronics, and most all of these sound amazing! Tell me where you can find a new True Bypass tuner for $39usd. How about a True Bypass TS808 clone for $49usd? These are budget pedals but you get a lot for your money. Sturdy case, built much like an EHX pedal, great sounds, clean and easy look, great tone, amazing price! Mid-Range: Fulltone PlimSoul Distortion
Mike Fuller of Fulltone has been on a tear in the boutique pedal industry for over the last two decades. This was a guy that two years ago, when everyone was consistently raising their prices of their gear from year to year he actually lowered his! Speaks volumes of a man that stands behind his work and makes great pedals for a great price. The PlimSoul is two pedals in one. You can achieve a bluesy-compressed tone and with the turn of the dial can achieve some crunchy British tone with expanded and lower mid's. The best part is that Fulltone pedals are touch sensitive. As in they actually react to how you attack the strings, it reacts like an amp, like it should. High-End: Boss RC-3 Loop Station
I hear the comments brewing already. How can we possibly have a Loop Station as our pick? Well, let us explain. Boss has a successful line of Loop Stations on the market and the RC-2 was great for at home or at gigs if you were not looping too many tracks simultaneously. It let you hold up to 16 minutes on 11 different phrases. How many of you hit that limit? Boss responded. The new RC-3 has up to three hours of recording time and 99 different phrase tracks. In addition you have a USB port to interact with your computer and save your loops, onboard rhythm/drum tracks, and an auxiliary input. Did we mention this does this all in stereo?

Conclusion

There has been a ton of great gear released in 2011 and many great items that unfortunately have been left off this list. With NAMM 2012 just around the corner we will be seeing what that the New Year will bring us. We have a feeling there will be a bunch of expensive things on our ever changing wish lists. Let us know in the comments some of your favorite gear of 2011. Happy holidays to all and to all a good riff. by Jesse Kleinow thejester

67 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    Dr3amcast3r
    i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station
    thejester
    Von II wrote: Fender and Les Paul models. Along with Orange and Marshall amps. This is ****ing stupid. Why don't we play all the ****ing same overrated expensive tat? Hey, I don't need you, originality! I want to pay lots of moneys on Marshall amps because that's what big stars use. Get ****ing real and find something that fits you. I have an ESP and Behringer amp, best setup I have ever seen.
    VonII, With all due respect I authored this article and tried to decide the best gear of the year. If you would have read the introduction you could have seen that we at UG stated lists are impossible. In addition we do not all have to be anti-establishment like yourself, in fact for a lot of people a Fender or Marshall or Orange, fits them perfectly. Merry Christmas to you
    itamar100
    Well, I was expecting to see the Jet City Amps on the list seeing all of the attention they're getting. It was a very good list though. Good read
    GibsonMan321
    I wish the AxeFX wasn't on a damn 6 month waiting list and that I could try one somewhere. They really need to expand their business with all the demand they have coming in.
    prsrulz91
    *sigh* are people still getting butthurt over the "typical gear" thing? Let's use some basic logic and business sense for just five seconds to realize a few things 1) In order to make a comprehensive list, its easiest to use popular gear. The typical guitar/amp makers are all experienced producers who have spent years crafting products which have been used in a wide variety of tonal scenarios. Products like that which also have strong brand recognition are going to go over well for a list published for a large online audience with strong varieties in tonal preference 2)It's a list published by one guy. It's a reflection of something we like to call an opinion. Its not a statement of fact. If you don't recognize that everyone can agree to disagree on this and be OK with it, you just look like an *****. If you don't like the research results of this source, go elsewhere; the internet has plenty of other sources for your unique, non-conformist taste My opinion of it? its an alright list. I liked seeing the Plimsoul make the list and enjoyed seeing something like a loop pedal get some recognition
    svelle
    thejester wrote: Von II wrote: Fender and Les Paul models. Along with Orange and Marshall amps. This is ****ing stupid. Why don't we play all the ****ing same overrated expensive tat? Hey, I don't need you, originality! I want to pay lots of moneys on Marshall amps because that's what big stars use. Get ****ing real and find something that fits you. I have an ESP and Behringer amp, best setup I have ever seen. VonII, With all due respect I authored this article and tried to decide the best gear of the year. If you would have read the introduction you could have seen that we at UG stated lists are impossible. In addition we do not all have to be anti-establishment like yourself, in fact for a lot of people a Fender or Marshall or Orange, fits them perfectly. Merry Christmas to you
    f*ckin served! i like the list, really. especially the dark terror, i'm looking into getting that because of you... screw you UG!!
    AlJohns
    I think it was a good overall list too, but it would have been an Awesome list if it would have credited DBZ's Bird of Prey or Bolero. Both really cool,Forward thinking guitars. I actually play a DBZ Barchetta and LOVE it's price. I only payed $300 for mine, and I saw one at Guitar center for $249. I'm just so tired of the Epiphone/Squier/gibson/fender thing.
    cfhdomination
    Dr3amcast3r wrote: i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station
    LMAO!
    slippers man
    Von II wrote: Fender and Les Paul models. Along with Orange and Marshall amps. This is ****ing stupid. Why don't we play all the ****ing same overrated expensive tat? Hey, I don't need you, originality! I want to pay lots of moneys on Marshall amps because that's what big stars use. Get ****ing real and find something that fits you. I have an ESP and Behringer amp, best setup I have ever seen.
    Behringer? No wonder you are jelly of the big stars use. Troll.jpg
    JFRules
    I bought the POD HD a few months ago. I run it in my PC and a pair of KRK Rokit 5s. Really impressed.
    Farinurlaub97
    the best amp is the LINE6 SPIDER IV 150 COMBO! it's very cheap for that what he can do... the best I think
    CrimsonBizzare
    While I do not endorse Von II ranting and understand that authoring lists is indeed difficult, I have to say that he is correct about Behringer gear. A lot of their stuff is actual garbage, but there exist stuff that is of great quality: no technical issues, decent tone, durable, and excellent value for money. It's obviously not high-end stuff but it really is great for what it is.
    SkepsisMetal
    Von II wrote: You can say all you want, but it's the typical fender/les paul/marshall list nonetheless. Most people think Behringer is shit, and the headphones I had were, but I have played on Marshalls and Line6's,... and for a 300w, that Behringer is awesome, especially for it's money. For me, it puts out great tone and volume and it never lets me down. Works great with my bass and others. The equipment and pedals on the other hand, great choices. But man, see what I did? I said "nah, f*ck this" at the typical guitars and amps. Yet, almost all commenters compare between a Fender and '58 reissue LP or something. Your views are all stupidly narrow.
    They're obviously popular for a good reason. You don't just appear on the scene one day and millions of people buying your guitars/amps. ESP are the most overpriced "br00tz" guitar company around. A couple of grand for something I could get off Schecter for half the price. And to help your case you chose behringer? Roland, Diezel, Soldano, Vox, H&K and Orange flatten them in terms of everything.
    EspTro
    no 7+ string guitars? it was definitely the year of extra stringed guitars
    ne14t
    Von II wrote: You can say all you want, but it's the typical fender/les paul/marshall list nonetheless. Most people think Behringer is shit, and the headphones I had were, but I have played on Marshalls and Line6's,... and for a 300w, that Behringer is awesome, especially for it's money. For me, it puts out great tone and volume and it never lets me down. Works great with my bass and others. The equipment and pedals on the other hand, great choices. But man, see what I did? I said "nah, f*ck this" at the typical guitars and amps. Yet, almost all commenters compare between a Fender and '58 reissue LP or something. Your views are all stupidly narrow.
    You sir are ignorant, especially since Behringer models all there crap after other peoples products and tosses there cheapo label on it for people who cant shell out the big bucks for the real deal. You seem like someone who would argue that a Fiero converted to a Ferrari is better then the real thing, grow up...dont get all pissy cause you can't afford top quality gear and don't mad at people who can.
    sewoo55
    No ENGL? Also, the Mesa Boogie Mini Rectifier should replace the Dark terror
    baneofmorgoth
    Von II wrote: Fender and Les Paul models. Along with Orange and Marshall amps. This is ****ing stupid. Why don't we play all the ****ing same overrated expensive tat? Hey, I don't need you, originality! I want to pay lots of moneys on Marshall amps because that's what big stars use. Get ****ing real and find something that fits you. I have an ESP and Behringer amp, best setup I have ever seen.
    Maybe the reason that they are so popular is because people USE THEM? Ever think of that?
    Von II
    Fender and Les Paul models. Along with Orange and Marshall amps. This is ****ing stupid. Why don't we play all the ****ing same overrated expensive tat? Hey, I don't need you, originality! I want to pay lots of moneys on Marshall amps because that's what big stars use. Get ****ing real and find something that fits you. I have an ESP and Behringer amp, best setup I have ever seen.
    Von II
    You can say all you want, but it's the typical fender/les paul/marshall list nonetheless. Most people think Behringer is shit, and the headphones I had were, but I have played on Marshalls and Line6's,... and for a 300w, that Behringer is awesome, especially for it's money. For me, it puts out great tone and volume and it never lets me down. Works great with my bass and others. The equipment and pedals on the other hand, great choices. But man, see what I did? I said "nah, f*ck this" at the typical guitars and amps. Yet, almost all commenters compare between a Fender and '58 reissue LP or something. Your views are all stupidly narrow.
    Chronologo
    By the time I would do fine with the zoom g3, I'll see how much it costs here.
    dixon247
    Yeah, i know george harrison's tone and playing was amazing but if you pay $20,000 for a guitar you want George Harrison to rise from the dead to play it for you
    crice6505
    When I came here I expected to write some nasty comments, but this is a rather reasonable list. Especially the classic vibe series, I absolutely LOVED some of the ones I played.
    juancito94
    Von II wrote: Fender and Les Paul models. Along with Orange and Marshall amps. This is ****ing stupid. Why don't we play all the ****ing same overrated expensive tat? Hey, I don't need you, originality! I want to pay lots of moneys on Marshall amps because that's what big stars use. Get ****ing real and find something that fits you. I have an ESP and Behringer amp, best setup I have ever seen.
    Cool Story Bro.
    Koka-Olli'95
    Dr3amcast3r wrote: i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station i really like loop station
    he likes loop station!
    k10
    Superb.....How much are Squier Classic Vibe Series..200$ or more?
    wht da1
    Got a G3. Has a looper in it, but is mildly restricted as per length. But isnt the digitech jamman solo beteer? it has the removable SD card.
    sheriff_nein
    i dunno what i think about calling the RC-3 high end... when i think of high-end pedals i think mega-expensive boutiques, such as Strymon or something.
    AlJohns
    itamar100 wrote: Well, I was expecting to see the Jet City Amps on the list seeing all of the attention they're getting. It was a very good list though. Good read
    hiwaychild1
    I have the pod. theres more settings and tools on this thing to ever use. you want variety? get this.
    The Spoon
    I've got the axefx standard and I love it. I might get an axefx II when the axefx V comes out.
    gregs1020
    i did have some fun with a mesa T/A 30, i won't lie. it's not a "metal" amp though by any stretch.
    Dave_Mc
    those gfs pedals (to the best of my knowledge) are just rebadged, possibly lightly modified, biyang pedals. If my biyangs were anything to go by (i.e. a failure rate approaching 80%) I wouldn't go near them. Get a joyo instead.
    Sladey
    My flatmate has a few GFS pedals. They're great value for what you get.