THE WORLD MIGHT world-class designs getting still be in a state of recovery, but it’s been a spectacular year for gear, with all kinds of enticing offerings and launched across the past 12 months. If anything, the guitar trade has been remarkably buoyant — maintaining momentum even when the biggest events and exhibitions were unable to take place. There were some big surprises, like recording hardware and software specialists Universal Audio moving into the effect pedal market, Gene Simmons teaming up with Gibson for his own G² guitars and basses, Boss launching their very first six-string, as well as a whole host of truly innovative ideas coming from companies old and new. So, without further ado, here’s our roundup of some of the best guitar gear released in 2021.
JERRY CANTRELL “WINO” LES PAUL CUSTOM
They’ve signed a few big names over the last couple of years, but teaming up with Jerry Cantrell was an especially wise move for Gibson. The Seattle riff lord has always used Les Pauls alongside his G&L guitars — one of which being the Wine Red Les Paul Custom that inspired his first “Wino” signature. Limited to only 100 and each hand-signed by Cantrell, the guitars feature Gibson’s 490R and 498T pickups, as well as a Fishman Powerbridge piezo pickup-equipped bridge to cover the acoustic tones Alice in Chains have long utilized. With a Murphy Lab aged finish, it’s an instrument that looks as good as it sounds. “The Wino has a bit more of a rounder tone than the other three Les Pauls I own… it’s a fuller, richer and warmer sound,” Cantrell explained in August.
$399 (each), uaudio.com
Universal Audio is a company known for many things, though until this year, that didn’t include effect pedals. The three pedals launched as part of the all-new UAFX line at the beginning of 2021 made some headlines, and rightly so — living up to the pro-audio legacy behind them with feature-rich, cutting-edge designs and world-class tones. The Golden Reverberator offers some truly mouthwatering vintage spring, plate and digital reverbs, whereas the Astra Modulation Machine can flick between bucket-brigade chorus, Seventies flanger and tube tremolo settings, with secondary modes for vibrato, doubling and more. The Starlight Echo System packs in three delay types with additional settings for tape wear, modulation and preamp color.
MISHA MANSOOR SO-CAL 2PT
Classic Strat-style guitars aren’t something Misha Mansoor — or Periphery in general — are known for, and it’d be fair to say the same goes for the majority of tech-metal bands out there, which is exactly why this latest signature model caught everyone off-guard. Don’t be fooled by the dazzling Daphne Blue finish; it’s an instrument capable of some serious heavy metal thunder, thanks to the ceramic Bare Knuckle Ragnarok humbucker in the bridge, complimented by Bare Knuckle Trilogy Suite single-coils in the neck and middle. Its 20-inch radius baked maple fretboard is also incredibly playable — performing more like his Jackson Juggernaut signatures than the vintage Strat family that so clearly inspired its aesthetics.
SY-200 GUITAR SYNTHESIZER PEDAL
Given the unanimously rave reviews about the SY-1 synth pedal launched in 2019, Boss read the market well by choosing to expand it into the larger 200 Series. The new model comes with 12 analog style synth categories and an abundance of variations totaling 171 sounds, with 128 memories for saving your favorite tones. Then there’s the parallel send/ return loop for seamless integration into any board, and extended controls and connectivity via expression pedals, external footswitches, MIDI and USB for firmware updates. If you’ve been wanting to dive deep into the world of arpeggiators and sequencers or pads and strings without bothering with a special pickup on your guitar, this should be at the top of the list.
LTD TE-1000 EVERTUNE KOA
Much like Misha Mansoor’s new signature, this new LTD Deluxe six-string looks a lot more well-behaved than it actually is on closer inspection. There’s an EMG 66TW humbucker in the neck position, which is splittable by a push-pull control, and a 57 in the bridge — offering more versatility and less compression than other active EMGs, but still plenty of firepower nevertheless. The Evertune constant-tension bridge improves tuning stability and intonation, while the set-thru 25.5-inch scale three-piece maple neck and Macassar ebony fingerboard make it as playable as it is punchy. We can only conclude that its natural-finish T-style body, made out of mahogany and topped with Hawaiian koa, is a work of masterful deception.
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