EVH 5150 Overdrive
EVH is fast becoming an industry standard for metal bands, both on stage and in the studio, and when they launched the 5150 Overdrive Pedal, the guitar nerd community shit its collective pants. Packing in the versatile tone and range of the 5150 III amps into an affordable stompbox, this thing has become a favorite for guys like Brendon Small and Myrone. An ideal choice if you’re on a budget, or if you’re looking for a new OD pedal to supplement the amp tone that you love.
Mesa/Boogie – Subway Ultra Lite
Designed with military-grade aviation technology, Mesa’s new Subway Ultra-Lite bass cabinets are being marketed as the lightest, most durable on the market. These things are both affordable and ideal for travel, making them a solid choice for a touring bassist. What really impressed us about them (other than that they sound tight) is that a company as entrenched and legendary as Mesa is still committed to finding new, creative ways to make products.
Lone Wolf Audio – Outsider
The quickest way to our hearts is to build gear modeled after stuff that Frank Zappa used, which is exactly what the Texas-based DIY company Lone Wolf Audio did with the Outsider. Framed around schematics for the long out-of-production, highly sought-after Systech Harmonic Energizer, the Outsider is like a lead boost on speed. What’s so special about this pedal is that it is incredibly versatile and reactive to other kinds of effects that you put around it, and it’s not a surprise that its become a go-to secret weapon for players as diverse as Kurt Ballou and Dweezil Zappa. Don’t sleep on this thing.
ESP/LTD – Ben Weinman Signature
Although technically premiered in 2014, this guitar didn’t really begin to ship until this year, and it’s too nice of an instrument to not pay some lip service to. A (highly) modified version of LTD’s X-Tone guitar, this semi-hollow body features an Evertune bridge, knobs relocated out of the way of the pickguard, and an extended 24-fret neck. The production models don’t yet feature Ben’s (patent pending?) magnetized back cavity which holds his wireless (making the entire guitar wireless), but there are hints they may do so in the future. Kudos to ESP and Ben for coming up with a really unique, versatile guitar.
Dunable Guitars – R2
Dunable Guitars, the company run out of Intronaut guitarist Sacha Dunable’s garage, is fast becoming one of the go-to boutique instrument companies for touring metal musicians – and their stuff is already being used by heavyweights like Kerry McCoy of Deafheaven. The R2 is the newest of Sacha’s models, and we’ve gotta tip our hats to the dude for putting an incredible amount of work into these instruments – he builds and handwires everything himself, including the Direwolf pickups demo’d in the above video. They’re also quite affordable for a custom, DIY company.
Strandberg Boden OS Import Series
I thought that these little guitars were the big hit of 2015, with a cost of close to half of the US production models and less than half of the full custom shop models, but comparable in quality and with the same exclusive design. Since doing the review I’ve used these on many other songs and reviews for various things and they’re great.
I did no fewer than four reviews of Kiesel/Carvin guitars this year, and each guitar was better than the last. They stepped up their game HARD this year while breaking the company in twain, separating the pro audio part of the company from the guitar and bass side. Since then, they’ve been introducing more and more models, with more innovation and great design, all made in the USA in their San Diego factory for extremely reasonable prices.
Dynamount – The Mic Placement Robot
One of my favorite cool new inventions, and although not the very first of its kind, Dynamount is the first commercially available mic placement robot. Controlled by an app and able to move on three axes and tilt, it’s one of the truly innovative products that came out this year. They were successfully funded on Kickstarter and are now taking orders.
Dunlop CBM95 Cry Baby Mini
It’s wah-dorable! The Cry Baby Mini isn’t the first mini wah pedal ever, but it’s the first one to be a teeny Cry Baby, and it’s got the sounds you would expect of its pedigree. With 3 different voicings via an internal switch, it’s more flexible than my full-size Cry Baby, but it fits in my gig bag.
Peavey 6505 MH Mini Head
Continuing in the vein of mini things, Peavey put out the 6505 MH, which is a surprisingly badass tiny version of it’s ubiquitous 6505+ heads (formerly known as the 5150).
I don’t do a whole lot of mixing myself anymore, but I watch Alex do a hell of a lot of it, and when I watch him use the AirEQ from Eiosis, I actually know what the fuck is going on. Not only does it sound really great, the interface and layout are so crazy intuitive even a – “Even a bass player could use it!” – damnit Glenn, get back in your igloo!
Digitech Drop Pedal
The Drop pedal from Digitech was something that I think the world really needed, and that every gigging guitarist should seriously consider adding to their arsenal. String tension woes be gone – simply pick a number of half steps down, and step on the pedal to instantly detune all the sounds coming out of your guitar. Simple, effective, instant brutality.
TC Electronic Polytune Clip
TC Electronic makes loads of rad gear, and their Polytune tuner pedal was an instant smash hit when it came out – so much easier to check your tuning onstage when you can strum every string and see which one is out rather than picking each one at a time. This year, they released the Polytune Clip, a clip-on version of the pedal, which I use constantly as a super convenient alternative to plugging my guitar into a tuner, which is really annoying while recording.