The 10 Coolest Guitar Gear Innovations of 2015

December 21, 2015
Every year brings a new round of great guitar gear. While it’s always exciting to see what the established manufacturers have to offer, some of the coolest and most innovative creations often occur on the periphery, through the visionary works of boutique operations and startups.

We were intrigued by a number of offerings from these tech innovators. With the end of the year upon us, we present 10 of the coolest products they presented us with in 2015. We encourage you to check them out, not only to support their efforts but most certainly because we know you’ll find something here to spark your own creativity and take your guitar playing to a new level. 
A Little Thunder
Andy Alt’s A Little Thunder pickup lets you add a bass signal to the two lowest strings on your electric guitar, giving you the ability to play guitar and bass parts simultaneously on one instrument. The humbucker-sized pickup replaces an existing humbucker on your guitar, but it requires no physical modifications, such as drilling or routing. The built-in lithium battery can be charged with a standard cell phone cable and gives 12 hours of play time on a single charge.  

A Little Thunder features Polyphonic and Low-Note-Priority modes, capacitive touch controls for easy access, and a stereo jack that replaces your guitar’s existing output, allowing you to send the guitar and bass signals to the same or separate amps. And because the technology is housed in the pickup, there are no latency or tracking issues that can occur with external devices, like octave pedals.  
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Reminiscent of an EBow, the Wond lets you vibrate and sustain your guitar strings to create ethereal string- and flute-like sounds from any steel-stringed instrument. But unlike that historic effect, the Wond is an expressive accessory that’s as easy to use as a pick.

You can control the power that the Wond applies to the strings simply by changing how hard you grip it. This, in turn, changes the timbre of the string tones. The Wond also features tactile feedback, allowing you to feel the magnetism as it touches each string and making it easy to position the Wond on the strings. There is also a headlight LED that helps you align the Wond with the string, adding yet another sensory indicator.

Wond creator Paul Vo—the inventor of the technology behind the Moog Guitar and Moog Lap Steel—launched a successful Kickstarter campaign for the device and is now selling it on his website.

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The new Jamstik+ adds several new features over its predecessor, the most notable of which is a magnetic hexaphonic pickup. This is a change from the previous model’s optical sensors, which some customers said caused a slight delay between picking a string and hearing it. The MIDI pickup provides a more natural and authentic picking feel. Its presence here should also make the jamstik+ more appealing to guitarists who have been as slow to embrace optical pickups as they were hexaphonics.
Bluetooth connectivity is another improvement on jamstik+, one that allows it to connect seamlessly with Apple’s Bluetooth MIDI software. The previous model connected over Wi-Fi by creating its own network.
In addition, jamstik’s firmware and companion apps have been upgraded to provide more instrument options—including banjo, piano, harp and sitar—from the moment the unit is connected.  Other new convenience include capo shifting and a programmable directional control pad for greater versatility.

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Jack is a smart Wi-Fi device that replaces your guitar cable with a “studio-quality 24-bit connection,” according to its creator, John Crawford. Unlike existing wireless devices, it doesn’t use Bluetooth or radio technology, which are slow and cause a loss in fidelity.

Crawford’s patent-pending technology could be used with any musical instrument or microphone to make it a Wi-Fi device. “This is nearly 13 times quicker than conventional Bluetooth and about three times faster than compressed ‘low-latency’ Bluetooth,” Crawford told The Telegraph U.K.
The device has an integrated battery, charges from a standard micro USB, and is designed to fit all guitars, including those with recessed jacks.

Jack is still in development as of this post, but it’s a product we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on in 2016.
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The Artiphon Instrument 1 is a universal MIDI controller that lets you play it however you want: as a guitar, a keyboard, a drum kit, a violin, or anything else you can think of. Just connect it to your smartphone, tablet or computer and Artiphon lets you play hundreds of apps, like GarageBand, using common gestures like strumming, tapping, bowing, sliding and more.
While the Artiphon lacks the traditional materials and features of a guitar, it makes a handy composition tool, allowing guitarists to switch between their instrument, bass, drums and anything else they need. And any traveling guitarist who needs a small instrument to record with could find the Artiphon is just the ticket for trips and tour buses. Spontaneous performance is also possible, since it has its own built-in speaker.
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Go to around 1:49 in the video for a brief demonstration of the Artiphon used for fingerpicking.

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