Recession Fighters! Fabulous Gear Bargains to Help You Rage Through Hard Times

May 1, 2009

MONEY IS TIGHT, AND NO ONE IN CONGRESS seems anxious to launch a bailout for budgetconscious musicians who continue to suffer from gear lust. Well, the sissies from the big auto companies—as well as all the dunderheads from the banks who approved all those shaky loans— can whine and whimper and threaten bankruptcy and beg for cash, but guitarists are made from way tougher stuff. For many of us, it may not be the time to peel off mountains of bills to purchase some vintage glory machine or a dazzling custom-shop instrument, but this doesn’t mean we have to stop exploring brand new tonal options. At the 2009 Winter NAMM Show, scores of companies released affordable, high-quality products that offer major sonic power for minimal cash. And to prove that you can still purchase new toys without succumbing to fiscal guilt, the Guitar Player staff has assembled a sampling of just a few of the bargains we saw at this year’s big gear extravaganza. So get ready to explore these low- and mid-buck goodies, and fearlessly expand your tonal palette.


Can’t afford a new guitar? Can’t afford to get your old dog painted? Try Axewraps ($35). These vibey, vinyl wraps can transform a boring finish into a hip, spacey, funny, or wild eye-catcher instantly. They go on easy, won’t hurt your original finish, and come in hundreds of designs.

B-52 LS-100

The LS-100 ($299) is ridiculously inexpensive for what it offers: two overdrive modes, a clean channel with independent EQ and a Mid Cut switch, an effects loop with send and return level controls, reverb, cabinet-simulated recording out with level control, and even a footswitch for remote control of the front-panel switching functions. Pair this head with the LS-412 and get a half-stack for the silly street price of $598.


This lubricant ($20 for 1.5cc), which you can use on a guitar’s nut, bridge, string trees, bridge pivot points and more, will help eliminate string breakage and tuning problems. Now’s the time when you need to make your strings last!


Loaded with a fat selection of COSM-generated amps and effects models, the ME-70 ($299 street) is super easy to use, thanks to a knob interface that lets you quickly grab whatever combination of sounds you want. The unit can operate on AC or battery power (adapter is optional), and it features a tuner, a 38-second phrase looper, and an assignable expression pedal.


Whether you're at a gig, a recording session, doing a string change, or a setup the GrooveTech Guitar Tech Kit ($62 retail) is a helpful to have onhand. You get a 6-in-1 screwdriver (two Phillips, two slotted, and two nut drivers 1/4" and 5/16" to handle most truss rod nuts), a 3-LED flashlight, steel ruler, string cutters, 15-blade thickness gauge, 11 hexkeys, astring winder, and a capo.


Besides a bitchin’ look, the Hornet ($399 street) sports a solid basswood body, a maple neck with a headstock-adjustable trussrod, vibrato, and a pair of pumped-up lipstick pickups. The ’67 Hornet’s sound and feel is very cool and very different from any Dano we’ve played.


The least expensive way to grab a bit of Mr. Scary magic, this shred machine ($499 street) sports a slim/wide flat-radius neck for monster bends, a single ESP humbucker, a Floyd Rose Special double-locking bridge, and a righteous looking tiger-stripe finish.


Combining GraphTech’s most popular products in one package, the Supercharger Kits ($50-$60 retail Strat/Tele, $100 retail Tune-o-Matic) give you String Saver Saddles and Tusq nuts, and the kits for Tune-o-Matic-equipped guitars also come with a ResoMax Bridge. Stop breaking strings and get better tone and sustain at the same time.


This new solid-state 100- watt head ($399 street) is part of a series of new MG models, and it features four channels with analog tone circuitry, power-amp damping for a more tube-like dynamic feel, and digital effects (including chorus, delay, flanger, phaser, and reverb). The included Stompware footswitch connects to the amp via a standard guitar cable to let you switch channels and change delay times, and it even has a built-in tuner.


Revise your vibe without tanking your wardrobe budget with four new woven ($21 retail) and leather designs ($29 retail): the nostalgic Woodstock Collection, the metal-edged Alchemy Gothic Collection, the tattoo art of the Lethal Threat Collection, and the cowabunga Al McWhite Surf Collection (woven only).


Asuper-stealthy way to get more sounds out of your humbuckers, the Triple Shot ($69 retail for a set of two) allows you to switch between series, parallel, or split-coil operation with no permanent modification to your guitar. The nearly invisible slider switches are built right into the pickup rings.


New from MusicMan, the Sterling AX20 ($499 street) is a low-cost alternative to the U.S.- made Axis, and it features the same style of bound basswood body with quilted maple top, maple neck with asymmetrical carve, and 4+2 headstock. The AX20 sports a Music-Mandesigned hardtail bridge, and the AX40 ($549 street) has a double-locking trem.

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