Speed Rating November 2013: Four mini gear reviews

November 5, 2013

$199 street

Tapping a boatload of overdrive-modding experience, Robert Keeley went to the drawing board for a new OD of his own, and the Red Dirt is the result. Call it a “thoroughly upgraded Ibanez Tube Screamer,” to which Keeley has given increased bass response and higher gain via the 2-way Lo/Hi switch and a JFET input buffer. It all culminates an overdrive that is superbly dynamic, with crispness and clarity that let me cut through the swamp of a dense mix, while retaining the plump midrange that’s characteristic of the classic ’Screamer distortion sound. Surprisingly versatile for its simple feature set, the Red Dirt made me want to play and play. robertkeeley.com —DAVE HUNTER

$39 street

I’m something of a capo freak, and this is flat-out one of the most elegant capo designs I’ve ever seen. Sleek and sexy cosmetics paired with an ingenious clutch mechanism that puts just the right amount of equal pressure on the strings, and then releases just by hitting a tiny lever. The G7th Performance goes on quickly and easily, pretty much solves all the tuning problems that can plague capos, and feels great against your hand when you fret near it. It’s a marvel of engineering that is supremely musical, and it’s also available in an amazing blinged-out crystal. Beautiful! G7th.com —MATT BLACKETT


Also available in Moonshine, Motor oil, and custom versions, the Bohemian is basically a steel can outfitted with a 24-fret maple neck, a wooden bridge, and a single-coil pickup with Volume and Tone controls. It doesn’t have much acoustic volume (and no, the cap doesn’t unscrew to allow sound to escape), but plugged into an amp it delivers a funky tone that sounds good for bluesy picking and bottlenecking. The body makes clunking sounds when you press on it, the back of the handmade neck is rough in spots, and I wish the tuners were better quality. But as a playable piece of folk art, the Bohemian fits right in with cigar box guitars and other “green” instruments that are crafted from found parts. bohemianguitars.com —ART THOMPSON

$24 street

This tiny device clamps on the front or back of the headstock and is substantially more discreet than most tuners of its type. The NS Micro Tuner has a calibration range of 410Hz to 480Hz, a reversible multcolor display that enables it to read right side up wherever you place it, and a silent metronome function that uses the LCD display to blink the tempo (which is set using the same pair of cursor keys that also adjust the tuning calibration). This tuner proved to be accurate and easy to read, with the small screen (1/4” x 3/4”) displaying the note and changing from red to yellow to green as you pull the string to pitch. The NS also powers down automatically after ten minutes to preserve battery life. daddario.com —ART THOMPSON

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