THE MAXIMUM GEAR AWARDS shine a spotlight on the most awesome gizmos we played with this past year. The products could be Editors’ Pick Award winners in 2015 (actually, in this case, from the December 2014 issue through the November 2015 issue), and/or devices that also blew our minds with incredible design, superlative value, transcendent craftsmanship, or fun factor.
E L E C T R I C G U I T A R S
Fender American Standard Stratocaster HSS Shawbucker
Probably one of the best off-the-shelf Fender Strats you can buy today, and the Shawbucker is one ass-kicker of a pickup.
John Page Custom Ashburn
Made by the co-founder of the Fender Custom Shop, and a truly brilliant evolution of a certain classic solidbody.
Superb craftsmanship, awesome sounds, great feel, and unique looks. Could make Kiesel/Carvin the brand to beat in the under $1,000 class.
PRS S2 Mira Semi-Hollow
An affordable PRS completely made in the company’s Stevensville, Maryland factory with cool, vintage-sounding pickups. It’s also super light.
A C O U S T I C G U I T A R S
Epiphone Masterbuilt AJ-45ME
Evokes the classic John Lennon Gibson J-45 with an organic preamp/pickup system and an affordable price tag.
Santa Cruz Brad Paisley
A country superstar builds his dream acoustic, and then shares it with the world.
Taylor Maple Series
Impeccably crafted from sustainably harvested maple grown in Washington State, Taylor’s new Maple Series guitars reflect the design genius of Andy Powers in their outstanding tone and playability.
A M P S
This great-sounding 1x12 reverb combo uses a pair of 6V6 tubes and can be dialed to deliver anywhere from 12 watts down to a whispering 1/100th of a watt.
Dr. Z Z-Lux
Light and compact, the Z-Lux has a four-6V6 output stage that delivers 40 or 20 watts into a custom-designed 12" speaker, and also touts tube-driven reverb and a rich-sounding tremolo.
Mesa/Boogie Mark 5 Twenty-Five
Packing everything from classic clean and crunch tones to fire-breathing Mark IIC+, Mark IV, and even higher gain “Xtreme” sounds, this pint-sized powerhouse is more amp for the money than anything in its class.
Orange Rockerverb 100 MkII
Built like a tank and armed with clean and dirty channels, this 100-watt head furthers Orange’s reputation for quality and tone in the rock/metal arena.
The shimmering behemoth of the classic JC-120 gets its weight dropped (thankfully), adds some modern twists, and sounds as wonderful as ever.
Classic Vox chime and overdrive in a lightweight, gorgeous package. The closed-back cab and external speaker jack make it that much cooler.
P E D A L S
Lexicon reverbs in a compact, affordable, great-looking stompbox. Come for the Hall, stay for the amazing Spring—this pedal is a winner.
Awesome for the organ sounds—astounding for the Mellotron flutes.
Source Audio Vertigo Tremolo
Quite possibly the deepest tremolo pedal of all time, the Vertigo goes from simple and classic to mad-scientist mind-blowing and everything in-between.
Tech 21 Richie Kotzen Signature Fly Rig
Still one of the best compact rigs around, and now voiced for Kotzen’s feral and articulate tones.
P I C K U P S
DiMarzio Black Angel
This new magnetic soundhole pickup is easy to install and sounds excellent, whether used by itself or in combination with other transducers.
Earl Slick Hand-Aged Pickups
“Nice priced” humbuckers, single-coils, and P90s with a full array of rippin’ tones that even come in a cool wooden box. Rock on!
Fishman Fluence Single-Width
Unlike traditional wire-wound pickups, Fishman’s Fluence Single-Width units are able to deliver classic single-coil tones without noise or inductance issues.
S T R I N G S
LaBella Vapor Shield Acoustic Strings
Boasting an "Ionic Vapor Process,” these treated—not coated—strings stand up to dirt, oil, and moisture. More importantly, they sound amazing.
A C C E S S O R I E S
Etymotic Research Music•Pro Electronic Earplugs
“Magical” adaptive hearing protection that automatically clamps down dangerous volume eruptions, and even raises soft sounds to audible levels.
TC Electronic PolyTune Clip
The full-size PolyTune polyphonic pedal tuner was quite a tech leap forward, and now the super-quick, easy-to-read, and accurate tuner fits on your headstock. What’s not to love?
The latest rev of the greatest automatic tuning system, TronicalTune Plus is lower-profile, faster, and more accurate than ever.
T E C H N O L O G Y
Eventide H9/Crushstation Algorithm
The super box gets what is perhaps Eventide’s first natural and organic overdrive/distortion designed expressly for guitar.
IK Multimedia AmpliTube Mesa/Boogie
A ton of Boogie’s renowned heavy and rock amps ready to roll in the software world, and all signed off by the designers at Mesa/Boogie. Accurate? Um, yeah!
L I V E P E R F O R M A N C E
Bose F-1 System
True “large venue” dispersion in a portable band P.A.
These compact 2-way speakers deliver incredibly clear sound, and can be optimized via onboard DSP for use as monitors or mains.
Compatible with iOS, Android, Mac, PC, and Linux devices, the very affordable Ui12 features integrated wi-fi for remote control of your live mix.
I N N O V A T I O N
We first thought this pedal drum machine was kind of a joke. It isn’t. It’s awesome, and it won an Editors’ Pick Award.
A four-channel 100-watt tube amp that lives in a foot controller and weighs about a kilogram? Really? Yes, and it sounds incredible. Wow.
Voodoo! Just play into the Trio and get automatic drum and bass tracks that match your chosen musical style. Kind of a jaw dropper, and quite a boon for any musician honing their chops, or for artists doing solo gigs.
The ’70s Godley/Creme bowing device—all modernized and debugged and still fabulously strange.
We called it “Angus Young in a Box.” You’ll simply love your tone.