And the winner is...
It’s that time of year again; the Christmas bells are ringing and half of the country is panic buying enough bread and milk to see them through to 2012.
On the upside, at least if you’re snowbound then it’s a good excuse not only to spend some quality time with your beloved instrument, but also also to have a think about the gear that you’d like to shell out on in 2011.
2010 has been a difficult year for all concerned in the MI industry, but happily there has still been no shortage of drool-worthy guitars, amps and effects. What will 2011 bring? It’s difficult to be sure, but we expect to see plenty more retro and artificially aged instruments and small valve amps at NAMM 2011 in January alongside a smattering of leftfield innovations and all-new super-guitars.
What follows – in no particular order – is a gallery of MusicRadar’s best guitar gear of 2010, taking into account the Guitarist and Total Guitar reviews published on the site and our own hands-on experiences with this year’s finest products.
So, without further ado, let’s kick off with a bang and present 2010’s electric guitar of the year.
Electric guitar of the year
We are surrounding by innovation in the guitar industry, with futuristic new instruments continuing to push the boundaries of what the once-humble electric guitar can do. That said, we guitarists are a largely conservative bunch who still put our faith and trust in designs that are over half a century old.
With that in mind, what's really gets pulses racing is a guitar that breaks new ground from inside the trojan horse of a classic exterior, and that's exactly what Vox has achieved here. Derived from the Virage range launched in 2008, the new Series 55 models are beautifully contoured with a hugely versatile range of tones thanks to those CoAxe pickups, at a price that isn't beyond the reach of the gigging musician.
We loved the double-cutaway 77 Series guitar too, but the 55's price is too good to ignore. A serious amount of guitar for the money.
FULL REVIEW: Vox VS-SSC55
Acoustic guitar of the year
Along with the Guitarist, Total Guitar and Guitar Techniques teams, we're lucky enough to get our hands on a breathtaking array of instruments over the course of a year, and sometimes its easy to become a little blasé as a result.
But occasionally there are guitars that nobody wants to put down. The 000-15M was one such instrument. Simple, understated, breathtakingly playable; a guitar for life. If there was a separate prize for the guitar that most people in the office lusted after in 2010, this beautiful little acoustic would win hands down.
FULL REVIEW: Martin 000-15M
Bass of the year
Back in Guitarist magazine issue 335, resident bass guru Roger Newell cast his expert eye over Warwick's latest Corvette, following the relocation of production from Germany to Korea. This is what he said:
"The move in production has kept the price very attractive, and with a whole host of options and configurations your main problem might just be deciding exactly what you want. If you've never entered Warwick's world, this is a very good place to start."
A seriously versatile instrument indeed.
FULL REVIEW: Warwick Pro Series Corvette Standard Ash 4
Combo of the year
Competition in this category has been fierce, with Blackstar's HT Venue series, Fender's redesigned Hot Rod amps and Vox's AC30C2 all proving that the gigging guitarist has never had it so good in terms of the availability of great-sounding, affordable backline.
Pipping its rivals to the post in this category is the fantastic new Orange TH30 1x12 combo. Reassuringly chunky yet not backbreaking, this little beast can be switched between seven, 15 and 30 watts to suit your needs. The Total Guitar and Guitarist reviews could scarcely have been more complimentary, and you can always count on Orange's bulletproof reliability.
FULL REVIEW: Orange TH30 1x12 combo
Head of the year
2010 saw the small valve amp trend continue, with even more sophisticated designs from big players entering the fray. Mesa/Boogie's TransAtlantic TA-15 was a serious contender for the crown, but Egnater's Tweaker is our ultimate winner.
A huge range of US and British-inspired tube tones and that astonishing price could indeed mark the Tweaker out for "future classic" status, as Guitarist's Gold Award review claims.
FULL REVIEW: Egnater Tweaker
Practice amp of the year
Our final amplification category deals with the once-humble practice amplifier. Anyone whose formative years were spent wrestling with the waspish tones of a tinny AM radio-style speaker will no doubt say that kids these days don't know they are born.
However, practice amps aren't just for beginners; everyone needs to hone their skills, and there were no better devices released for that purpose this year that Fender's new and radically updated G-DEC series. Go here for masses of information and video content on the G-DEC 3.
FULL REVIEW: Fender G-DEC 3 30
Stompbox of the year
TC Electronic's polyphonic stompbox tuner began the year by scooping the Best In Show award at NAMM 2010, and the rave reviews soon followed for a pedal that appears to be well on its way to displacing the Boss TU-2 and becoming the go-to stage tuner for gigging guitarists. However, don't write Boss off just yet; this year's TU-3 is another impressive performer.
There was really only ever going to be one winner in this category, with the simplicity, efficiency and great value of the PolyTune making it a near-essential purchase. There's even an iOS version.
FULL REVIEW: TC Electronic PolyTune
Multi-FX of the year
Although a pedalboard full of single-function boutique stompboxes can be a wonderful thing, its often either too financially prohibitive, or something that is built up and refined over years of buying and experimentation.
For the uninitiated, there's no better grounding in the world of guitar effects than a good multi-FX unit that allows you to get a feel for the various types of drives, modulation and time-based effects available. For the gigging musician, there's much to be said for the lack of onstage headaches that can be caused by a spaghetti-like mess of patch leads and mains cables at your feet.
The ME-25 is the latest in a long line of fully-featured multi-FX units from Boss, and the guys at Total Guitar loved it: "With analogue-style control, a looper, USB connectivity and some free recording software, the ME-25 exceeds our expectations of what you can get for £169 in 2010." Enough said.
FULL REVIEW: Boss ME-25
Accessory of the year
It might seem unremarkable in the last days of 2010, but if someone had said 20 years ago that soon we'd all be carrying around telephones that also contained our record collections, a fully-featured suite of guitar amplifiers and effects and a multi-track recorder, we'd probably have wondered if they'd mistaken a sci-fi movie for a documentary.
Now, of course, a musician with an iPhone or iPad has a bewildering array of apps at their disposal, and 2010 saw IK Multimedia be the first to really nail the physical hardware that allowed you to plug your guitar into you iOS device. Now there's much competition - notably from Peavey's AmpKit - but for our money AmpliTube for iPad and iPhone has the best sounds and the addition of a multitrack recorder in version 2.0 gives you a recording studio in your pocket. Amazing times.
HEAR IT: AmpliTube 2 for iPhone