What does 2018 have to show for new gear releases?
Any proper “gearhead” looks forward to new releases for the chance to expand their collection and improve their sound. Even though new gear releases = recurring GAS symptoms, they are inevitably fun to track. Whether it’s a guitar, amp, or pedal – it’s new. So it’s already got that going for it.
Maybe it’s a long-awaited solution to one of your rig’s downfalls, or an improvement on something you already thought was perfect (whoa!) Or…maybe it’s just super cool. Even though you already have four reverb pedals…
So what qualifies as a “game changer?” It could be an evolution of something that made its predecessors obsolete, something that wiped out previous technology, something completely innovative that no one on this side of the universe has ever seen before…
Or again…maybe it’s just super cool. Here are our top picks for new gear releases this year, in no specific order.
1. Fender Player Series
Released: June 2018
We all suspected Fender‘s MIM guitars were in line for a facelift after nearly 30 years with no changes. The launch of the Player Series was long overdue, especially since their “brothers from another mother” in America were getting so many updates. Fender definitely had something up their sleeve all these years. Anticipating how largely accepted and well-received these new MIM guitars would be, they needed to make sure the product was going to live up to the “Standards” set by the previous models. Who didn’t love a good MIM Strat or Tele? Great quality, affordable price…you couldn’t go wrong! But our ever-changing world put a timer on modernization.
“Often imitated, never duplicated,” the Player Series was another huge triumph on the part of Fender, their dealers, and musicians everywhere. The Player Series guitars and basses are loaded with upgraded features, such as Alnico pickups, more ergonomic body radii, 22 fret necks, and upgraded bridges. They also sport some new, bold colors such as Sage Green, Tidepool, Sonic Red, Buttercream, and Polar White. In total, there are 94 new SKUs across 21 flagship models, so don’t “fret” – there’s definitely something for everyone.
2. Electro-Harmonix Oceans 11
Released: May 2018
A new reverb pedal that seemed virtually limitless, the Electro-Harmonix Oceans 11 was a very well-received release in May of this year. A new reverb pedal is something that we haven’t seen from EHX for quite some time – so to see one with 11 reverb types, an internal Tails switch, and infinite reverb capabilities – we were definitely impressed. Everyone else must have thought so, too, because our first shipment sold out in minutes.
The coolest thing about EHX, though – you get awesome pedals at an even AWESOM-ER price. Ringing up just under $148 is a feat for any pedal of its kind.
3. ThorpyFX The Dane
Released: August 2018
ThorpyFX’s “The Dane” has been a massive hit in the world of effects. It was designed in collaboration with “Danish Pete” Honore, with the goal of delivering the wide variety of sounds he uses. On a recent episode of That Pedal Show, Pete mentioned, “I like things to be really dynamic.” This translates to the pedal in many ways. It’s very responsive, and once you dive in, you will notice your tone evolve into a natural, articulate overdrive with plenty of headroom. The second foot switch enables the boost function, which makes the pedal that much more versatile, and really allows your amp to shine.
The Dane also provided Adrian Thorpe, creator of ThorpyFX, the opportunity to take a second look at the footprint of his pedals. The Dane maintains the Thorpy appearance and structural integrity, with a polished metal enclosure, etched design, and classic chicken-head knobs. However, the size was strategically shrunken to make it a more practical choice for any pedal board – size-wise, and tone-wise.
4. Victory V4 Preamp Pedals
Released: September 2018
Victory Amplifiers has impressed us with some of the best of handmade amps out there. At the NAMM show in January, Martin Kidd and the Victory crew showed up with three preamp pedals that would hit the market later in the year. Victory’s new ventures were designed around the hearts of their three most wildly successful amps – The Sheriff, Kraken, and Countess. After the NAMM show, our service inbox filled up with months of inquiries about the arrival of these anticipated pedals. They were finally released to the public for pre-order on September 3rd.
The Victory preamp pedals have a variety of uses. They are ideal for studio setups, particularly if you’re at home with limited space. With this setup, you’ll need either a DAW plugin or speaker simulator. They can also be set up using a four-cable method, so you can easily switch between full-on amp sound and the preamp going directly into your power amp. On a recent episode of That Pedal Show, Dan said, “basically the Victory Sheriff is adding two extra channels to single channel amplifier,” which is a rare quality in preamp pedals. Victory mentions that the pedals work best when run into the FX loop return, because it allows you to give your amp an entirely new vibe.
5. Keeley El Rey Dorado
Released: May 2018
The El Rey Dorado was born from a collaboration between Robert Keeley of Keeley Electronics and Joe Leach of Riff City Guitar. While Robert was on a promo visit at Riff City for the release of the Caverns, the two began discussing the idea of a collaborative pedal. This discussion quickly became reality, and it was decided that the pedal they would create would be a Plexi-style overdrive that would compete with the most top-notch British Plexi tones on the market.
The El Rey Dorado, or “The Golden King” is now your go-to for anything and everything Plexi. Plexi amp tone obviously ranges due to differences in power, tubes, speakers, and/or cabs used, but the El Rey Dorado hits the bullseye when it comes to that core plexi tone. A huge resource for inspiration was a JTM 45/100 full stack – a reissue done by Marshall with custom made vintage speakers and dual transformers to transfer the heavy load of four EL84s.
It covers a range of classic British amp tones with two gain modes and a Power toggle. The Power toggle switch allows you to have optimal control over compression and harmonics, and a tighter, more defined tone. Get old-school crunch in Low Power mode, and searing high leads in High Power mode.
6. JHS Bonsai
Released: January 2018
The JHS Bonsai proved immediately after its release that it was a star performer, when its demand sent JHS Pedals into a production shortage. Without minimizing the major stresses that come along with a production shortage, it is a tell-tale sign that JHS hit the nail on the head with this design. After months of waiting for JHS to catch up, the Bonsai has finally found its home on thousands (and thousands) of pedal boards. Hats off, JHS!
So, what makes the Bonsai such a hit? You can tell just by looking at it that it’s a tribute to one of the most widely-adored pedals of all time. You know…that green machine that screams? The Bonsai follows in the footsteps of The Muffuletta, using a simple rotary knob to switch back and forth between NINE different modes of overdrive. So, essentially, it’s an overdrive pedal with nine lives. Me-ow.
7. Marshall Origin Series Amps
Released: February 2018
Marshall decided it was time to dial back down from 11, but for good reason, so don’t let it break your heart. The Origin Series was introduced as a way to achieve true Marshall greatness – without any nonsense.
The all-valve Origin Series offers affordable amps that are extremely pedal-friendly and maintain that essential, vintage-style Marshall vibe. Some notable features include two inbuilt voices, a new tilt control, and Powerstem power reduction technology, which makes it so effortless to put pedals in front of. The ideal place to use these amps is…get ready for it…anywhere. Whether in your bedroom, in rehearsal, or on-stage, your Origin amp will be a faithful companion. The lineup includes a 5-watt combo, 20-watt head and combo, and a 50-watt head and combo. Sometimes less is more. So, so much more.
8. PRS John Mayer Silver Sky
Released: March 2018
John Mayer’s Signature PRS Silver Sky hit the scene in March of this year, and proved that PRS can in fact do anything they set their mind to. The Silver Sky is the result of a collaboration between Paul Reed Smith and the Grammy-winning artist himself. It’s inspired by John and Paul’s favorite elements of 1963 and 1964 vintage instruments. Even though PRS is known for the flagship Custom and Standard models (typically sporting double humbucker configurations), they have set a new standard in the traditional/vintage-inspired world. This S-Style guitar is all theirs, and its gravitational pull definitely isn’t working against anyone. It doesn’t want to bring you down.
The Silver Sky is offered in four colors: Onyx, Frost, Horizon, and Tungsten. The demand for these guitars is so high, we still haven’t received our order yet! The PRS team just can’t stop out-doing themselves.
Thousands of new products are released every single year in the music gear space, so it’s definitely hard to narrow it down. Let us know in the comments below what YOUR 2018 game-changers are!