Gear Of The Year: Best Guitar Amps & Accessories of 2021
From game-changing modellers to pocket-sized practice solutions, was 2021 the tipping point for how we amplify our guitars?
WINNER: Neural DSP Quad Cortex
Plugin specialist Neural DSP’s first foray into the hardware game has been game-changing. For the last decade Kemper and Fractal have dominated the world of high-end digital modelling, but in the Quad Cortex we see the shape of modelling to come. In short, it’s a significant leap forward in terms of both usability and sonics, that could make your amplifier, your pedalboard and even your audio interface redundant. Is this the most important guitar product of the decade so far?
Fender ’68 Custom Vibro Champ Reverb
People get funny about messing with the classics, but Fender’s silverface amplifiers of the CBS era don’t get nearly as much love as the black-panelled icons that preceded them, and as such they’re a perfect platform for Fender to modernise in interesting ways. In the case of this Champ, the original’s 8-inch speaker is now 10-inches, while Fender has also added built-in reverb. The result? A smartly tweaked combo that’s perfect for low-level practice.
Carr Super Bee
It’s not common to see proper point-to-point wiring in a modern guitar amp, but Carr’s Super Bee is full of pleasant surprises. Utilising some unusual valves and sporting a range of tones inspired by classic Fenders, the Super Bee packs a fearsome sting at home and stage-friendly volumes. With a wide range of Fender-inspired tones, more overdrive than expected and a superb attenuator, this is the ultimate home, studio and small gig companion.
Walrus Audio Mako Series ACS1
The arrival of Strymon’s Iridium in 2019 was something of an ‘iPhone moment’ for pedalboard amp and cab sims, and so it’s entirely fitting that the first true heavyweight competitor in this field comes from Walrus’ premium Mako range. The ACS1 might not be as simple to use as the Strymon, but the sheer depth and purity of this unit’s clean sounds will be enough to win over many fans.
The original THR effectively created the desktop/lifestyle amp category and so it’s no surprise that this second generation model does everything very well. Blurring the lines between dedicated line-array acoustic amp, mixer, digital audio interface and portable lifestyle sound system, this is an impressive hybrid of lifestyle product and gig-box for intimate venues.
Ernie Ball Volt
As any pedalboard tinkerer knows, feeding your precious collection of effects with a reliable source of electricity can present challenges. Enter then, the king of strings with this isolated, high-current DC power supply that’s compact, simple to use and highly affordable. Smaller than a packet of Slinkys, this easy-to-use unit delivers great results in a very sleek package.
Boss Pocket GT
‘Compact’ has always been a key part of Boss’ vocabulary, so it’s perfectly fitting then that the Pocket GT offers perhaps the most fully-featured compact practice solution out there. With high-quality tones galore, this smartphone-sized headphone guitar amp and multi-effects unit could be the perfect accessory for learners… or anyone with unappreciative housemates.
Fender Mustang Micro
The Mustang Micro is Fender’s smallest ever amplifier, but don’t let it’s matchbox-sized form factor and minimal controls fool you – somehow they’ve packed 12 amps and editable effects in here. The best part is that they all sound great and run the gamut of Fender and non-Fender sounds, giving you the ultimate low-fuss, plug and play headphone amp solution.