As the holiday season fast approaches, you might be scratching your head as to what to get the guitarist in your life. Not to worry – we’ve compiled the best gifts on the market that are sure to bring a smile to their face, ranging from guitars, amps and pedals to books and accessories.
The best gifts for guitarists in 2021 at a glance
- For the beginner: Epiphone Inspired By Gibson Les Paul Special
- For the intermediate player: Fender Player Plus Stratocaster
- If money is no object: Gretsch G6129T-89 Vintage Select ’89 Sparkle Jet
- For the tube amp fan: Fender Vibro Champ
- For the acoustic player: Yamaha THR30IIA
- For the amplifier enthusiast: Neural DSP Quad Cortex
- For the home producer: Blackstar Dept 10 Dual Drive
- For the ambient player: Universal Audio Golden Reverberator
- For the distortion fan: Walrus Audio Eras
- For the pedalboard-obsessed: Stompbox book
- For the power-hungry: Ernie Ball Volt
- For the dangerously pedalboard-obsessed: Schmidt Array pedalboard
- For the vintage nerd: Rickenbacker Guitars – Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fireglo Deluxe Edition
- For the living room: Audio Pro Drumfire Blackstar Edition
- For the audiophile: Fender x MoFi Precision DeckTurntable
For the beginner: Epiphone Inspired By Gibson Les Paul Special
Epiphone has long been the entry-point into Gibson-style guitars, however, at NAMM 2020 the brand upped its game with the affordable Inspired By Gibson range, all complete with a stylish open-book headstock and finish options, as well as excellent electronics and build quality for the price.
The Inspired By Gibson Les Paul Special is a particularly inviting prospect for beginners: effortlessly playable, but good enough to stick with a guitarist well beyond their first awkward forays into Smoke On The Water. And as a bonus, it looks the part, too.
For the intermediate player: Fender Player Plus Stratocaster
New for 2021, Fender’s Player Plus Stratocaster comes in two flavours: HSS, and SSS. The former features a powerful Wide Range humbucker in the bridge and two noiseless single coils in the middle and neck position, while the latter features three noiseless single coils. In practice, this makes the HSS model a little more suitable for a guitarist who favours heavier music – although their preference may vary.
In either case, the Player Plus Stratocaster is extremely versatile, with excellent tones across the board and a slim neck that seems to disappear in the hand. The specs have been designed to appeal to the forward-thinking guitarist. There are few concerns about vintage accuracy here, resulting in two brilliant takes on one of the most iconic guitars of all time.
If money is no object: Gretsch G6129T-89 Vintage Select ’89 Sparkle Jet
This stylish single-cut has an undeniably cool vibe oozing from it. Despite its flashiness, the Sparkle Jet hails from the days of grunge and Britpop, notably wielded by Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and Ash’s Tim Wheeler.
It’s a stunning guitar visually, and luckily this is matched in its performance: featuring two brilliant TV Jones pickups and a Bigsby B3C vibrato fitted to a resonant chambered mahogany body, this guitar has the bite to match its visual bark.
For the tube amp fan: Fender Vibro Champ Reverb
Speaking of cool, this little tube amp makes an excellent addition to any guitarist’s collection, especially if they’re fans of vintage tube amplifiers. While it’s not the high-headroom gigging platform that might be found in the form of a larger, more powerful amp, it’s a great-sounding combo across its whole volume range, going from dynamic cleans to raspy overdrive.
And, due to its 5-watt power rating, you don’t need to risk shaking the windows of the house across the street to get that old-school amp break-up. Its small size makes it a great living room practice amplifier,
For the acoustic player: Yamaha THR30IIA
Yamaha’s THR range of desktop amplifiers has arrived in the hands of acoustic players, with the THR30IIA providing guitarists with a plethora of useful features and excellent sounds.
There’s a range of simulated microphones (for getting a more natural sound out of your acoustic’s pickup), as well as a range of onboard effects and the ability to record directly into a DAW via USB – effectively making the THR30IIA an all-in-one interface for recording an acoustic guitar at home.
In terms of gigs, the amp’s line-out connectivity means it can be run straight into a PA if you need, or you can crank the master volume and relay on the two 3.5” speakers, running at 15 watts each. In all, this is a great expansion of an acoustic player’s arsenal. Just make sure their guitar has a pickup before you whack this under the tree.
Lists for £570 / $599.99. Find out more at yamaha.com.
For the amplifier-obsessed: Neural DSP Quad Cortex
When we described Neural DSP’s Quad Cortex as “game-changing”, it wasn’t hyperbole. This unit replaces an entire studio’s worth of amplifiers and makes it a breeze to record them. Not just in terms of numbers, too – digital modelling technology has come along leaps and bounds. The Quad Cortex’s tones are organic-feeling, responsive and overall a joy to play and hear played back. With the boom in the ease of home-recording
It’s a stage and a studio workhorse, too. Provided there’s a good PA and monitoring, which is all the more common these days, the Quad Cortex can easily replace your stage amplifier and pedalboard.
Given its portability, its power (it processes audio signals at a whopping 2GHz) and its versatility, it could be the last piece of gear you need to buy.
For the home producer: Blackstar Dept 10 Dual Drive
The Dept 10 Dual Drive straddles the fence between old- and new-school. While there’s some bonafide glowing glass within it, it provides an excellent direct recording solution thanks to a proprietary cabinet simulation algorithm. A selection of over 250 virtual cabinet tones are available to choose from through the companion Architect software and you’ll be able to store three on the pedal at a time.
While it doesn’t necessarily boast the same processing muscle as the above Quad Cortex, the straightforward approach will appeal to a lot of guitarists, especially those reluctant to completely turn their backs on analogue. And, if you want to pair it with a real amplifier, it makes for a solid great valve overdrive pedal.
For the ambient player: Universal Audio Starlight
The Starlight is one of three guitar pedals Universal Audio debuted this year in its very first pedal range. The delay pedal leverages the brand’s wealth of experience in digital audio processing for an extremely premium sound and feel, offering spot-on simulations of Echoplex, and Memory Man-style delays, as well as an ultra-clean ‘precision’ delay.
Thanks to its digital nature, the pedal easily integrates tap-tempo and a preset slot into these excellent delay sounds, as well as some ear-catching stereo effects. It all adds up to an versatile peda that outperforms its analogue equivalents in reliability and control, but matches them in terms of sound.
For the distortion fan: Walrus Audio Eras
Distortion pedals don’t usually benefit from being overly complex, but the Eras is a special case which splits the difference between raw power and versatility. A rotary selector switch in the centre of the pedal selects between five different operating modes, with various combinations of silicon diodes and LEDs providing the clipping.
Controls for the bulk of the pedal are nice and straightforward: Volume, Gain, Bass and Treble. An extra handy feature is the clean blend knob, which lets you retain some clarity even with heaps of gain dialled in.
If you’re buying a pedal for a fan of distortion, the Eras’ wide variety of gain textures – all of which sound excellently aggressive – is sure to please.
For the pedalboard-obsessed: Stompbox book
Stompbox: 100 Pedals of the World’s Greatest Guitarists is the ultimate coffee-table tome for any lover of guitar effects. Exquisite photography of the actual pedals used by Tom Morello, Thurston Moore, Eric Johnson, Frank Zappa and many, many more is paired with commentary and stories from the artists about the musical virtues of the stompboxes in question, as well as special features such as a history of guitar effects and an exploration of guitar pedal circuit design.
If you’re feeling extra generous, there’s a number of special editions of the book, some of which pair it with its companion, Vintage And Rarities: 333 Cool, Crazy And Hard To Find Guitar Pedals.
Starts at €60. Find out more at stompboxbook.com.
For the power-hungry: Ernie Ball Volt
A problem any pedalboard-builder runs into at some point is keeping all of their pedals powered. The Volt is a great solution – it’s small but mighty, offering 300 mA of current per isolated output, making it ideal for powering most digital pedals without the fear of hum or under-powering the units.
It’s also modular, meaning if you pop an extra Volt under the tree it will happily connect together with another unit thanks to the 18V through-power socket, ideal for bigger pedalboards. And, given its diminutive size, it fits snugly underneath most pedalboards.
For the dangerously pedalboard-obsessed: Schmidt Array board
If you’re looking to spoil a pedalboard-obsessed guitarist this year, the Schmidt array boards are the ultimate in pedalboard luxury. With their incredibly sturdy construction, integrated lids, patch bays, and tiered design, even smaller pedalboards can pack a huge number of pedals, and make it a breeze to keep them safe, connected and powered up.
The brand has a number of ready-to-ship pedalboards listed, however if money truly is no object there are custom options available too.
Find out more at schmidtarray.com.
For the vintage nerd: Rickenbacker Guitars – Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fireglo Deluxe Edition
If you want to indulge the interests of the vintage guitar nerd in your life, it’s hard to do better than Rickenbacker Guitars – Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fireglo. Written by Martin and Paul Kelly, who also penned the acclaimed Fender: The Golden Age 1946-1970.
Rickenbacker instruments are in a way definitive vintage electric guitars – the brand behind the first electric guitar is also responsible for instruments played by some of the biggest musical artists of the 20th century.
The Super Deluxe edition of Rickenbacker Guitars – Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fireglo comes alongside a 160-page companion compendium of Rickenbacker catalogue reprints spanning 1933-1969. It marks the first time these “impossibly rare” historical artefacts are reprinted in their entirety.
For the living room: Audio Pro Drumfire Blackstar Edition
The only negative surrounding the Audio Pro x Blackstar edition of the Drumfire speaker is that under wrapping paper it could form the impression that someone is getting a brand new amplifier stack for Christmas.
The downsides stop there, however, as the speaker brings the punchy experience of live music to the living room. As the last two years have taught us, there’s something about the full-body experience of live music that’s lost when listening on home systems – on that Audio Pro and Blackstar have sought to reinstate here.
For the audiophile: Fender Turntable
On the theme of home listening, Fender has recently partnered with Mobile Fidelity Electronics (AKA MoFi), an audiophile-grade vinyl turntable inspired by the aesthetics of a Precision bass. It comes with a no-holds-barred approach to build quality and sound fidelity, with a heavy 1.3-inch-thick Delrin platter and a well-damped billet aluminum body and ash plinth. This does add up to quite a price, however one that’s comparable to many other turntables of the same grade. Just look at that three-colour sunburst finish.