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zZounds' Guitar Experts' Product Picks: September 2014

zZounds' Guitar Experts are on call Monday through Friday 9 am to 5 pm, offering expert advice, service and product recommendations for customers seeking professional insight into their own rigs. Every month, our guitar experts choose their favorite zZounds gear, and every month we bring you those selections here. Bookmark this page and check back regularly for our latest product picks!

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Guitar Expert Product Picks: Bert (1.800.460.8089 x299)
Laney L20T-112 Lionheart Guitar Combo Amplifier (20 Watts, 1x12")
I am all about simplicity when it comes to combo amplifiers. I'll look for a single channel combo and it's gotta be able to take a whole bunch of pedals in the front end, namely my foundation overdrive and a fuzz to stack on top. This drive channel on the Laney L20T Combo has got me reconsidering having one of my dirtboxes in my pedal chain. While the controls appear as straightforward as it gets, you'll love the amount of tweaking you can do, like playing with the gain structures and EQ settings. This combo has a global EQ section, meaning both your Clean and Drive will be affected by your EQ tweaks. The Laney L20 Lionheart combo really impressed me with its pristine clean channel, even when I cranked it up, and really delivered dynamically in the drive department when I clicked it over. By matching the preamp volumes on both the Clean and Drive channels, and cranking up the gain on the Drive channel you are able to dial in a very wide array of grit from your guitar's volume control. Even when you're up at higher volumes, the Lionheart is very touch-sensitive, so your soft playing stays articulate and your heavy-hitting riffs come through the Celestion Heritage G12H with all the power and British charm you've heard on past recordings. You'll be able to dial in all kinds of tone for your 6-string with this Laney combo: from a dark voiced, overdriven scoop to a healthy shimmer on your top end with a mid-boost and a touch of treble.

Gibson Limited Edition 2014 RD Artist Electric Guitar
I'm a big fan of the Norlin-era Gibsons, like the Marauder, L6S, and the S-1, and most especially my RD Artist bass. I was stoked and pleasantly surprised to see this gorgeous looking Alpine White RD Standard hanging out at the Gibson booth at Summer NAMM. 2014. This model comes with a fast-playing mahogany neck on a mahogany body, in the classic Gibby 24 3/4" scale -- unlike its longer scale, all maple counterparts of the past. These feature Gibson GEM Active pickups, which let you do those screaming high-gain leads, without needing to have your pickups fully open. You'll feel this set neck singing while you're fretting, and the sustain on this odd-bodied guitar is on par with its Les Paul counterparts -- but with a unique look and feel of its own. If your collection has a couple of the "traditional" Les Pauls, SGs, and Memphis Customs, take a look at this wild-sounding and great-playing offset.

Gibson Les Paul Custom Lite Electric Guitar
This is one sharp looking Paul here. You'll notice off the bat that these Custom Lites don't cut any of the features of a top-of-the-line Paul -- only the weight. With Gibson's traditional weight relief, a portion of the mahogany body is routed out, which afterwards resembles swiss cheese. This lighter body and the added versatility of the coil-tappable 490/498 pickups makes for a 6-string that treats your back just as nice as it treats your ears. Much like its heavier Custom counterpart, this one comes dressed to impress with a multi-ply bound body and headstock, and a slick-playing single bound fretboard, topped off with some snazzy gold hardware appointments. Don't let the weight relief and thinner body fool you in to thinking that this one doesn't sing like those good ole '59s; once you pick this one up you'll be glad you've added it to your collection.

Radial X-AMP Active Re-Amplifier
These Re-amp boxes are a great little tool that I recommend for both project and professional studios, especially for tracking electric string instruments. If you are as indecisive as me when it comes to getting an awesome guitar tone while tracking, this little box gives you some options for literally re-amplifying your guitar's signal. Say you've got your recording interface or good 'ole reel-to-reel recorder: a Fender Twin, and some no-name, low wattage, vintage tube combo hanging around the studio. Before this nifty little box, you'd have to go about laying down a rhythm track on the Twin and then the solo section on the little combo over a few different takes. Now with this Radial X-AMP you can go right to the recorder with your guitar, nail the song in one take, and then send your signal out to the Twin for the rhythm parts, and the leads over to the no-name combo in your DAW. Or, send the whole track to each amp and layer them over each other for a thicker, identical track in the mix. This gives you a bunch of options for loading up your tracks with the tone of your choice. The Radial X-Amp Re-Amplifier is a handy and creative tool, and these are definitely a great consideration for the player or engineer that has a room full of amps and wants to track or compare them all.

- Bert, zZounds Guitar Expert

  Laney L20T-112 Lionheart Guitar Combo Amplifier (20 Watts, 1x12")
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Guitar Expert Product Picks: Justin (1.800.460.8089 x384)
Xotic SP Compressor Pedal
The Xotic SP Compressor pedal is tiny, but has serious versatility with the addition of a switch for adjusting the compression to three different amounts. On top of all that, there's an internal dip switch with 4 controls that can adjust the attack/release time, cut highs, or pad the input signal to get rid of unwanted distortion or cut lows if needed. The addition of a blend knob really makes the SP Compressor an always-on pedal, because sometimes you just want your dry signal to still be a bit more apparent in your mix, instead of only the fully compressed tone. It really sounded awesome with my Gibson's humbuckers, especially with the input pad on to increase the clarity. Obviously, this is bread-and-butter for any country players out there, who usually want a bright and heavy spank with a quick release time, but I can't think of a single style of music this pedal wouldn't work perfectly for.

Fender Hot Rod DeVille 212 III Guitar Combo Amplifier (60 Watts, 2x12")
The Hot Rod DeVille is a pretty awesome amp with a ton of volume and tone options on tap. Its dual 12-inch speaker configuration makes it perfect for those who need to fill out clubs, or even larger venues. I noticed it had a substantial amount of headroom and stayed clean until it started to get cranked up, which was great for using pedals like boosts and overdrives to give it an extra push. My favorite part about the amp is definitely the punch that the 6L6 tubes give to single notes, and most noticeably, to chords. I loved playing funk rhythms on it just as much as I loved playing jazz chord melodies, proving that it can easily adapt to its player's musical needs. Above all, it was so touch-responsive that it took some getting used to, but I consider this a standard characteristic of a great tube amp anyhow. If you prefer more aggressive tones, this amp has you covered with three channels: Normal, Drive, and More Drive. Add to that the fact that it has a separate Volume knob to dial in just the right amount of grit before leveling it all out with a Master Volume, and you have even more options. Overall this is one of my favorite Fender 2x12 combos, and you really can't beat it for under 1,000 bucks.

Fender American Vintage '52 Telecaster Electric Guitar, with Maple Fingerboard and Case
Telecasters are some of my favorite solidbody electric guitars, and this vintage recreation is a great homage to the Tele days of old. The period-correct brass saddles give it a vintage look and feel, and its nitrocellulose finish and U-shaped "boat neck" further expands its vintage vibe. While the neck was larger than my usual preference, it was still very comfortable and contoured enough to facilitate my normal playing style. The pickups, American Vintage '52s, were awesome for cleans, for pushing an amp to breakup or for use with various overdrives due in part to their presence and cut. My low-medium overdrive just sang with this guitar through a slightly dirty Vox AC15 amp, and the two were a match made in heaven.

Dunlop JC95 Jerry Cantrell Wah
I feel finding a good wah that you can bond with is tricky business. Even worse, sometimes you find that perfect wah sound, but once you change amps it reacts and sounds completely different. The JC95 Jerry Cantrell wah remedied that issue because it has a control knob for adjusting the toe-down frequency of the pedal, which came in handy for taming overly harsh highs. The voice of the pedal is intentionally a little bit darker than an average wah, which I really like with my brighter rig. This wah is also known for being very vocal in character and really was able to be dialed in perfectly when I was using different amps.

- Justin, zZounds Guitar Expert

  Xotic SP Compressor Pedal
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  Fender American Vintage '52 Telecaster Electric Guitar, with ...
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Guitar Expert Product Picks: Martin (1.800.460.8089 x347)
NS Design NXT4 Upright Electric Double Bass
The upright bass has a completely unique sound sought after for many genres of music. The thing about the upright bass is it's huge, and hard to amplify. The NS Design NXT 4 relieves these problems. I find it really feels and sounds like an acoustic upright, but doesn't have the hangups that inhibit live playing. The Piezo switch is perfect for when I need to quickly switch to a bow for a passage in a tune. Without that feature, my bow would either sound way off, or I would have to run and switch all my settings, which isn't always possible mid-performance. I think the NS Design NXT4 is a perfect solution for playing jazz, rock, salsa, classical and more live. It makes getting that upright sound way easier. You can focus on playing instead of hauling gear and stopping feedback!

Warwick Corvette DB Double Buck 5 Electric Bass, 5-String
The German-made Warick Corvette Double Buck 5 bass grabbed my attention from first glance. It is visually striking with is contoured ash body, wenge neck and fretboard, and brass frets and nut. I have to say, feeling is believing. When I first started playing this bass, my hands just melted into it. The Warwick Corvette Double Buck is one of the most comfortable basses I've ever played. After that I said "I have to hear this thing." I plugged it in, and was blown away. There is so much tone that roars out of this bass. When I plucked an open A, it kept on ringing, seemingly forever. The wenge neck, brass nut, and brass bridge really maximized resonance on this bass. Also I love the super thin oil finish. I could even see some pores on the fingerboard. This prevents choking the vibrations, letting the wood ring freely. I found this bass super versatile as well. I was able to dial in tons of different tones -- which is perfect for the working bass player.

Phil Jones BG100 Bass Cub Combo Amplifier (100 Watts, 2x5")
I play a lot of quiet jazz gigs -- background music while well-dressed people mingle. For these gigs, I want something that's going to have a warm, natural tone. I also want something nice and compact. When I'm playing background music for party, I'm often crammed in a tiny corner that's not built to house a jazz trio. I think the Phil Jones BG100 Bass Cub combo amp is perfect for situations like that. It weighs in at a little over 13 lbs, but with a three band EQ, DI output and tuner out, it has what I need to play the gig. Its small speakers make for a nice clear tone, perfect for replication the natural sound of my basses. It comes with a padded carrying bag, so I can get my gear in and out quick, especially important for the multiple-gig nights.

Fender Nate Mendel Precision Electric Bass, Rosewood Fingerboard
Whether you are big fan of the Foo Fighters or not, this bass is loaded. From the ash body to the nitro-cellulose finish, and topping off with a Leo Quan Badass Bridge, every feature was upgraded, leading to tons of resonance. To top it off, that resonance is amplified by a Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound Pickup. I really think the Nate Mendel Precision bass has one of the highest "Bass-to-Buck" ratios out there. This is a great bass for super fat rock P-Bass tone.

- Martin, Bass Specialist, zZounds Guitar Expert Team

  NS Design NXT4 Upright Electric Double Bass (with Gig Bag)
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Guitar Expert Product Picks: Dan (1.800.460.8089 x310)
GHS Fast Fret
Always looking for an accessory to add on to my arsenal, I found the GHS Fast Fret. This bad boy has always been with me wherever I go. Whenever I need to prevent any sort of additional finger noise that occurs when I am playing, I just apply this and it's fixed as simple as that. I've also used this to clean my strings and extend their lifespan.

Radial JDX Reactor Guitar Amp Direct Box
Ever been at a show and needed a way to provide a direct out to the main P.A. system, but your amplifier does not come with one? In comes in the Radial JDX Reactor. This simple box puts you at ease not having to worry about mic placement or the acoustics affecting the sound. Just by placing this in between your head and cabinet, you are able to get a straight signal to the system. Another way of using this is to mic the cabinet and have two signals which will produce a fuller tone. This box has helped me in tough situations when I would play at different churches and they have different setups for their guitars. Luckily with this direct box, it is as easy as plug and play -- and I can be confident that I will get the same type of tone each time. I have started to use this more often, and it works for any situation that I'm in. Now the worries about the mic falling over or not working are gone -- and what you have left is a great product that will constantly provide a great tone.

Korg SDD-3000 Programmable Delay Pedal
Want to get the classic sound from the SDD-300 rack but don't want to have to carry a rack everywhere you go? In comes in Korg with their compact incarnation of the classic SDD-3000. Now in pedal form, the SDD-3000 gives you all the classic tones you expect, but in a condensed, portable form so you can add this to your selection of pedals. For those who still haven't found what they're looking for, the Korg SDD-3000 can solve that problem and then some. It has an input and output attenuator that comes with a +4db boost -- giving you that extra kick to your tone. I've used this pedal to help fill up the space when I am playing as the only guitarist and this gives this an extra depth to my playing. This delay pedal stands out, as I am able to customize on the fly. With all the different variables that can be adjusted on this -- from Intensity, Frequency, Waveform and more -- this is the ONE delay pedal you will need.

Fender American Deluxe Strat Plus Electric Guitar
The "Plus" version of the American Deluxe comes with everything you'd expect from a Strat and more. This model features personality cards, an innovation that Fender has created for instant modifications. For those like me that do not mess with soldering, this helps achieve numerous mods that help you get the tones you are looking for. One thing that stuck out was how well it was able to adjust the modifications. Along with the cards, they come with a couple of dip-switches to increase the amount of customization. This is great for when you are trying to create a setlist comprising different styles of playing/tone. I really liked the sound of the Cutter personality card, which instantly changed the tone knobs to a treble cut and a bass cut knob, allowing me to get a jazz-type of tone.

- Dan, zZounds Guitar Expert

  GHS Fast Fret
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