Guitar World Staff Picks: Paul Riario's 2014 Holiday Gear Wish List

As Christmas and the holidays swiftly approach, I’m looking forward to taking some much-needed time off, and with that, I present to you my holiday gear wish list.

There were so many great pieces of gear to choose from that I wish I could list them all, but I’ve picked the ones that stood out for me.

So, without further ado, let’s chug some eggnog and check out the gear that puts a smile on my face (and hopefully, some of it will make it under my Christmas tree!).

12. Strymon Big Sky Reverb,, $479

Reverb is one of those effects that is often taken for granted.

On one hand, most amps have it and you kind of set and forget it; while on the other, it’s easily dismissed as a surf or rockabilly effect. The Strymon Big Sky sets out to destroy such assumptions. Strymon has already made a name with a bunch of their award winning pedals and the Big Sky is another one to add to that list.

Spend some time with the Big Sky’s twelve studio quality reverb machines and 300 presets and you’ll be able to hear the countless ways reverb can be utilized creatively. I’ve only scratched the surface of the processing power and stellar sounds this stompbox adds to my rig.

11. Brian May’s Red Special book, Hal Leonard,, $30

Brian May from Queen has always been my one of my absolute influential guitar heroes, so I’ve always known about his beloved homemade “Red Special” guitar that he’s used on every one of Queen’s records and songs.

This book is probably one of the most detailed tributes to any single piece of gear I’ve ever come across, and it’s made even more personal over the fact May built it together with his father from a fireplace mantel. Queen’s fame offered May the opportunity to play any number of desirable guitars yet the one he never stopped using was this one. A stunning and fascinating read for guitar lovers.

10. Supro Amps,, Dual Tone and Thunderbolt, $1,459; Coronado, $1659

Supro amplifiers have achieved mythic status amongst guitarists from artists like Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page, who used these legendary amps for their inspiring tones.

It’s absolutely refreshing to see these unbelievably cool retro amps, which have been re-engineered by Bruce Zinky and Dave Koltai, are now available in three different models that will appeal to any number of axe slingers.

The Dual Tone is a 1x12 24-watt combo with tube-driven tremolo that serves up creamy overdrive when cranked and is perfect for small club gigs and recording. The Thunderbolt is 1x15 35-watt combo that’s pedal friendly and sounds huge. My favorite of the three is the Coronado, which is also 35 watts but with two 10-inch custom Supro speakers and a tube-driven tremolo.

The Coronado sounds focused and dynamic, with warm compression when the volume is pushed. Pick one of these up at the prices they’re offering currently because they’ll no doubt go up soon.

09. IK Multimedia iLoud,, $299.99

IK Multimedia makes some of my favorite music apps and hardware products for on-the-go guitar playing and recording.

The iLoud is a portable Bluetooth-enabled speaker with a built-in iRig circuit that allows you to connect your guitar or a microphone to start playing immediately.

The iLoud pushes 40 watts of power through its custom neodymium speakers and is LOUD. It wirelessly connects via Bluetooth your iOS device to your music library and the stereo sound and bass response is nothing short of amazing. The battery can last up to 10 hours under normal use.

08. D’Addario NYXL strings,, $19.95

Not too long ago, we had shot video about these strings, which you can check out right here.

The idea was to prove that these strings allow you to bend farther, prevent breakage, stay in tune better and sound louder than any other string available. I can’t say whether they’re louder, but I can certainly say these strings last.

I originally put them on my favorite guitar back in July and since then, I’ve barely had to tune them and haven’t broken a string regardless that I’ve bended them to its limit. Remarkable.

07. Graphtech Ratio Tuned Machine Heads,, $99.99-$109.99

I know talking about tuning machines is about as exciting as your grandmother explaining the fine art of crocheting.

But if you’re in the process of building a guitar (like I am) or your current tuners seem to be throwing your guitar out of tune, then there is nothing better than Graphtech Ratio Tuned Machine Heads.

The Ratio tuners are optimized for each string’s core and tension making tuning a smoother and more precise endeavor. Depending upon how thick or thin the core of the strings, one turn equals one whole tone allowing for consistency without slippage in order to fine-tune your guitar. Ratio is available for both acoustic and electric guitars with plenty of styles and options.

06. TC Electronic Flashback Triple Delay,, $449.99

I’ve been a big fan of TC Electronic’s Flashback X4 Delay pedal for its authentic-sounding delays and being able to store multiple presets, in fact, I use one in my pedalboard.

So when TC Electronic released the Triple Delay, it was exactly the kind of delay pedal I was looking for. The Triple Delay not only lets you store presets but also allows you to run up to three delays at the same time!

It has all the desired features of the Flashback X4 like TonePrint-Enabled technology, true bypass and tap tempo, but an added option of subdivision control for the delays. The Triple Delay is an imaginative pedal that allows endless avenues of creativity in delay.

05. Charvel Jake E. Lee Signature Model,, $2,831.35

One of my favorite guitars I’ve reviewed all year. This guitar had it all: tone, low action on a fast neck, simplicity and looks. If you haven’t tried any of Charvel’s super-strats, you can start by picking this one up to get an idea of what a professional guitar feels and sounds like.

It’s the kind of instrument that can rock a wedding gig or a death metal show without raising any eyebrows.

04. Taylor Guitars 614ce-FE,, $3,998

Maple is going to be the tone wood you’re going to be hearing about a lot next year from Taylor Guitars. Master luthier Andy Powers re-voiced Taylor’s 600 series using incredibly innovative methods to make maple sound unlike anything else you’ve ever heard.

The result is an acoustic with more volume, complexity and warmth than other acoustics with tried and true combinations of more popular tone woods. Prepared to be blown away.

03. Ernie Ball Aluminum Bronze Acoustic guitar strings,, $13.50

Normally, I’m a big fan of coated acoustic guitar strings, but I decided to give these a whirl because it had been a while since I’ve actually used non-coated strings for acoustic. What a difference.

I forgot the purity in tone a non-coated string offers at the sacrifice of string life. The Aluminum Bronze strings are corrosion resistant and provide a perfect balance of warmth and crispness to your acoustic. Where a coated string sometimes feels tacky, these feel smooth and are a joy to play.

02. Way Huge Saucy Box Overdrive,, coming soon

There are so many overdrives that mimic the revered tube screamer, so I’m always looking for one that sets itself dynamically apart from the rest.

The Saucy Box is not the first overdrive pedal to mix clean and overdriven sounds together but does so with a balanced signal path that makes it sound organic. Depending where you set the level knob, you can decide how much of the clean signal to blend in or throttle it for more gain and boost.

The overdrive is fat and smooth; with harmonics that jump out in the same way you’d crank a low wattage amp to achieve distortion. It’s a cool pedal despite having graphics that give new meaning to the term, “dick in a box.”

01. Cruz Tools GrooveTech Truss Rod Drivers,, $14.95

I’m always tinkering with my guitars, and the one thing I can tell you that happens often is the truss rod needing adjustment because of the crazy weather we’ve been experiencing lately.

Cruz Tools makes two screwdrivers: the Standard Driver, which offers precise contact for flathead-style truss rods; and the Cheater Driver, which is ideal for adjusting Fender cross-screw vintage-style truss rods.

The Cheater allows you to poke through and tweak the truss rod without removal of the neck or pickguard on most Fender guitars. I can’t tell you how important these two Drivers are in keeping my guitars performing in tip-top shape.

I try very hard to remain under the radar despite being on camera as gear editor at Guitar World, but in this age of social media it was only a matter of time before it had to come to this. So with that, I will make my blog painless and a quick and easy read so you can get on to more important things like sweep picking, or if you’re like me, obsessing how to race the Tour De France and trying to be Taylor Swift’s next paramour she’ll write a song about. I will use this blog to inform you of things I find cool; like new gear I’m playing through and what I’m watching, reading or listening to at any given moment. So feel free to ask me anything that’s gear related—or if you have a problem with your girlfriend, you know, life lesson stuff, I’m pretty good at that too—and I’ll do my best to answer or address it here.

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Paul Riario

Paul Riario has been the tech/gear editor and online video presence for Guitar World for over 25 years. Paul is one of the few gear editors who has actually played and owned nearly all the original gear that most guitarists wax poetically about, and has survived this long by knowing every useless musical tidbit of classic rock, new wave, hair metal, grunge, and alternative genres. When Paul is not riding his road bike at any given moment, he remains a working musician, playing in two bands called SuperTrans Am and Radio Nashville.