2022 is officially drawing to a close, meaning it’s currently the perfect opportunity to look back over the past 12 months to revisit some of the best guitar gear we’ve had the pleasure of coming across.
It’s certainly been a year to remember, with a number of knock-out new releases making their way onto the market, from long-awaited electric guitars and boutique acoustic guitars all the way to surprise pedal drops and modern-minded guitar amps.
Not only that, 2022 has also helped cement the status of numerous pre-existing products as serious fan favorites, with many guitars, basses, pedals, amps and more from previous years earning their way onto our end-of-year round-up.
With that said, here is our 2022 holiday ultimate gear guide for the best acoustic guitars of 2022.
Aguilar DB599 Bass Compressor
Hot on the heels of Aguilar’s DB925 Bass Preamp comes the DB599 Bass Compressor, following the same micro format. It offers Compression and Gain controls while utilizing pre-selected compression ratios and attack/release parameters. In operation, and with no compression applied, the Gain control can be adjusted so that the pedal acts as a volume control, should you need a signal boost.
As with all Aguilar products, the company creates them to be ‘musical’ rather than offering parameter extremes – and this philosophy is highlighted here. With the Gain control turned down, increasing the Compression control results in a volume reduction; increasing the same control brings the volume back to the level you require, but with a smoother signal and fewer transients.
The pedal’s rugged metal chassis should withstand life on the road, and the controls are solidly fitted. The DB599 is intuitive and simple to operate, and overall, its simplicity is a major selling point.
Crazy Tube Circuits Crossfire
It’s right there in the name – a reference to one of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s best-known songs. Crazy Tube Circuits makes no bones about its Crossfire pedal giving you access to some of the Texas blues phenom’s coveted tones. The left side is voiced to emulate blackface amps like the Fender Twin and Super Reverbs. CTC uses analog circuitry to mimic the sonic signatures of those vintage legends.
A headroom switch lets you choose the super-clean solid-state rectified 4x6L6GC power amp sound of a Twin or the distortable sponginess of a tube-rectified 2x6L6GC Super Reverb. The right side provides the famous green pedal (read: Ibanez Tube Screamer) mid-hump overdrive.
In addition, a clipping toggle switch selects between original symmetrical or asymmetrical clipping, while a gain toggle adds more gain and alters the low frequency response. The Crossfire can deliver SRV sounds, but tons of other warm, tube-like tones reside in this solid, board-friendly pedal.
Crazy Tube Circuits Falcon Pedal
Having first built a custom amp designed to morph between the sounds of a 5E3 tweed Deluxe and a 6G2 brownface Princeton, Crazy Tubes decided to design those sounds into a pedal. If you love exploding amp tones, the Falcon is for you. Plugging in a Les Paul and cranking the volume knob produced classic Fender tweed overdrive sounds.
The Falcon cleans up beautifully when you play lighter or back off your guitar volume, and turning down the volume knob also makes the sound more polite, yet still rife with tweed character. Clicking the toggle right engaged the ’61 brown Princeton side.
The Fender version of “the brown sound” is often described as between the roughness of the tweed years and the smoother sound of the blackface models. That accurately describes the Falcon brown version as well. There was less breakup on tap, the low end was more focused – and the response to picking dynamics remained fantastic. $189, crazytubecircuits.com
Donner Circle Looper
The Donner Circle Looper pedal costs a little more than a Benjamin and is packed with features that rival those of loopers that cost much more. In essence, the Circle Looper is a stereo multi-track looper that provides 160 minutes of total recording time, 100 rhythm patterns and 40 memory locations.
The pedal is designed to be very easy to use, arranged with the looper functions and controls on the left and the rhythm functions and controls on the right: the Merger button located in the center below the multi-color display brings together the play/stop functions of both sections.
Two continuous rotary knobs allow users to select memory, level and fade out settings on the Looper side and select preset rhythm patterns, volume and bpm settings on the Rhythm side. The Circle Looper’s sound quality is simply outstanding, with sophisticated but easy-to-use functions and an impressive selection of rhythm patterns, making it a powerful performance tool.
$109.99 street, usdonnermusic.com
Dunlop Justin Chancellor JCT95 Signature Wah
Tool bassist Justin Chancellor’s signature Cry Baby features two wah circuits and a fuzz, the latter of which works independently or with one of the wah effects. A footswitch selects either wah, a standard effect and a variant labelled ‘UK Filter’. Then there’s a Volume and Q control for each wah, an overdrive section, and Fuzz, Tone and Volume controls.
A side switch allows the fuzz to operate as a standalone overdrive, and there’s a rotary Bypass Delay control, setting the length of time that the wah effect continues after you release the rocker. You’re immediately rewarded with a range of tone options: The standard Cry Baby sound is brighter, with less low end, than the more aggressive UK filter mode.
Combining wah and fuzz leads to some demonic tones, but that’s the whole point, as Tool fans will know. Dunlop have pulled off a real coup here: test-drive this pedal with our full recommendation.
$299.99 street, jimdunlop.com
EarthQuaker Devices Special Cranker
EarthQuaker Devices continually creates some of the most sonically immersive effects. Their Special Cranker builds upon the discontinued Speaker Cranker, with a few more knobs and two clipping diode options for some glorious gain. It excels in retaining the organic subtleties of your amp’s character while adding more preamp gain color to your signal without getting in the way of it.
Think of it as a pedal even Nigel Tufnel would endorse by pointing at the Special Cranker’s knobs and concluding “these go to 11”. Whether you use the Special Cranker as a clean boost or to drive the front end of your amp, it’s apparent how much it enhances your signal.
EQD seems to have really dialed in the relationship of touch sensitivity and sweetened gain response to the point that the Special Cranker sounds like an extension of your amp. It’s an overdrive that you’ll want to leave on all the time.
Electro-Harmonix Nano Deluxe Memory Man
Introduced in 1978, the Deluxe Memory Man delivered rich, clear tones that set a standard for analog delay that endures to this day. The Nano DMM is the latest version of this classic, and proves itself an excellent delay that sounds lush and crystal clear at settings ranging from slapback echo to long ambient delays. Even the repeats stay very clear when the feedback knob is turned up to around four o’ clock, where the echoes start drifting into self-oscillation.
The noise level is also practically nil at high delay/feedback settings, which is very cool. Delay always sounds better with some modulation, and now you can dial in the speed for exactly the modulation and feel that works best for you.
The Electro-Harmonix Nano Deluxe Memory Man brings a new level of enjoyment to this classic effect, and it’s a must-have for anyone who thrives on the lush, organic vibe of analog echo.
$203 street, ehx.com
Electro-Harmonix Nano Pulsar
Electro-Harmonix’s original Pulsar from 1979 was one of the first tremolo pedal effects. Original is the operative word here, because like most EHX devices, it offered a unique take on a classic sound. The new Nano version is the smallest housing yet, yet it sacrifices no modifiers or stereo functionality. In fact, an additional control has been added.
As there is often a perceived level drop when a tremolo effect is engaged, EHX has included a volume control to compensate for this. Thanks to the interaction between its Shape, Depth and Rate controls, the Pulsar presents an abundance of cool sounds that can’t be achieved with standard amp tremolo: You could easily stumble across a couple of unique sounds that you must have for live performance.
In fact, with the Nano Pulsar’s small size and low price, you could strap two of them on your board for less than the cost of some larger boutique pedals.
$99 street, ehx.com
Electro-Harmonix Ripped Speaker
Designed to deliver everything from vintage buzz to blistering, shred-metal fuzz, the Ripped Speaker is a four-knob pedal that, along with fuzz, tone and volume controls, has a powerful rip control that adjusts the bias of the circuit. A glass-epoxy PCB grips the components, visible by removing the bottom plate.
On test, the Ripped Speaker easily made its case for being a great all-rounder that can deliver everything from soft, fuzzy distortion (like a loose or faulty tube — or torn speaker – might make) to ’60s-style buzz (think “Spirit in the Sky”). By setting the fuzz knob low and working the guitar volume, you can elicit tones that sound like a small, cranked-up tube amp.
The pedal cleans up well when the guitar is turned down, making it possible to get sweet and slightly gritty clean tones. It qualifies as a do-it-all fuzz that comes at a surprisingly low price for all it does.
$110 street, ehx.com
Fender Dual Marine Layer Reverb
Fender’s Dual Marine Layer Reverb allows you to craft expressively ambient and dreamlike ’verbs that can be infinitely sustained. The unit offers Hall, Room and Shimmer reverbs selected via a three-position “Type” mini-switch, and you can set up separate reverb channels (A and B) using the two sets of controls for Damping, Time, Mod (chorus modulation) and Level.
The novel “Sustain” momentary footswitch and its knob is a thoughtful inclusion for ambient prolonging of the reverb’s decay time. A highlight is the Mod knob for its warm choral effect that never leans toward syrupy or detuned.
Turning the Damping and Time knobs clockwise will generate a chasmic and dimensional sound with shorter and tighter reverb tails, but decreasing the Damping knob counterclockwise (toward no damping) will provoke a sustained and drifting reverb tail that many shoegazers will find musically useable, and holding down the Sustain footswitch will hold down that regenerative shimmer endlessly.
$229.99 street, fender.com
Fender Duel Pugilist Distortion
Fender’s Duel Pugilist Distortion has two independent voicings that you can footswitch between in a single dual-format stompbox, proving it’s much better to double your pleasure. The stompbox comes in a lightweight anodized aluminum housing with Fender’s standout fitting of LED-backlit knobs that illuminate brightly.
It has two independent distortion circuits (A and B) with Level, Tone and Gain controls for each and separate footswitches (also A and B). The real show-stopper is the “Mode” switch for three versatile “routing” options: Mute, Series and Bypass (Parallel).
Mute allows for crafting one distortion (A) and the ability to layer an additional one (B) on top of it for more burly complexity similar to a boost. For additional tonal sculpting, the DPD includes a master shelving EQ with High and Low controls. Pedal purveyors that deal in dirt will find the Duel Pugilist Distortion a satisfyingly worthy contender in the middle-weight distortion division.
$229.99 street, fender.com
Fender Hammertone effects pedals
Fender’s new line of Hammertone effects pedals features nine models. Overdrive is a gutsy, medium-gain overdrive that pushes toward heavy saturation and is a great tone thickener for single-coils. Distortion offers up to 15dB of boost and cut for each frequency band, with thick, meaty, warm distortion available.
The Metal pedal does a great job of nailing contemporary high-gain tones, while the Fuzz manages a plethora of moods across the range. Delay offers an impressive 950ms of delay time, available in three modes, but the Space Delay is more dedicated to tape-echo emulations.
Reverb’s three-way mode switch accesses Hall, Room and Plate reverbs, with the tone switch shelving highs in the reverb signal to warm it up. Chorus dials up an impressively usable palette of shimmer and swirl for a broad range of genres, and the Flanger impressed me by being more usable and musical than many, which is saying something at this price range.
$79 to $99 street, fender.com
Why take two bass distortion pedals out, when you can take a single one and save yourself some precious pedalboard real estate? The Fender Trapper is a simple but highly versatile unit, and comes at a price point which most distortion-seeking bass players will be able to afford.
It offers bassists two individual or stacked drive tones, and asks for significantly less of your taxed income than similar units, such as Ashdown’s John Myung Double Drive. It’s a charming little unit, and the two drives – handily labeled Dist 1 and Dist 2 – each come equipped with highly useable Gain, Tone and Level controls.
The Trapper also comes armed with a secret weapon in the form of the Sub-Bass control on Distortion 2, which helps to add a significant chunk of bottom end. The unit sounds pretty immense if low mids are your frequencies of choice, and we love its affordability.
IK Multimedia AmpliTube X-Gear pedals
The X-Gear quad of multi-effect digital stompboxes have something of the completist’s catnip about them. The neatly styled yet robust anodized aluminum casings each house a DSP powered core of 16 effects algorithms backed up by 300 preset slots and a comprehensive set of parameters to tweak.
X-Drive’s 16 algorithms include modeled classics, some essentials and a bitcrusher. Fuzz, fizz, roar or just a little crunch, X-Drive has it all covered. Like X-Drive, X-Vibe mostly carries modeled classics such as the MXR Flanger Doubler, and Univox Uni-Vibe. The non-name brand algorithms include chorus, rotary, tremolo, step slicer and step filter.
X-Time has a smorgasbord of delay/echo: The tap footswitch and BPM/MIDI clock sync mean perfect timing is on the menu. X-Space’s Room, Chamber, Plate and Spring algorithms, when kept short, can lift a source: adding expression pedal action can either help your instrument ride the ’verb or warp it into something more colorful.
Keeley Electronics Halo Andy Timmons Dual Echo
Longtime Andy Timmons fans surely remember an era when the Texas guitar hero gigged with two vintage Electro-Harmonix Memory Man analog delay pedals at his feet. He would run the huge stompboxes in series, with large foot-operable levers attached to the mix knobs.
It was a primitive setup, but now you can get Timmons’ treasured echo sound without having to spend hours toying with a mountain of old analog delays and tape echoes. Just hit preset 1A on Keeley Electronics’ new Halo pedal, and his go-to echo setting is yours.
While Timmons’ halo tone may be this box’s flagship feature, it’s important to note that this compact pedal is a most versatile stompbox. From slapback echo and rich stereo chorus to ultra-saturated overdriven tape echo-style repeats and standard digital delay sounds (attained by opening the high-pass filter and minimizing saturation), the Halo is primed for many a pro application.
Maestro Comet Chorus
There’s more than meets the eye with Maestro’s Comet Chorus, with its basic complement of depth, mix and speed controls. The Maestro designers intended that this pedal offer a “different take on chorusing,” and the Earth/Orbit switch is what makes the difference here.
The Earth mode provides a nice range of syrupy analog chorusing, up to the point where higher depth settings begin to take things in a more pitch-shifted direction, morphing from chorus into what sounds like vibrato. Turn the mix up to noon, add drive from an amp or pedal, and the effect is pretty cool. Summon your inner Lonnie Mack and groove.
Then, by switching to Orbit mode, you’re suddenly adding tremolo to the chorusing vibrato, which is variable over a wide range with the speed control, and at whatever mix level you set via the internal trimmer. The Comet puts more sounds at your fingertips than might be expected from a three-knob chorus pedal.
Maestro Discoverer Delay
In designing a delay pedal, Maestro chose to go fully analog with the Discoverer and take advantage of what bucket-brigade technology has to offer. The Discoverer looks disarmingly simple with its complement of delay, sustain (repeats) and mix knobs, and a Modulation on/off switch. With the modulation off, the pedal has a clear delay sound that travels from short slap-echo to ambient delays of up to 600ms. You can get practically endless repeats by turning up the sustain knob.
The repeats also have a crispness to them that remains present throughout the decay envelope instead of becoming progressively grungier, as you might expect. Of course, the Discoverer does all the usual “spaceship” stunts, but it has the ability to venture beyond chorusing, courtesy of its internal depth and rate trimpots, which are potent functions.
By all means, if you’re shopping in the delay end of the stomp-box pool, the Discoverer is worth a listen.
Maestro FZ-M Fuzz-Tone
Maestro’s FZ-M Fuzz-Tone pedal has attack, level and tone knobs along with a two-position mini-toggle mode switch for selecting Classic and Modern sounds. In Classic mode, the FZ-M sounds like an early Fuzz-Tone, with its slightly scooped response and frazzy fuzz sound.
The attack knob unleashes a goodly amount of sustain as it’s turned up to where the playing feel is starting to get a little compressed, and by tweaking the tone control you can get everything from buzzy, ’60s-style tone to softer flavors of grind that can sound almost sax-like with some judicious twiddling of the controls.
The pedal’s character changes when switched to Modern mode, which yields a midrange-forward tone that’s both tighter on the bottom and smoother on top. A good all-around fuzz that can deliver circa-’60s tones as well as heavy rock grind, the FZ-M captures enough throwback vibe to make it fun while delivering tones that modern players will also dig.
Maestro Invader Distortion
Maestro’s Invader is a high-gain machine that can cover a broad spectrum of distortion duties. Armed with gain, level and tone controls, this pedal also features a built-in noise gate that you can select with the Gate on/off mode switch. It’s a feature mainly aimed at metal players who want fast note cutoff and overall control of noise when playing through high-gain rigs.
The Invader’s circuit uses discrete transistors and has multiple gain stages to obtain the high levels of distortion it can produce. Pummeled though our relatively low-gain test amps, the Invader produced lots of distortion and tracked picking dynamics well.
The grind comes on almost immediately as the gain knob is turned up, and by nine o’ clock on the dial it’s churning out fat distortion that sounded good for blues and classic rock. The EQ is accommodating to humbuckers and single-coils alike, and is totally in keeping with the Invader’s bombastic attitude.
Maestro Ranger Overdrive
The Maestro Ranger’s mission is to push an amp (or pedal) into overdrive by hitting it with a hotter signal than the guitar can crank out on its own. Call it a booster if you will, but its forte is adding beefiness without altering the fundamental sound of your guitar/amp rig.
The Ranger has gain, level and tone controls, plus a High/Low switch that lets you configure it for cool dirty-rhythm tones or more saturated lead sounds.
It’s not super gainy, but with the gain knob cranked in High mode, it does generate enough dirt on its own to get into the sonic zone of a vintage British amp pushed into distortion with a treble booster, offering a touch-sensitive response that’s perfect for going from lead to rhythm by simply working the guitar volume and/or your picking attitude. It’s perfect for those who like to turn up the heat on a tube amp without changing its vibe.
There is no shortage of analog delays to choose from, but the Pigtronix Constellator stands head and shoulders above most. With 600ms of modulated echo and two Feel modes, the diminutive Constellator employs a pair of replicas of the Panasonic MN3005 chips that offer impressive fidelity and headroom.
Controls include Time (delay time), Mix (dry/wet ratio) Mod (modulation depth) Repeats (feedback amount) and Feel. Setting the Repeats knob at the third star of the constellations graphic on its face and setting the rest of the controls around 11 o’clock offers a great starting point for what I’d like to call a “cosmic cowboy” slapback echo.
There’s a beautiful sheen to the overall tone, and adding its plush chorus or silky vibrato to those echoes is a thoroughly enchanting must. I also find its tape-echo saturation a sweetly controlled lo-fi sound – and having 600ms of it is more than enough to get your delayed point across.
Pigtronix Space Rip
The Pigtronix Space Rip is an analog synth pedal featuring pulse width modulation (PWM), which churns out bellowing sawtooth or square wave shapes that can be altered by using the following controls: Rate (speed of waveform motion) Tune (fine tuning or detuning of the pitched above synth voice) Mix (clean/synth blend), Sub (one octave down voice), Octave button switch (drops an additional octave down) and Shape button switch (sawtooth or square waveform voice).
Pigtronix states that the Space Rip’s pulse width waveforms “are produced by the onboard VCO being kept in a state of flux,” and I can assure you they’re not kidding. There is no shortage of kinetic energy propulsion in its octave-thickened belching, Radiohead-inspired mangling of the signal, and oscillating bluster of whatever is being fed into the Space Rip. It blasts off the minute you plug it in and is aptly named – it’s literally ripping your signal apart.
Source Audio ZIO Analog Front-End & Boost
ZIO is a classic clean boost pedal which adds no distortion or radical coloration, relying on the Burr-Brown SoundPlus op-amp for its dynamic range, frequency response and feel. It has four distinct preamp circuits.
JFET offers a transparent signal boost; Low-Cut reduces bottom-end for a tighter sound with added headroom; Studio is inspired by the Pultec trick used in recording, which adds clarity by cutting muddy frequencies and adding upper midrange articulation; and E-Plex mimics the warm grit of vintage Echoplex tape delay preamps.
With a mild overdrive switched on for crunch rhythm, the booster created a beefier sound with more sustain, suitable for solos. ZIO provides enough sonic variation and value to justify a slot on a pedalboard already crowded with overdrives, distortions and fuzzes. That it does so with the same technological ingenuity that Source Audio has always brought to its digital products makes it a worthy Editors’ Pick recipient.
Strymon Iridium Amp and IR Cab Pedal
Strymon’s entry into amp modeling and IR cabs comes with the Iridium, a handy, compact, fly-rig-capable pedal. Only three amp choices are included, but they’re classics: Round, modeled on the Fender Deluxe Reverb; Chime, based on the Brilliant channel of a Vox AC30 Top Boost; and Punch, based on a Marshall “Plexi” Super Lead.
Each amp shares the same controls for drive, bass, middle, treble and level, plus a room control that dials in reverb of three selectable sizes. Many of the controls do double or triple duty: Cab bypass, amp bypass and input level are accessible via the drive control.
The level control also accesses level trim, power-up modes and five options for expression connection modes. Meanwhile, the room knob taps small, medium and large room options. I found the nine factory cab IRs all toneful and worthwhile, and the Iridium’s cornerstone sounds and easy functionality are enough to warrant an Editors’ Pick Award.
$399 street, strymon.net
Strymon Zelzah Multidimensional Phaser
Strymon’s new Zelzah Multidimensional Phaser provides separate four-stage (à la the Electro-Harmonix Small Stone, MXR Phase 90, Boss PH-1 and more) and six-stage (à la the Maestro PS-1A, Electro-Harmonix Bad Stone, Mu-Tron Phasor II and more) phase shifters that can be used individually or combined to produce a multitude of phase shifter sounds, as well as flanging and chorus effects.
Its state-of-the-art digital processing boasts impressive specs, but what’s truly impressive is how well this tech is harnessed to provide the character of a multitude of beloved vintage phasers. The side-by-side configuration allows guitarists to instantly switch between different phase textures, slow sweep to fast vibrato/tremolo effects, phase to flange/chorus, etc.
Combining the four- and six-stage sections together at once provides incredible creative potential. Whether you’re looking to replicate a beloved phase effect (or a bunch of them) or seeking your own individual sounds, the Strymon Zelzah is a powerful pedal that offers incredible creative versatility.
$349 street, strymon.net
TWA Mk. III Triskelion Harmonic Energizer
Totally Wycked Audio’s original Triskelion debuted in 2010 as an update of the Systech Harmonic Energizer used by Frank Zappa and other ’70s-era icons. It was essentially a parametric midrange filter with adjustable peak and an obscene amount of gain, with the option of expression control over the filter sweep.
The Triskelion Mk. III is the latest incarnation and features a more compact Hammond 1590B chassis, as well as several functions that were absent on the Mk. II version from 2015. There’s a Variant Mass boost switch, which adds upper-midrange emphasis to the filter, along with 30 or so hertz of low-frequency response.
The Mk. III proved a powerful tone-sculpting tool that facilitates dialing in anything from glassy and super-funky clean sounds to crushing grind when driving a high-gain amplifier. Three is a charm as they say, and TWA has put it all together with the Triskelion Mk. III. This pedal is a booster like no other.
$229 street, godlyke.com
Universal Audio UAFX pedals
Universal Audio’s three debut effects pedals have made big waves in the guitar community, but the feature set should appeal significantly to those of other musical persuasions too. The Golden Reverberator bases its spatial effects on a variety of mid-1960s spring reverbs, three EMT 140 plate emulations and three algorithms from the digital Lexicon 224.
The sound quality is sumptuous and there’s huge variety in the range of spatial effects. Want introspective, yearning, slightly wonky reverb? Look no further. The Starlight Echo Station also takes its cues from a variety of modeled Delay units, the first of which, Tape EP-III, is a recreation of the Echoplex EP3.
Last is the Astra Modulation Machine, which ships with three emulations and two further bonus ones upon registration. These emulate Boss’ CE-1 Chorus Ensemble, the MXR 126 Flanger/Doubler and a Tremolo unit derived from Fender’s mid-1960s amps. Don’t be fooled by the stomp-box exterior; there’s masses here for everyone.
Walrus Audio Mira Optical Compressor
Walrus Audio’s Mira is an analog optical compressor that offers smooth, transparent compression in a pedal that boasts studio-quality features, specs and headroom. Like most compressors, Mira has controls for input level, threshold (where compression begins to take effect), ratio (the amount of gain reduction applied to your signal) and makeup, which adds back volume lost through compression.
Two smaller controls govern attack and release. There’s also a high-pass filter that cuts frequencies below 120Hz, preventing strong bass frequencies from assertively triggering the compressor. Most significantly, the blend control changes the signal from full dry to full wet as you turn it clockwise, permitting parallel compression, where a dry signal is blended with its compressed counterpart.
Like the souls rising skyward on its painted chassis, Mira will take your guitar’s sound to a more perfect place. It’s one of those pedals that, once you find the sweet spot, you’ll never turn off.