I’ve met some purists who claim the only gear they need is their guitar and amplifier. I don’t trust those people. Gear isn’t about what you need, gear is about what you want. Anyone who’s ever been to the NAMM show can tell you that. However, every once in a while you stumble across a guitar gizmo that’s so sexy and cool it becomes a necessity – you can’t sleep without knowing it’s comfortably locked away in your gig bag, patiently and eagerly waiting for you to use and abuse it.
So I began a quest several months ago to hunt down this unique species of guitar gizmo that lives between need and want: gear you must have. I asked a few Friends of the Fire, all of them accomplished artists, authors and renowned gear addicts in their own right, to help me put together a list of the 7 most murderously desirable guitar gizmos out there.
Behold… 7 killer guitar gizmos you MUST have! –Charlie Doom
1. Z Vex Box of Rock from ZVex
What: Makes your amp sound like a cranked Marshall JTM-45
Why: “I’m a Marshall guy, which is sometimes a challenge at gigs because I’m also an ‘everything on 10 guy’, but the BOR is designed to sound like a cranked JTM-45 (which is one of my favorite amps) without getting you thrown out of a gig and it comes as close to the real thing as I have ever heard from a box. Did I mention the separate boost feature is great as well? The two together are IT! If you like old Marshall tones then you MUST have this – I own 2!” – Jeff McErlain
Specs: Hand painted (when available), clean boost and a distortion circuit, unity-to-50X gain booster with nominal input impedance and low hiss; drive, tone, volume and boost controls, ¼” I/O, has a DC power jack on the side of the pedal, but you can use a 9V battery. More…
Video: Z Vex Box of Rock
2. Original Shubb Capo by Shubb
What: An industry-standard capo for all guitars.
Why: “When I found out Gatemouth Brown and Albert Collins capo’d their electric guitars, it opened up a whole new way of seeing the fingerboard – or not bothering too, as the case might be. And for coming up with cool parts in the studio, it’s beyond essential. Funky chicken pickin’ and Delta blues licks in any key, and twangle and shimmer in every register – all for less than the price of a virgin vinyl LP import back in the day.” – David Hamburger
Specs: Machined from solid brass, hand assembled with patented locking action, a smooth flip lever and resilient fingertip-like rubber. More…
Video: The Original Shubb Capo
3. MM-40 Micro Mixer by Signal Flex
What: Routes four ¼” inputs to a single output
Why: “I first picked up this little mixer for practicing in hotel rooms; I could route backing tracks through one channel, my guitar through another, then blend as I wanted and monitor on headphones. Since then I’ve found a dozen more uses. I use it all the time on gigs when I want to leave two or more guitars running into the same single-input amp. There are other good switchers (like by Whirlwind and Morley) but I need the flexibility of adjusting line levels on each. Signal routing — woo hoo, that’s good times.” – Rich Maloof
Specs: 4 input channels (600 Ohm), one 1/4″ out (1.k Ohm), with virtually no distortion (TTI harmonic distortion .01%). Travels easily since it’s pretty rugged and is 6″ wide x 3 3/8” deep. Can be powered with a 9v DC (not included) — a 9v battery works fine. More…
4. Mothership Analog Synthesizer by Pigtronix
What: An analog synth pedal that makes your guitar sound like it came from, well, the mothership.
Why: “Forever chasing sounds that sound anything like a guitar it’s a Godsend when you run into a pedal that just lets you plug in and go when it comes to phat analog synth tones. When I saw the proto-type of the Mothership I just freaked OUT! From Genesis-approved monosynth tones to elephant roars to ring mod madness the Mothership is a MUST for any NASA-like pedal board.” – Chris Buono
Specs: Circuits designed by the brilliant Howard Davis, true bypass, analog Whammy!, variable portamento, Pigtronix’s unique F.A.T. sub-octave, pitch tracking, ring modulator, external gate, individual voice levels + master volume and it can produce triangle or square waves via its voltage controlled oscillator (VCO). Oh yeah, it comes with a power supply, user manual and the high quality you’ve come to expect from those loveably feral dudes at Pigtronix. More…
Video: Mothership Analog Synthesizer
5. iPhone 3Gs by Apple
Why: “I can’t remember the last time a gizmo had such a profound effect on the way that I work. On my iPhone, I have apps for recording audio to capture ideas anywhere I am (FiRe), a digital “Real Book” that transposes to any key (iReal Book), guitar education apps (Chordmaster and Scale Wizard) and a Peterson strobe tuner for ten bucks…(iStroboSoft). It has become my go-to device for everything that I do. I wish I could tell you that a pedal or an amp has changed my life like the iPhone has, but it hasn’t. And it keeps getting better every year.” – Marc Schonbrun
Specs: 16 – 32GB flash drive, 4.8 ounces, 3.5” widescreen multi-touch display, 480×320 pixel resolution at 163 ppi, support for multiple languages, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, video & audio playback and recording, PC/Mac compatible, built-in microphone, 3.5mm stereo headphone minijack, 30-pin dock connector, built-in speaker, SIM card tray and more apps than you could ever sanely want. More…
Video: iStroboSoft on the iPhone
6. Ethos Overdrive Pedal by Custom Tones
What: A pedal that emulates the tone and responsiveness of one of the most sought after boutique guitar amplifiers ever made; it has a 13 month waiting list.
Why: “No question about it – the Ethos Overdrive pedal from Rob and Custom Tones is a must-have addition to the rig. Worth every dollar invested and every day spent on the waiting list to get one, the Ethos is no urban guitar myth – it delivers the goods. The Ethos nails the coveted “D” amp, is extremely touch-sensitive, serves up a phenom range and quality of clean through overdriven tones; is plug and play easy; and is as jaw-dropping in the studio as it is live on stage. Fair warning; the Ethos is highly addictive.” – Brad Wendkos
Specs: Dual independent channels with EQ; overdrive & clean; preamp boost, speaker simulation output, guitar amp compensation circuit with hi-cut tone stack toggles; brite, modern/classic & jazz/rock; operates on a 9V battery or 12V DC wall adapter, buffered inactive mode mitigates loading effects, packaged in rugged die-cast aluminum chassis. More…
Video: Ethos Overdrive Pedal
7. Analogman Chorus by Analogman
What: Makes your guitar sound like an angel’s harp.
Why: “I don’t use many effects, but chorus is one of those essential ones that is good to have. After years of using rack and digital chorus effects, when I plugged into the Analogman chorus it was finally the sound that I had tried to get all those years! Lush, beautiful chorus. It will also give you a nice leslie speaker sim with the speed cranked up a bit. Takes a simple meat and potatoes effect like chorus and makes it special – the best chorus I have ever played! – Jeff Scheetz
Specs: True bypass, depth knob, speed knob; durable, powder-coated aluminum casing; high quality, double-sided circuit boards; ¼” I/O, 9V DC power jack (or a 9V battery), compatible with 12V DC & 18V DC power supplies. More…
Video: Analogman Chrous
What’s your must have guitar gizmo? Check out what our forum member’s picked and share your own!