Mooer Acoustikar Acoustic Simulator Pedal Review

Small size and price define the Mooer Acoustikar’s appeal for many pedal heads.

Cost: $88.00 new but search HERE for a deal on Reverb.com

How it Works and Final Score: 8.2

The Mooer Acoustikar is a fun pedal that’s small in both size and price. Sure to please most pedal heads, an acoustic simulator is far from a pedalboard staple, but provides some unexpected tonal fun. The Acoustikar has three modes, Piezo, Standard, and Jumbo, which model three common acoustic sounds. Jumbo has the louder, fuller Gibson Jumbo acoustic guitar while Standard is a fairly straightforward Dreadnought sound. The true bypass Acoustikar gives you three controllable parameters, including the “Top” knob which gives you supreme control over the high frequencies in your tone. The “Level” setting pretty obviously cover the output, and the “Body” control gives nice control over the resonance of the simulated acoustic tone.

Sound: 8.5

The Acoustikar is a really fun pedal to mess around with, especially because it gives your electric a very clean and snappy tone even when it doesn’t quite get that acoustic tone you may want. I felt the Jumbo setting with the “Top” rolled all the way up gave the most rich, realistic acoustic tone. All three settings felt closer to a true acoustic tone when played fingerstyle, it really amplifies that percussive, bass response well. At some points it did make the guitar’s tone sound too thin or organic to really replicate the sound, and I would generally avoid the “Standard” setting if you’re trying to sound like an acoustic. What the “Standard” setting can do though is provide really interesting texture to your tone, that sounds really good mixed into backing tracks as a rhythm tone. The “Piezo” setting is the most responsive to mixing and matching the parameter settings, and to be fair does an excellent job of getting to that bright, metallic piezo tone.

Durability: 9

The all metal case seems incredibly sturdy, and the small size makes it incredibly easy to pack and travel without worrying about damage. While the Boss Acoustic Simulator may have the brand name and legacy of rugged performance, this Mooer pedal seems well constructed and gig ready. One issue for me was the amount of noise produced by the pedal, which was far and away worse with my single coil Telecaster than with my humbucker laden guitars. For me, that’s not a durability concern, but for some players it may require them to have some sort of noise reduction pedal on their board.

Value: 7

The Boss Acoustic Simulator is probably the biggest competition here, and the Acoustikar is a good bit cheaper. However, in my opinion it doesn’t quite provide the same level of acoustic simulation as the Boss alternative. While I don’t have a review up of the AC-3, I have used it extensively and really enjoy it. The Acoustikar’s Jumbo and Piezo settings get really close to a nice, acoustic simulation, but just not close enough to justify purchase over the AC-3. It’s a phenomenal little pedal, but it is more fun if you’re just looking for a cool pedal to use live. It’ll add some snappy, percussive textures, and as long as you aren’t expecting pristine acoustic tone, it may make you re-think taking an acoustic on stage.

Fender Ultra Stratocaster Review

Credit: Fender.com

Cost: $1999.99 new, find your own on Reverb.com

Huge thanks to Heather from Fender for sending this over for review!

Overview and Final Score: 9.5

Fender’s new Ultra Stratocaster right out of the box.

Sound: 9.5

The addition of the S1 switch adds a ton of versatility to the Ultra Stratocaster, as it cuts some of the highs on the 1 and 2 positions. You end up with a warm, more rounded tone that sounded great for rhythm sections or bluesy lead lines. The only complaint was that I felt a minor drop off in volume when switching between these two settings. Otherwise the Ultra Stratocaster went from blues to rock to country with ease and it was pretty inspiring to have those classic Strat tones in a more playable, comfortable package.

The tone and volume knobs were also super sensitive, providing another easy way to tweak tone here and there. I went from John Mayer’s tone to Buddy Holly sounds in no time. I feel like the real sweet spot on this Ultra Stratocaster is the classic Strat in-between sounds, the 2nd and 4th positions. Which for me is perfect because if I’m going to spend a lot of money on a premium Strat with “modern” features, I still want that classic Stratocaster tone, I’m not buying a Suhr or Ibanez for a reason.

Playability: 10

As expected, the action and set up was perfect out of the box, which it should be at this price point. The guitar is also well balanced between the neck and body, and very comfortable thanks to the classic body contour. It’s just as comfortable and familiar as any classic Fender Strat, which should put some skeptics at ease. The neck is slim for a Strat and comfortable, both thanks to the satin finish and rounded fingerboard. As someone who plays with their thumb, access to the low E string was noticeably easier and more comfortable. It’s a lot of fun moving up and down the fretboard, and the Ultra Stratocaster makes you want to play it. 

Finish & Construction: 10

The Red Plasma Burst finish was stunning and was a nice change up from the classic Strat colors I usually go for like Sunburst or Candy Apple Red. Better yet, the finish seemed really strong and they were absolutely no flaws evident on the guitar, indicating good quality control and fit. It’s hard to find any flaws on this guitar and I wouldn’t hesitate to take it out on the road.

The neck is incredibly comfortable, especially with that new neck contour making higher fret reach a bit easier on the hands and wrists. Tuning stability was superb as well, as the locking tuners and 2-point synchronized trem system work well together. Even after a whammy bar bends, the tuning didn’t seem to move much, it at all. In fact, the guitar came out of the box, after travelling cross country, in perfect tune. The included hard case is about as sturdy and protective as they come and certainly makes the $2000 price tag a bit more appealing.

Value: 8.5

At first glance, I wanted to give this a lower score in the value department because I usually find guitars in the $400-$700 range to be the best bang for your buck. But after playing this premium Strat, I think the Ultra Stratocaster is one of the few high priced guitars worth it. It’s definitely a perfect fit for players who can only afford to own one premium guitar. It’s incredibly versatile in terms of how many tones it can provide, plus it’s a classic guitar design and brand that you can rely on. It still may be a bit too overpriced, you have to pay for that Fender brand name, but it’s a hell of a guitar to play and I’m really not excited to give it back to Fender. Overall, Fender’s Ultra Stratocaster is worth the hype to me, don’t let the negative YouTubers and journalists tell you otherwise, this is a fantastic Strat!

Ranking Four DIY Telecaster Kits From Best to Worst

3 of these awesome kits mid-build!

I love guitar kits, they are pretty much the primary way I learned how to assemble, build, and modify guitars. Kits give you a low-risk way of developing your finishing, wiring, and modification skills without having to rip apart the gear you rely on or spent your money on. Even the highest quality kits are far and away so much cheaper than a pre-assembled guitar. Usually, you can spend around $150 to get a pretty decent kit that you can turn into a unique, customized guitar or bass.

For those who are looking for their first kit or just another fun project for the winter, here are four kits I put together myself. I’ve ranked them 1-4 and while all of them left me a very satisfied customer, there are a few differences in price, labor, and options to note.

Get 10% off your first purchase when you join The Fret Wire’s Mailing List!

# 1: The Fret Wire TL Thinline Style Kit $165.00

Get the kit for yourself HERE!

Full disclosure, I do have an affiliate relationship with The Fret Wire, but I do not promote their shop because of it. I promote their shop because this is my second kit from them and each time they have provided not only a great product but great customer service. I got both of my kits off of Reverb.com and can’t recommend them enough.

This kit was great for a few major reasons: it was affordable, it was easy to put together, and it creates a great base for a fun mod project. I loved this kit so much it’s the only one of the four that I kept, as I gifted the other three Telecaster’s away to my family members who play guitar.

It’s even the body used for my current project on building a superior Thinline Tele than Fender. The Mahogany body comes with a Maple top, two tonewoods I wasn’t expecting at this price, and the two humbuckers that came with the kit were surprisingly rich and loud.

Even better, every hole comes pre-drilled for you, meaning for true beginners you can just screw parts in and go. For more adventurous modders, feel free to swap out parts like I am and create a truly unique guitar.

Pros: Affordable, Easy To Assemble, Solid Tonewoods, Nice Humbuckers

Cons: Cheap Tuners, Need To Carve Headstock

# 2: StewMac T Style Kit $149.99

Get the kit HERE!

This kit is usually a lot more expensive, coming in at $259.99 but it seems to be on sale, making it a great deal right now! This kit was the most expensive of the bunch, and I felt you really saw that extra value in the quality of the pickups. They had much more of a Mexican-Fender feel than a Squier feel, despite still being a sub-$300 guitar.

Not every screw hole is pre-drilled for you, which may be a pro or a con depending on how you view guitar kits. Some people buy them with the intention of assembling them with very little labor so they can get a cheap guitar quickly, some really like to work through piece by piece and enjoy the process.

Overall, I really like this kit as I felt the Mahogany body was really comfortable and the finish came out great.

Pros: Great Tonewood, Twangy Tele Pickups, Comes With Detailed Instructions

Cons: Usually More Expensive, Need To Carve Headstock

# 3: Solo TCK-1 DIY Kit $119.99

Find the right Solo kit for you HERE!

One of the most affordable Telecaster kits on the market, the Solo TCK-1 is no slouch despite coming in third. All holes come pre-drilled, except for the string tree, which isn’t a big deal at all but like, c’mon…why not just drill that one too?

This Tele kit does have beautiful black binding around the surprisingly heavy Basswood body. The Maple neck comes with a Blackwood fingerboard, and for those that want a quick, easy Tele build, the headstock comes pre-shaped. If you’re looking to do your own customized, headstock carve, look elsewhere, but I appreciated this feature myself.

The TCK-1 pickups are a bit noisy if we’re being honest, but they also had the most sustain out of the bunch, and I did really enjoy playing this guitar. It was also the heaviest by weight of the four I assembled.

Pros: Pre-Carved Headstock, Good Sustain, Easy To Assemble, Affordable

Cons: Noisy Single Coils, Lesser Tonewood, Heavy

# 4: Bargain Musician GK-002 DIY Kit $129.99

Shop the kit HERE!

Another incredibly affordable offering, Bargain Musician’s Tele kit for sure requires the use of a drill. This one required the most labor to put together, as you’ll have to drill in guide holes for the pickguard, control cavity, bridge, and neck. Again, not a huge deal for most people, but in case it is, now you know.

This Ash body comes with a Maple neck and fretboard, and is incredibly light and comfortable. These single coil pickups were also a bit noisy as well, but I have to say they did a really good job of imitating that Tele twang and slap for such an affordable price.

They do offer a very helpful support network to new builders and they have worked with some great programs that focus on having high school student’s build their own guitars. It’s a great company, an affordable kit that won’t disappoint, it just may be for the more handy kit assemblers out there.

Pros: Affordable, Pre-Carved Headstock, Great Tonewood

Cons: Cheap Tuners, Noisy Pickups, Absolutely Need An Electric Drill

Xaviere PRO845 Electric Guitar Review

Credit: Guitarfetish.com

Cost: $229.00 direct from Guitar Fetish or check out Reverb to find a new or used one!

My beautiful new Xaviere PRO845!

Overview and Final Score: 8.1

I’ve been singing the praises of GFS pickups for some time now, but I’ve never actually had the chance to try one of their Xaviere guitar products until now. The Pro845 immediately caught my eye as both an affordable and awesome alternative to Fender thinlines. My Pro845 came in the beautiful sunburst finish with a Maple neck joined to the Alder body. A Graphtech nut, Mother of peal pickguard, and GFS Gold Foil Humbuckers wrap up the surprisingly premium features on this sub-$300 beauty. The 25.5″ scale length Tele is also incredibly lightweight and comfortable, with 22 easy to reach frets and string-through body construction.

Sound: 8

The GFS Gold Foil Humbuckers are incredibly versatile and sound great through the resonant, thinline body. They sound more clean and clear than warm, giving them a distinct single coil-like tone but with higher output and no buzz or hum. The pickups in both positions were very responsive to the attack of your pick or fingers, staying jangly and full of chime when lightly played, before churning out more mid and low-end muscle when you dig in. With a little bit of overdrive and distortion, classic humbucker tones were easy to coax out. This made it easy to go between playing The Killers, Rage Against The Machine, and Coldplay without needing to change guitars. When played clean, you were left feeling a little wanting for more of a full, well rounded tone that usually get out of humbuckers. The PRO845 is certainly a better option for players who want more sparkle than depth.

Playability: 7.5

I was surprised by how well the guitar stayed in tune, even though the die cast tuners really should be replaced. The string-through body design really helps stabilize the bridge and added a ton of natural sustain though. The finish on the Maple neck felt a little thin for my liking, but was still above average in comfort. On the bright side, the neck feels thin and fast, despite their website describing it as “not fat, just beefy” thanks to added “chunk”. I much prefer the slim feeling of this neck though, and think it inspired me to move around between many different positions while playing. Plus, it balances the lightweight Alder, semi-hollow body nicely.

Finish & Construction: 8

The finish on the Sunburst model I received is stunning, it actually looks better than the Sunburst finish on my Fender Stratocaster. The hardware was also well polished and clean, giving it a really high quality appearance. The tuners and pots feel a bit cheap, and likely could use an upgrade, but they were overall non-offensive as they didn’t really interfere with the tuning stability or tone shaping. That’s more me being picky, but still worth noting for those who may want to get this guitar and just spend a few bucks on modifications. The construction does seem better than expected for the price, with good action, little to no fret buzz, and no dings, scratches, or signs of poor finishing.

Value: 9

I think the fact that you can get such a quality guitar for around $230 is insane. As some one who loves cheap gear, I’m used to handing out scores like this to something in the $400-$600 and being really happy with the bargain I got. This guitar is more comparable to a higher end Squier model than it is to the similarly priced low end Squier Affinity or Bullet series. The Gold Foil pickups shimmer, sparkle, and chime giving you many tone shaping options, and the overall design is just beautiful. Having a thinline Tele has always been a dream of mine, and I feel like I fulfilled that dream for a few hundred less dollars than I expected to pay!

Devilcat Amplifiers Jimmy 50W Tube Amp Review

Check out this monster of a 50 Watt tube amp in this sick ’57 finish!

Cost: $1499.00 street, prices may vary so check Reverb.com before you buy! When purchased new you do get a lifetime labor warranty however!

How it Works and Final Score: 8.3

Devilcat Amplifier’s Jimmy is a 50 watt tube combo amp that is huge in stature and sound. Jimmy is somewhere between a 3 and 4 channel amp, with 3 true channels labeled “dirt”, “clean”, and “overdrive”. However, with the included foot pedal, you can kick on the “dirt” channel as a boost for both the clean and drive channels, giving it 4 distinct sounds. You do get some nice extras like a true spring reverb and an effects loop, but I have to say the first thing you’ll notice is how large and heavy this is for a 1×12 amplifier. Other features include an external speaker out that can be set to 4 or 8 ohms, a Celestian Vintage 30 speaker. You’ll find 5 12AX7’s, a 12AT7 phase inverter, and 2 6L6’s giving you huge tube amp tone.

Re-using this image because how freakin’ great does this combo look??

Sound: 9

The highlight of the Jimmy has to be the tones you can coax out of it. It’s both straightforward and varied in how it can be used. If you’re a simple guitar into amp rocker, just keep the overdrive channel on and use the pedal to click on thick walls of “dirt” channel boost. That’s where this amp may be most practical, as the 50 watts is loud and built for live settings. Don’t let the vast number of knobs confuse you, it’s really an easy amp to use and produces everything from warm, vintage overdrives to more modern, saturated distortion. It really can be quite diverse, it all just depends what you need the amp for.

While I think the amp is more practical for live use and earns a living through the overdriven sounds, don’t sleep on this clean channel! In some ways, the heavy and bulky size of the amp may make it best suited to be left in a studio, even if the tones and volume are more suited for the live stage. When you pull out the master volume switch, you activate the “bright” mode, giving the amp more of a chime, especially useful at lower volumes to add character to your sound.

The huge number of knobs present are actually all simple to use. It’s literally just basic EQ for the clean and drive channels, gain control for the “dirt” channel, and master volume and reverb. You can get a huge number of sounds from shimmering cleans to warm jazz tones and modern distortion sounds. The clarity and crispness in the clean channel is phenomenal, and as you increase the volume and push the tubes, you get amazing touch response. The 6L6 tubes give it a very American, almost cranked Fender sound that was really inspiring.

Construction & Reliability: 8

I debated going higher or lower here a lot, and I’ll try to explain my reasoning without being too repetitive. The construction of the amp has some premium highlights, the effects loop and speaker out included. Furthermore, the finish is just killer, I mean that ’57 color scheme draws eyes and screams vintage American tone. Lastly, the build quality is top notch, there isn’t a lot of excess noise, nothing sounds loose, the amp just seems built to last! But it’s so damn heavy for an amp that only has one speaker…It’s listed at 68 pounds, but I have an almost 68 pound dog that was way easier to pick up than this thing. The sonic options are superb, but I’m not sure I’d realistically want to lug this thing from venue to venue, and it’s tone wouldn’t get the face time it deserves locked in a studio. Not a big deal, but honestly something to consider for picker players, especially at this price range of $700 (used) to $1000+.

Value: 8

Even though this amplifier is in the higher price points, you just get so many sonic choices with it. It’s really a good value overall, and that’s coming from someone who thinks the best amp ever costs $800. No matter how hard it is to move Jimmy around, the tones are awesome. Plain and simple, if you can afford it and need a big volume tube amp, the Jimmy has got to be one of the top choices out there. Especially if you get it in that ’57 finish, I’m sad to see it go back to its rightful home!

CMG Ashlee Electric Guitar Review

The stunning CMG Ashlee paired with the Devilcat Jimmy amp we’re reviewing!

Cost: $1099.00 but price varies depending on specs of each Ashlee made, visit CMGguitars.com to find your own!

Overview and Final Score: 9.25

The CMG Ashlee is probably the nicest guitar I’ve had sent to me to date, and I doubt it would disappoint any of you! The model I was sent has a few specific changes from the standard Ashlee model but generally, the specs are as follows…Available in 15 standard colors, you can also custom order the finish of your dreams through CMG’s website. The Ashlee features masked binding, which lets you see more of the wood’s natural finish and a deeper cut horn that they refer to as the E bend cut, this lets you bend a whole step up even on that last fret.

The body and neck are made of Mahogany with a Rosewood fretboard that sits atop the set-in neck. The top of the guitar is Arched Maple, and the guitar comes standard with Frog Dog humbuckers, but you can choose DiMarzio or Seymour Duncan add ons. A tune-o-matic style bridge, Grover tuners, and nitrocellulose gloss finish round out this 24.75 scale length beauty.

A more standard Ashlee model, credit: CMGguitars.com

Sound: 9

CMG’s Ashlee is best described as loud, especially thanks to (purposely) heavy body on the guitar I was sent. The guitar is rich, warm, and full, pretty much making it one of the best Les Paul derivates you could purchase. Specifically, the sustain was phenomenal thanks to the heavy body weight and air-tight construction. Notes rang out full, adding tons of dimension to soloing or lead lines, as I was inspired to not force notes in to fill the space.

The pickups sounded great, especially the neck setting, which was creamy and bluesy as hell. The extra sustain really came in handy with the neck pickup as I always feel the fatter, bassier sound doesn’t ring out quite as long as the treble. The bridge pickup had a surprising amount of sparkle to it and I really enjoyed seeing what clean sounds I could get out of it and the Devilcat Jimmy and Vox AC15 amps. Rolling off the tone knob provided incredible control of the sound, it’s always great to find the knobs have great sweep. Even at this price point, you would be surprised how many tone pots can still be sketchy. Overall, this guitar is a Les Paul through and through, but with a bit more sustain, at least on the heavy model I was sent.

Playability: 9

The Mahogany neck on the Ashlee was smooth, finished beautifully, and even had this stunning grain pattern to top it all off! It felt pretty chunky to me and the action was perfect out of the box. The tuning stability has also been off the charts, with the guitar taking bends, finger picking, and heavy down strokes like a champ for hours on end. The neck isn’t finished quite as heavily as the top of the guitar, which I love because it never feels like your going to get stuck when you move around the neck. Overall, the playability is near perfect and the easy access to upper frets is the cherry on top.

Finish & Construction: 10

First things first, the finish on this guitar was stunning! Look at that Zebra wood down the middle! And even if you get a more standard color option, the nitro finish is smooth, spotless, and seems ready to hit the road. The guitar came packaged very securely and is flawless from my inspection. The E-bend cut makes access to the higher frets so comfortable and the back body contour is way more suited for playing while sitting than most other LP’s. Overall, it seems this guitar was constructed and built to be more of a players instrument and not just another attempt at replicating a LP from a boutique source. The tuning stability is top notch and this thing is studio or tour ready out of the box.

Value: 9

It might seem odd to give such a high value rating to a $1000+ guitar, especially because you know I love cheap stuff! But with even the baseline Gibson Les Paul’s setting you back $1000, this guitar just stacks up so well comparably. You can get a more unique finish option, the pickups felt more diverse in tones than any PAF-style Gibson, and the E bend and contour are just so comfortable. There is a lot of that same LP goodness here, in an American-made package, at the same or cheaper price than so many of the wallet-draining carbon copy Gibsons they keep churning out. If you’re an LP buff looking for something new, the Ashlee should top your list!

TC Electronic Ditto Stereo Looper Pedal Review

My top rated, and go-to loop pedal!

Cost: $125.00, new or cheaper from Reverb.com

How It Works and Final Score: 8.3

The big brother of the best selling TC Electronic Ditto Looper, the Stereo version adds a few helpful tweaks to help you get the most out of your looping experience. The pedal adds a stereo I/O (or dual mono) functionality and lets you connect the pedal via USB to your computer. This way, you can upload backing tracks or import/export saved riffs. You can save riffs and loops thanks to the “store” switch that sits atop the pedal. To save a quick demo or riff, hold down on the “store” switch, export it off the pedal, and then delete it by simply holding the switch up. This pedal can be as complicated or as simple as you like, running exactly like the simpler Ditto Looper or taking on a bigger part of your digital footprint. Oh, and did I mention that stereo setup means you could have multiple rigs (bass + guitar) running into the same pedal for live shows? Imagine how tight a band could sound with that much control…

Sound: 8

When discussing the sound of a loop pedal you want to look at a few key features. First off, how is the output level of the pedal? Is it useable for live use, do you lose a lot of sound volume? How sensitive is the control, etc..Next, you want to look at the sound quality and make sure the sound it is spitting back out sounds like the original, true guitar signal. In the case of the Ditto Stereo looper you get amazing sound quality with little to no noise or buzz. It’s incredibly inspiring as a songwriter to be able to layer long, repeating chord sequences or riffs while trying to form lead lines or melodies. You can record and loop up to 5 minutes of total audio with the Ditto Stereo Looper, all with unlimited tracks. That’s a whole lot of music to create.

The only downside I noticed is that at the lower end of the volume knob, you don’t have as much control over the sound. It quickly goes from loud to too quiet. I’m not sure if all the pedals feature this (only) decent volume sweep, but for the price I was expecting a bit more control. However, it wasn’t a major issue and the pedal still provided ample amounts of playable and useable sounds and volumes.

Durability: 9

The metal case on this thing is so damn rugged, it’s probably the pedal that takes the biggest beating on my board and it still looks good as new. This pedal has now made it through 4 years on my board without a single issue, all the input jacks and connections are rock solid with no adjustments necessary or signs of wear and tear. Usually, the power connecter jack goes first on all my pedals, so far this one has had the longest life. It’s just a well built, reliable pedal. It’s as simple as that!

Value: 8

While it’s no where as expensive as some of the most complex looping systems out there, the Ditto Stereo Looper is almost $30-40 more expensive than the Ditto Looper. So unless you feel you need the USB interface or dual mono functionality, you may be better off just getting the little brother. This limits the overall value to the average player, making it a reliable if not overly complicated option for people who just play in their bedroom. Overall, I think it fits my needs perfectly and I have never regretted my purchase or looked to upgrade. I would only recommend either of the Ditto Loopers to players looking for a simple, around the house looping pedal. While the live functionality on here is great, people playing in bigger bands may want to have more control over multiple channels.