Orange Amplifiers Crush 20 Review

Is the Orange Crush 20 the best sub-$200 amp ever?

Cost: $139.00 new, find yours on Reverb.com or Amazon.com!

How it Works and Final Score: 8.6

The Orange Crush 20 is a stripped down and straightforward solid state combo amp. While solid state amps often get a bad rap, most gear snobs will be impressed by the bruising crunch of the dirty channel that really captures that signature Orange tone. While this amp doesn’t feature the suite of onboard effects other budgets modeling amps do, it has the overall best tone of any sub-$200 amp I’ve ever tried and makes a perfect practice or backup amp with 20 watts of output thanks to it’s 1×8 Orange Voice of the World speaker. Featuring a clean and dirty channel, that can alternated with an affordable Orange foot switch, a 3 band EQ, and gain control, there are plenty of great tonal options at the tip of your fingers.

Sound: 7

While it’s hard to capture the touch sensitivity of traditional tube amps, this solid state amp comes the closest to replicating a classic Orange tone. Like most solid state clean tones, you can turn down the gain and get crystal clear notes, however, most players outside of the Jazz world are not big fans of that perfect clean tone. What’s nice about this clean channel though is the ability to dial in just a little crunch and drive by turning up the gain and using a humbucker equipped guitar. However without an effects loop, I would only recommend running minimal pedals such as a drive, fuzz, or delay into the amp to reduce potential noise.

From left to right: Head phone input, channel switch, dirty channel volume, treble, middle, bass, gain, clean channel volume, and input.

The amp really shines once you engage the the dirty channel and produces spectacular, though one dimensional, sounds. The 3 band EQ and gain knob help you replicate a number of Orange tube amp tones for a fraction of the price, and the amp even produces some of that typical tube sizzle. This is by far the best overdrive or dirty sound I’ve ever heard come from a solid state or affordable amp. From Nirvana to The Clash to Led Zeppelin, I got every sound I could imagine out this amp with a cheap Telecaster, Guild Jetstar, and an ES-335 style guitar. Ultimately, the only thing really holding this amp back is that you can’t use it for much outside of these fantastic dirty and overdriven tones without a full pedalboard. And if you’re gonna spend hundreds or thousands on a full pedalboard, you can probably afford even the cheapest tube amp.

Construction & Reliability: 10

Orange is no small time amp company and has a history of reliability and customer satisfaction. In general I think most customers, including myself, should feel comfortable in trusting an Orange Amplifier to last a long time, especially if cared for properly. Solid states also have don’t have tubes to wear out and replace, meaning you should be able to preserve that classic orange grit for years to come via the Orange Crush 20. So far, I’ve had zero issues with it and expect to zero issues with it.

Value: 9

This is definitely one of the best affordable amps I’ve ever played and I will certainly be putting it to good use as a practice amp and small gig amp in the future. The fact of the matter is that it just sounds so good and costs so little and you can’t find better value than that. It lacks on-board effects, a common feature on most budget solid state amps, but I actually think that may be a good thing. Ultimately, it’s super simple to use with no effect knobs to get in the way, and delivers a straightforward, ballsy rock sound. It’s definitely not a good beginner amp for a want to be shoegazer, but if adding a few external pedals is something you can do, this is a phenomenal beginner or bedroom amp. Check back soon for a full demo video and to see how I’ve been using it to play live or in the studio!

5 Reasons You Should Assemble a DIY Guitar Kit

A highly rated Thinline Tele kit from Thefretwire.com I put together as part of a review for Ultimate-Guitar.com

As someone who always wanted to learn to build guitars, I naturally started by trying to assemble a kit. My first kit ever came from thefretwire.com, and was the ES-335/Trini Lopez model pictured in the About page.

My Dave Grohl-inspired build in all its glory.

That guitar proved to be incredibly challenging and trying to wire a semi-hollow body guitar as my first ever attempt was a bit naive. After the months of mistakes and lessons learned, it led me to write this article for Ultimate-Guitar.com. My goal was to come at kit building from an inexperienced point of view, after all, if I could do it than so could my readers. What followed was the incredibly fun and educational process of building four Tele kits one after the other where I learned a lot of great things about guitar assembly and guitar kits.

You’ll Mess Up

Doesn’t seem like an appealing reason? Truth be told, we could all use a humbling experience now and then, and you learn more from mistakes than you do from success. The key point here though is that kits are both inexpensive and often easy to modify/fix, making them much better options for you to practice wiring, neck setting, or finishing on. No matter how motivated you may be, it’s always scary taking apart a cherished main instrument or expensive dream guitar. Messing up your Gibson or Fender is going to hurt your wallet and soul a lot more than it would if you screw up these kits.

You’ll Learn How to Fix Your Own Guitars

Wiring new pickups into the Squier Affinity Telecaster I reviewed.

While some big fixes may still require a trained or certified guitar tech, you’ll be far more comfortable with the internal and external features of electric guitars after assembling a kit. Hear a new buzzing sound? You’ll know what connections to check within your internal wiring. Feel something jiggling around loose? Hopefully you’ll feel more confident knowing what can be tightened via screwdriver. Anytime you gain more knowledge about fixing your own gear, you’re saving yourself money you’d have to spend on a guitar tech.

You’ll Get Away From the Screen

Ironically I write this on a screen that I so badly want you all to look at. But realistically, we all need some time to check out from email, text, Instagram, or Netflix. Assembling a guitar (and playing the guitar) is a great way for you to keep yourself occupied in the dark, cold winter months, or sweltering summer heat, while learning new skills and traversing the rewarding path of building something by hand. While elitists may argue you are not truly building a guitar, you still are taking pieces of wood and metal, and turning it into a working instrument. That process in itself can be quite valuable.

You’ll Learn How to Value Guitars

From Flickr.com

This one is bit more opened ended but for me, it was eye opening to understand these expensive guitar I lust after are just wood, strings, and metal. I could go out and buy the same after market parts, put them on a Squier, and get 90% or more of the same sound. A lot of guitar purists will push back on that, but I strongly believe most of your tone comes from your hands and your playing style, and you shouldn’t have to buy a $2000+ guitar to sound professional. Next time you try out a new guitar at a store ask yourself, is there something in this guitar that I cannot add to my current guitar or a modified cheap guitar? Sometimes the answer is yes, and then you know that the guitar is worth spending your money on. But sometimes, you’re spending hundreds of extra dollars for a brand name on the headstock or a color.

You’ll Have a Unique, Custom Instrument

Sometimes if you want certain features on a guitar you just have to build them in yourself. Especially if you have to stick to a budget, it can really limit the number of models with certain specs you can own. For example, I’m in the middle of making my dream Telecaster (you’ll see more on this project soon!) because I realized to get the pickup combination I wanted in that specific Tele body shape would cost me thousands or would be too cheap and unreliable. So, I’m retrofitting the Fretwire thinline kit above into something truly special with my exact specifications and preferences.

The Coolest Gear from SNAMM ’19

While I didn’t get to be there this year, I kept my out on every last piece of gear announced and marketed and collected a few of my favorites below. These are products I desperately want to get my hands on for reviews and personal use!

Fender Announces Squier Starcaster

Image credit: Fender

A cult classic, the Fender Starcaster has slowly grown in popularity in the past decade thanks to affordable re-issues from Fender’s Modern Player line and usage by modern day guitar giants such as Dave Keuning from The Killers. To budget minded guitarist’s delight, Fender surprisingly announced a new Squier series of these wonderfully weird instruments. The f-hole free but chambered Contemporary Active model features two of Squier’s active humbuckers and a sealed semi-hollow body. The Classic Series represents the nicest of the bunch with Fender designed wide-range humbuckers, tone and volume controls for each, and a vintage-style gloss neck. Lastly, the affordable Affinity Series also gets a look with Squier humbuckers, one tone and volume control, and a variety of great colors.

Ciari Guitars Ascender: A Gig-able Travel Guitar

Marketed as the first premium, stage worth travel guitar, the Ciari Guitars Ascender features Seymour Duncan ’59 humbuckers, coil taps for each pickup, and locking tones. That’s a ton of great features you wouldn’t imagine finding on a travel guitar, but the real impressive thing about this guitar is how quickly it folds up. Check out the demo above to see how easily you can remove tension from the string thanks to a locking hinge and spring loaded bridge!

Pedal Legends Electro Harmonix Debut New Amp “Dirt Road Special”

Electric Harmonix may be best known for their pedals but they’ve crossed over into solid state amp territory with a great combo amp called the Dirt Road Special. Loosely based off the Mike Matthews Dirt Road Special from the ’70s, this amp features a streamlined control panel that even has their famous Holy Grail reverb built into it. Tone is a treble to bass booster while bite covers the upper harmonics, and obviously the volume controls output. The reverb knob has further controls such as time and swell allowing you to really dig in and create lush, room filling tones.

JHS Muffuletta Fuzz Pedal Review

A pricey yet exceptional fuzz with 6 pedals in one.

Cost: $229.00 new, find one cheaper used on Reverb.com

Shout out to Zach from JHS Pedals for lending and then selling this exceptional fuzz to me!

How It Works and Final Score: 9.3 

There is a lot to unbox with this pedal, despite it being incredibly user friendly with simple controls. First off, your three basic controls of volume, sustain, and tone are fairly straightforward. Volume controls the output of the pedal and is very sensitive, providing plenty of options. Sustain, similar to vintage fuzzes, controls the amount of gain or fuzz (which also increases sustain) that is present in your tone. Tone controls the amount of treble, allowing for a brighter or darker sound as you mix and match modes. 

The mode section is where this pedal really shines, with 6 fuzz channels to choose from, JHS provides you with endless tonal options that are really fun to try out. Here is a quick rundown of the six options: 

  1. “JHS” is an original JHS fuzz circuit, great for basses or guitars, with less compression and more output. 
  2. “Rams Head” is based on a ‘73 rams head fuzz pedal popularized by David Gilmour and J. Mascis, it has a scooped mid range and less gain than the other channels. 
  3. “The Triangle” is based off of the triangle Muff from the ‘69-’70 era and has a more prominent, cut through the mix tone, with more bass. 
  4. “The Pi” is JHS’s take on the classic Pi Muff known for the huge pi symbol that adorns the housing. It has more a wilder, unwieldy fuzz tone that is more like the vintage version than the recent reissue by EHX. 
  5. “The Russian” is a more modern fuzz used by Dan Auerbach and Chris Wolstenholme and produces a loud, warm sound with less note to note clarity and some of the bass cut off. 
  6. Lastly, “The Civil War”, was one of my favorites thanks to its bright tone, less gain, and more distortion-like sound that was more vintage rock than modern. 

Despite this impressive list of options, the pedal is incredibly easy to use and tweak and “set it and forget it” players can simply pick which voicing they want and start playing. If you’re more interested in switching from song to song, or you just want to have access to new sounds after months of one signature tone, this pedal is for you. 

Sound: 10 

You get unmatched tonal variety and quality the Muffuletta and I was not let down by my high hopes for this pedal. Usually, I try to review gear that is highly recommended to me, and sometimes I’m disappointed, not this time. The two best settings in my opinion were “JHS” and “The Civil War” as both provided unique tones I wasn’t quite expecting out of the pedal. First off, the “JHS” is less compressed but really packed a lot of power and output, creating a rich sound. “The Civil War” felt more like a vintage, speaker shredding rock distortion that could have graced The Rolling Stones or The Kinks studios. Furthermore, this pedal had little to no audible noise or buzz, at least I certainly didn’t hear any, making it a great option for those of you concerned with such things. 

Durability: 10 

While it can be hard to judge this in days or weeks as opposed to years of using the pedal, there are no obvious construction concerns with the Muffuletta. It doesn’t feel cheap or like a toy, the way some cheaper, import pedals do. The metal casing is solid, sturdy, and feels like it is well engineered to perform time and time again. I also have never heard anything bad about the durability or reliability of JHS products. It’s small size fits great on my pedalboard, certainly better than having 6 distinct fuzz boxes, and I wouldn’t hesitate to take it on the road whatsoever. I also approve of the footswitch as opposed to the boss-style pedal switch, which puts less weight and pressure on the whole unit. 

Value: 8

Perhaps the only drawback to this product is the price, coming in around $229.00 at most major retailers. You certainly get a ton of tonal options but the single footswitch means you’re limited to one fuzz setting at a time. This means that while you have 6 fuzz modes available to you, you don’t quite have multiple actively able to be used live at once. $200+ dollars is certainly a lot to spend on one pedal, and even with all the options, players may be more motivated to get a cheaper classic like a Big Muff or a Fuzz Face. 

Never Get Rid of Your First Guitar

My first ever guitar, a Mexican Fender Stratocaster with a humbucker in the bridge position.

Guitar gear can be a tricky topic in the music world, some musicians have one guitar they’ve used their whole life, it’s comfortable, familiar, and it sounds like them. Some use a few, or as many as a dozen different guitars on one album or one tour. Even amateurs will often be loyal to their first Squier Stratocaster or move on to use a few different guitars as they progress as a player. Regardless of your gear tendencies or aspirations, I’m here to convince you never to get rid of your first guitar. 

Your first guitar is what you learn on, it’s what you develop into a unique player using. It may have its quirks or flaws that force you to approach chords, scales, or riffs differently. It may be so cheap or low quality that you come to actually enjoy the low fi or buzzy noises it produces. Either way, your first real guitar is inexplicably you. And I get it, the urge to trade up is always there, even if you’re a minimalist. You see a guitar with better pickups, a faster neck, or a fancy signature model and say “hey, if I trade this beginner guitar in I’m $100 closer to that”. But while I’m not here to convince you that you need multiple guitars to be a guitar player, work for or save up that extra $100 and keep that old Epiphone or Yamaha. 

Not only will you have the sentimental attachment to it, or a nostalgic affair with it later in your playing career, but you’ll have an instrument you know you can rely on in a pinch. If your main guitar breaks, gets stolen, or simply isn’t cutting it anymore, you’ll know where to turn. Even better, save that old beginner guitar and modify it when you grow more comfortable with soldering or guitar assembly. Set up the neck, add the pickups you always wanted, or rewire the whole thing, you can turn something you know and love into something you’ve always wanted. 

One day, you’re gonna look back on that old guitar and wonder what it could have been. There is a certain magic in your first guitar that just can’t be explained. Don’t let it go to waste just because a shinier toy appears. If you wrote your first song or riff on it, keep it around, and see what it inspires next.

Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass PJ Review

Feeling inspired by The Clash’s Paul Simonon, this bass did not disappoint despite its affordable price tag.

Cost: $199.99 new, buy from Reverb HERE

This bass was purchased new from American Musical Supply for review and modifications!

Overview and Final Score: 6.5

The Squier Affinity Series Precision PJ bass packs a variety of tonal options in a simple and familiar package. Within the streamlined, P Bass body and pick guard, players have access to both a split coil P bass pickup and a single coil J Bass pickup. All that comes paired with a gorgeous, Olympic White finish and solid tuning stability for the ever affordable price of $199.99.

Sound: 6

The PJ pickup combination provides a ton of tonal options with a dedicated volume control for each pickup, and a master tone knob rounding out the pick guard. While tonal options are a plenty, most people will still find that the Squier pickups still lack some of the dimension and warmness of their Fender counterparts. They sound fine, a little muddy and bass heavy, but still good enough to cut through the mix.

Playability: 6

While the neck and fingerboard are fairly rough and poorly finished, the tuning stability is superb. Basses usually hold tune better anyway thanks to thicker strings, and less of the bending and stretching normally performed on guitars. Even so, I have rarely had to tune this bass up at all over the last few months, it is definitely a set it and forget it instrument. The Indian Laurel fingerboard looks great, and plays better after some breaking in, but generally could use some finishing oil as it feels raw and rough. The frets are similarly not sharp, but a bit on the rougher side and could use a sanding.

Finish & Construction: 6

The Olympic White finish with black pick guard is certainly an eye catcher and mine came flawless out of the box. Despite only recently getting a gig bag for, it has also been very scratch and chip resistant. Construction loses a few points though for the poorly finished neck, headstock, and rough frets, which is not unexpected at this price range.

Value: 8

When you buy an affordable instrument from a large company like Fender, Epiphone, or ESP you can have huge confidence in the name and reputation behind it. Furthermore, Fender’s vast resources and mass production plants help churn out guitars that are actually higher in quality than the price would indicate. Overall, this guitar compares favorably to the Eastwood Airline Jetsons JR bass I previously reviewed, but comes in at a fraction of the price. It’s nothing special or crazy, but it’s a great bass for an affordable price and would make a great beginner instrument or mod project.

Squier Affinity Series Telecaster Review

A wonderfully average guitar that will always be money well spent.

Cost: $199.99 new, find yours on Amazon.com or Reverb.com!

This guitar was purchased from Reverb.com to review and modify in future articles, buy your own ->>> Reverb.com!!!

Overview and Final Score: 6.0

As I alluded to in my gear reviews primer the other day, the Squier Affinity Series Telecaster is one of the best comparisons for a guitar in the 5- 6 range. That’s not a dig on this guitar either, for around $200 you’re getting a solid, if unspectacular guitar that you can rely on again and again to get that Tele spank and Fender vibe. The Affinity Tele is always one of the best “partscaster” candidates too, as it is cheap enough and good enough to hot rod into the Tele of your dream on a budget. Keep your eyes open for a future project doing just that!

Sound: 5

It sounds like a Tele, it looks like a Tele, but it costs less than your average Fender Tele. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record here, but the Affinity Telecaster just really sounds, well, okay. The single coils stay true enough to that classic Telecaster slap, spank, and twang making it a great option for country, blues, or classic rock. The issues that suppress the score are nothing new for guitars in this price range; the bass strings are too dark, the high strings are too bright, the wiring is poor leading to poor volume and tone control spread. None of these issues are necessarily deal breakers, they are just things to consider and potentially plan around. Having an amp or pedals with adjustable EQ makes up somewhat for it, and a noise gate to help minimize the buzzy, single coil hum also helps. But overall, if you want Telecaster tone, this thing will take you from Led Zeppelin I to Brad Paisley.

Playability: 6

The neck on the guitar is finished just enough to not be uncomfortable to play, but not finished enough to speed up and down with ease. The frets are also decent, not too sharp but no rounded edges or carefully dressed jumbo frets here. The maple neck is stable however, and the guitar was intonated incredibly well out of the box. Furthermore, I was surprised at how well the guitar stayed in tune, similarly priced Squier’s I’ve played before barely held up through a 30 minutes of bends and barre chords. This guitar however, stayed in tune for at least a couple hours every time I played it at jam sessions or just in my room.

Finish and Construction: 5

I purchased my Affinity Telecaster in black with a white pick guard in honor of one of my heroes, Joe Strummer. The finish on the body itself wasn’t too bad, it felt thick and sturdy, and has hardly chipped since I got it. Unfortunately, the guitar came with a few dings and scratches already in the finish, nothing major, but a common occurrence in this price range. As I said before, the neck finish not too bad but far from the nitro finishes or heavy Poly finishes on Mexican and American models. The construction was solid overall and the guitar feels light, balanced, and ready to hit the stage. The only construction issue is the necks could always use a set up or fret work, even if the guitar is intonated well.

Value: 8

Despite all the flaws, these guitars are a great value because of how reliable they are. The mass production of Squier models under the Fender umbrella also helps cut costs and keep quality high despite low costs. And, one again, these are fantastic options to be upgraded as part of “partscaster” build, wire in new pickups, replace the neck, tuners, or nut, and you’ve got a hell of a guitar for less than $500. Despite being an average instrument, I definitely can advise against buying it, especially for beginners and students.

A Guitar Review Primer: How Scoring Works

How we judge if a guitar is good or bad?

The Scoring Scale

Here are Guitars for Idiots, we use a simple 1 to 10 scale like most people do for rating the quality of each instrument, amplifier, or pedal. However, we try to bring everything back and frame it in comparison to a reference point, after all what’s a number mean if there is no substance behind it?

So what’s a 10? A perfect 10, which is rare, is guitar with unrivaled playability, tone, and construction. For reference sake, I would say it is one of these beauties from a local luthier who makes the finest guitars I’ve ever played. You can check out his work here and read why his specific guitars are a 10 here. But basically, his Meridian models feature every single feature from piezo pickup to carved neck heel, to carbon fiber support rods in the neck, that make a guitar perfectly stable and useable.

The stunning Maguire Meridian semi hollow body that just doesn’t compare to anything else.

So what’s a 5? A 5 is akin to a decent Squier or Epiphone guitar, These guitars are great, and represent what I think is close to “average” performance and playability. These will hold tune fairly well, maybe for hours or longer if you’re lucky, and the pickups aren’t great but at least sound like the guitar you are buying i.e. a tele sounds like a tele. They are certainly great instruments, and offer a lot of value as they are usually $400 or less. Now one thing I caution here is that just because a guitar is in this price range, doesn’t make it a 5, it could be a 9 or it could be a 2, each guitar is different and evokes a different sound, vibe, or emotion. As many of you will notice, this site is on a streak of being sent fantastic guitars, I place a lot of importance on being fair and just, but sometimes a $499 guitar just rocks!

A Squier Affinity Series Tele I consider to be a strong 5-6 range guitar.

So lastly, what’s a 1? A 1 is borderline unplayable, it come out of the box with high action, can’t stay in tune for more than a few minutes, isn’t intonated properly, or has buzzy and noisy electronics. Furthermore, maybe the pickups are missing the highs, mids, or lows or the spread on the tone and volume knobs isn’t great i.e. linear instead of audible. There can be a million problems with these guitars, even if they aren’t hard to fix. Overall, as long as the guitar is cheap enough though, you may still extract value from it as a beginner instrument, project guitar, or throw-around instrument that you don’t care about damaging/losing.

An Indio Classic guitar that is incredibly affordable but in the lower echelon of build and tone quality.

Concerns?

Some of you may be pointing out that the gap between 1 and 5 is much smaller than the gap between 5 and 10, I understand that concern but that’s because of how I grade the guitars. I place a lot of emphasis on the value of the guitar in relation to its price. A lot of times, the differences in brand name high priced pickups and factory made pickups for mid-tier guitars isn’t that different. It takes a really well trained ear and/or picky player to discern a Mexican Strat’s pickups from an American standard’s pickups. This means a lot of the guitars from 5-10 could be anywhere from $500 to $5000 and not too different in rating. In fact, mass production of guitars thanks to CNC machines has made a lot of affordable guitars, really really great. Take my Guild Jetstar or Chapman ML1 Modern V2 reviews, those guitars are both sub-$1000 but are two of the best I’ve ever played and outclass my expensive American-made Gibson Les Paul Special easily.

Chapman Guitars ML1 Modern V2 Review


A refreshing, versatile guitar capable of more than just metal.

Cost: $499.00 new 

Huge thank you to Matt Hornby from Chapman Guitars for sending this over for review!

Find your own awesome Chapman Guitar HERE

Overview and Final Score: 9.4

Chapman’s ML1 Modern V2 is an awesome take on the superstrat design, featuring a familiar body and neck profile with huge output from the Sonorous humbuckers. While the ML1 may seem and play like a metal-style guitar, it really shined in a variety of uses for me including covering The Black Keys and playing clean, fast leads over indie rock tracks from Life in Film and Walk the Moon. While this guitar will no doubt serve all your shredding needs, I think a more diverse cast of guitarists would feel right at home on the Modern V2, and for the price, you can’t beat it! 

Sound: 8 

This guitar is loud, it blew away my other humbucker equipped guitars (Guild Jetstar and kit-assembled ES-335) while still retaining solid tone and clarity. Even with additional gain or drive engaged via pedals, individual notes could be heard in most chord positions on both the neck and bridge pickup. This guitar was unique in the fact that I really enjoyed the neck pickup tones even though I’m a noted hater of using the warmer, bassier sounds from that position on all my guitars. The pickups were well balanced in output as well, which made it easy to switch between the two positions while playing. The clean tones left just a little bit to be desired, as I felt the pickups were lacking a little in the mid section but that could just be my ear and I invite others to try out this awesome instrument for themselves. One great feature was the coil split function on the tone pot and I had a great time messing around with it, using the split as a rhythm tone before pushing it back in and using the humbuckers as a boost setting for big choruses or solos. 

Playability: 9.5

The playability is almost perfect on this guitar, with the only issue being the reverse headstock taking some getting used to. Because the tuners are upside and down and in reverse order compared to a normal strat or tele headstock, I often found myself turning the wrong peg but that quickly become normal. The only real issue is I believe the reverse headstock makes tuners slightly less accessible but overall that’s me just being picky. Otherwise, the neck was smooth and played wonderfully up and down the standard C shape. All 24 frets were incredibly easy to access thanks to a nifty contoured neck heel, and I really like the addition of jumbo frets that featured no sharp edges or build issues. The guitar has yet to go out of tune more than once at the time of writing (after a week of playing) and the tuning stability is borderline unheard of at this price. 

Finish and Construction: 10 

This guitar is built to last and looks phenomenal. The lunar finish on the one I received is top notch and drew plenty of compliments from friends and band members. The body is thin and comfortable to play thanks to a strat style body contour, and it feels just heavy enough to be sturdy but light enough to comfortably play for hours standing up or sitting down. The bolt on neck and Fender-style build really makes this guitar a great option for players looking to modify, upgrade, or repair potential damage themselves as a soldering iron and screwdriver will get you where you need to go. 

Value: 10 

For under $500, this is one of the best guitars you can get. Some people may find the humbuckers a little too one dimensional or metal-focused, but with an easy to access body cavity, you can swap them out no problem, and I personally found their high output to be inspiring. Thanks to elite playability and tuning stability, you cannot go wrong purchasing the ML1 Modern V2 and I think Chapman has staked their claim as being a major guitar brand worth everyone’s attention. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked this guitar, as I went in thinking the price would indicate a cheaper, lower quality guitar from a smaller company. I was wrong, the Modern V2 should be on everyone’s short list of budget guitars to try out. 

Fact or Fiction? The Future of Guitar Playing Will Look Different

Will digital rigs like the Kemper Profiling Amp replace analog technology?

For all the arguments about whether the guitar is dead or not, one topic people don’t often discuss is the death of analog gear and rigs, even among veteran musicians. Just like when Pro Tools was introduced to recording decades ago, we stand at a cross roads in guitar technology that has many people choosing between the old way versus the new way. Guitar bodies are being produced with new shapes, and new substances such as carbon fiber, metal, acrylic, and recycled skateboards. While good old fashioned wood Strats and LPs will always have a home in our heart, will this recent aluminum guitar craze carry on? Let’s dive into some questions like this and take a measured approach at what’s fact versus fiction.

Profiling Amps Will Replace Tube Amps

AXE-FX III profiling amp system

Every day it seems like a new article comes out claiming more and more touring musicians or guitar idols are turning to profiling amps. Mark Knopfler, Steve Morse, and Matt Heafy all use the Kemper system. The AXE FX system has an ever greater list featuring Misha Mansoor, Steve Vai, The Edge, John Petrucci, Alex Lifeson, and many more guitar superstars. These products essentially replace your amps, pedalboard, pre-amps, and anything else you use in your rig. Once they are programmed they can be directly hooked up the PA speakers, a venue’s sound system, or can go directly into a recording board.

While these are definitely for the more technologically savvy player, plenty of younger players are turning to these for consistent tone night after night and lighter carrying cases to take on tour. While I’ll always prefer playing through combo amps or stacks, it is much easier and cheaper to transport a couple of speakers, a foot controller, and these small super computers. Whether you like it or not, I believe these things are here to stay, and will only continue to win over more and more musicians. While traditionalists like Dan Auerbach or Jack White will always stick to amps, I wouldn’t be shocked if the trending, futuristic indie and metal guitarists leave them behind.

What Will Future Guitars Look Like?

Dating back to the ’60s, companies were messing around with alternate materials to make electric guitars. Most famous is the JB Hutto Res-O-Glass guitar that has been made famous by Jack White in the past decade or two. Recently, carbon fiber acoustics have been produced but have achieved only limited success, while higher end luthiers have pursued other, more unique attempts. We’ve seen a Swedish technological group 3D print an all metal, indestructible guitar, we’ve seen an instagram artist create guitars out of epoxy resin, and finally a huge spike in aluminum bodied instruments.

While many of us agree nothing can beat a good, handmade wooden Stratocaster, in an era of unprecedented technological advancement I would be surprised if many attempts along these lines are not made with commercial retail in mind. Furthermore, thanks to social media and the internet, the need to be unique, stick out, or get noticed is becoming a bigger and bigger part of any musician’s arsenal of tools. Realistically, it is probably too soon to worry about guitar construction or designs changing any more than the addition of extra strings, new pickups, or oddball shapes. But be prepared, it’s likely coming at some point in a millennial’s life time.