At the end of every year, I like to take a look at my purchases to see how I’m evolving. This exercise helps with two things. One, it allows me to see if anything is being underutilized and make decisions on whether I want to keep them or not. Two, it provides a different angle on how I’m improving as a guitarist and musician. The choices I’m making are so different than what I would have done a few years back that it’s great to be able to observe that. It doesn’t mean that everything I’ve gotten makes sense – there is such a phenomenon called ‘impulse purchase’ – but overall, I notice that I get what I get because it will serve my purposes, whatever they might be in a given year.
I know most of my readers are into gear. So, here’s a summary of what I was up to in 2019. Some gear was sold to fund some of these, but I didn’t go into detail on a lot of the sold items. I’ll also touch upon some desired items for later.
Boss Katana-Air Wireless 30W 2×3 Guitar Combo Amplifier
I made a video about this a while back too. Basically, I sold my Yamaha THR10X and instead bought this as my practice amp. I wasn’t unhappy with the THR10X. But I live in a small apartment (not for long, fingers crossed!) and my wife and I were getting ready to welcome our baby girl. This meant I wasn’t going to get too much time to play. I needed to be mobile as much as possible; i.e. cable free so I could just plug in and play whenever and wherever. While the THR10X could be battery powered if you so choose, you still had to plug in your guitar with a regular cable. I suppose I could have looked into some other options to be fully cable-free, but the Katana Air provided the solution for me. It already came with a wireless transmitter, so I didn’t even have to buy a separate unit. The Katana series, in general, also received positive feedback, so I sold the THR10X and got this.
I said this in the YouTube video so I don’t mind repeating. The Katana Air is a good product, but I think the Yamaha THR series were better, especially for high gain tones that I mostly play. There’s lots you can do to improve the tone – and the app makes all that easier – but the Yamaha just sounded better for my purposes. I’m also having issues with how Katana Air drains battery so quickly. Basically, even when you turn the amp off, it still drains your battery. Some people have commented on my YouTube video and said they experienced the same issue. That’s disappointing because the main reason I got this was to be completely cable free.
That said, this is my most frequently used product. Yes, the tones could be better but for now it gets the job done. I’ve been playing it every day in the last 4 months or so. This year has been incredibly busy. So many things are going on which cut down my time for music. All parts of being an adult. The fact is, I didn’t have much time to record, let alone mess around with different tones. So, if I had 30-40 minutes to play guitar, I chose to spend that time actually playing! Grab a guitar, grab the Katana Air… and done! So, in that sense, the Katana Air is serving its purpose. I bought it to practice and jam, and that’s exactly what I do. I tweaked the tones in the iPhone app quite excessively when I first bought it. That’s around the time I made the YouTube video. Nowadays, as long as it’s a workable tone, I just focus on my playing and improving my technique. I do have to keep the amp plugged in, which totally defeats the purpose as I could have done the same with my old THR10X, but at this point I’m going to keep it until I get another practice amp. More on that later…
Revv G4 Preamp/Overdrive/Distortion Pedal
I usually prefer “all-in-one” solutions, like the Line 6 Helix or the HeadRush Gigboard. But there are certain pedals that pique my interest. The Digitech Drop was one of those and I’m having a lot of fun with it. And then this year, I kept seeing the Revv pedals – G3 and G4 – pop up frequently on my YouTube feed. I bought this to add more variety to my set up; especially when I may not have my Helix Floor with me.
What I love about the G4 – apart from the fact that it sounds great – is that it is incredibly versatile. Like the product description suggests, there are a few different ways you can use it. It can just be your distortion pedal or you can use it as your preamp especially if you can get as flat of an output as you can from your speaker. I sometimes use this with my HX Stomp or HeadRush Gigboard, but sometimes I use it with my Katana Air. It excels in both situations.
If I’m not mistaken, Line 6 has since added this to their list of amps. I don’t know if I’d still have bought this if that update had come sooner… Maybe I’d have gotten the G3. But kidding aside, whether this is in my amp modeler or not, I’m keeping the pedal. I like the idea of being able to crank out these tones when I need it without having to carry much else.
When I started accumulating some pedals that didn’t come with their own adapter, I invested in this. I e-mailed someone at Revv to verify that it doesn’t ship with an adapter. He originally recommended a different product because it was cheaper. When I told him I was thinking of the Strymon he said I should definitely go for that if I didn’t mind spending a little extra. I figured you don’t want to cut any corners when it comes to power supplies. It’s small, easy to carry, and gets the job done. One of my favorite purchases of the year.
Furman 8-Outlet Surge Protector
Speaking of power supplies, I followed the advice of many and got two of these! Gotta protect what you got…
Kiesel Osiris Seafoam Green
I wrote about my traveler guitar a while back. Well, I recently sold it. Don’t get me wrong, it is a fantastic instrument for its category. And I know why the body was so small – it’s so that it could be…well, a traveler guitar! But I couldn’t get comfortable with it. I tried but the most I could play it was for 15-20 minutes and my muscles would start complaining. I just couldn’t find a way to make it work. So I started looking for a new guitar that would be smaller than my other guitars, but bigger than the traveler guitar.
Truth be told, I used to hate headless guitars. They all looked funny to me. But they started growing on me more and more lately and this particular Osiris came up on Reverb at a price I couldn’t refuse. I already needed a smaller guitar and here it was. I had no idea about Kiesel Guitars, no idea about headless guitars, and no idea about how this was going to play.
It is by far the most frequently played guitar of the last few months. No exaggeration. I love it! It’s a super light guitar so it’s easy to carry around. It sounds great though I’ve played it mostly with my Katana Air; would love to really test it with my bigger setup. But the neck profile is so, so well built and fret size is so spectacular that I can play this for hours. I’m so new to headless guitars I don’t even know how to change strings on this yet but I’ll learn soon. For now, I’m enjoying the hell out of this instrument. I want to make a video about it in the new year so I can share more about it.
Sennheiser MKE600 Shotgun Mic for Video
I started taking YouTube more seriously in 2019. I couldn’t upload as much content as I wanted but I’m learning more about video and audio editing with each video. I’d love to do more on YouTube. I will do more videos – my channel is not going anywhere! But I have to let my timing decide what I can do for the time being. I don’t like rushing videos because then the quality suffers. I want to be in charge of the content; which requires time.
All this to say, while learning more about editing, I learned the importance of picking a good microphone. This was a big upgrade to my video rig which used to rely on an entry-level shotgun mic. I’m not an expert, but I picked this out after watching tons of videos on shotgun mics and I definitely hear the improvement. But even though the quality is now better, I still prefer lapel mics or sometimes just talking into my Shure SM7B. But I use this one quite often because it ends up being more convenient when I edit the videos.
Headrush FRFR 108
I already had one FRFR: the Atomic CLR NEO MK II. I’m amazed how little people talk about this product. It is absolutely amazing and comes cheaper than some of the other options in the market. I still have it. The reason why I got the HeadRush FRFR is because I wanted something a little smaller so I could carry it with me when I needed to be mobile. The theme of 2019 was mobility, I suppose. I like it a lot. It’s got a sturdy build, is easy to set up, and sounds great. When it comes to products like this, you’ll get lots of different opinions. I understand them all – we’re all looking for something different. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is better than my Atomic CLR – it’s not – but I still think you’re getting a great product for the price. If you’re looking for a cheaper FRFR, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option at the moment.
By the way, one thing I haven’t tried yet, but definitely want to, is using both of my FRFRs and play around with stereo output. Everyone says that’s when the Helix really shines. I already love that product so I can’t wait to try some new things.
Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo
This is probably my favorite purchase of the year so far. So much so that I am very interested in the new X series Universal Audio just launched. Let’s back up a bit…
You know I’m into home recording. But I’m still learning, I’m still trying to find the right tools to make recording easier. I sometimes directly plug in my amp modelers, which is perfectly fine, but there are advantages to using an audio interface too. I actually haven’t connected any modelers to my iMac in the last few months.
I used to have an Apogee One. I like Apogee as I use the Apogee Duet and Apogee Jam quite a lot. I have never had any issues with either one of those. But the One was just so problematic for me. It would work for about half an hour, and after that it would stop working. I contacted Apogee, followed their instructions for some new MacOS settings and I thought that would do the trick. It didn’t. I kept re-installing the driver, hoping it would work. It didn’t. I would get some life out of it for 30 minutes or so. And then it would stop. I’ve chatted with other people who own an Apogee One and their product works just fine. I probably got a defective one. I’d had my eye on Apollo Twin anyway. So, I made the investment.
I got the Duo because I thought I wasn’t going to use UA’s own plug-ins. After all, I already had so many plug-ins. Why would I need UA’s plug-ins, right? Well… Let me tell you something, UA’s plug-ins are amazing! I tried a bunch (you get 15 day trial periods) and they just sound so good! It’s a gold-mine for recording and a hazard for your bank account. If I get another one from the X series, I may go for the Quad for that reason. So, think about that for your purchase. UA has a chart where they tell you how much DSP each plug-in takes so you can make your decision. In the end, it’s a great product that’s reliable and is so much more than just an audio interface.
There are a few more products that I recently got after selling a few. I’m not going to mention those here because I haven’t really used them a lot. For all intents and purposes, they are 2020 purchases. Rest assured, I believe in sharing gear experiences so you’ll hear about them all. I’m so excited to get to use them all.
Wish List for 2020
- Ibanez AZ Seafoam Green – I played one of these at Guitar Center one day. I went there to sell my traveler guitar. I saw this guitar and tried it. Best neck I’ve ever played on an Ibanez. I’m not a fan of the super thin necks, but this was different. Definitely not as thick as some Strats, but it’s chunkier than what I would expect from Ibanez. Felt so comfortable. And the seafoam green finish is absolutely beautiful. Pictures don’t do it justice. With so many pickup configurations, this guitar is a versatile beast. Definitely on my list. Note: Guitar Center had a different version than you see elsewhere which featured an HSS configuration, white knobs and pickups as opposed to black.
- ESP E-II MII Cherry Sunburst – As far as I know, this particular finish is no longer in production. But I’ve got my eye on it. I’m usually not super big on reversed headstocks. But it works on this guitar! And I can’t take my eyes off of the cherry sunburst finish. I’m not too big on Floyds anymore, but I’m willing to work with it for this guitar. I also don’t own any guitars with EMGs. Opinions are divided on those, but I wouldn’t know until I’ve played one for a while. ESP has so many amazing shapes, like the Arrow and the V-II, so at some point I’d love to get one of their products.
- Mooer GE250 – Just curious. Some good reviews here and there. Not sure if I’d go for it, but the early reviews were good. I’m relying more and more on plugins for recording. So I may choose to explore the plug-in world instead. We’ll see.