As a guitar player, it has been my experience that receiving guitar-themed holiday gifts from non-guitar playing friends and loved ones is typically something of a crapshoot, with the emphasis on "crap." If you've been playing long enough that the people in your life (bless their clueless little hearts) have determined that guitar is your "thing," then it's only a matter of time before you're up to your headstock in guitar neckties, underwear, coffee mugs, and all manner of other six-string tchotchkes. If you're lucky, you might actually get something relatively useful (that you probably already have), like a strap, tuner, cable, or other boring utility guitar accessory.
It is my position that this sad state of holiday gift-giving affairs cannot stand, but to overcome it one must "head it off at the pass," as they used to say in old western films. I encourage our readers to do this by making a list of guitar things they really want, and shamelessly distributing this list to everyone who might be inclined to buy them a gift. Recommend that these lovely and generous humans pool their resources, so that rather than getting you several individual, sub-par gifts, they can all pitch in and get you something amazing that you will cherish for the rest of your years. Sure, this maneuver is rather bold and immodest, and if you lack the panache to pull it off properly, you'll run the risk of coming off as an ungrateful, insolent twit, but at least you won't be getting "Co-ed Naked Guitar" T-shirts for Christmas anymore. For readers who are unsure where to start with their ultimate holiday wish list, I have come up with a few suggestions to get the ball rolling (Mom, are you paying attention to this?).
Analog Outfitters Scanner
The pride of Champaign, Illinois, Analog Outfitters upcycles and repurposes busted Hammond organs and other vintage gear that is past its prime, to create ruggedly built, strikingly distinctive new pieces of gear. Tone Report Weekly has reviewed the company's Road Amp, with its enclosure built of decommissioned road signs, and its guts sourced from retired Hammond organ donors, and we found it to be as stunning to the ear as it is to the eye. In fact, we were so impressed with the amp, we refused to send it back. This year Analog Outfitters has introduced a new product that has us all foaming at the mouth; The Scanner, a vibrato and reverb unit about the size of a small head, built from salvaged Hammond organ vibrato scanners and reverb tanks. Originally a component of vintage tone-wheel organs, the vibrato scanner is a unique mechanism that creates nine phase-shifted copies of the input signal to create an incredibly deep, three-dimensional vibrato sound that can't be achieved any other way. It also features a lush vintage reverb circuit, and the whole contraption is housed in a handsome cabinet with a heavy-duty acrylic top, so you can stare at the hypnotically rotating armature as your ears are massaged by warm modulation and rich ambience. The Scanner is a handmade, heirloom-quality piece of gear that you'll want to pass down to your children, or be buried with, and it sells for 1599 dollars.
Brynn Company Studio Deluxe Cabinet
Brynn Co., out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, takes a similar tack as Analog Outfitters, but applies the upcycling concept to its gorgeous and very functional speaker cabinets, which it makes out of vintage ‘40s and ‘50s console radios. The radio guts are removed, and the classic, hand-built wooden cabinets are converted to guitar speaker cabs, with each unit tuned by ear to the customer's preferred amplifier with tone-matched speakers and carefully selected components. Each Brynn Co. cabinet is a totally unique creation, and they are so elegant and retro-classy that you should have no trouble talking a partner or housemate into letting you keep your new rig in the living room. Besides the furniture-grade woodwork, these cabs simply sound remarkable, with a degree of robustness and authority not normally found in a modern plywood or MDF designs. The rounded contours and open-back design of these cabs also provides many unique mic placement possibilities in the studio. The Brynn Company's luxury model, the Studio Deluxe, will run your most generous holiday gift-giver(s) 999 bucks. Famous users include producer Jack Douglas, and that Aerosmith guy Joe Perry.
Anthology Gear Wear Revelator Guitar Case
If you've got a guitar that's really worth protecting—perhaps a vintage piece or a custom-built instrument—a bulletproof hard case is essential for keeping it from getting banged up. Unfortunately, hard cases can also be kind of bulky and awkward to tote around to gigs and rehearsals. This is why the gig bag was invented, and it remains a popular choice, but most gig bags are rather flimsy and don't provide much protection if the guitar gets dropped, falls over, or is otherwise knocked about. Lately, several case companies have been combining the best of both options with gig bags that are reinforced with heavy-duty construction materials and super thick padding, but few are as rugged as the Revelator case from Anthology Gear Wear. For instruments that deserve such luxury accommodations, the Revelator is unmatched, with the highest grade of full-grain leather used for the exoskeleton, and a heavily-padded interior lined with soft, sumptuous suede. It's all held together with industrial strength thread and rivets, and includes an internal neck support system and a front pouch with several pockets for strings and other accessories. A guitar case like this will last a lifetime, or longer, and looks like a premium piece of hand-made luggage. For guitarists who are accustomed to the finer things in life, Anthology Gear Wear's Revelator is sure to impress, and it runs 925 dollars in either Aged Steel, or Black Whiskey.
Hiwatt Signature Series Little D Rig
Bedroom or small stage players with dreams of Floyd-ian epic rock glory will find Hiwatt's Little D Rig irresistible. Hiwatt's Signature Series Little Rigs consist of scaled-down versions of the roaring head-and-cab combos that made the company's amplifiers staples of the classic rock world. The Little D Rig is particularly fetching, and is based on the amp modified by legendary guru Pete Cornish for Pink Floyd's David Gilmour. The head is a 20-watt (also switchable to a bedroom-friendly one-half-watt), Class A, EL84 fire-breather that captures the Hiwatt bark and roar in a refined and practical package suitable for studio, stage, or basement rec-room. It sports normal, brilliant, and linked inputs, with three-band equalization, presence, and master volume controls. The best part of the package, however, might be the cabinet. This beauty is a WEM Starfinder 1x12, adorned with the same distinctive grill cloth that any Floyd fan will instantly recognize from David Gilmour's Super Starfinder 200 cabinets. And naturally, this miniature Starfinder comes loaded with a Fane speaker, just like the big one. Hiwatt's Little D Rig sells for just under 2000 bucks, and should fit nicely under a super-sized Christmas tree.
A Real Klon Centaur
Screw it, the holiday season is no time for modesty! As long as you're hitting Santa Claus up for outrageous guitar gifts, why not ask for something you'd never buy for yourself: a pure luxury item, a conspicuous show of individual prosperity, an unabashed status symbol that will leave your fellow guitar-dork cohorts seething with jealousy? A genuine Klon Centaur overdrive should have you covered on all counts. Sure, there are sonically indistinguishable, precisely "kloned" replications of the circuit available everywhere for under 200 bucks, but the small number of original Centaurs produced, plus the astronomical prices that they command on the used market, means that few players have ever seen one in real life, much less played through or owned one. This makes the Centaur not only an object of great desire for guitarists, but also a pretty sound investment. A Klon originally sold its groundbreaking overdrive for 225 dollars in 1994, and the going rate at the time of this writing seems to be anywhere from about 1300 to 2400 dollars, depending on the specific version. That's an excellent rate of return by any measure. A Klon Centaur is the gift that will keep on giving.