Monday, November 24, 2008

Best Guitar Gear for 2009 - Gig Bags & Cases

Martin's 600 Series Molded Dreadnought / Jumbo Guitar Case is plush lined and offers superior, lightweight protection for your instrument.

One of the most important investments you'll make towards keeping your instrument safe and in top playing condition is your guitar case. In fact, keeping your guitar in its case is perhaps the most preferable way to prevent accidental breakage and scratches. It also helps to keep your guitar in tune especially when using an "in-case" guitar humidifier. All the same your case must fit both your guitar and you. Cases that are too heavy, bulky or poorly constructed will most often be left at home, seldom being used. There is also a place for gig-bags and instrument covers so we have included the top choices right here:

Martin 600 Series Molded Guitar Case

This was the case that came with my Martin D-18 Sustainable Wood acoustic guitar. Martin is known the world over for beautifully crafted guitars so it was no surprise that they would want to protect one of their masterpieces with the finest guitar case available. Manufactured for Martin by SKB in North America, this case holds my D-18 Dreadnought perfectly and is meticulously lined for a perfect fit and extra protection for my instrument. This is the case I take to guitar class and jams because it is so lightweight yet tough. It has an inner compartment under the neckbrace to hold a tuner, extra strings, picks, etc. The only thing I added was a luggage tag, purchased from Martin's Gift Shop. I am a Martin's Owner's Club member so anything I purchase from them is 10% off. Rugged ABS molded exterior with a foam interior and green velour lining. Nickel plated hardware with key locking latch. These cases are also available for your sized guitar so
visit Maury's Music online at:

Levy's Leathers LTD Leather Guitar Bag

If you are looking for a gig-bag instead of a hardshell case, there are a few options. I have a very thick denim electric guitar bag by Levy's which I prefer over the flimsy one that came with my Fender Stratocaster. Solid body guitars are a bit studier so a gig-bag is fine most of the time. The Fender logo bag though is a poor choice offering little padding or protection. Levy's denim gig bags are very well made and properly padded. Still, I prefer a leather gig-bag for both durability and looks. Should something spill on your instrument, a leather bag will more readily repel the splash better than cloth. Levy's leather guitar bag offers stylish protection with an extra "saddlebag" on the outside for storage of music, books, tuners, cables and a lot more. A smaller zippered upper pouch is an added bonus for space. In fact, a bag like this can carry a lot more gear than a hard shell case. The interior is plush lined with a thick pile. Over sized dual zipper tabs with a inner cover to prevent the zipper itself from touching your instrument. Very heavy yet comfortable backpacker straps and leather carry straps make this a quality bag. Black Leather Luggage tag was included. Photographed here is Levy's Leather Guitar Bag for Electric Guitar in Burgundy. Visit Levy's Leathers LTD online at:

Open Mic Guitar Strap Messenger Bag by Overland Equipment

There are times that you just need an extra bag to carry your sheet music, a small laptop, (think Cakewalk or Garage Band software), or microphone to a gig or band practice. Here's what I use to take along all those extras. Overland Equipment's Open Mic Messenger Bag is made of distressed canvas with magnetic closures on the front flap. Leather trim with brass rivets, this bag means business! Inner compartments include space for your cell, MP3 player and a zippered compartment. Better still is the bag's woven jacquard "guitar strap" which reminds me of one of Bob Dylan's vintage ones! Tough enough to over stuff too. This is a great, lightweight sidekick to your gig bag or guitar case, allowing you to carry in gear that might otherwise get crunched or scratch your guitar. Visit Overland Equipment online for their Open Mic Messenger Bags:

Drapester Guitar Cover

Sometimes you just want to leave your guitar out on the stand for easy access. Nothing wrong with that except that dust gets in everywhere. Your strings, bridge area and if it is an electric, your pickups will suffer for it. I have a custom made dust cover on my Autoharp which stays on the stand. It works very well but is sometimes a hassle getting on and off. The Drapester is a very cool way around all that as it simply "drapes" over your instrument. No fitting or stretching needed. Throw it on and go! Whip it off and play! The Drapester even comes with a little pouch on the front for guitar pics. Simple yet very effective for keeping the dust off and your guitar on...the stand. Under the pink camouflage Drapester here is a full sized Martin D-18. It works well covering nearly any model of guitar from a Strat to a Martin Jumbo. A no-fuss way of keeping your guitar clean and handy. Made in the U.S.A. Visit Drapester online at:
Drapester also has a banner ad in the left hand column of this page.
We are going right down the list! So far we've covered the best guitar straps and cables. Check in again as we show you even more of the coolest guitar gear for your Christmas gift ideas! Ho, ho, ho!!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Best Guitar Gear for 2009 - Guitar & Pedal Cables

Dr. M's Fender Strat getting the Snap Jack treatment!

The cables you choose can either enhance your guitar's tone or suck the life out of it. Another problem with poor quality guitar cables is they can actually add noise to your performance or even worse, your recording projects. We have sought out the best cables on the cutting edge of design, construction and innovation. The ones we have chosen both have a circuit breaking device on the tips which allows you to silently disconnect from your amp without running to turn it down or off. This feature alone saves time, steps and damage to your sound equipment. We have also separated them into two categories. The first cable we found was best for live performances and the second for recording. Since many of our guitar cables are also hooked up to our stompboxes, we included the best pedal cables as well. Here are the finalists:

Snap Jack Guitar Cable by ZZYZX for Live Performance

We have found this cable to be the best for live performances and concerts. This is because noise is not as much of an issue when you are onstage as it is in the recording studio. The Snap Jack Cable all is same is very quiet but not the most quiet cable that we tested. Where the Snap Jack does shine is its ability to completely cut off the signal upon disconnecting the neodymium magnetic two piece tip. I have disconnected from a live sound system in concert without having to wait for the sound man to come on stage. Using extra tips,(available in straight and right angle), I've also been able to switch instruments quietly, on the fly with absolutely no popping or squeals coming over the amp. I like the fact that it will disengage under a certain amount of pressure, therefore should you catch your foot on the cable, you're not likely to go for a nasty fall or damage your equipment. Visit Jodavi 's ZZYZX online store and see all the models of Snap Jack cables at:

Spectraflex Fatsoflex Silent Plug for Recording

When we wanted to do studio recording, we had to look at a lot of factors. Ambient sound, mic placement and especially the type of studio mic to pick. Where a lot of us miss it, is the fact that having poorly shielded cables can add even more noise than many environmental sources. We did a guitar instrumental as our first demo CD recording. What we found was a great deal of buzzing or hum on the track. Nothing we did seemed to help until we switched all of our studio cables to Spectraflex. The difference was incredible. All you can hear now is the sound of the instruments, (a Fender Stratocaster and a Martin D-16GT). The Spectraflex Fatsoflex Silent Plug allows for instrument switching but this cable's forte is in their super thick, braided insulation design. We've not found any other cable that could match it for noiseless recording and replication of clear tone. We've even replaced our new Audio-Technica AT 4047/SV side address condenser mic cable with a Spectraflex Braided Low Z cable. When everything comes across crystal clear on the studio monitors, you know that's going to transfer to your recording as well. Visit Spectraflex online at:


Using great guitar cables not only improve the quality of your tone but will carry over towards improving your pedal board's performance too. Some pedals do rob your guitar's tone but often times it is the type of cables you are using to connect from your guitar, to your pedals and then to your amp. A lot can get lost along the way, especially if you use a lot of individual pedals in a daisy chain of effects.
Personally I have always preferred the right angled pedal cables over those with straight tips although it is good to have a few of those onboard. Right angled tips allow more boxes to fit neatly on the pedal board. You'll appreciate this even more as your collection grows and you want to add some variety to your sound. Just as poorly shielded cables will add noise to your guitar's sound, the same is true for pedal cables. They should be of the same quality and insulation as what you plug into your guitar so here's our pick:

Spectraflex Braided Pedal Cables

Carrying over the same quality and shielding found in their braided guitar cables, Spectraflex does it all in style. I've used their braided guitar cables for years, (Spectraflex is the original braided cable, after all), and they are all still going strong. Their cloth braiding helps insulate from excess noise but also makes for a tougher, more durable cable. Not only that, the very cool colors and designs on the cables themselves can help you visually organize your pedal board. You can set up according to they type of effects, (modulation, compression, etc.), and use specific pedal cable colors to designate them. The quality is unsurpassed for connecting all of your stompboxes and even looping out an effect for your multi-effector like our BOSS GT-10 with Keeley's Compressor. Visit Spectraflex online to see their braided Fatsoflex and pedal cables:

The BOSS GT-10 in its custom Tarcase. Spectraflex pedal cables are used to loop in extra effects such as a Keeley Compressor.

Stick around for our continuing countdown of the Best Guitar Gear for 2009! If you are looking for that perfect Christmas gift for your favorite guitarist, (that could be you, actually), check out our reviews before you buy. You can also see our previous articles in this series, namely the first on the Best Guitar Gear for 2009 - Guitar Straps:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Best Guitar Gear for 2009 - Guitar Straps

Dr. M. & her Martin D-16GT with the super-soft premium High End Leather Guitar strap from C.F. Martin.


Unlike other publications, we are looking ahead into 2009 to give you the best and most current guitar gear list to help with your holiday shopping. Since guitar straps are the accessories most intimately attached to your instrument, (and YOU), we are going to start with ones we have found to be at the top of their game:

Photo: C.F. Martin High End Leather Strap

This is the strap that I am using in the photo above with the Martin D-16GT. If you are looking for the best in luxury and quality, here it is. This guitar strap is made of the highest quality, supple, naked finish, garment weight calves leather. The underside is non-slipping suede and the core is padded with 1/4 inch of foam. The gold embroidered Martin logo finishes the design in style. This is my favorite strap for acoustic guitar. The strap holes are thick and tight enough to prevent slipping and the ultra-softness of the leather makes it a dream to wear. Other leather straps pale in comparison to this one. Available in black or brown. Made in the U.S.A. Order online at Martin's website store right here:

Levy's Leathers Ltd. Platinum Collection

Coming in at second place, another leather guitar strap we liked was one from Levy's new Platinum Collection. This long fringed strap looks great on both your guitar and you! The metallic colors of the leather Platinum Collection straps set them apart, (shown here in green), helping you to be seen and heard. Beautifully done, this strap has so many details added into the topside of the leather including a metallic inlay that Levys is so famous for. This one is a head turner, not really for wallflowers! If you are ready to make a statement on stage, go on wearing this strap. Made in Canada. Visit Levy's online at:

Photo: Planet Waves Dare Strap

Now for the electric guitar strap of choice. We've found that Planet Waves makes the most comfortable, ergonomic strap available for the electric guitar. Here's where it really counts. Solid body guitars often weigh much more than their acoustic counterparts. That extra weight can stress your back and shoulders over time. The dual strap design of the Dare Strap evenly distributes the weight of your guitar over both shoulders. Can also be used with most strap lock systems but it has been easy enough for me to simply slip my head between the straps. Fully adjustable too. Non-bulky so I don't even have to take it off my strat before putting it in the case. It folds pretty flat next to the instrument and gets neatly packed away in my leather gig-bag! You can spend more for a fancier strap but you won't find one as well made and comfortable to wear for long periods of time as this one. Another gem from Planet Waves! You might also take a look at their quick release system which can be used with most acoustic and electric guitar straps or buy one of their straps with quick release built in. Check it out online at:

UPDATE! We tested Ernie Ball Super Strap Locks on our Levy's and Planet Waves guitar straps and they are fantastic! Easy to install, very secure and super quick to get your strap off and on. The low profile design helps avoid accidentally unlocking your strap in the middle of a gig. Simply depress the two curved buttons at the top of the lock and you're good to go! Available in Black, Gold and Chrome as shown here in the photo. Check out Ernie Ball Online at:

Also see 2009's Top Gifts for Audiophiles over at the Best Picks BLOG!!!:

We're going to continue our most wanted list of Best Guitar Gear for 2009 with even more top picks for Christmas and beyond. Keep checking back as we count 'em off for you!