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NEW GEAR 31/23: Vintage StingRay Special Series, Sabian Octagonal Cymbal, Top Antelope Monitors and Solar Guitars' Chop Shop Guitar

Those who are ready are not caught off guard. Welcome to our next weekly roundup of new gear and trivia from the world of music, where we try to sum up everything essential that's currently hitting the market that we should know about. Canada's Sabian looks back to history with the AAX Rocktagon octagonal cymbal, the FTF brand scores with the Ámbar drive bringing the sound of two effects standards, Antelope debuts the Audio Atlas i8 professional studio monitors, and bassists can look forward to this year's Music Man models in the StingRay Special series. We can also recommend the brand-new Solar Custom Superstratos, the upgraded Korg Nautilus AT workstations and the Brig delay from Strymon.

Solar Blitz AB1.6FR: Englund's company launches production of custom guitars

The company of a guitarist and popular YouTuber Ola Englund has launched the Chop Shop project, which will include custom guitars produced by workshops in Girona, Catalonia. The Spanish division is thus starting to create unconventional models that will feature different types of hardware, pickups with new wiring configurations and, above all, special finishes that challenge the notion of what can be done with a wood-based instrument. The first representatives of this collection are the Solar Blitz AB1.6FR Superstrats in Natural Raw or Black Charcoal, where the body design was created using an electric current of more than 10,000 volts.

FTT Ámbar Dual Overdrive: two iconic drives in one package

The Centaur clone and the Ibanez Tube Screamer are rightly among the legendary distortion pedals whose sonic qualities have stood the test of time. It's the circuits based on these effects – in the case of the Tube Screamer, the TS10 version – that is at the heart of the new Ámbar dual drive from Spanish boutique brand Finding That Tone, which has slightly modified the original circuits with an emphasis on wider flexibility. Featuring separate footswitches and a toggle switch, the two sections, equipped with individual gains, volumes and dual-band corrections, can be used both individually and in series, and in selectable order, bringing additional options that affect tone colour and the amount of gain or sustain. In addition, the TS10 channel gets an Open/Stock voicing mode switch. Colours: Matte Black, Vintage White, Roxy Pink, Sonic Blue.

Strymon Brig Delay with three dBBD modes

A pedal delay emulating the behaviour of Panasonic's classic 3205 and 3005 BBD chips delivers analogue-like sound, mono, stereo or true stereo connectivity, USB port, MIDI (up to 300 presets), modulation section, filter and an input Class A JFET preamp with ultra-low noise and superior dynamic response. The footswitch, which also controls the tap tempo function, can be used in both buffered and classic true bypass mode (relay), there's a connector for an external expression pedal and a switch selecting a trio of voicing modes: 3205 – from slapback to psychedelic sci-fi effects, 3005 – a dual mode for longer delays operating at 15 V, Multi – two cross-cut delays for creating complex sound textures and a wide stereo field.

Music Man StingRay Special 2023 Series

This year's Music Man StingRay Special Edition pays tribute to the model that was first introduced in 1976 and is considered one of the most iconic basses in history. The current StingRay Special, the flagship of the Californian brand, retains the same distinctive features from forty years ago, including an ash body, hard maple neck, iconic oval pickguard, massive tuning pegs in the typical 3+1 or 4+1 configuration and Music Man's popular humbucker. Four new finishes are also available in Sea Breeze, Laguna Green, Pueblo Pink and Buttercream finishes. Each of these models is fitted with a rosewood fretboard and will be available in four- and five-string versions with one or two humbuckers.

Caveman Audio BC1 Bass "Master" Compressor

Most bassists use a compressor as an effect placed between the instrument and the amp. In the case of the BC1, Caveman Audio explores the idea of using the compression as an always-on Master Compressor, at the end of the signal chain. The compressor thus tames and subtly shapes the overall dynamics, which the manufacturer says gives the player a natural tone that makes the instrument sound and sit better in the band mix. The pedal functions similarly to a high-end rack compressor with a balanced XLR line input, the same high-quality, transformer-balanced DI output, a widely adjustable Attack parameter (0.1 – 25 ms), as well as a footswitch-activated boost.

Iron Ether Subterrograph: octave oscillator and filter for bass and guitar

Oregon-based small-volume manufacturer Iron Ether Electronics has introduced the Subterrograph pedal, combining the company's Subterranea multi-octave oscillator with the Xerograph Deluxe four-pole resonant low-pass filter. The result is a monophonic subtractive synth for bass or guitar. The Subterranea unit tracks the notes being played and generates three synth voices – a low octave with adjustable harmonics, a monophonic synth line and an octave synth, each with selectable modulation waveforms. The Xerograph Deluxe section, by contrast, offers envelope filter options, including an expression pedal connection. All these paths plus the instrument's clean signal can be layered to create a huge range of unusual, harmonically rich sounds.

Iron Ether Electronics – Subterrograph

Sabian 18’’ AAX Rocktagon Vault Drop: the return of the octagonal cymbal

In the 1980s, some manufacturers tried to experiment with cymbal shapes – in the case of Sabian, the result was the octagonal Rocktagon range in B20 alloy, designed primarily for rock music and large venues. The Canadian brand has decided to partially reincarnate these cymbals, and the latest addition to the Vault Drop series is the limited edition 18'' AAX Rocktagon, which has the same octagonal shape as its predecessor, but that's pretty much where the similarities end. The current model belongs to the Thin category and features an un-hammered bell, which together offer a clearly articulated sound with an explosive response and quick decay.

SPEED frame: a pedalboard you can make your own

Canadian company SPEED Designs has launched SPEED frame, a pedalboard frame that promotes the idea of Bring Your Own Wood. The system consists of a pair of aluminium side end caps, machined using precision CNC technology, featuring cavities for inserting and then attaching your own wood cross-sections, forming the board's storage area. The chosen concept allows the width of the pedalboard to be adapted to the needs of the moment, plus each user can choose the type of wood to suit their taste. The set is of course supplied with mounting screws. Simple instructions for assembling this semi-DIY pedalboard are provided in the attached video.

Korg Nautilus AT 61 and 88 workstations with aftertouch function

The Korg Nautilus model range represents truly versatile workstations that can be used in almost every conceivable application on stage and in the studio. With the new Nautilus AT edition, the brand goes even further and for the first time offers the Japanese-made flagship in the form of two variants equipped with a keyboard with touch dynamics and aftertouch option. The more compact AT 61 version features a lightweight premium keyboard with 61 keys, while the AT 88 version gets a graduated RH-3 weighted keyboard with 88 keys and hammer-action mechanics. The AT series is expected to hit stores during September. Owners of classic Nautiluses can take advantage of a paid AT upgrade, but this requires sending the instrument to Korg headquarters.

Antelope Audio Atlas i8 three-way studio monitors

Antelope Audio's first-ever studio monitors provide a cutting-edge modern solution for any professional studio. The Atlas i8 combines the best technologies used in the company's master clock systems and audio interfaces, along with a carefully engineered design incorporating dual bass woofers housed in an isobaric configuration in addition to a coaxial driver for mids and highs. Of course, there is an advanced DSP unit tied to a Class-D final stage with a total power output of 400 W, balanced comprehensive speech, superior SPL (117 dB), AES/EBU connectivity, etc.

Tagy Solar Guitars Finding That Tone Strymon Ernie Ball Music Man Caveman Audio Iron Ether Electronics sabian SPEED Designs korg Antelope Audio

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For Insounder, I am mainly responsible for the news section and articles covering the gear of well-known musicians. I have been playing guitar in various bands for years and I also teach this beautiful instrument.