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NEW GEAR 35/23: TCE High-Gain Preamps, Strat Juanez, Apogee Microphone and SBC Synth

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. In addition to the signature Juanez Stratocaster, Fender is coming out with a Jaguar Mike Kerr bass, TCE is expanding its Ampworx preamp collection with three Hi-Gain models, Pearl has bolstered its lineup with another Dennis Chambers snare, and Apogee has introduced the HypeMic microphone with built-in compressor. We can also recommend the Milkman stereo amp, the first-ever synth from Space Brain Circuits, the VegaTrem tremolo for Telecaster and the Electro Harmonix compact compressor.

Fender Juanes Stratocaster modern signature

Fender has launched a signed Stratocaster by Colombian guitarist Juanes (Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez), a skilled player with a wide range of styles from pop to heavy metal. The Strat in elegant Luna White satin lacquer is fitted with a pair of custom Juanes Ultra Noiseless Strat singles, complemented by a Juanes Alnico II bridge humbucker. Flexibility is enhanced by a special mid-boost preamp (up to +12 dB – Tone potentiometer) activated by the S1 button located in the volume control. Access to the higher positions of the variable radius maple fretboard is facilitated by an ergonomic alder body joint, while the neck has been given a more solid Deep-C profile.

VegaTrem VT2ND Teletrem: tune up your Telecaster

A tremolo designed specifically for guitars with Telecaster-type fretboard does not require any drastic interventions in the body, so no cutter, drill or other tools are needed for installation, but in most cases, only a Phillips and flathead screwdriver will suffice. The VT2ND Teletrem consists of a base for mounting the bridge pickup and the frets belonging to the moving part of the top-load tremolo, whose six springs are hidden in the cavities through which the strings are routed through the body on a conventional Telecaster. The tremolo is, of course, designed with respect to the position of the original holes for the anchor screws and other components in mind. High-quality materials such as stainless marine steel or brass have been used, enhancing resonance and sustain of the tone. The workflow of the upgrade is demonstrated in the attached video.

EHX Pico Platform: small studio quality compressor/limiter

After the Pico POG octaver, the New York manufacturer decided to miniaturize the Platform compressor/limiter, whose Pico version offers full-featured functions despite its pocket-sized dimensions, except of course for the battery power supply – it wouldn't really fit the electronics housed in a chassis measuring just 9.3 x 5 x 5 cm. The illuminated two-tone Type knob selects between Hard / Soft Knee modes (limiting or compression) and, in addition to the traditional Volume, Sustain, Attack controls, there's also a Blend parameter to ensure a natural tone. Inspired by studio models, the digital Pico Platform with buffered bypass has a transparent expression without colouring the original signal, so you can use it for almost any instrument. A power supply is included.

TCE Pedal Preamps from the Ampworx Hi-Gain Series

Shortly after the debut of the first Ampworx Vintage series, the Danish company came out with similarly conceived pedal preamps of the Ampworx Hi-Gain series in Dual Wreck, V550 and Jims 800 versions, emulating the sound of Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, Peavey 5150 MKI and modified Marshall JCM 800 amps. The common denominator is an optional pre/post boost with a dedicated footswitch, six standard drivers with an added Presence mini-potentiometer, Mini-B USB port, input, output and a second DI output fitted with a 4x12 IR pulse cabinet with Celestion Vintage 30 (Dual Wreck), G12M Heritage (V550) and G12-65 (Jims 800) speakers. Relatively friendly prices are expected to be around 160 euros.

Jim Dunlop Akira Takasaki Cry Baby Fuzz Wah

The Cry Baby collection continues to expand with new signature models, as confirmed by the AT95 version of guitarist Akira Takasaki of Japanese heavy metal band Loudness, a classic for connoisseurs of the genre. The wah circuit has undergone a modification lowering the working frequency compared to standard Dunlop wah-wah pedals for a rounder and less piercing sound. An integrated section of switchable high-gain fuzz with a sensitivity pot increases the expressiveness of the filtered tone, the pedal features an auto-return system where the spring returns the pedal to the off position and separate LEDs indicate the activation of both circuits. "The ultimate rock wah pedal for live performance," says Takasaki of the new product.

Milkman The Amp Stereo Floor Amplifier

California-based Milkman Sound continues the evolution of its The Amp series of floor-standing guitar mini-amps with a new version, The Amp Stereo. While the analogue model designation gives a good idea of the primary circuitry it offers, thanks to a pair of integrated preamps with separate two-band corrections and volume controls, this amp can also be used as two independent amps with a common master. Different types of boxes with different impedances can be connected to each section, a switchable speaker simulator, a headphone jack and a pair of footswitches are installed, with the left switch used to merge the two branches into a mono mode and the right switch reversing the phase of the right channel. Power: 2x 200 W / 4 ohms, 2x 100 W / 8 ohms, 2x 50 W / 16 ohms.

Fender Mike Kerr Jaguar Bass: short-scale length limiter

Built on a traditional alder/maple/rosewood base, the limited edition of the frontman of the British band Royal Blood offers a scale length shortened to 30 inches, which, together with the more subtle C-profile of the neck, predestines this instrument primarily to players with smaller hands and shorter fingers. The bass features an HH pickup configuration, with a Fender Wide Range medium humbucker complemented by a bridge custom mini-humbucker, which, Kerr says, he uses a lot in the studio to add more crispness and "twang" to the sound. Finished in Tiger's spectacular Blood Orange lacquer and hardware in gold chrome, the model comes with a deluxe gig bag padded with leopard-print fabric.

Pearl Dennis Chambers 14’’ x 6.5’’ DC1465S/C drum

The latest snare designed for the legendary drummer takes some elements from his previous models and adds a few innovations. The body of this year's version of the DC1465S/C in Matte Black finish is, like Chambers' first Pearl snare, made of four layers of maple reinforced with inner Re-Rings, while the asymmetrical tuning system, consisting of 10 screws at the upper and 8 screws at the lower membrane (Evans B14G12 / S14H30), has been adopted from the second version. MasterCast Hoops cast rims and small STL-100 type shells are used. The SR-300 stringers make a major difference, featuring three individually tuned six-strand spring segments, each of which can be switched on or off to further shape the resulting drum sound. In the words of the manufacturer, the DC 2023 version provides "unmatched flexibility and musical tone backed by superior sensitivity and distinctive projection."

Stereo analogue polysynth SBC DarkSky-4

US company Space Brain Circuits has announced the official debut of its first desktop-format DarkSky-4 synthesizer. Featuring four-voice polyphony, three playback modes (Mono, Para, Poly), a choice of square or sawtooth modulation waveforms per voice, two low-pass filters and other sections, the semi-modular synth has stereo outputs, which, together with its extensive modulation capabilities, allows for the creation of expressive and spatially wide effects and textures. The hand-assembled instrument is equipped with MIDI In/Out (DIN/minijack) connectors, a USB port for firmware upload and, of course, headphones can be connected.

Apogee HypeMic: microphone with built-in compressor

Compression is a very important part of any audio recording, and, of course, the Apogee brand is fully aware of this, coming up with the first USB microphone equipped with a built-in analogue compressor. The patented studio-quality technology is thus able to bring vibrancy to your vocals, instruments and podcasts. It uses a cardioid condenser capsule, PureDIGITAL (24 bit/96 kHz) connectivity, a headphone output with Blend function for zero-latency recording, and an input sensitivity potentiometer on the body of the microphone that also acts as a switch for the trio of Shape, Squeeze and Smash compression modes. Accessories include a tripod, cabling, pop filter and carrying case.

Tagy Fender EHX VegaTrem TC Electronic Jim Dunlop Milkman Sound Pearl Space Brain Circuits Apogee

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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.