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NEW GEAR 52/23: Soldano Amps, Gretsch Kits, Anniversary Stratocasters and Schecter Basses

Those who are ready are not caught off guard. Welcome to our next weekly roundup of new gear and trivia from the musician's world, where we try to sum up everything essential that's currently hitting the market that we should know about. Legendary engineer Michael Soldano unveils a new Astro-20 amp and combo, Schecter has built a four-string model CB-4 for bass virtuoso Charles Berthoud, Gretsch announces a return to Renegade kits, Kramer launches a signature Voyager model, and Fender has presented several special Anniversary models as part of the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Stratocaster. We also feature the Zultan Heritage Flat Ride cymbals, a signature drive from Rush's Alex Lifeson, a feature-packed booster from OPFXS, and a new model of the Flying Jackson carrying Randy Rhoads' name.

Fender celebrates its anniversary with the Stratocastery Player and American Professional II 70th Anniversary

Next year marks the 70th anniversary of Leo Fender's iconic creation: the Fender Stratocaster. To celebrate the milestone, the company is releasing a collection of limited-edition instruments and anniversary colour variants. These are represented by the 70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster in Nebula Noir lacquer with Pure Vintage '59 single coils and the 70th Anniversary American Professional II Stratocaster in Comet Burst transparent finish with maple top and 70th Anniversary V-Mod II single-coil pickups. Player and American Professional versions are also available in the new Anniversary 2-Color Sunburst finish.

Extravagant Kramer Lzzy Hale Voyager

Kramer is expanding the Voyager guitar edition with a new signature model aimed especially at players of more punchy genres. The version, based on the preferences of guitarist Lzzy Hale, got a star-shaped alder body covered in a special Black Diamond Holographic Sparkle lacquer, a bolt-on maple neck with a comfortable SlimTaper C profile and an ebony fingerboard carrying 22 medium-thick frets. The strings anchor in a locking Floyd Rose 1000 tremolo and run through the (R2) locking nut to the company's tuners. Simply conceived electronics consist of a Kramer 85-T bridge humbucker and a volume potentiometer. The instrument comes with a hard case.

Jackson MJ Series Rhoads RR24MG

Japanese versions of models inspired by the modified Flying V "Concorde" from Randy Rhoads, former guitarist of Ozzy Osbourne's band, are available in Gloss Black with Yellow Pinstripes and Snow White with Black Pinstripes. On the new variants, the original Seymour Duncan pickups have been replaced with a pair of the time-tested EMG81 / EMG 85 active humbuckers, and the fixed bridge has given way to a dual-locking tremolo Gotoh GE 1996T, complete with Floyd Rose Original locking nut and Gotoh tuning machines. The price, including Dunlop strap locking strap buttons and a Jackson Foam Core case, is under 3000 dollars.

Mojotone Alex Lifeson Lerxst By-Tor Drive

Along with the tube amp head, combo and cabinets from the Lerxst CHI series, based on the preferences of the Rush guitarist, Mojotone comes with the Alex Lifeson Lerxst By-Tor Drive pedal. The effect is based on the sound of the distorted channel of the 100-watt, hopelessly sold-out Lerxst Omega custom amp that Lifeson used during the recording of Rush's last studio album Clockwork Angels (2012) and on the subsequent tour. In addition to a distortion circuit with Level, Tone and Gain controls, the pedal is equipped with a boost section with its own volume and footswitch. The order of both units can be changed with a switch toggle, the price is around 280 euros.

OPFXS Twin Boost: analogue pedal with digital control

A two-channel programmable clean booster with a trio of dual presets, an analogue signal path, up to +24dB of boost, a neutral frequency response and a variety of features including the Time Factor parameter, which determines the speed of gain ramp-up, is probably the most sophisticated effect in its category. In addition to a silent footswitch connected in true bypass / buffered modes (1st / 2nd channel), Twin Boost is equipped with a foot switch operating in Gain Step or Preset modes, while Joint and Separate modes provide different routing (stereo boost / 2x mono boost) thanks to stereo input and output. With a price tag of about 150 euros, the pedal also offers a mini MIDI In jack, and a QR code printed on the main panel will redirect you to a brief instruction manual when scanned.

Three-channel amp head and combo Soldano Astro-20

After a long time, amp guru Mike Soldano came up with an entirely new series, featuring the Astro-20 tube amp and combo, where the number in the name indicates the maximum power output of the power amp with Master and Presence controls, using a pair of 6V6 tubes. There are three Clean/OD1/OD2 channels, four Galaxy modes (Green, Blue, Purple, Red), Deep and Bright switches, an IR section with 6 sample box slots and also the option to save presets using Soldano Editor software. There is also a USB port, MIDI, symmetrical line output, FX loop and headphone jack with custom volume. The 1x12 combo is equipped with a Celestion G12M Greenback speaker and comes with a four-button MIDI footswitch and the necessary cables.

Four-string Schecter CB-4 Charles Berthoud

This modern model, designed to suit the bass virtuoso's preferences, offers a massive yet detailed sound with a sensitive response even at the higher positions of the two-octave rosewood fingerboard, which Berthoud often uses in his tapping technique. Neck-through ash body covered with a maple top is glued to the walnut and padauk neck. The hardware consists of a Schecter Diamond bridge and Grover Bass 144 tuners, while the electronics consist of a pair of EMG 35HZ pickups with an EMG B64 active preamp powered by two 9V batteries. The bass has a standard 34-inch scale and comes in a See Thru Black Satin transparent finish.

Gretsch brings back the Renegade kits

The traditional American brand has revived the Renegade series, designed primarily for beginners, offering more affordable versions of the RGE625 kits, whose shells are glued from nine layers of poplar and fitted with triple-bent hoops. A classic five-piece configuration consists of a 22" x 16" bass drum, two toms 10" x 7" and 12" x 8", a floor tom 16" x 14" and a snare 14" x 5". There is also a 13" hi-hat and 18" crash/ride, complete hardware and stool. You can choose from Grey Sparkle, Ruby Sparkle, Black Mist and Blue Sparkle finishes. The official price of the RGE625 series kits has been set at just under 600 dollars.

Gretsch – Renegade RGE625

Zultan Flat Ride cymbals from the Heritage edition

Zultan has added two Flat Rides to the Heritage series, with diameters of 19 and 20 inches, made from traditional B20 bronze alloy with a densely hammered pattern. The cymbals are designed for drummers who prefer a softer sound suitable for non-amplified music such as traditional jazz. They offer a warm, more subtle expression with complex overtones, flexibility and last but not least a superior responsiveness to playing with different types of mallets, with the smaller 19″ version scoring with a faster attack. Official European prices are around 230 and 250 euros for the 20″ ride.

High-quality instrument stand Xvive G1 Butterfly

Designed in Germany, this instrument stand with a two-tiered cradle can securely hold almost any electric, acoustic, classical or bass guitar, mandolin, etc. Thanks to the sophisticated aluminium alloy construction, reducing the weight of this model to just 796 grams, the G1 version is sufficiently robust, strong and stable. The feet and the segments touching the instrument are coated with silicone with a non-slip coating. The stand, held together with a pair of strong magnets, assembles in seconds, and when folded, it transforms into a compact lightweight accessory measuring 337 x 255 x 62 mm, so it fits in the outside pocket of most guitar gig bags.

Tagy Fender Kramer Jackson Mojotone OPFXS Soldano Schecter Gretsch Zultan Xvive

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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.