The best guitar gear of the year: 2012

5th Dec 2012 | 17:00

The best guitar gear of the year: 2012
The best guitar gear of 2012
Our round-up of this year's greatest guitar-based goodies

Have you been good this year? No? Didn't think so. It's a shame really, because as ruddy-cheeked seasonal worker Santa prepares his yearly breaking and entering spree, all the non-naughty guitarists out there - you know, the ones who practice hard and don't down seven pints before a gig - will surely be receiving some of the best gear of 2012.

It's the same every year: just when you think you've seen every possible guitar in every conceivable shape, every handy gizmo and heavenly amp, a brand new stack of gear hits the shops and makes you want to part with your hard-earned cash all over again.

In the spirit of Christmas - for here at MusicRadar the bells never stop jingling at this time of the year - we've trawled through every review and new release to bring you the very best of this year's guitar goodness. Over the next few pages you'll find new spins on old classics, impressive newcomers and plenty of reasons to put a hefty dent in your end-of-year pay packet.

So here it is: the very best guitar gear of 2012, complete with links to full reviews and the noble runners-up in each category. Enjoy, and have yourself a cracking Christmas surrounded by your nearest and dearest guitars. Oh and family and friends, don't forget them...

The best guitar gear of the year: 2012
Solid body electric guitar of the year
Gibson Les Paul Classic Plus (£1600/$2579)

It shouldn't be possible to be able to improve on a classic so many years after its introduction, but with the Les Paul Classic Plus, Gibson has done exactly that.

It's a stunner of a guitar, somehow managing to be both beauty and the beast. It's got the looks, sure, but we're after much more than that for north of £1500, and the Classic Plus delivers: bell-like tone, sustain that will still be hanging around when you've retired and a choice of neck profile (either a rounded '50s or slim '60s style neck is available) all help make the Les Paul Classic Plus our solid body of the year.

FULL REVIEW: Gibson Les Paul Classic Plus

Also in the running

Jackson Adrian Smith SDX

Fender Johnny Marr Jaguar

BUY: Gibson Les Paul Classic Plus currently available from:
UK/Europe:
Andertons Music Co. | Thomann | Gear4Music

The best guitar gear of the year: 2012
Semi-acoustic electric guitar of the year
Hagstrom Viking Rex-Tone (£515/$830)

It looks beautiful, it plays like a dream and Elvis played on in the '68 Comeback Special - yep, the Hagstrom Viking Rex-Tone was hands down the best semi we saw this year.

That's no small feat in an incredibly crowded and competitive area of the market, but if you can get your hands on one of these you'll see why it came out on top instantly. Fantastic playability, a smorgasbord of tonal variety thanks to all those lovely switches, and a pair of smashing pickups meant that this King-approved beauty ruled in 2012.

FULL REVIEW:Hagstrom Viking Rex-Tone

Also in the running

Gibson Midtown Standard

PRS SE Custom Semi-Hollow with Bigsby

BUY: Hagstrom Viking Rex-Tone currently available from:
UK/Europe:
Thomann | Gear4Music

The best guitar gear of the year: 2012
Best small guitar amplifier of the year
Orange Micro Terror (£99/$159)

A proper Orange head, with all the tone that heritage implies, for under £100? What fresh madness is this?

In a year packed full of genuinely great sounding small amps, the Orange Micro Terror managed to top the lot. How? With a combination of killer rock tones, surprising volume and the ability to punch way above its diminutive weight, that's how. The eye-wateringly low price point didn't hurt, either...

FULL REVIEW: Orange Micro Terror

Also in the running

Vox AC4HW1

Blackstar HT-5R

BUY: Orange Micro Terror currently available from:
UK/Europe:
Andertons Music Co. | Thomann | Gear4Music
USA:
Sweetwater | Full Compass

The best guitar gear of the year: 2012
Best medium guitar amplifier of the year
Marshall DSL40C (£635/$1025)

In the year that we said goodbye to Jim Marshall, it's fitting that a descendent of his world-changing amplifiers demonstrated exactly what makes Marshall such a revered brand.

The updated DSL40C blew our reviewer's mind-hole with its effortless ability to throw out everything from pristine clean tones through to rock raunch and ultra high-gain goodness. Loud and loaded with everything the discerning rocker could ever require, it's the mid-sized combo that proved once again that there's nothing quite like a Marshall.

FULL REVIEW: Marshall DSL40C

Also in the running

Egnater Tweaker 40

Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 36

BUY: Marshall DSL40C currently available from:
UK/Europe:
Andertons Music Co. | Thomann | Gear4Music
USA:
Sweetwater | Full Compass

The best guitar gear of the year: 2012
Best large guitar amplifier of the year
Carvin VL300 Legacy 3 (£1130/$1820)

It looks and sounds like it came from outer space, so sweet are the tones that can be wrung from the Carvin VL300 Legacy 3.

Steve Vai has really outdone himself with his signature head this time. Three channels of super-versatile tonal nirvana, running the range from sweet and soulful cleans all the way to filthy ultra high-gains that are filthier than a whore's drawers. Mightily impressive, with superb build quality and head-turning looks, the Legacy 3 wins the heavyweight battle for the best large guitar amp of 2012.

FULL REVIEW: Carvin VL300 Legacy 3

Also in the running

Laney L50H

Kemper Profiling Amp

The best guitar gear of the year: 2012
Best acoustic guitar of the year
Faith Neptune (£559/$900)

It would seem that in 2012, you've really gotta have Faith.

The brand has gone from strength to strength this year, winning all sorts of plaudits and a stream of stunning reviews here on MusicRadar. On the evidence presented with the Neptune, it's easy to understand why. A highly impressive baby jumbo bursting with character, the Neptune stuck out a mile in the incredibly competitive acoustic market. Impressive.

FULL REVIEW: Faith Neptune

Also in the running

Washburn WD7S

Martin D-18

BUY: Faith Neptune currently available from:
UK/Europe:
Andertons Music Co. | Gear4Music

The best guitar gear of the year: 2012
Best electro-acoustic guitar of the year
Ibanez AW250-ECE LG (£289/$465)

Snappily named it may not be, but the Ibanez AW250-ECE LG makes all the right moves when plugged in.

Ibanez may not be widely known for their acoustics, but we were highly impressed with this feature-packed electro-acoustic. Boasting a Fishman Sonicore, cedar top and a choice of jack and XLR outputs, it's as sweet a sounding an electro as we had out hands on all year.

FULL REVIEW: Ibanez AW250-ECE LG

Also in the running

Taylor 712CE

Vintage Paul Brett VE8000PB-12

BUY: Ibanez AW250-ECE LG currently available from:
UK/Europe:
Andertons Music Co. | Thomann

The best guitar gear of the year: 2012
Guitar FX of the year
Blackstar HT-Metal (£179/$288)

Any pedal that proudly proclaims itself to be 'pure valve filth' is going to do well with us, but it's the fact that the Blackstar HT-Metal backs up its claim to dirtiness so well that impressed us most.

Have no doubt, this is a seriously heavy pedal, able to dial in the very darkest of tones but with enough versatility to find space in any discerning distortionite's pedal board. Almost frighteningly good at its job, the HT-Metal is an essential buy for any worshipper at the altar of rock.

FULL REVIEW: Blackstar HT-Metal

Also in the running

EC Custom The Mystical Sustainer

Dr Scientist The Elements

BUY: Blackstar HT-Metal currently available from:
UK/Europe:
Andertons Music Co. | Gear4Music | Reddog Music
USA:
Sweetwater | Full Compass

The best guitar gear of the year: 2012
Guitar accessory of the year
Rock Slide Swamp Slides (£21/$33)

Like all the best innovations, the Rock Slide Swamp Slide makes you wonder why the features it boasts weren't thought of decades ago.

The tapered interior makes for a supremely comfortable slide playing experience, and does something we didn't think possible - brings the slide bang up to date. Superb.

FULL REVIEW: Rock Slide Swamp Slides

Also in the running

IK Multimedia Amplitube Slash for iPad

TC Electronic Polytune Mini

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