Fender, Audio-Technica + more: our top five gear releases of the week

Catch up on everything that arrived in the gear world this week

Missed everything that's gone on in the gear world this week? Never fear - we've got you covered. This week, we're looking at a fresh take on Fender's Tim Armstrong acoustic, a new limited-edition offering from Audio-Technica, some freaky Arturia gear and more.

1. Fender Tim Armstrong Anniversary Hellcat 

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Fender and punk hero Tim Armstrong's partnership, and the two parties are celebrating things in a big way with the launch of a new commemorative acoustic model. The Tim Armstrong Anniversary Hellcat is based on an original '60s concert acoustic the Rancid guitarist tends to use for songwriting, with Fender adding in upgraded modern specs and a slick trim for the Anniversary model to make for quite an alluring acoustic offering.

 

With a solid spruce top, mahogany back and sides and a maple C-shaped neck, the new Hellcat adds gold hardware to give it a sophisticated aesthetic leaning, while Tim's signature Hellcat skull inlays adorn the fretboard of the guitar. It's also decked out with crisp Fishman electronics with an inbuilt tuner to ensure you never fall flat on stage, and is coated in a slick gloss black finish, making for a quite a special signature instrument. Hear how it sounds below. 

 

 

2. Audio-Technica Limited Edition Silver AT2020 V and AT2020USB+ V Microphones

Now that we're all spending a lot more time indoors, there's been a considerable trend towards people seeking high-quality cardioid condenser microphones in order to fulfill all their podcasting, producing and streaming needs. Audio-Technica's AT2020 has always dominated in this sector, with its high SPL and immediately rich sound being suited for recording vocals, acoustics, percussion and everything else in between. In effect, the company's latest launch is essentially just a victory lap for the coveted condenser, decking it in the fancy finish it deserves and bundling it with some extra goodies.

 

Available now in both USB and XLR variants, the latest take on the AT2020 V gives it a shiny silver finish and bundles it with the AT8458 shock mount, an ultra-practical piece of kit that attenuates noise, shock and vibrations as well as a tripod desk stand and microphone bag. This marks the first time both products have been bundled together in such a way, making for an unmissable combo for any budding content creator or producer-in-the-making. 

 

 

3. Arturia MicroFreak Vocoder 

Arturia's weird little MicroFreak has been heralded as one of the most unique synths to be released in recent years, and the French firm have made it all the more funky with their new Vocoder variant. Decked out in a new white finish, the 16-band Vocoder fuses the MicroFreak's analogue filters and whacky oscillator modes with three waveforms - sawtooth, pulse width and noise - as well as Timbre and Shape knobs to tweak the vocoder response. There's also 16 presets which span formant sequences, harmonies and classic Daft Punk robo-voice sounds, plus more.  

 

If you already own a MicroFreak and want a slice of the vocoder action, Arturia have also made the surprise announcement that the original MicroFreak actually boasts its own TRRS connector via the headphone output. With the new 2.1 update, you can easily plug in an in-line smartphone mic and explore the vocoder functionality without dishing out any extra pennies - delightful!

 

 

 

4. Frederic Effects Blue Monarch pedal 

Nothing gets a guitar geek foaming at the mouth quite like the tone of an authentic Blues Breaker. The classic overdriven sound, immortalised by none other than Eric Clapton himself, has formed the basis for many a boutique overdrive pedal, the most prominent of which is undeniably the Analogman King Of Tone. However, KOTs tend to go for pretty alarming prices on the used market, and there's a sizable wait-list to get one if you don't want to shell out the big clams, which makes the prospect of the Frederic Effects Blue Monarch all too tantalising on paper. 

 

With controls for Gain, Volume, Tone, Treble Boost and a toggle switch to change clipping modes, the Blue Monarch immediately presents itself as a pedal worthy of your attention. Handmade in the UK, the Frederic Effects Blue Monarch delivers faithful Blues Breaker tones on a plate, and packs a little more maximum gain as well to make it a touch more versatile. It's also extremely affordable, and with no outrageous pricetag tacked on, definitely seems like a classy alternative to other boutique BB clones of its ilk.

 

 

5. Akai EWI Solo

Here's one for all you jazz cats! Akai have debuted their very own EWI (that's electronic wind instrument for all you simps) with an inbuilt speaker, promising on-the-go woodwind, brass and reed jams with a battery life of 12 hours. It's packed with over 200 onboard tones, as well as reverb, delay and chorus effects, pitch and tuning adjustments and dual LFOs. 

 

Connectivity is provided via USB MIDI and 1/4" audio outs, while a 1/8" headphone jack and aux input also allows for both silent and backed rehearsals. There's also an Electronic Valve Instrument fingering mode to flex to a range of styles, making for quite a unique foray into the EWI sphere from Akai.

 

 

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