Mixdown's 2018 Christmas Gift Guide: Guitars

Deck the Halls

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The nights are getting warmer, Michael Buble is hitting the charts, and musicians are bracing themselves for a month of ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ covers. With Christmas almost upon us, it’s time to start searching stores for the ultimate present to give, which isn’t always an easy task. Luckily, we’ve got you covered with our Christmas Gift Guide to help you find the perfect gift for the musicians in your life.

Faith Nexus Neptune Electro Cognac

Distributed by: CMC Music
Expect to Pay: $1095

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Guitarists wanting a rich and classy acoustic guitar that isn’t going to break the bank.

 

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

The Nexus Neptune features a solid mahogany top, back and sides. One might think that this would make for an overwhelming amount of low end, but in fact it makes for a beautifully rich and well balanced guitar. I was particularly impressed by the clarity and resonance when playing large chord voicings.

 

USABILITY:

The baby jumbo body size is just lovely. Larger acoustic body sizes tend to be overwhelming and a bit hard to get around. That is certainly not a worry here.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

The Nexus Neptune is beautifully built and tastefully designed. The Cognac stain and gloss finish make for a stunning aesthetic.

 

OVERALL:

If you’re looking for a no frills acoustic or you’re in need of a solid workhorse for steady gigging, this is the guitar for you. There are no superfluous bells and whistles here, just a damn fine piece of gear. 

 

Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay Special

Distributed by: CMC Music

Expect to Pay: From $3795

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Rock, punk, funk, metal, blues, pop. Anyone wanting to add some StingRay tones to their arsenal.

 

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

The StingRay sound is an undeniable and instantly recognisable one, and the StingRay Special keeps it burning along. Factor in the new 18 volt preamp and you’ve got some added room for EQ movements. It can (and has been) used in a range of genres and styles over the years and the new revisions should ensure this trend is continued for some time.

 

USABILITY:

This bass feels great. The body updates add some comfort and ease (forearm contour, back & tummy contour) and the StingRay neck is all about playability.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

Music Man have some of the best quality control going around and the StingRay Special is no exception. Great finish, build and construction. The redesigned hardware looks and feels good, while a range of cool new colour options and a lightweight update gives it a fresh new feeling.

 

OVERALL:

Music Man have updated the classic StingRay with some new features and options, but kept the essence of the original alive. All the great Stinger tones with some additional preamp – what’s not to like?

 

aNueNue B1 Lumi Soprano Ukulele

Distributed by: Dynamic Music

Expect to Pay: $119

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Amateurs, professionals, hobbyists – absolutely everyone.

 

VERSATILITY:

Everyone loves the adorable ukulele, and aNueNue has made a fantastic one at that. The B1 is the smallest sibling of aNueNue’s basic series, making it the perfect size for travel or busking. 

 

USABILITY:

It’s difficult to put the B1 Lumi Soprano down even after hours of use. Its characteristically bright ‘ping’ sounds marvellous, and the LumiNova material forming both the dot inlays and fret markers looks gorgeous in the dark. You’ll never lose track of where your next chord is, even on a dimly lit stage. The ukulele also comes strung with a set of Aquila Nylgut strings made in Italy, which combine the best tonal qualities of both nylon and gut strings.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

The B1 Lumi Soprano is built with a laminated mahogany body, mahogany neck, and rosewood fretboard. The saddle and nut are formed of synthetic bone. A beautifully laser-etched rainbow inlay logo tops off the headstock. Overall, build quality is awesome, and it comes with a heavily padded gig bag too. 

 

OVERALL:

The ukulele is one of the most user-friendly instruments in the world, thanks to its short scale and tiny body. Ever an ideal gift, it’s a wonderful way for new players to get stuck in right away with no hassle.

 

aNueNue M2 Newborn Bird

Distributed by: Dynamic Music

Expect to Pay: $499

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

All kinds of guitarists, including beginners.

 

VERSATILITY:

The M2 Newborn Bird is a purely acoustic guitar that somewhat resembles a bird head, if you’re creative enough. Its classical body shape is juxtaposed by its offset sound hole and straight-edge cut out. Wherever you go, this baby bird will undoubtedly turn some heads.

 

USABILITY:

The M2 Newborn Bird sounds warmer than most with its extensive use of mahogany. Both deft fingerpicking and sweeping campfire chords sound girthy and full. While a traditional sloped cut out isn’t present, accessibility to the higher frets is not an issue whatsoever and feels surprisingly comfortable.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

The M2 Newborn Bird is made of pure mahogany, including its neck, which is topped off with rosewood. The nut and saddle are built from buffalo bone, a solid choice in retaining string energy. The celluloid binding around the laminated mahogany top provides extra durability along with some welcome contrast. A gig bag comes included with the M2 Newborn Bird, so you’re ready to fly at a moment’s notice.

 

OVERALL:

While its highly interesting body shape and design choices may not be for everyone, players looking for something new to squawk at might find it in the M2 Newborn Bird.

 

Cort G110 Guitar & CM15R Amp Bundle


 

Distributed by: Dynamic Music
Expect to Pay: $349

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Beginners looking to dive into the world of electric guitar.

 

VERSATILITY:

Now here’s a deal. Cort has knocked it out of the park with this guitar and amp bundle, without breaking your bank. The G110’s Caribbean Green finish is an absolute joy to look at and matches the festive season to boot. The CM15R offers 15 watts of output with a clean and overdrive channel, even including onboard digital reverb, auxiliary input and a headphone jack.

 

USABILITY:

The G110 presents itself in a very familiar and comfortable shape with a SSH configuration – perfect for accessing a wide variety of sounds. Its five-way switch and easily recognisable controls will make you feel right at home. Similarly, the CM15R takes literally seconds to dial in a tone that pleases, with its responsive three-band EQ and simple channel switching.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

The G110 is built with a poplar body and a hard maple neck. A comfortable C-shaped, satin matte finished neck with a flatter than usual 12” radius makes for an extremely playable guitar. Its body is only 39mm thick, making its lighter weight more accessible for the younger ones. The CM15R is solidly constructed with multi-coloured tolex options, ensuring it’s an extremely handsome starting amp.

 

OVERALL:

For what you pay for, both products together are more than worth the money. It’s hard to find a deal out there that has quality beginner instruments at this price.

 

Cort MR710F Guitar

Distributed by: Dynamic Music

Expect to Pay: $449

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Beginners, intermediates and pros alike.

 

VERSATILITY:

Cort consistently produces quality acoustic guitars at wallet-friendly prices, and the MR710F is no exception. With its slick matte finish and Venetian cutaway, this guitar was born ready for both street and stage.

 

USABILITY:

The MR710F is an absolute pleasure to play. With its comfortable dreadnought-style body and well-sculpted cutaway, access to all frets is a walk in the park. The onboard Fishman Presys is extremely simple to use with its three-band EQ. It even includes a backlit tuner for fuss-free tuning on a dark stage.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

As per usual, Cort’s guitars are solidly built. A Sitka spruce top covers the MR710F’s mahogany back and sides. Cort’s scalloped X-bracing pattern promises extra projection and volume, all while ensuring strength and flexibility. The simple yet beautiful rosette is formed of abalone, while the nut is crafted out of water buffalo bone. A scooped surface bridge shines in both form and function, enhancing sustain with a larger string angle from saddle to body.

 

OVERALL:

Great all-rounder guitar with solid construction. The Cort MR710F feels and sounds great, with a price tag to match. With a wealth of research and technology in its construction, it isn’t hard to see why Cort is so highly regarded at this price point.

 

Squier Contemporary Jazz Bass


 

Distributed by: Fender Music Australia
RRP: $949

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Bassists seeking a viable backup bass, or guitarists looking to delve into the lower frequency range.

 

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

The Squier Contemporary Jazz Bass absolutely thumps. While its tones remain relatively faithful to that of Leo Fender’s original design, Squier’s Contemporary model packs a punch unfound in many variants of the Jazz Bass, providing a slightly more modern take on the traditional J Bass quack. Expect both funky and chunky tones with this unit.

 

USABILITY:

Unlike other additions to the Squier Contemporary series, there actually isn’t too much different about their Jazz Bass. The profile of the neck feels a bit slimmer than usual, which allows for some pretty speedy runs up and down the neck, but other than that, this plays like a regular Jazz Bass – which, honestly, is great.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

Once again, Squier have gone all out by adding a splash of colour to the Contemporary Jazz Bass’ headstock, as well as fitting it with a more modern bridge design for optimised tuning stability and punchiness. The poplar body also feels extremely sturdy when playing, and just screams for you to take it for a big spin on the gig circuit.

 

OVERALL:

If I copped a Squier Contemporary Jazz Bass under the Christmas tree when I was 13 (or now), I’d be absolutely stoked. It’s the perfect beginner’s bass, and a great alternative for guitarists looking to learn the instrument.

 

Squier Contemporary Jazzmaster


 

Distributed by: Fender Music Australia
RRP: $949

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Shredders who want the classic looks of the Jazzmaster with ultra-modern appointments.

 

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

If you’re seeking the classic, warm tones of a vintage Jazzmaster, this guitar isn’t going to cut it for you. Instead, the Squier Contemporary Jazzmaster offers a smorgasbord of modern rock tones thanks to its active SQR Ceramic Humbuckers, providing screaming leads and thick n’ chunky rhythm tones – it’s the perfect riff stick.

 

USABILITY:

Squier have thrown the contentious switching system and tremolo of the original Jazzmaster out the window with their Contemporary model, opting instead for a stop-bar bridge and a simple pickup selector switch. This makes for easy, thoughtless tone shaping, which is made an absolute breeze by the effortless 12” fingerboard radius of the slim C-shaped neck.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

I’m a sucker for matching headstocks, and even though the Squier Contemporary Jazzmaster looks a lot more sinister than traditional Jazzmasters due to its paint configuration and chrome pickguard, aesthetically, this guitar is a knock out. The stop-bar bridge also lets you drop-tune with absolute ease, which I feel a lot of players will be doing with this guitar.

 

OVERALL:

This is by no means your dad’s idea of a Jazzmaster. However, as Bob Dylan once said, the times they are a-changing, and you’ll be ready to tackle any modern rock genres if you’re equipped with the Squier Contemporary Jazzmaster.

 

Flight Travel Ukulele

Distributed by: Hal Leonard Australia
Expect to Pay: $79.95

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Those looking for a great-sounding and sturdy ukulele that isn’t going to break the bank.

 

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

The first thing I noticed with the Flight Travel Ukulele was just how vibrant and resonant it sounded. The ukulele had great volume and clarity, with both chords and single notes.

 

USABILITY:

The Travel Ukulele is perfect for anyone from beginners through to teachers and more experienced players. The contoured plastic body feels really comfortable, and the matte finish on the wooden top is a nice touch. The inclusion of high quality strings and tuners counts for a lot as the ukulele stays in tune remarkably well.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

This particular instrument doesn’t feel like your run of the mill uke, that’s for sure. The ABS plastic construction ensures that it isn’t going to fall apart when you’re travelling, and the carry bag is incredibly handy.

 

OVERALL:

I have encountered many a ukulele in my years working in music stores and I have to say that the Flight Travel Ukulele really exceeded my expectations. Good luck finding another uke this well built for under $100.

 

Yamaha Broad Bass BB234

Distributed by: Yamaha Music Australia

Expect to Pay: $549.99

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Players after loads of sustain and undimmed playability.

 

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

The biggest distinction with the 234 is the Custom V3 ceramic pickup system. Twin volume controls operate both pickups, separately blending instead of stepping into your own personalised tonal texture. Add to that the familiar roll-off tone pot and the signature here is like a P-Bass reinvigorated by a wider scope of possibilities and some appealingly glassy overtones.

 

USABILITY:

The one-piece maple construction of the neck offers a touch of brightness and stability, which is accentuated by the offset ‘D’ shape across the reverse, adding up to a fast, silky and accurate playing experience.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

The 234 is carved out of the warm heft of alder, whose medium weight and density pushes the headroom and sustain expected from the tonewood alone. It utilises custom-designed, open gear tuners that not only feel suspiciously light and sensitive but also match the stylish, modern aesthetic of the graphite nut and streamlined, matte finish of the necks.

 

OVERALL:

From start to finish these basses are loaded with some of the most up to date design optimisation imagined, without veering into ‘space-bass’ territory.

 

Yamaha CSF1M Guitar

Distributed by: Yamaha Music Australia

Expect to Pay: $499

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Travelling folk guitarists, prolific campfire players looking for a quality build.

 

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

The CSF1M is a compact folk guitar that combines portability (measuring just 942mm top to bottom) with a genuinely rich, vibrant folk sound. It’s got a resonance throughout the body that through its clever design, manages to nearly match that of a full sized instrument. There is even a passive mounted piezo pickup if you are so inclined.

 

USABILITY:

The CSF1M is effortlessly playable down to its every spec, with 11mm string spacing, 400m fingerboard radius and an ultra-lightweight construction.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

The ingenuity in the CSF1M lies within Yamaha’s newly-designed scalloped bracing paired with a forward shifted construction to maintain the body’s strength while maximising the vibration of the guitar’s top. The body itself is comprised of a stunning Sitka spruce top, finished with mahogany sides and back, again bolstering resonance.

 

OVERALL:

This might just be the ultimate campfire guitar. The CSF1M’s refined design has resulted in a beautifully resonant and compact guitar that refuses to overcomplicate the issue. It’s comfortable and can even provide you with a true acoustic sound for live performance via a passive pickup.

 

Yamaha Gigmaker C40 Pack

Distributed by: Yamaha Music Australia

Expect to pay: $249.99

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Young learner guitarists and unsure beginners.

 

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

A well-made beginner classical guitar makes all the difference to a child – the better it sounds, the more likely they’ll be inspired to keep on. The Gigmaker C40, as part of Yamaha’s excellent classical range, has a bright and simple tone that supports all basic playing, as well as serving as brilliant campfire option. A digital tuner tops the package off, ensuring learners get their ear in quickly.

 

USABILITY:

Yamaha know how to craft for playability, and the C40 is a paragon of that statement; its ultra-wide and flat 52mm fretboard is exceptionally easy to start noodling on. Couple that with the instructional DVD included and it’s never been quicker to start your guitar journey.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

The C40 is an unfussy work of Yamaha beauty, sporting a gloss finish on its mix of spruce, meranti, nato and rosewood.

 

OVERALL:

A first guitar is the definitive Christmas present for a child, or an adult beginner; the beginning of a musical journey that could take you further than you could imagine. Yamaha understand this and have crafted the perfect package.

 

Yamaha Revstar RS320


 

Distributed by: Yamaha Music Australia
Expect to Pay: $499

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Players who want a no-nonsense, balanced sound and stylish body to boot in an affordable guitar.

 

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

The Revstar RS320 garners a raw, unadulterated tone emanating from its solid nato body, produced largely by the HH3 pickups. The ceramic magnets pickups have a tight punchiness to them that works seamlessly for crunch, light distortion and clean tones. It’s favoured by Dave Keuning of the Killers and Jeff Schroeder of Smashing Pumpkins.

 

USABILITY:

The no-frills setup makes this a very playable axe, fit with a simple three-position pickup switch, thinner 52mm neck, and a flat solid body. 

 

CONSTRUCTION:

Though this is the budget end of the Revstar range, Yamaha haven’t skimped on the RS320’s construction, housing its tone within a beautiful Japanese nato solid body. Styled after the cafe racer bike guitars of England in the 1960s, there’s a stripped down beauty to it that makes this look like the real deal.

 

OVERALL:

The Yamaha Revstar range is big on style and simple dialled in performance. The RS320 is an excellent foot in the door; perhaps good for a younger player wanting to step up from their first electric, or those looking for a trustworthy mix of style and brawn.

 

Mixdown's Christmas Gift Guide 

Amps

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