Mixdown's Christmas Gift Guide: Guitars

Festive String Specials

It's the most wonderful time of the year, and we couldn't be happier about it. But between listening to Christmas songs on repeat and trying to perfect our festive decorations, it's not always easy to make time to find a gift for the musicians in our lives. For those who don't want to see their Christmas cheer ruined searching for the perfect present in a crowd of shoppers on Christmas Eve, we've got you covered. Our Christmas Gift Guide is bursting with gear that we're sure your music mates will love, and this page is especially for anyone in need of a guitar, bass, or ukulele.

Fender American Professional Precision Bass

DISTRIBUTED BY: Fender Music Australia

EXPECT TO PAY: $3049

RECOMMENDED FOR:

 Pro players looking for a solid workhorse.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

The American Professional features the brand new V-Mod split-coil P Bass pickup. The single, double-sided housing is loaded with a blend of several alnico weights, which, like a good whiskey blend, weaves together seamlessly. It’s an interesting choice but ultimately one that enhances the simplicity of the tonal fingerprint as opposed to muddying it up with layers of colour. The last thing that Fender should ever do is mess with such a distinctive sound but they’ve managed to pull off this more than moderate update without kicking the hornets’ nest that gave rise to so many musical styles that define generations.

USABILITY:

This latest iteration of the revered P Bass is as close as you’ll ever get to an actual ’51 without going back in time. The polished satin finish of the neck counters its hefty 9.5” radius balancing smooth playability with brick and mortar might.

CONSTRUCTION:

It’s heavier than the previous model, the American Deluxe, and has a hotter output but it feels every bit the step up that you expect.

OVERALL:

60 years and countless technological advancements later and still nothing quite compares to the tough, solid monolith of low-end that is the P Bass.

 

Fender American Professional Telecaster

DISTRIBUTED BY: Fender Music Australia

EXPECT TO PAY: $3099

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Anybody after that traditional Tele sound.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

The neck pickup is beefy and warm, if perhaps a tad flat. In saying that, no-one in their right mind is really buying a Tele for the front pickup. You’re after that twangy bridge pickup sound, which this bad boy delivers in spades. Loaded with bite and snarl, it’s impossible not to bust out some chicken pickin’ with a guitar like this.

USABILITY:

Compensated brass saddles across the bridge are a more than welcome touch for a guitar of this calibre, and lend a subtly vintage vibe to it. While it may not be instantly noticeable, they offer the instrument more sustain too. The strings are almost comically easy to bend into a wail, making for a very playable neck.

CONSTRUCTION:

Great build quality. The perfect blend of classic Fender with a few modern appointments thrown in for good measure.

OVERALL:

It’s simple. Plug it in, add a hearty dollop of spring reverb, turn it up, and you're good to go.

 

Ernie Ball Music Man James Valentine Guitar

DISTRIBUTED BY: CMC Music

EXPECT TO PAY: $4895

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Pop, rock, jazz and funk players.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

With a custom single-coil, Tele-style bridge pickup, and a custom humbucker neck pickup, this guitar offers tons of tonal versatility. On board is a three-way custom wired level switch, tone and volume controls. Across the board the tonal quality of this guitar is very responsive, lively and sonically rich. There’s enough depth here to clearly articulate clean open chords, or to conversely purr and pulse when dialling in a hotter crunch.

USABILITY: 

The body shape, construction and overall aesthetic of the Valentine draw from a Gibson 335 and a Tele. While drawing on traditional design points, the Valentine is very much underlined by a modern sophistication and flair.

CONSTRUCTION:

The ash body and high gloss polyester finish make for a simply stunning guitar. It’s complemented by a roasted maple neck and fingerboard, both of which exude a rich earthiness that’s easy on the eye. While drawing on traditional design points, the Valentine is very much underlined by a modern sophistication and flair.

OVERALL:

For a signature guitar to be successful it needs to fully engage with the guitarist at hand, while remaining open to a diverse range of players. This is what Music Man has achieved with the Valentine – a guitar that is expressive and vibrant.

 

Seagull M4

DISTRIBUTED BY: Dynamic Music

EXPECT TO PAY: $249

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Beginners wanting to get a start on a stringed instrument, studio guys wanting to add some acoustic tones to their palette.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

Based on the dulcimer the M4 has an intriguing acoustic tone that sits somewhere between a dulcimer, banjo, mandolin and guitar. Rootsy with some twang, the small body still produces plenty of volume and it’s really up to your imagination in terms of playing/parts – be it chords, arpeggios, single lines or a bit of everything.

USABILITY:

A diatonic instrument, the M4 keeps everything within the one key meaning you can easily play chords and scales (hitting a lot of ‘correct’ sounding notes with ease) and the body and neck size are conducive to almost all ages.

CONSTRUCTION:

Solid and robust with a choice of either mahogany or spruce for the top and a rock maple neck, yet light and portable.

OVERALL:

Want something acoustic that’s a little different? Something that you can pick up and start belting out ideas relatively quickly? Maybe the M4 is in your sights then. Portable and with an interesting acoustic tone, it’s a cool instrument worth some investigation.

 

Ernie Ball Music Man Caprice Bass Guitar

DISTRIBUTED BY: CMC Music

EXPECT TO PAY: $4150

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Players looking for a modern bass with vintage features.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:  

Music Man have implemented a PJ styled pickup arrangement on the Caprice. Both humbucking, there’s a split coil in the middle and a standard four-pole pickup in the bridge. With separate volume controls and a master tone control, you can dial up for old school funk, honky mid range in between tones, raspier bridge sounds, and then roll the tone up or down for everything in between.

USABILITY:

Light in weight, the Caprice feels comfortable and will suit those that dig the skinny vintage feel. The neck is slim and fast, which again adds to that old school vibe, and of course there’s easy access across the whole fretboard, including the higher registers.

CONSTRUCTION:

As with all of Music Man instruments, the build and quality control is top notch.

OVERALL:

I love the Caprice’s mix of old and new. It’s a nice contrast to the rest of the Music Man bass range and the choice to make the bass completely passive was a great move.

 

Ernie Ball Music Man Cutlass Guitar

DISTRIBUTED BY: CMC Music

EXPECT TO PAY: $3495

Recommended For:

Those looking for a modern sound with a vintage feel.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

The Cutlass comes with three single coil pickups (Music Man custom wound, for those with an eye for specifics). It’s also fitted with a Silent Circuit mechanism, which is effective in reducing the hum while preserving the single coil sound. Some people are apprehensive about these sorts of built-in enhancements, but we’re not goofing around by saying the Silent Circuit doesn’t reduce any of the full bodied single coil sound.

USABILITY: 

The Cutlass weighs roughly the same amount as a Strat, but a lot of this weight seems to disappear once strapped over your shoulder. The top corner of the body has an ergonomic fold, giving greater comfort when resting against the torso or the waist. The neck is one of the guitar’s biggest assets. It’s 41mm at the nut and 56mm by the time you get to the 22nd and final fret.

CONSTRUCTION:

Incredibly solid build, and not overwhelming in bells and whistles.

OVERALL:

The Cutlass is a welcome addition to Music Man’s modern classic collection.  However, it’s made worthwhile by the updated features and high performance capacity. There’s nothing nostalgic about this guitar.

 

Tiki ‘9 Series’ Concert Ukulele

DISTRIBUTED BY: Jade Australia

EXPECT TO PAY: $329

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Beginners through to more advanced users.

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

As a concert sized uke the 9 Series offers quite a large sound with the ability to plug in thanks to the onboard pickup. Good for the novice wanting to learn some easy chords or more seasoned players, the 9 Series offers a clear and open fundamental tone that could be used in a variety of settings.

USABILITY:

The concert body size is small enough for almost anyone but offers a little bit more size than a soprano. The pickup and tuner are straight forward so you’ll be up and running straight away in a gig situation.

CONSTRUCTION:

The combination of koa, mahogany and rosewood looks nice and earthy with the construction feeling solid. Timber binding and the included plush lined hardcase add some further class to the package.

OVERALL:

Born under the Timberidge Guitar banner, the Tiki line of ukes covers quite a range of models and prices. From soprano through to baritone and a myriad of options in woods and specs, these are solid instruments at a decent price point.

 

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 tone-wood 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.

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