Jackson, Benson Amps + more: our top five gear releases of the week
04.02.2021

Jackson, Benson Amps + more: our top five gear releases of the week

Words by Will Brewster

Our guide to the biggest drops in the gear world this week.

Been off the gear grid? No stress – we’ve got you. This week, we’re compiling some of the coolest new releases that you might have missed amid the news cycle, with this week’s roundup featuring the new Marty Friedman signature model from Jackson, a clever fuzz box from Benson Amps, a very nifty pedalboard from D’Addario and more.

This week’s top picks:

  • Jackson Pro Series Signature MF-1 Purple Mirror
  • Benson Amps Germanium Fuzz
  • D’Addario XPND Pedalboard
  • Sandberg California Supreme 35th Anniversary Edition
  • Modern Sounds Pluto

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Jackson Pro Series Signature MF-1 Purple Mirror

After being announced last month at NAMM, Jackson have now officially launched the Marty Friedman Pro Series Signature MF-1, decked out in an eye-catching Cracked Mirrored Purple finish. Taking design cues from the Les Paul, this model features a 24.75″ scale length and a mahogany body  with a set neck and 22-fret ebony fretboard with pearloid block inlays, while a three-ply white/abalone binding surrounds the curves of the instrument.

In the electronics department, this signature model features Friedman’s bespoke EMG MF passive humbuckers in the neck and bridge position, both of which are wired to a typical two volume and two tone knob combo with a three-way switch to toggle between positions. Elsewhere, this one features black hardware and a Jackson TOM-style adjustable bridge and anchored tailpiece, as well as a wildly pointy headstock – just in case you forget it’s a Jackson.

Benson Amps Germanium Fuzz

Boutique gurus Benson Amps have debuted the Germanium Fuzz, a fresh take on a classic fuzz tone with one notable tweak. As you might know, germanium fuzz pedals can prove to be a bit finicky when it comes to changes in temperature, suffering from weird little quirks as the heat around them fluctuates – in Australia, they’re a nightmare to manage.

This new offering from Benson Amps seeks to amend that with its internal thermal biasing technology, gently heating the transistors to keep them at temperature and ensuring the pedal retains a consistent tone from 0°C to 38°C.

While the pedal does take at least two or three minutes to warm up and sound its best, it’s certainly worth it to tap into that glorious germanium fuzz tone without any worries. Hear how it sounds below.

D’Addario XPND Pedalboard

There really isn’t anything worse than running out of pedalboard real estate: any effects-addicted guitarist can attest to this. Thankfully, D’Addario have come up with an answer to these woes with the new XPND Pedalboard range, providing players with a telescopic pedalboard – weirdly similar to those expandable dining tables that get whipped out to host your extended family at Christmas – to make sure you never run out of board space.

Featuring aircraft quality rails, a cable management system and pre-fitted velcro, the XPND range is available in two variants – the single row XPND 1 and the double row XPND 2. If you’re keen, you can grab each product with an optional backline XPND Pedalboard Transporter bag, and D’Addario are also offering pedal risers for anyone who needs to set their stomps up at a different height.

Sandberg California Supreme 35th Anniversary Bass

Germany’s Sandberg have been crafting amazing quality bass guitars for 35 years, and they’re celebrating that milestone this year with the new California Supreme. This bespoke bass features a hand-picked curly maple top and a six-bolt European maple neck with a 22-fret ebony fretboard which has received Sandberg’s ‘Thermo Treatment’, baking the wood in a thermal oven to enhance its tone, playability and stability.

The bass also features Delano X-Tenders pickups and an active Sandberg three-band EQ, while a balance control and push/pull volume control to flip between active and passive modes unlocks further tonal versatility. In the hardware department, the instrument’s tailpiece, bridge, knobs and tuners are crafted from aircraft aluminium, while finishes include high-gloss Blueburst, Honeyburst and Redburst.

Modern Sounds Pluto Modular Synth

If you’re looking for an affordable gateway to the world of modular synthesis, this one might be up your alley. The Pluto is the debut from Michigan synth gurus Modern Sounds, offering a pocket-sized digital synth inspired by the Buchla Music Easel and quirky Casio synths from the ’80s that can be powered and charged via mini USB for portable jams.

This pint-sized noise tool features two voices and five channels of modulation to create intricate, polyrhythmic sequences, with a master clock and spread control letting you set the tempo and fluctuations of each mod output. There’s also a shuffle function for getting really weird, while a width knob lets you play with pulse-width for each channel.

Other little additions include a mini touch keyboard and inbuilt battery with loop and glitch modes, while a smattering of modular patch points lets you hook the Pluto up to a larger Eurorack rig for bigger jams. Hear it in action below.

Sign up to Modern Sounds’ mailing list to find out more about the Pluto’s availability.