The 2013 Holiday Gear Guide

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter


The Shure BLX24/SM58
(Street $349)


The Shure BLX24/SM58 wireless microphone system combines the legendary sound of the industry-standard SM58 dynamic vocal microphone with an easy to use, extremely powerful, wireless solution. Included in the package are 2 AA batteries, 1 BLX4 diversity receiver with power supply, and the BLX SM58 microphone; complete with mic clip and a durable, padded zipper case. The BLX SM58 microphone runs off of two AA batteries, for up to 14 hours, at a range of 300 feet (line of sight), with a frequency response of 50Hz – 15KHz. So just hit the on/off switch, and you’re ready to go. The BLX4 receiver makes operation straightforward and easy, right out of the box. The design is simple and compact, with the microprocessor controlled diversity antennas housed internally. Two-color audio status metering is on the front; along with group and channel select switches. Outputs are on the rear of the unit, with both ¼” and XLR connections.  The BLX4 receiver is extremely intuitive, and uses a one touch, “quick scan” function to choose the cleanest frequency for use, rather than just the first available. The receiver can accommodate up to 12 compatible systems per frequency band, at a 24 MHz frequency range, allowing you to expand upon the system as your needs grow. At an entry-level price, the Shure BLX24/SM58 provides a powerful feature set with simplicity that will make even the novice feel like a pro. – STEVE MARTIN

Korg SP-280 88-Key Digital Piano
(Street $699)


The SP-280 is the latest in Korg’s line of digital pianos. Like their others, it attempts to recreate the experience of playing a concert grand with an affordable and easily transportable electronic keyboard. For its price and portability (under 43 lbs), this is an instrument to be seriously considered by piano students, songwriters and music professionals, but there’s more.

Piano players who appreciate the feel of a real piano will be pleased with both the SP-280’s weighted action and its very responsible piano sounds, but that’s not all. A new stylish exterior, a very realistic damper pedal, controls to easily customize 30 built-in sounds, MIDI support, 120-note polyphony and a new stand design make this digital piano well worth investigating.

The SP-280 has its own full-range amplification and speaker system with two on-board amplifiers that deliver 2×22 watts of output power. Among its more practical features are dual 1/4” outputs for connecting to an amplifier or recording device. There is also a line-in (stereo mini-jack) to connect an audio player so you play along and the SP-280’s two headphone jacks make it easy to share your music with a friend.

While there are some striking stylistic differences from the SP-280’s immediate predecessor, the SP-250, and a slightly different feel, this keyboard is easily playable with a good variety of high-quality sounds along with an impressive and detailed grand piano sound. It sounds good with internal speakers and great through a larger system. You’ll want to try this keyboard out. The Korg SP-280 is available in black or white with a street price of $699. – ANDY MCDONOUGH

Peavey AT-200 Auto Tune Electric Guitar
(Street $499)


Not all that many years ago, to tune a guitar, an aspiring player taught his or her ear to match up string notes with such archaic devices as tuning forks and pitch pipes. Now, Peavey has created a guitar that, while it has functional tuning pegs, really needs no tuning by a human at all beyond pressing a button.

Peavey has incorporated the technology of Antares (the folks responsible for Auto-Tune, helping your favorite stars sing on pitch) into this double-cutaway electric to create a guitar that, with the push of a button, tunes itself. By playing all six strings while open, then pressing down the volume knob, you will be able to hear the guitar tune itself to perfect standard tuning. The system can also be used to tune the guitar to open G, or to tune everything a fifth lower so you have a baritone guitar, among other tunings, though it takes a little math and some theory knowledge to figure out how to do it. There are several YouTube videos on the Internet demonstrating how it’s done.

The AT-200 is a fun guitar to play, particularly because it has 24 frets, offering maximum shredding capabilities with its highest note of what would be E7 on a piano. This is also a nice inexpensive Christmas gift idea for that beginning guitarist who hasn’t quite developed his or her ear, but there’s no substitute for being able to tune manually, so this guitar shouldn’t be used as an excuse to be musically lazy. In the end it covers all the bases for both beginners and accomplished players who need to tune quickly. – R.M.

SKB’s iSeries 3i-4217-18 Acoustic Guitar Watertight Injection Molded Guitar Case
(Street $299)


The 3i-4217-18 case, the newest addition to SKB’s iSeries, is optimal for the musician who travels by air, as it can be checked as baggage and it provides an unmatched level of protection. The case is waterproof, which prevents condensation on the guitar as a result of a cold baggage compartment environment.  Further, the case weighs only 24 pounds.

The case is available in two colors – black with platinum plush interior and tan with tan plush interior (3i-4217-18-T). It fits most Dreadnought acoustic Guitars, including Acoustic Grand Concert, Acoustic Grand Symphony, and the Acoustic Auditorium models.

The case’s gasketed, water and dust proof, and submersible design is resistant to deterioration and impact damage. As with the other SKB iSeries cases, the 3i-4217-18 case is molded of ultra-strength resin. It features stainless steel molded-in hinges, a patented “trigger release” latch system with TSA locks, a snap-down rubber over-molded cushion grip handle, an automatic ambient pressure equalization valve, and in-line skate wheels.

The 3i-4217-18 case is backed by SKB’s Unconditional Lifetime Warranty – although it doesn’t sound like you’ll need it. – ANDRIANNA YEATTS


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