The Holiday Gear Guide 2016

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Holiday Gear Guide


Put simply, the Fender T-Bucket 400 CE is an excellent guitar buy this season. Fender has outdone itself with this beautiful Dreadnought acoustic-electric, which sounds and plays as good as it looks.

The flamed finish of the 400 CE is gorgeous, but this guitar is more than just eye candy. The highs and lows are really good for a guitar in this price range, and the mids cut wonderfully. But that’s when it’s not plugged in. Electronically, Fishman’s lsys III pickup system does a great job, and it includes an onboard tuner as well. And while the harmonics in the usual spots (12th, 7th and 5th frets) come through loud and clear as they should, they ring like a fireman’s bell even from the bottom of the neck over the soundhole to the bridge, showing the excellent attention that was paid to setup detail. This guitar is awesome for the price, and is perfect for both the beginning player and for someone who’s going to use it on stage every night.

Holiday Gear Guide

Yamaha EMX2 Powered Mixer (top)

Street: $399

Live performance is essential for many singer-songwriters. Fortunately, you no longer need a van full of sound gear to get great sound. Yamaha’s EMX2 compact powered mixer puts a 500 watt power amplifier and a 10-channel mixer with four reverb types and 3-band EQ into an impressive 14.8″ x 5.8″ x 8.7″ package.

Designed for the solo performer or small group, the EMX2 is a 10-channel mixer with four microphone/line inputs along with three stereo line inputs. The designers thoughtfully added both RCA and mini jack inputs for easy playback of recorded audio. An important feature for many singer-songwriters is the availability of phantom power and a high-impedance input allowing you to use both high-performance condenser microphones and connect guitars directly. Performers who have less experience with audio gear will appreciate the EMX2’s single knob master EQ which can help to quickly dial in a good sound. Other one-knob/button features include reverb type/time selection and feedback suppression.

Features that the EMX2 provides not found on many mixers are a subwoofer out and speaker impedance selection. Only experienced audio people will likely make use of these, but they speak to the fact that this mixer, while extremely compact, is professional audio gear.  — A.M.

Yamaha EMX7 Powered Mixer (bottom)

Street: $749.99

Yamaha’s EMX7 powered mixer features a built-in high-efficiency power amplifier (two channels rated 710 watts each) along with four mono input channels and four mono/stereo input channels. Perfect for band use in medium-size venues, performers can plug in up to eight microphones and several line-level devices such as keyboards and playback devices.

A nice feature of all the EMX series mixers is support for Hi-Z instruments like guitars or basses. In addition, the EMX7 is equipped with two aux send connections for monitoring and both record and stereo outputs to connect to an external recorder. Features that audio professionals will appreciate are Yamaha’s speaker processor and presets (to match the mixer to the specific Yamaha speaker designs), a bass boost function, and a graphic equalizer allowing for the selection of up to nine bands of EQ out of a total of 31 for fine-tuning frequencies. The EMX7’s impressive effects section includes 24 different professional quality reverb, delay and other effects.

Songwriters and performers looking for professional sound features in a small package should take a close look at Yamaha’s EMX series of powered mixers. The EMX7 model offers a great combination of power, portability and mixer features in a solid, compact and extremely portable design. — A.M.

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