The guitar industry is constantly evolving. With technology advancing at such a rapid rate, brands continue to develop new products that make our lives as guitarists easier and more compelling.
The bar is being raised every year, and with the biggest trade show on the instrument retailer calendar just around the corner (NAMM), we’re anticipating some interesting new releases from a raft of manufacturers. Ultimately, many of these will set the precedent for 2019’s main guitar trends, and possibly beyond.
However, not all guitar trends are related just to improvements in technology. That’s because they can also be linked to changes in other industries and mediums. For example, the popularity of certain musical genres and artists can have an impact, as well as the restrictions on particular woods (for example, CITES). Even the direction of the fashion and TV industries can have an influence!
For a bit of fun, we’ve compiled a list of our predicted 2019 guitar trends. Please bear in mind, though, that none of us are the modern equivalents of Nostradamus. So, while some of these may sound like we’re really onto something, others could be way off the mark!
The Death of the Valve Amp
Let’s start with a big one. Now, this isn’t a particularly new or surprising prediction, but hear us out. We’re aware that the traditional valve amp design still has plenty of life left in it, and as we’ve seen over the last couple of decades, the growth of digital gear hasn’t stopped manufacturers from developing them. But why is that?
Well, for many guitarists, valve amps are still considered king when it comes to tone. We certainly wouldn’t disagree with that, but to be fair, there wasn’t any serious competition for a long time. Nowadays, however, there are plenty of viable alternatives. And with the praise that modern digital gear is getting, it could spell the end for valve amps sooner than you may think. Let’s look at the contenders…
All-Encompassing Guitar Flooboards
In the early 2000s, companies like Line 6 tried to convince purists that valve amps were old news, with products like the POD. Although innovative, these weren’t ever taken seriously by experienced guitar players. They just couldn’t recreate that magical ‘valve sound’.
Of course, Line 6 didn’t simply give up. Improving their products more and more to get even closer to the real thing, the Helix was the warmly-received breakthrough that Line 6 finally deserved. A pedalboard-sized floorboard and their flagship product, the Helix emulates the sound of various famous amps with breathtaking accuracy. It also produces high-quality effects and stores cabinet impulse responses, making it a portable and all-encompassing unit. It was no surprise why the Helix was an instant success.
BOSS followed suit with their GT-1000, and Headrush also released their own floorboard. With this rise, we’ve started to see a large number of high-profile players make the switch to digital modelling gear. In 2018 though, a couple of products really took this concept to the next level.
The most noteworthy was Line 6’s HX Stomp. Taking all of the incredible amp models and effects from the flagship Helix, this pedalboard-friendly unit is an all-in-one rig solution packed into a tiny enclosure. Headrush also released a similarly downsized version of it eponymous floorboard – the Gigboard.
These companies aren’t stupid, and they’ve clearly done their research. What this shows is that most modern players simply aren’t interested in buying large, cumbersome and unreliable valve amps anymore. Instead, a rig that is easy to transport and that offers practically hundreds of sounds is far more appealing and versatile. In 2019, we’ll probably see a lot more products like the HX Stomp, with other brands also jumping on the bandwagon. However, there are other valve amp alternatives…
Amp modelling technology isn’t exclusive to just the aforementioned floorboards. That’s because a number of brands have also put this technology into dedicated amplifiers. The most famous example is Kemper, who pioneered the ground-breaking Profiling amp.
Letting you mic up and capture the sound of any amplifier, the Kemper Profiling amp is able to emulate its tonal qualities with unparalleled conviction, despite its digital circuitry. Many players can’t even tell the difference, and Kemper has enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity. Lots of touring guitarists use them exclusively, for their realistic and consistent sounds. They’re also praised for their compact designs, keeping shipping costs down.
BOSS has been another big-hitter when it comes to modelling amps. With their Katana range, they’ve practically taken over the affordable side of the modelling amp market. With beginners and professionals alike using them for practice and even performing, the Katana series has been the best-selling amp range at Andertons Music Co. for the last two years.
However, towards the end of 2018, BOSS launched the Nextone series of amps. Taking their reputation for innovation a step further, these amplifiers feature four completely separate analogue class A/B power amps. This means that at the flick of a switch, you can choose between American and British-style sounds, with convincing emulations of 6L6, 6V6, EL34 and EL84 valves!
Powered by BOSS’ Tube Logic tech, Nextone amps closely imitate their real-life counterparts. So, if you love the sound of valve amps but want something that offers better reliability, BOSS Nextone amps are perfect. Boasting built-in effects such as delay, reverb, boost and tremolo, you can also deep-edit your tones by virtually controlling the tube sag and bias. It’s clear that BOSS has set the bar very high for competitors in 2019.
Rise of Fishman Fluence Pickups
Fishman has taken the guitar world by storm over the last couple of years, with its Fluence pickup range. Not utilising the conventional wire-wrapped magnet design, a philosophy that has remained largely unchanged for around 80 years, these pickups prove that Fishman are pioneering a new concept and trend.
Built using modern circuit board manufacturing processes, Fluence pickups are created with a layered pickup core and feature multiple coils. This ensures that they are consistently made, with little to no variation between models. An active design, these battery-powered pickups can be driven with a 9-volt battery. However, they can also be charged via a built-in micro-USB port, to meet today’s standards.
Acclaimed for their low noise-floor, impressive fidelity and multi-voice capabilities, it’s no surprise why many modern musicians are using Fishman’s humbuckers and single-coils. Catering for extended range players too with their 7 and 8-string pickups, guitarists such as Tosin Abasi and Stephen Carpenter rely on Fishman pickups to craft their modern metal tones.
It’s evident that Fishman are soaking up more and more of the guitar pickup market share. This is an area that Seymour Duncan, DiMarzio and EMG has dominated for decades, and we’re not just talking about the aftermarket pickup world either. That’s because a number of class-leading guitar brands have started to factory-fit their models with Fishman Fluence pickups. This includes Schecter, ESP, Charvel, and most recently Ibanez, which has fitted many of its 2019 models with them.
Fishman will be one of the biggest 2019 guitar trends, and we’re confident that you’ll see many production guitars installed with Fishman pickups as standard. Don’t expect them to feature in low/mid-priced guitars though, as Fishmans are more expensive than the aforementioned brand’s pickups. However, you certainly get what you pay for! Are these the new standard for active pickup designs? We think so.
Chorus Will Make a Comeback
The sound of chorus-laden electric guitars defined ‘80s pop and rock music. Not to mention the obscene amount of reverb too! While chorus might be almost too synonymous with that era, and a divisive, marmite-like effect in the guitar community, it’s certainly making a comeback.
In general, ‘80s culture is having a renaissance with popular shows like Stranger Things and The Goldbergs giving us a nostalgic buzz. Influencing internet culture and fashion, we think that this has also seeped into the guitar world too.
For example, BOSS has reissued some of its most classic and revered pedal designs through its Waza Craft line. This includes a couple of chorus pedal gems; the CE-2W and the infamous DC-2W (released in 2018). Plug one of these in, and you’ll be taken back in time to the place of perms, stonewashed jeans and puffer jackets.
Finished in its iconic lilac colour scheme, the DC-2W Dimension-C pedal delivers the lushest of chorus tones. With its four intensity switches, this stompbox can take you from subtle to seasick with just a few clicks. Also featuring a mode switch for different modulated flavours, the full potential of this pedal is unlocked when used in a stereo amp setup. Giving you an ultra-wide and engulfing texture, this pedal has to be heard to be believed.