Ho ho ho - where did the year go!? All of a sudden, the festive season has snuck up onto us once again, and if you're anything like us here at Mixdown, there's a good chance that you're probably incredibly disorganised. To prevent you from having to endure the agony of Michael Bublé churning out another frostbitten rendition of a Christmas carol down the aisles of your local department store, we've put together a comprehensive guide of all the hottest musical gifts to keep your eyes peeled for this festive season. If you've got your heart set on a new guitar appearing under the tree this Christmas - or a ukulele, or even a damn saxophone, then this is the list for you. Dive on in.
Warwick RockBass Artist Line Adam Clayton Bass
Distributed by: Amber Technology | Expect to pay: $1,999
Recommended for: Bass players looking for a versatile workhorse for studio or stage.
Sound/Versatility: Based on the Warwick Streamer model, Adam Clayton’s signature RockBass invokes tones reminiscent of a ‘50s or ‘60s Precision Bass; punchy in the low-end with a distinctive honk when playing up the neck. This model features the classic combination of a maple neck and an alder body, and the Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound pickup is complemented with passive MEC electronics for even further tonal variations.
Usability: You’d expect the signature bass for the man who holds down the low-end for U2 every other night to be pretty damn good. With features such as wooden thumb rest, two-piece bridge, Tedur nut and bronze frets, the Adam Clayton RockBass plays and feels good, and while the body shape is a bit much at first, it’ll definitely grow on you.
Construction: Although I didn’t really dig the aesthetic combination of the aged Cream White finish, maple neck and black fretboard block inlays, Warwick’s Adam Clayton RockBass model is very solid in the quality control department. This specimen is well-balanced, comfortably weighted, boasts a nicely-finished neck and feels great in the hands – which is really what matters the most.
Overall: If you’re hunting an affordable, reliable bass that looks a bit eccentric yet puts a lot on your plate, the Clayton RockBass is the one for you.
Martin DX Johnny Cash Guitar
Distributed by: Electric Factory | Expect to pay: $1,299
Recommended for: Obviously fans of the Man In Black, but it’s also a killer mid-tier dreadnaught with a brand heritage worthy of legend status.
Sounds/Versatility: Johnny Cash was a traditionalist when it came to acoustic tones, and Martin’s latest tribute to the Man In Black certainly upholds this. The guitar oozes a crisp, inviting tone best suited for open chords and hybrid picking, however, it definitely holds its own with single-note passages played higher up the neck. An inbuilt Fishman MX preamp even lets you plug into the PA, making this one even more formidable for gigging guitarists.
Usability: Martin’s D series is one of the most recorded – and copied – acoustic guitars in history, so the Johnny Cash tribute model doesn’t stray far from familiarity. It’s simple yet extremely practical, and will sound as good mic’d up in the studio as it does plugged in onstage.
Construction: Made from high pressure laminate (HPL) and boasting a Black Birch laminate neck and Richlite fretboard, the Martin DX Johnny Cash feels quite sturdy, and the Jett Black finish, custom star fret inlays and CASH logo at the 12th fret really add a lot to the aesthetic of this guitar.
Overall: All-black acoustics aren’t for everybody, but if you’re a big fan of Johnny Cash’s musical output, the Martin DX Johnny Cash model is a very faithful tribute to one of the greatest to ever do it.
Recording King RK RPS 7ETS
Distributed by: EGM Distribution | Expect to pay: $579
Recommended for: Guitarists with a penchant for vintage/roots rock, blues and country.
Sound/Versatility: Don’t be fooled by the small body of this parlour guitar. It packs a punch when strumming chords and has great projection and balance when used for traditional blues and country finger style playing. It’ll be right at home for the folk/roots players as well, with a character and midrange bark that set sit apart from other full sized acoustics. The built-in Gold Foil pickup also sounds killer when plugged.
Usability: The small parlour size makes it super comfortable to play with a slim neck and a low action, making this one well-suited for smaller hands or younger players. As is tradition with parlour guitars, the neck meets the body at the twelfth fret, so access to the high frets is not on the menu, but it’s not really built with shredding in mind.
Construction: The Spruce top really sings, while 25.4” scale length, cross lap bracing, bone nut and saddle add up to create a great little guitar. The aforementioned Gold Foil pickup is also a very welcome touch.
Overall: If you’re looking for a vintage style parlour guitar that has an authentic old timey sound and vibe, the RPS -7ETS could be just what you’re looking for. Great sound and feel and very hard to put down.
Faith Nexus Series Acoustic Guitars
Distributed by: CMC Music | Expect to pay: From $1095
Recommended for: Guitarists looking for a visually striking jack-of-all-trades acoustic guitar suitable for a variety of genres.
Sound/Versatility: The Nexus series is specifically tailored for those who especially love a little colour in their lives. The two rich colour choices – Cognac and Copper-Black – are carefully hand-applied, ensuring the guitar’s beautiful wood grain is still able to peek out beneath the finish. The series is available in two of Faith’s most popular guitar shapes: the Venus and the Neptune.
Usability: Faith Guitars are known for their excellent playability right out of the box, chiefly thanks to renowned luthier Patrick James Eggle’s rigorous setup standards. The Venus body shape is undoubtedly a crowd-pleaser and easily fits players of all statures. On the other hand, the Neptune is akin to a baby-jumbo size and brings some additional oomph without the extra heft of a full-sized jumbo guitar.
Construction: The Nexus series of guitars utilises solid mahogany for their top, back, sides, and neck, with a Macassan figured ebony fingerboard to top it off. Each guitar is finished in a pristine high gloss lacquer that accentuates the mahogany’s figuring while adding a layer of protection against the elements. Onboard electronics are handled by Fishman: a Presys 2 preamp for the Venus model, and a Sonitone preamp and pickup for the Neptune.
Overall: The Nexus Series is an excellent choice for all discerning guitarists who want the most bang for their buck. With excellent playability, tonality, and two gorgeous colour selections to boot, Faith’s Nexus series of guitars seem hard to beat.
Faith Nomad Series Travel Guitars
Distributed by: CMC Music | Expect to pay: $995
Recommended For: Musicians/buskers constantly on the move who don’t want any compromise on sound.
Sound/Versatility: While not exactly being a guitar you can carelessly throw around on the ground, Faith’s Nomad series feature smaller-scaled axes that are absolutely perfect for camping, festivals, and gigs overseas. While other travel-sized guitars often skimp out on various sonic qualities, the Nomad series ensures you’ll always have a great-sounding guitar on hand at all times.
Usability: Playing a guitar from the Nomad series is a walk in the park, thanks to its supremely comfortable 590mm scale length and excellent factory setup. The Nomad series consists of two body shapes: the Neptune (a baby-jumbo size), and the Saturn (a smaller dreadnought shape). While both guitars come in more manageable packages, they still produce and project tones that are very much full-bodied.
Construction: Faith’s Nexus guitars are built from solid mahogany for their necks, backs, and sides, with solid spruce for their tops. Fretboards are made with Indonesian ebony, while bridge pieces are constructed from Macassan figured ebony. Both body shapes also feature a quality Fishman Sonicore Pickup and Isys T preamp.
Overall: While most people would prefer a travel-sized guitar for its unrivalled portability, some choose it for their difference in voicing. A small-scale guitar is often the perfect companion for most traveling performers, and Faith’s Nomad series is an excellent contender for this specific category.
Squier Classic Vibe Starcaster
Distributed by: Fender Music Australia | RRP: $849
Recommended for: If you’re looking for an affordable semi-hollow body guitar with some quirks to differentiate it from a standard ES-style guitar, this might be the one for you.
Sound/Versatility: The Starcaster is one of Fender’s best rediscovered, cult guitars – there’s a lot of them - and this Squier definitely holds true to the sound of the original units from the ‘70s. It’s got a sweet janky driven tone, and can definitely produce some sweet cleans courtesy of its dual Seth Lover style humbucking pickups.
Usability: Some Squier models can be a bit hit and miss, but the Classic Vibe Starcaster is a pretty solid model. Even though it’s a semi-hollow bodied instrument, there’s minimal feedback, and the neck and feel of the body are easily playable, with a nice action even when playing high up the neck.
Construction: The build quality on this Classic Vibe Starcaster is phenomenal! I love the Sunburst finish, the headstock carve is sweet, and the humbuckers sound pretty mean when pushed too.
Overall: I’m a Jonny Greenwood fanatic, so I’m probably biased here, but I’ve not been as excited about any guitar this year like I have been the Classic Vibe Starcasters, and I’m so happy to report that Squier did not disappoint.
Fender Seaside Ukulele Pack
Distributed by: Fender Music Australia | RRP: $199
Recommended for: If you’ve got a kid and want them to pick up the music bug, this Seaside Ukulele Pack might be a strong option to get them started. It’s probably also suitable for adults too, but we’re all about prolonging those vibes right?
Sound/Versatility: The soprano-voiced Seaside Ukulele is a great option for beginners. There’s only so much ground you can cover with a uke, but this one definitely sounds like it’s a solid model, handling strumming, plucking and fingerpicking with ease. The ukulele is also a lot louder than I expected it to be, and will certainly suffice in a lounge room for practise.
Usability: The small soprano size of the Seaside makes this a great option for little hands to get started on fretting notes and chord shapes. The Ukulele Pack also includes a three-month subscription to Fender Play’s online learning platform, which is a nice little added feature.
Construction: The Fender Seaside Ukulele is made from mahogany, which is quite a warm, durable wood, ensuring that it’s both durable and maintains its sound quality. The pack also includes a soft case and a clip on tuner.
Overall: A viable option for either sparking passion in a younger relative or simply exploring some high end sounds on four strings.
Château Art Series ‘Bon Voyage’ Tenor Saxophone
Distributed by: Tenon Industries | RRP: Enquire for pricing
Recommended for: Jazz Cats, Classical Kids, Buccaneers, Nautical types.
Sound/Versatility: Chateau like to tell a story with their instruments. The ‘Bon Voyage’ Tenor Sax is the first release from Chateau’s new art series and comes adorned with a beautiful maritime scene, sure to capture the imagination of even the most landlocked sailor. Using a ten stage polishing process that gives the artwork a 3D appearance under light, these are some of the most visually intriguing saxes on the market and with three decades of saxophone crafting behind the brand, you best believe they sound as good as they look.
Usability: Visually striking and playable as anything, the ‘Bon Voyage’ is a departure from the traditional brass aesthetic. Perfect for anybody looking for a seachange.
Overall: A beautiful looking and playing instrument, the ‘Bon Voyage’ is the perfect present for anybody with a love of saxophones and/or the ocean. Just as collectible as they are playable, the ‘bon voyage’ is the perfect gift for players and seadogs alike.
Château Chambord CAS-50 Alto Black Truffle
Distributed by: Tenon Industries | RRP: Enquire for pricing
Recommended for: Jazz Cats, Steampunks, Arty types, Avant-garde Orchestras
Sound/Versatility: Château are here to change the face of Brass instruments for the better with their vivid hand painted decals and impressively robust sound. Tuned to a high F#, the larger bell on the CAS-50 is designed to increase volume and resonance while the beautifully ornate brasswork really has to be seen to be believed. Don a pair of Morpheus glasses and get jazzy.
Usability: Don’t let the aesthetic fool you, these are very much professional quality instruments, from their ribbed construction to their mother of pearl inlays and Pisoni HT pads, the Chambord CAS-50 Alto is a sax made for serious playing.
Construction: Like a Velvet Hammer, beautiful yet tough as nails.
Overall: A fresh new take on one of the signature sounds of the modern era, the Château Chambord CAS-50 Alto Black Truffle is a horn with personality. Perfect for standing out in a crowd.