Amptone.com Excellent Design Awards
To the best of my limited knowledge, these are the most innovative, universally relevant, useful, well-designed products. I'm strongly biased against POD-type simulators, and consider power tube distortion and speaker distortion to be essential for authentic, authoritative guitar amp tone.
I do promote digital technology that coordinates with such physical gear, and I do support ongoing development of digital processing design and ergonomics, even though POD-type processing by itself sounds totally fake and unlistenable. Given that I have a tall stack of albums with authentic miked cranked-amp tone, there is no way I can justify suffering through fake processed tone; it's not competent.
The world of amp tone would be a much more sonically satisfying place if everyone was familiar with using combinations of these products. These are not perfect -- I've written suggestions for improving many of these products.
Maniac Music - Sustainiac Model C & Model B -- feedback driver.
BOSS GE-7 (search Web) - 7-band EQ pedal. Outstanding BOSS ergonomics; easy to control and read. Like all EQs I've placed before distortion, cutting bass boosts hiss, for some reason, but no more so than other EQ products. Pick me out in the crowd by looking for two of these and a 10-band too.
MXR - M-108 Ten Band EQ (ext) - 10-band EQ pedal, now with bypass footswitch and Gain control. MXR108, M108. Search Web. I haven't used the new version, but the original version without switch or gain control works great, and sounds more musical than the seemingly digitally processed and delayed BOSS 10-band EQ.
THD - Hot Plate - blows away the PowerBrake and Power Soak on many points. Immensely practical, with only minor tone impact.
Weber - Load Dump (high-power version) -- in-amp power attenuator -- I haven't tried this, but it looks like a simple, no-nonsense ergonomic design
Demeter Silent Speaker Chamber SSC-1 - 12" speaker. speaker isolation cabinet. One of the first iso cabs. However, doesn't block as much bass as a 2-layer system would.
Amplitube plug-in (ext) - 2002 - amp & fx emulation software. I haven't used it, and it's a given that all products of this type sound fake beyond listenability, and completely lacking in authority and authenticity, but this product seems more smartly designed and positioned than other guitar processing software.
VOX - Valvetronix AD60VT, AD120VT -- not the final word, but a major step in the right direction. Digitally controlled preamp-as-power-tube, driving good guitar speakers. I would put a tone stack both before and after the amp-emulation distortion, and replace the 12AX7 "power tube" by an EL84 and another true power tube. I would eliminate the stereo aspect and use two different good guitar speakers for miking flexibility. I'd also equalize the digital delay to make it neither dull nor bright, but the same as the original signal.
London Power - Studio -- Kevin O'Connor is a tube circuit engineer and scientist -- an inventor of fundamental circuit technology, deserving patents.
Guytron - GT-100 - perhaps the first integrated 3-stage amp, with preamp distortion, low-power true power tube distortion (EL84) driving an internal load, and a high-power tube power amp driving the guitar speakers.
BOSS - Line Selector LS-2 -- useful for blending dry and Phaser signals pre-distortion, for the subtle Eddie Van Halen Eruption warp tone. A great pedal-based auxiliary piece of gear for pedals.