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Music Media

Gibson's Digital Guitar Finally Released 308

tdiman writes "The world's first digital guitar, using Gibson's MaGIC digital transport standard, was introduced February 20th at the Intel Developers Forum." We've been following this one for awhile, I'm really curious to see what something like this can do.
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Gibson's Digital Guitar Finally Released

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  • by levik ( 52444 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @01:01PM (#5365030) Homepage
    Does this mean that roadies will now need a Batchelors degree in Information Systems?

  • by corebreech ( 469871 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @01:01PM (#5365032) Journal
    It just won't be the same. No way.

    • > It just won't be the same. No way.

      Now guitars will console themselves by downloading p0rn off the internet.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23, 2003 @08:44PM (#5367480)

      It blows me away how many people on Slashdot are ultra-luddites when it comes to certain things. Of all the places i'd expect people to bitch about a digital guitar cable, Slashdot is the last.

      Think about it: when you record your album it's going to be 44k1/16bit anyway, so anyone saying guitars should use vacuum tubes and run through crackly cables is kidding themselves. It's the same crowd who think spring reverb or analog synths are useful. Yes, they're all much nicer to play/use in real life, but once it hits the CD everything good about "the sound, man" just disappeared.

      Personally i am VERY excited about this. Note that this isn't a MIDI guitar, it's digital audio. It's not about playing synths with your guitar, it's about getting the cleanest possible sound quality from the notes you play, through your effects, into the mixing desk. And each string is processed seperately! An absolute BOON for EQing, and i'm sure the best guitar players will meticulously tweak their other settings so playing the same note on two different strings gets hugely different effects.

      Think about it - the next step here could be to quantize the notes or transpose them. Imagine hitting your foot pedal to transpose to a certain scale - you could continue playing the same lick and have it sound different. The point? If each string is processed differently and you have some mega fat bass sound on the bottom string, you don't want to lose that effect when you change to the 5th string... sooo foot-pedal - TRANSPOSE +5 and bam. You could even take it to the point where each fret is processed differently, so riffs could be set up to take advantage of different effects depending on where you played them.

      Damn people, be creative. Sure it's not going to change anything for your average blues guitarist, but for people who are really pushing the envelope, virtuosos like Steve Vai or Satriani, for experimental guitarists like Buckethead, or even for your average studio guitarist this has the potential to be huge.

      • by NulDevice ( 186369 ) on Monday February 24, 2003 @01:30AM (#5368608) Homepage
        Well, this is entirely dependent on the quality of the ADCs in the guitar. Yeah, analog gear is limited by the CD format, but if you've got the right gear for doing the analog-to-digital conversion, you lose a lot less. This is why a lot of pro systems are sampling at 96-bits and 192khz - it's absurdly high resolution, far beyond the ear, but it's much nicer if you're going to be doing any processing on the signal. Your fidelity loss is minimized.

        If you're working an analog-to-digital converter into a guitar that runs off a 9-volt, chances are it's going to be pretty craptacular. They say MaGIC is capable of 32-bit/192khz audio but they don't say that that's what the guitar is using. What you're more than likely to get out the back end is a thin and very digital sound. And if it's only CD quality, then what's the point? You're much better off getting a good mic'ed amp, getting some decent character into the sound (I don't care what anybody says about analog hardware - it's not the "warmth" of the sound that's the payoff, it's the odd little extra overtones, detunings etc that give you a good sound) and then run that into a really good ADC. Your end product will have much more going for it.

        There's also questions about the internal signal path of the guitar - how hard is it going to be to wire in a good set of pickups? Say you want to swap in a set of EMG's or Seymour Duncans for a different tonal characteristic - can you do it with a soldering iron and some tape like you can now, or will you need a degree in electronics and a good logic probe?

        The Hex Pickup is nothing new. You can get 'em for bass now, you can get 'em for guitar, and I've even seen comparable systems on violin. Sending on separate channels isn't a big deal. You can do cool stuff with it right now in terms of transposition, etc. The ARP Avatar guitar synth (the beast that killed ARP corporation) could do that back in 1978. That was synthesis, but even with the more recent hex-pickuped modelling effects units (Roland COSM for example) there's still some latency. It's not bad if you're just effecting a signal. It's if you want to manipulate the pitch, timing, attack or whatnot that the trouble occurs. The problem has always been one of tracking; pitch isolation is pretty slow no matter what signal format you use - there's elements of crosstalk from other strings, there's overtones to worry about, pitch "deformaties" from picking, issues with bending and portamento etc etc.

        And the final problem is this - how well is Gibson going to provide this format to other vendors? Will you be able to get a MaGIC Fender? Or buy a synthesizer that speaks MaGIC? Will this have significant advantages over existing digital audio and sync formats? Will you be locked into Gibson gear? Gibson's track record for technology has been awful - they pretty much killed the ever-promising OMS MIDI-routing system when they bought Opcode (right when the PC version had started to mature) and refused to release the sourcecode to developers despite a large petition. Really, the last thing the music world needs is a closed format for recording, especially one limited to Gibson-and-affiliates.

  • Benefits? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MankyD ( 567984 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @01:03PM (#5365044) Homepage
    What are the benefits to this product?

    They say it's compatible with existing equipment. Wouldn't this neccesitate a D/A converter, thus negating the effects of a digital guitar to begin with?

    How much does it cost?
    • Re:Benefits? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MankyD ( 567984 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @01:06PM (#5365060) Homepage
      Another quick question:
      This product would seem to go "anologue-digital-analogue", two conversion processes on top of whatever effects/amplifcations are being applied. Wouldn't this hurt sound fidelity? I certainly don't see how it could benefit.
      • Re:Benefits? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Webmonger ( 24302 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @02:21PM (#5365430) Homepage
        Analog cables are a pain because they pick up interference really easily. Doing an A-D conversion in the pickup should (in theory) sound better, and with a sampling rate of 48 Khz and a bit depth of 32, it exceeds the specs a lot of the equipment used for digital recording. (48 isn't all that high, but 32 bits is 65536 times as good as a CD.)
        • Re:Benefits? (Score:2, Interesting)

          by MankyD ( 567984 )
          What about shielded cables? Using on the fly A/D conversion assumes that you have a very accurate converter. The cost on a product like can be quite high, for a good one.

          While 32 bit depth will allow for a good range of amplitudes, 48khz still misses the mark for the frequencey spectrum. Yes, it covers what is considered normal human hearing, but their are still frequencies that can add to a listening experience outside of what is considered audible. This is why DVD audio, and the likes, are upping the sampling rate.

          Would you not agree?
          • Re:Benefits? (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Webmonger ( 24302 )
            Even shielded analog cables are a pain.

            I think 48 kHz is good enough for one component of a mix. Hell, it's still got more fidelity than a CD, and people are buying lots of those. There are tons of people who don't even hear MP3 artifacts.

            In any case, it turns out the MAGIC standard supports rates as high as 192 kHz. The first source I found for that info was a little less than complete.
      • Re:Benefits? (Score:2, Informative)

        by neclimdul ( 252554 )
        The advantage spans not only from the ability to cut out interferance(the age old bane of the electronicly amplified musician), it also come from the imidiate ease of adding digital effects. each effects you added to your sound before was most likely gaing through a/d->effect->d/a and eachtime adding a little bit of "quality loss". Your setup might in the end look something like a/d-effect->d/a->a/d-efect->d/a->etc but now it could look like a/d->effect->effect->effect->d/a. Now the advantage becomes more aparent. Course this means all new equipment but theoreticly it shouldn't be a difficult transition for manufacturer's assuming gibson get's the product of the ground.
    • Re:Benefits? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Katalyzt ( 546182 )
      they say "This provides unprecedented control with the ability to adjust volume, pan and equalization of each string individually."

      once someone learns how to handle this it should extend the range and sound of a single guitar enormously!
  • Damnit! (Score:5, Funny)

    by DaPhoenix ( 318174 ) <rayb AT kod DOT net> on Sunday February 23, 2003 @01:04PM (#5365047)
    What I really wanted was an ethernet port on my toaster...

    Oh well... Imagine a beowulf... No no... i'm not going there. :)
  • by aiabx ( 36440 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @01:04PM (#5365049)
    but since it's digital, that means it really only goes to 3.
  • Big Whoop (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23, 2003 @01:06PM (#5365061)
    The grateful dead have had midi/pickup hybrid guitars for years. Jerry Garcia (may he RIP) often made his guitar [dozin.com] sound like an entire orchestra.
    • Re:Big Whoop (Score:5, Informative)

      by self assembled struc ( 62483 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @01:41PM (#5365230) Homepage
      This is completely different.

      A MIDI pickup can take the tones created by the analog guitar and transform them off board into MIDI signals, which then can be used to make other noises.

      This guitar is ENTIRELY digital. Not a MIDI pickup, but ENTIRELY digital.

      you're comparing apples to oranges.
    • Big Whoop! (Score:3, Informative)

      by beaverfever ( 584714 )
      Midi guitars [epix.net] have been around for a long time; the grateful dead were by no means innovators in that area. Although adapters which mount on a regular guitar are common/normal, in the 80s some companies seemed to think it was necessary to design bizarre spacey/futuristic-looking looking midi guitars (I cannot find a pic of these, unfortunately), but if you remember being in the 80s and seeing a terribly ugly guitar with a big handle connecting the top of the body with the headstock, that was a midi guitar.

      I don't know how much the technology has improved since those times (I have been away from music stuff for a while), but up to the early 90s midi guitars suffered from delay (lag, to most of you and me) and weren't 100% reliable in reading notes/conversion to data.

      I can see digital guitars being a great innovation. Many people don't realize how heavily music recording now relies on digital equipment; the days of giant reels of tape are already ancient history (expect for those artists who specifically seek out specialty studios which use analog equipment).

      • The guitar with a handle on it you're thinking of is a 1980s Roland experiment.

        And Roland has staked out the idea of individual string pickups with the V guitar pickup.

        But the six individual pickups predate the MIDI era.

        I have one of these http://www.si.edu/lemelson/guitars/noframes/de08.h tm [si.edu] a Gittler, which has six individual volumes and a DB9 port to separate all the signal out to the six different effects chains and amps.

        • you may better recall than I; what was the guitar eddie van halen was playing for a while (late 80s?) - I'm not sure how the actual output was handled, but it had individual pickups and a volume pot for each string on the guitar. I also don't know if he did anything constructive with this set-up, but while it may not predate the gittler, it is another example of individual pickups.
        • It was driving me up the wall so I HAD to find a pic of that roland guitar - and I did [angelfire.com].

          A friend of mine had one of these for a while. I felt a bit better when he finally got rid of it and just learned how to play a keyboard.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23, 2003 @01:06PM (#5365063)
    The "digital guitar" can not actually be used for making music, as new legislation prevents the exact duplication of music ("digital copies").
  • by apeleg ( 159527 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @01:08PM (#5365071)
    Roadie - "I can't ping the guitar! Better reboot."
    Guitarist - "Man, that's kill my uptime."
  • Pretty cool (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hao Wu ( 652581 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @01:08PM (#5365074) Homepage
    But it's not the first [karelia.ru]!
  • Wireless ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheGrayArea ( 632781 ) <graymc@@@cox...net> on Sunday February 23, 2003 @01:08PM (#5365077) Homepage
    This is very cool stuff, but I can't help wonder about the wireless issue for live performance. As much as possible these days everyone uses wireless connections to their amps/fx/etc during live performances for two reasons: 1- Freedom of movement and 2- avoiding a rat's nest of cable. I wonder what type of mobile wireless solutions we'll see for these?
    • At least wifi wont work with this kind of application right now. The latency issues are really a problem for real-time stuff like this, and I assume the same is true of bluetooth.
      • WiFi doesn't have any significant latency issues; that's wrong; I've measured it to be under 1ms.

        There can be jitter however, if there is interference or heavy usage of the wireless interface, but otherwise latency is negligable; 1 millisecond or less; over the entire range of WiFi.

        People have done VOIP over WiFi perfectly well.

      • Bluetooth has a special mode for devices like Cell phones (it was developed by Cell phone companies after all) that allow you to create a dumb device that bypasses the regular Bluetooth stack and works more or less like a dumb packet radio. It's designed for voice traffic (it has no error correction for instance), but it does have low latency and guarenteed bandwidth. It could be modified for this pretty easily.
    • by pyrote ( 151588 )
      I can see one, a fan with a palmPC shows up to a stones concert and starts broadcasting Kenny G on the guitar channel.

      On the otherhand, a fan can show up to a kenny G concert and broadcast stones music on the Mic channel....
    • by mshultz ( 632780 )
      Have you guys watched Spinal Tap lately? There's that scene where the guys are playing a gig at a military base, and Nigel Tufnel's (a.k.a. Christopher Guest) wireless RF guitar system starts picking up the military base's radio broadcasts...
  • Broken cords anyone? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RealBeanDip ( 26604 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @01:11PM (#5365088)
    As a veteran electric guitarist for the last 25 years, I can only imagine the number of broken plugs/cords from this configuration; digital guitar [gibson.com].

    Anyone who's ever owned a les paul or tele can attest to that (strats have a slightly better cord placement).

    As for the usefullness of this? I don't know if having each string routed to a different amp is going to make better music or be useful at all. For one thing, I don't have SIX amps! Something tells me that a les paul wired through a marshall half stack at 11+ is still the way to go. ;)

    • You can imagine, though, that one can make all sorts of interesting algorithms for generating the full mix from the six string outputs; since they'd be independetly captured digitally, they could then be used to frequency-transform each other or do any number of other bizarre things -- ultimately making sounds that are nothing like a guitar, but still take advantage of the guitar's expressivity. I'm not quite sure what algorithms they could use, but the extra degree of freedom could be quite exciting. And at least the guitar isn't what I thought it was going to be (a physically modelling guitar) -- it still plays like normal, beginning with the vibration of real strings.
    • Endless possibilities here though. Example: for rookies who can't tune worth shite (like me ;) it would be huge for a tuner to get a direct feed from the exact string I'm trying to tune.
      Hell, why not a self tuning guitar. Fixes itself during a show. Or even have a two way link and the board guys 'reconfigure' the instruments remotely.

      As for broken cables, gonna be a big problem. That better be an industrial strength cat5 port, cause you're gonna bust cables ends much more often than strings.
      Maybe wireless, but that could lead to a whole new quality of bootlegs ;)
  • by 1nv4d3r ( 642775 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @01:19PM (#5365125) Homepage
    Here's hoping it fares better than their website!

    Why do we punish the ones we love??

  • more useful link (Score:5, Informative)

    by carpe_noctem ( 457178 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @01:21PM (#5365142) Homepage Journal
    Here is a more relevant link [gibson.com] than the one listed in the article. But since Gibson's site seems to be taking a good slashdotting, here's a mirror of that page [planetshell.com] and one of the original, too [planetshell.com] (sorry, no graphics...site went down before I could get them).

    Also, from what I'm inferring, this is kind of a ripoff of line6's [line6.com] guitars, which also use a hex pickup and do analog->digital conversion on chip inside the guitar (there's even some OSS software [sourceforge.net] people have developed for the amps). So not really a new idea by any means, but certainly one that could stand to be made a bit more widespread.

    Personally, I'd rather see the guitar be something that is a purely acoustic/analog instrument (who the hell wants to 'upgrade' a Gibson when the computing hardware becomes obsolete), and do all the digital effects on an actual computer, which will probably generate better sound given the greater amount of processing power.
    • The problem with going from a guitar to computer for effects is latency. magic.gibson.com is slashdotted all to hell or i could check, but I'm assuming the guitar has chips onboard to do this kind of thing, or that the signal can be routed to effects pedals like an analog guitar. This would reduce the latency to a minimal amount as opposed to feeding it to a computer for the changes to take place there, then routing the signal back out to a speaker. Yes a computer will have better processing power, but that isnt going to matter in a live show if the audio output is too far behind what you are actually playing because of latency
    • do all the digital effects on an actual computer, which will probably generate better sound given the greater amount of processing power

      I've been thinking about getting back into playing (at home for recreation). I still have my old and beloved SG and Strat. It's been years and the calluses and some of the dexterity are gone, so it will take a while to get back into it.

      I don't have a decent amp any more (or the money to invest in one) and my Rockman died. I've been thinking along the lines using my PC for (real-time) effects and processing. It seems to me that one could run the guitar patch cord (with an adapter, which I have) into a sound card line-in as a start. I'd try it but I don't have a full-duplex sound card and I wonder if there's enough gain anyway. I'm also guessing that there might be an annoying midi-like delay. Has anyone tried this? Can anyone point to some good/free tools?

      • I've plugged a scanner (radio) into my soundcard and listened to the sound from both the computer speakers, and the speakers in the scanner, there was no noticable delay.

        Once you start adding processing on top of it though there will be.
        • Thanks. Yes, I can see that there would be little (no noticeable) delay if the card's on-board DSP and other hardware is used to do any processing. But I think that to get some more advanced effects one might have to go off-board, which is bound to result in some delay. I know that how much is going to be very much system hardware, o/s, and code dependant but I'm wondering if anyone has tried/gone this route and whether it's even worth investigating.
      • I did a half assed thing like this for my brother. Just go to any shareware site and search for "guitar." If I remember correctly, one of the programs I set him up with was called stompbox; probably for windows, but maybe for linux. It allows you to string together virtual stompboxes to get almost any effect you could think of. The latency was managable on his 500mhZ compaq, and it was convenient playing through the pc speakers. Most programs like this allow you to add percusion easily.
        • Thanks for the info. I've had a look around and I see some options. I couldn't find "stompbox" (there was something with a very similar name for the Mac only), but I've found some other interesting stuff (mostly Windows, of course, but that's OK, I have both Linux and Windows boxes).
    • by Talinom ( 243100 )
      I don't belive that this technology will be universally adopted. Why? Your analog distortion created by vacuum tubes, which is a mainstay effect of everything from rock to death metal, differs from digital or transistor generated distortion in that analog will gradually saturate and digital is instant.

      For the non musical: Touching or picking the string lightly in an analog environment will result in a clean sound, pretty much no matter how much distortion you have. Touching, picking, or even breathing on a string in a digital environment will instantly result in massive distortion.

      I can pretty much guarantee that artists from Eric Clapton to Metallica will stay with analog as the mainstay for their sound.

      One story that I have heard is back from the early eightes during the Blizzard Of Ozz tour the entire MIDI rack crashed and needed to be restarted during one of Randy Rhoads' solos resulting in a really pissed off Ozzy. How many musicians would like to take a chance of their system crashing that hard during a live performance?
  • by briancnorton ( 586947 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @01:22PM (#5365145) Homepage
    My friend's roland GK-2 did essentially the same thing via midi. In my opinion, it was a much more versatile system running on an open standard. Sound quality was superb.
  • 5 -- For some reason, you think rock music isn't dead yet

    4 -- It's something to do in between your Frost Pists!!1

    3 -- Utilize the all new one-click recording feature of the GNU Radio software

    2 -- Jam along wirelessly in front of the TV during the Terry Tate: Office Linebacker commercial

    1 -- Gives you the chance to play along with the hottest radio songs of the day, such as the punk-rock classic "All I Have" by Jennifer Lopez featuring LL Cool J, the arena rock classic "In Da Club" by 50 Cent, and country song "Mesmerize" by Ja Rule featuring Ashanti.

  • by pVoid ( 607584 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @01:23PM (#5365152)
    Digital has its applications, but really, in the end, digital is infintely less precise then analog (mathematically speaking). It's just so much less vulnerable to interferance that it makes it a good choice for things where accuracy is required (like computing).

    Now, I'm not saying that you could hear the difference, but I'm genuinely wondering what you would gain from such a thing? Is it just the cool-geek factor?

    Will there be digital flash lights in the new millenium, that shine ever so precisely onto your wall, to create an almost perfect circular pattern?

    • Well, one nifty thing is you can apparently send audio BACK to the guitar, for the guitarist to listen to. Presumably a mix that emphasised their guitar so they could hear their own part better. You could do this before with a long headphone wire, but now you don't need to.
  • by Tri0de ( 182282 )
    That Green Day can finally play in tune?
    • Yeah, probably. The autotune gear available these days only works for one note at a time (not chords). Since the six strings are isolated, you'd be able to autotune each string.

      I know you're kidding.
  • by mooniejohnson ( 319145 ) <mooniejohnson+slashdot@gm a i l . com> on Sunday February 23, 2003 @01:27PM (#5365168)
    Slashdotted Gibson.com pretty fast... anyone want to bet they only had one guitar serving the site?

  • Dilemma (Score:3, Funny)

    by nakaduct ( 43954 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @01:46PM (#5365256)
    It's a Gibson, and it's an axe. Do I hack it, or use it to hack?
  • by arvindn ( 542080 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @01:48PM (#5365263) Homepage Journal
    In related news, Intel, Microsoft and the RIAA have announced the formation of the trusted music playing alliance (TMPA). "We are very concerned with people playing copyrighted music on their digital guitars", a spokesman for the alliance said today. "It is a heinous crime which will drive down profits for the music industry".

    The alliance is working on the trusted music platform which is expeced to be implemented on all digital guitars by 2006. Microsoft corporation (MSFT) will provide the software which will verify that the musician has renewed their subscription with the RIAA before allowing him or her to play the guitar. It will also constantly compare the notes being played on the guitar with a database provided by the RIAA. If a copyright violation is found, the guitar will immediately self-destruct and the musician's license will be revoked. A spokesman for Intel corporation (INTC) has assured slashdot.org that the guitar cannot be used without digitally signed software.

    "This is a great step forward for digital music", RIAA CEO Hillary Rosen was quoted as saying. Now we will be able to protect misuse of intellectual property at the source instead of at the destination. The next step in the battle would be the development of the PTC - the platform for trusted cognition. Essentially, we will be able to monitor people's thought for intellectual property violations.

    EFF director Cindy John was not immediately available for comment, but is widely rumoured to have commited suicide.

    • The world would be a safer place if guitars had a "reasonable use" provision built into the DRM that would: Only let the riff to "Smoke on the Water" be played up to 3 times without a licence; Never allow "Stairway to Heaven" be played within the confines of a music shop (add Bluetooth so the guitar can detect that there are many other guitars nearby).

      Actually, Bluetooth would be cool, there'd be no excuse for instruments not to be in tune with each other.

  • The one mirror of the article I read kept referring to "Ethernet cable", and it's got Xilinx and 3com involved, but is what is coming down the wire actually 802. anything? I would tend to assume it's some proprietary digital 8-channel sound stream, that just happens to use CAT5.
    • Re:Is it Ethernet? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Meowing ( 241289 )
      Gibson are making MaGIC an open standard. At the moment it's basically an extension to MIDI, but room is left to support other protocols too. It does use the Ethernet standard, including MACs, so it should be able to work on the same LAN as other equipment. A provision is made to accommodate IP headers, but they are optional.
  • From a story here [harmony-central.com]: "Gibson's MaGIC -- short for Media-accelerated Global Information Carrier -- makes standard Cat-5 Ethernet cable act like a super cable, capable of carrying up to 32 channels of 32-bit, 48 kHz uncompressed digital sound in both directions (64 channels total), with a control stream 100 times as powerful as MIDI over a single wire. It eliminates latency and jitter, allowing professional real-time sync of hundreds of instruments and devices (250 us point-to-point latency over 100 meters)."
  • A Beowulf Band of these. Or a Beoband/Beorchestra if you like. *ducks into asbestos suit in soviet russia*
  • with no loss of audio quality.

    So now I can finally play like McFly in Back to the Future, without permanent hearing damage.

    I bet the rest of the band is going to really appreciate this feature.
  • Its all in the hands (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ToasterTester ( 95180 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @03:25PM (#5365754)
    You can give a trash guitar to a great player and it will sound good. It's all in the hands. So my concern is will all the digital gear lose the nuances that make one musician great and another so-so.

    What I mean is take a group that sounds great live, and put them in the studio and record them and it sounds blan. Why because live you hear the whole audio spectum. In the studio the recording gear and process only covers a smaller range in comparison. That why recording is an art to itself to overdub more tracks and instruments to fill the sound out.

    So it will be interesting to see how well these digital instrument compare to analog that transmit everything.
    • by sabinm ( 447146 )
      That is not quite true. While it holds that the musician is the source of the quality of music that is played, there are things that will reduce the acoustic pleasures one hears when playing a guitar. It might sound *great* to others around, but a talented player will notice.

      Take for instance a guitar that is more difficult to press down on the fret board. I've played these kinds of guitars. It takes *twice* as much pressure to produce a terrible sound. The extra pressure causes more time from switching cords or notes and so you limit the versatility of the composition. Poorly constructed guitars also have poor tuning quality. A couple of strums and you can feel the dissonant tones eating into your brain. You have to tune it up even during a performance. That's lousy.

      Not having an exact measurement from the strings to the fret board causes mistakes also. After playing a guitar after a while, it is not so much a heavy percussion instrument as a light tickle of the strings, almost like a harp. Hendrix described this as "jelly", when the licks come out smooth and unhindered, almost jumping from the fretboard to the amp. The seasoned guitarist doesn't want to be hindered to much with getting the exact pressure. The right strings, enough play in the fretboard and a deft touch can produce more expression in a guitar.

      I'm not saying that a guitar *can't* be played well that has a lousy construction, all i'm saying is that is is more than *studio* that makes a production smooth. Good equipment is nothing to sneeze at.
  • by 109 97 116 116 ( 191581 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @03:37PM (#5365809) Homepage
    First of all, since a vibrating string is probably the most simple to understand analog signal, this is basically a guitar with pickups that have an extra set of coils (This isn't the first HEX pickup in the least) to detect string height and an AD convertor or two. Or perhaps twelve. Not too difficult to design, but certainly difficult to implement in a sonically usable manner. Kudos to Gibson if it works well!

    Most likely this is the patented pickup:

    For one example of a so called "digital" guitar there is of course the Line 6 Variax.

    But that wasn't the first to meld guitar and digital conversion.

    There are many previous designs, one involving pressure sensitive fretboard sections that would close switches and cause signal processing changes.

    Even the Gibson design seen in this post isn't radically different than any past MIDI guitar.

    It's all semantics as to what kind of signal you create or whether you performed AD to DA conversion inside or outside the guitar or on each string or the entire signal together or whatever.

    Here's a very well done approach to a guitar type instrument that has since been discontinued, but is used by many famous artists. Allan Holdsworth to name one.
  • by wondafucka ( 621502 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @03:54PM (#5365874) Homepage Journal
    Two things:

    1) The writing is on the wall. A digital music backbone that can be integrated with any other number of system has been a long time coming. The point isn't that it is a guitar and it's digital. The point is that eventually all the audio signals in a performance/recording will be digital. You get ease of use (plug in the jack and assign a channel digitally), clarity of sound, much easier signal processing (effects), as well as piggybacking additional control signals. As a station manager of a radio station, I would love this sort of system built into our mixing board. A physical location wouldn't necessarily correspond to a channel in the mixing board, just like a physical port in the wall doesn't necessarily correspond to a particular IP address.

    2) The dinosaur analog lovers will always bitch about digital, but there will eventually be a time when digital quality surpasses analog. I still prefer records to cds because of the more continuous signal, and more physical control over playback, but digital technology isn't far off from replacing this. People talk about the warmth of a tube amplifier, but it is physically possible to model the second harmonic distortion of the tube amp much at a much lower cost. Nobody is saying that you as an analog guitar player have to use this technology. They will probably still be making analog guitars hundreds of years from now. In the future, though, if someone has a system like Magic installed, they might have a ADC hooked up to your pickup. Nobody except the top studios are going to rush out and gut their entire studio and go digital, but this will happen eventually, and this system has a good chance of surviving.

  • by sethadam1 ( 530629 ) <adam@firsttube.cCOLAom minus caffeine> on Sunday February 23, 2003 @03:57PM (#5365898) Homepage
    If the guitar outputs IP over cat5, how long until it's wireless. And that will usher in a whole new era of hacking/cracking.

    Imagine when you can smuggle your 802.11 handheld into a concert and hack guitar feed, playing your favorite music intead of the guitar track!?
  • by Spoticus ( 610022 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @04:23PM (#5366070)
    someone like Adrian Belew [adrianbelew.net] or Allan Holdsworth [allanholdsworth.com] has to say about it. They, and others, have been working with and actively using this type of technology for almost 2 decades. Roland had their GR-707 [angelfire.com] guitar synth out back in th early 80's. Sure it was rather low-tech by today's standards, but it sure was "out there" back then.
  • by Snafoo ( 38566 ) on Sunday February 23, 2003 @09:32PM (#5367730) Homepage
    I don't know about you guys, but I find that one of the biggest problems with my guitar cords is simple wear-n'-tear at the connectors. Does Gibson really think that the mechanicals of those flimsy crimped Cat5 connectors will stand up to the (er) acrobatic needs of Joe 'Garage Band' Sixpack?

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.