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A digital guitar - has the world gone mad?

Sooner or later someone is going to design a digital electric guitar that is a quantum leap better than the traditional model. Has Gibson succeeded?


It had to come sooner or later, and there have been many attempts, but the electric guitar is such a perfect instrument as it is, any attempt at digitizing it has got to be absolutely spot on to stand a chance.

However, Gibson's 'MaGIC' technology does look like a serious contender. In collaboration with 3Com and Xilinx, Gibson have developed a prototype that has analog-to-digital conversion of the signal from the pickups inside the guitar. The result is a guitar that natively outputs a digital signal.

Now there would be an easy way to do this - simply convert the output from the pickups to an AES/EBU or S/PDIF digital signal. Each of the two pickups could be given a channel to itself in either of these stereo interfaces.

But then you would have to wonder what additional value had been achieved, apart from maybe a little less interference because now only the pickups themselves would be vulnerable, not the cable.

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But Gibson have chosen to go further. This guitar has an Ethernet connector!

The Ethernet cable from the guitar connects to an eight-channel breakout box. No, this is not an eight-string guitar - the other two channels are for a monitor signal coming back to the guitar. The guitar, naturally, has a headphone connector.

So the benefit now is that each string can be processed and digitized individually inside the guitar, giving control over level and tone for each string. Then each string can be amplified or recorded individually. This is indeed something new...

Imagine using a different effect on each string! You can't say that's been done before.

Wonder if Fender have anything in the pipeline?

By David Mellor Thursday March 17, 2005