It finally happened. Somebody decided to make a digital guitar. Gibson has been working on a digital guitar for a number of years, perhaps as long as ten or eleven years. And yesterday, at the NAMM show in Anaheim, Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz opened a guitar case revealing the future of Gibson instruments.
The instrument looks like a standard issue Les Paul. The promotional photos show a light blue instrument. Not my favourite colour. The only indication that the instrument is digital is found in the I/O cluster at the bottom of the guitar. Lo and behold, an Ethernet port. Perhaps we can surf the net and play guitar at the same time?
The Gibson Digital Guitar System features a HEX pickup, which senses up-and-down motion (like an acoustic guitar pickup) and side-to-side motion (like an electric guitar pickup) for each string. The system also features a MaGIC-enabled digital transport, carrying multiple channels in both directions over a standard Ethernet cable to an 8-out breakout box. The breakout box allows for discrete processing of each individual string.
Will the market take to a digital guitar system? I remember when the first MIDI guitars came to market. A few players experimented with the technology but generally the MIDI guitar was never a strong draw.
The concept of digitizing signals at the pickup and pushing them out for processing in the digital domain seems interesting. However, most guitar players I know are moving in the opposite direction: vintage guitars, vintage effects, and great sounding tube amplifiers.