Although I love vintage guitars and instruments as much as the next person, I also like to see new innovations as well, which is something that's been totally lacking for a number of years in the MI space. But then there's Gibson.
It's amazing how such a venerable guitar manufacturer and maker of such fine vintage instruments can get things so wrong on a consistent basis over the last decade or so. Let's start with the "digital guitar" which allowed each string to have it's own separate output. What's the purpose? Can anyone tell me? Can't for the life of me see how that could be useful.
Then there's the "robot guitar" that tunes itself. The only people that need this are beginners who don't know how to use a tuner, and they can't afford the $3,500 to $5,000 it takes to buy one.
Now comes another example of including features on an instrument that no player really needs with the new Firebird X. Not only is this one butt-ugly guitar (Gibson, how could you?), but it's filled with "features" that most players don't need. Like what, you might ask? How about all your stomp-box effects built into the guitar, for one. The thing is full of switches and sliders to control distortion, echo and modulation in an effort to get rid of all those pedals on the floor.
On the surface this might seem cool except for two problems. First, how do you switch these things in while your playing? That's what makes stomp-boxes so useful - you just use your foot to switch it in. The second thing is that the guitar is a maze. I'm pretty tech-oriented, but I couldn't figure the thing out to save my life in the brief time (about 15 minutes) that I spent with it. Granted, I didn't look at the manual, but why should you have to for a guitar?
Then you have the issue of a guitar that converts the analog output of the guitar to digital so it can process it, then converts it back to analog again. The last thing you need is two conversions in your signal path. There was a lot of great sounds back in the 50s, 60s and 70s that came just plugging a guitar directly into an amp with nothing in between. I can't image how converting the signal from analog to digital back to analog again can sound anything like what we'd consider close to a "good sound" today.
Finally, the thing costs $5,570 retail. You can buy a new reissue Firebird for about $1,600 and 10 great pedals and still come out way ahead.
The Firebird X is the type of thing that gives tech innovation a bad name in the MI world. I do like the fact that Gibson is at least trying to think somewhat outside the box, but guys, your engineer's need to a measure of constraint. Just give the people what they want - a reasonably priced guitar that plays well and sounds great. When you come up with some new digital add on that makes it sound even better and is transparent to the player, give us a call.
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