Other Guitars

Mind: blown by HyVibe acoustic guitar at NAMM

1

I've been following NAMM from afar. Home base, of course, is Ric12's Gretsch-centric coverage.

Alongside that, I've checked out coverage from various and sundry. By surveying indefatigable purveyors' ongoing (and now wrap-up) reports, it's been fairly easy to hone in on the coverage most relevant to me at the moment.

NOTE: those averse to my over-long-windedness and tendency to contextualize to the point of tangential clouding should skip the next several paragraphs and go to the double line far below. Thank you for your cooperation.)


Besides guitars, as most of yall know, my other interests are synths and pedals - both areas where technology and creativity continue to create genuinely new stuff that might make sounds yet unheard by human ear.

One site claimed to cover every new pedal at NAMM; I don't know if they succeeded (I'll be checking back). I've pretty much glazed over on gain, drive, and distortion - so I could ignore those. And I think I'm pretty well up to date on mainstream and boutique offerings in modulation, delay, and reverb - so something new and sufficiently different in those areas will be immediately obvious.

It's at the freaky and experimental end of continuum that I'm having the most fun these days. Also, devices which solve device-management problems and provide easier or new ways for pedals to work with each other are increasingly compelling. Across these categories, on one hand I 'm always up for something new; on the other, I'm always half-afraid someone's going to come out with something that creates a new paradigm, or pedals so compelling I'll be gnawed by acquisitive lust till I can get my hands on them.

I don't think that happened - though Andy Martin's wrapup of his favorite NAMM pedals did point out a couple whoah!-cool! devices.

But no one has yet built the two or three killer devices I have in my head (though one pedal nibbles around the edges), so there's still time for me to get out there with an Idea That Works. (Theoretically, of course. I'm no pedal-builder, and collaborations between strictly-idea guys and actual builders are generally resolved in favor of the guys with the tech knowledge and the soldering irons.)

Among synths, the action over the last few years has been in the Euro-rack modular sphere (enticing, but more expensive than pedals and a rabbit hole I'm just not going down) and modernized retro analog subtractive synths. I sailed with that boat in the 70s, and nothing I've heard from the new ones makes me want them. I'm looking for the new and next transformative synth tech, and I haven't read about any such from the show. (Was the Waldorf Kyra a no-show?)

While it seems to have become passé overnight among the synth hipigentsia, I'm still more excited about iOS synthesis than anything in the hardware world. That's where I'm giddily submerged and nourished with tones and textures. (Also the price of entry for apps is so freakishly low that no new product can cause can't-afford-it pain.)



Which brings me to guitars. As I already have (figuratively) billions and billions of guitars, I haven't gone out of my way to find something new that will stun my buns and make me want it. Still, a few (Broadkaster Jr, Steve Wariner Nash Gent, Electric XII, maybe Acoustasonic.) have made their way to my lust-list.

While I'd have thought it unlikely that any acoustic guitar would amaze my mouth open, the Acoustasonic does seem a significant advance in the state of that particular art.

Then the good folks at Reverb drew my attention to this one, which flat drops my jaw. I don't know if this is anything I need (or even want, since I'm not a fan of effects other than compression and reverb on acoustic instruments) - but it sure represents the kind of genius that's obvious only after someone does it. And it seems to have been executed not only brilliantly, but successfully.

Hearing the description, I expected a dancing bear: sure, it's a trick, but so what? Hearing it, I was as gigglingly amazed as Reverb's guy that the bear is actually ready for the ballet.

Check it out!

2

Considering the decline in gigs for full bands, in favor of acoustic duos or solos, this will be a huge game-changer!

4

Re synths, how about this?

Yep - in software. Not iOS (yet), but Arturia has been very active in that domain. It may get there. I can use it in the Mac too. But never in several lifetimes would I get to the bottom of the iOS soft synths I already have loaded.

I get up every day amazed to be living in the future.

5

The Reverb guy summed it up well - “Wwooww!”.

6

Now THAT is something different, whoa Nellie

7

Holy S**t!

And I'm still trying to master using a capo!

Amazing stuff.

8

Gentleman... I believe we have a game-changer here. Are they selling their own actual guitars or will Martin and Taylor be able to OEM the tech??

9

My guitar fund is contemplating a change of direction.

10

this will be a huge game-changer!

I believe we have a game-changer here.

Well, I'm not sure about that. No doubt it sounds fabulous in person, right in front of the guitar. But how will it translate through the perennial bugaboo of the acoustic guitar as a perfomance instrument in a room larger than your living room (or a hushed classical/flamenco concert hall)?

Because yon acoustic has to be amplified. Do you mic the front and bridge of the guitar in order to get the amazing effects coming off the top? - in which case we're back to all the familiar problems of mic'ing an acoustic. Or do you use an undersaddle pickup (and/or internal dynamic mic) - in which case, do you lose whatever is sonically special about this concept?

11

So I have a Taylor T5z "hybrid", which does fairly reasonable impressions of several well-known electrics with ease, but you have to plug it in. It also plays well as an acoustic when played through a DI or acoustic amp. Onstage, it's allowed me to cut my guitar count by two as a result. (still need my 12string, though).

I am not too sure this would do the same job. While the sounds are both interesting and neat, and I have no idea how they're happening, in the end, it's still playing the role of an acoustic guitar, albiet an enhanced one.

From what I hear in the demo, this is indeedy a potentially game-altering evolution of the stage acoustic, but from what I can work out myself, it's still an acoustic, and all that is implied therein, whereas the T5z and it bigger brother are able to be used in situations requiring an electric guitar. Perhaps not a pure "Gretcsh", LP or even Telecaster sound, but more than adequate to work well in an electrified setting. Additionally, they function quite well as acoustic guitars in a small setting (room-size).

Now, if they could hide a couple of 'buckers under the top somehow and work them into the mix with all those other sweeteners, they'd be on to something serious.

Then again, one setting seems to be a pretty darn good emulation of a 12str.. Wonder how that gets done...?

(edited to clean up some rather confusing verbiage. Pre-meal libation blamed)

12

Maybe not the right application for you traveling musicians blessed to be playing venues that require higher volumes... but for the folks who are sitting on stools at bars and coffee shops, or hitting open mic nights, or just jamming with friends it feels like the lack of tethering to an amp, and having to lug around an amp, as well as a couple guitars to cover all the territory they want... this technology is a god-send. Any info on price??

13

T5z and it bigger brother are able to be used in situations requiring an electric guitar. Perhaps not a pure "Gretcsh", LP or even Telecaster sound, but more than adequate to work well in an electrified setting.

Yep. The grail of one guitar to be both acoustic and electric, holy to some, has been approached from both sides of the equation.

I guess we shouldn't forget that the electric guitar had its genesis in the acoustic guitar, and the simple desire to make it louder for combo and gig applications. While Ro-Pat-In, later to become Rickenbacker, approached the problem in the early 30s by inventing the Martian-for-the-time solidbody electric (and suffered the market penalty for doing so), all popularly accepted electric guitars until the early 50s (in practical terms) were hollowbody acoustic guitars with pickups affixed. (That Bigsby, and then Fender - and then Gibson and Gretsch - could announce the solidbody electric in the late40s-earlymid50s as something new and radical is an index to how thoroughly Rick's frying pan failed commercially.)

No doubt George Beauchamp and his co-conspirators were from the beginning hoping to simply make the sound of an acoustic guitar louder. But magnetic pickups just couldn't capture the highs and the transients, and thus the electric guitar evolved its own tonal vocabulary, its own "use cases," its own history divergent from the acoustic.

But starting from the mid-60s (that I know of), there have been attempts to get both an authentic-sounding acoustic guitar and the "new" electric guitar sound from one instrument. Danelectro's Convertible was an interesting early attempt - a thin mostly hollow masonite (what else?) doublecut body with a small soundhole and a lipstick-tube pickup. I guess it wasn't so much trying to deliver the two sounds as separate experiences as just to find where they met in the middle and might work in place of either. So it doesn't sound like an acoustic, exactly; it also doesn't sound entirely like an electric. It sounds like an acoustically responsive thin hollow electric with bright transient attack.

I'm not sure Gibson/Epiphone's "John Lennon" model (I don't recall the real model name, J-something) was ever supposed to sound like a thoroughgoing electric. It was probably intended to be more of an amplifiable acoustic. Given that, I'm always surprised at how acoustic it does sound - but then, on its most famous recorded outings, I'm pretty sure George Martin stuck a nice ribbon mic in front of it.

Otherwise, sticking magnetic soundhole pickups in acoustic guitars always delivered more of a REALLY fat hollowbody electric tone and response than the snap and crispness of an acoustic.

While pioneers were working on pressure-sensitive non-magnetic pickups by at least the early 60s, the first to break through was in the execrable plastic bowl-backed (I always want to say "bowel-backed," no doubt an excremental Freudian connection) Ovations. (Then I think "ovaries," and given some players inability to hold the damned things on their laps thanks to lower abdominal convexity, the whole Kaman configuration just takes on too many connotations of the lower torso and gets icky.)

But I was talking about Ovation pickups, which aren't directly connected with the construction of the guitars. Those were the first piezo pickups I was aware of, and they did finally revolutionize the amplification of something that sounded more like an acoustic guitar than previous tech had yieled. Barcus Berry followed soon with retro-fittable "hot spot" acoustic pickups.

The evolution and improvement in pressure-pickup tech and tone has been impressive - but all guitars in that lineage want to sound like acoustic guitars, not like electrics. The acceptance of that peaky zithery tone by both players and audiences, however, has led to the somewhat weird phenomenon of dissociating the acoustic guitar as such from the tone of piezo pickups. That is, the same pickup technology can be embedded in the bridge of a solidbody or thin hollow electric with mag pickups - and, because it sounds like the bad amplified acoustic tone we've heard for the last 40 years, people think it sounds like an "acoustic guitar."

So we've had any number of guitars from the 80s onward done in just that way. Carvin did the AE-185, a mostly solid centerblock Tele with set neck, a pair of their overwound tappable humbuckers, and a piezo under an acoustic saddle and bridge. Mine sounds like a great fat electric tele, or a reasonably convincing piezo-acoustic (which should by now be its own class of guitar). Some of its most useful tones are a blend of the two through the same amp. (Though that doesn't reek of acousticness, just a very articulate electric.)

Godin (and so many others) have used the LR Baggs, Shadow, and other piezo elements embedded in electric bridge saddles to get acoustic output from thoroughly solidbody guitars. The difference between my LGX-sa and the Carvin in that regard comes down to the separate output for the "acoustic" side of the instrument and the more sophisticated preamp/EQ. Separated into its own meticulously EQ'd channel of a PA - and deployed through the Fishman Aura kinda-modeling preamp - I get a great... piezo-acoustic tone. But both guitars are completely convincing as mag-pickup electric guitars. (Duh, because that's what they are.)

Seems to me that anyone who's offered acoustic and electric in one guitar, so far, have given us instruments that are genuinely one - and only kinda the other. (Other than Line 6 with the Variax, who gave up on producing either tone through time-tested actual physics, and instead digitally model both of them.)

It strikes me that the new Fender Acoustasonic may deliver convincing nicely-mic'd acoustic and genuinely mag-pickup electric tones in one instrument. For those looking for that combination, either for convenience or sonic doubling, that may be a game-changer. (And by "sonic doubling," I mean getting the sound of two different instruments from one player at the same time. That was the attraction to me of the Godin: one guy, electric and acoustic and massive sampled/synth tones for a Wagnerian wall of sound. Which I'm all about.)

But it doesn't seem to me that Lag's HyVibe is trying to be electric at all; it just wants to enhance pure acoustic tone with the kind of studio effects that have been increasingly common for acoustic guitar over the last few decades. I'm not sure they can give it an electric guitar voice; that would take magnetic pickups in the proper locations under the strings, and installing those would mess with the flexibility of the top, from which all their effects (along with good acoustic tone) originate.

And to make a conventionally-sized and built acoustic guitar work as an electric (as anyone who's put an old DeArmond soundhole mag pickup in a flattop knows), they'd have to brace or centerblock or stuff it with rags - or do something to damp the runaway body howl. Nother words, they'd ruin the acousticity of it - and be right back to the very beginning of the electric guitar's evolution.

So I think what they have is a thoroughgoing acoustic guitar, enhanced with effects that are completely, "organically" - even magically - integrated with the acoustic tone of the instrument. I'd love to hear it in person; I think the blended tone might be something new under the sonic sun. It's probably best reproduced with the best possible two-mic studio recording one could manage. Still, I suspect it might be something, like the Leslie speaker, that can't be truly appreciated in any recording, and has to be experienced up close and personal in the presence of the guitar.

I think I saw evidence of something like that realization in the reaction of the Reverber who conducted the video. In all the Reverb demos I've seen him do, he's completely professional: plays well, presents the product methodically and even-handedly. His generally positive approach nonetheless doesn't betray either overwhelming personal enthusiasm or a negative opinion.

And, indeed, through the first part of the video, he was interested and engaged as the engineers explained the tech: just doing his job, getting some content. But when he actually heard the sucker, and then played it himself, his demeanor appeared to change to genuine excitement and enjoyment. Then he seemed a hard-to-impress seasoned professional delighting in a surprising epiphany.

14

Tim,

If I remember the story correctly, Kaman was building Ovation acoustic guitars only when they first endorsed Glen Campbell. He wanted a pickup on the guitar and Kaman contacted Baldwin about purchasing prismatone pickups to be put on Ovation guitars. Baldwin eventually sold some to them but I think they had to buy the Baldwin push button amps along with them. I think they required a high voltage preamp that they amp provided.

15

Aha. That makes another connection in the history for me.

16

I haven't gigged in a while in an acoustic setting and if so, would have the same concerns as Kevin mentioned. That aside, WOW! I could say a ton about but I'll just keep it focused....this looks like a ton of fun and I am amazed by it.

Thank for posting Tim!

17

I don’t recall EVER seeing Mr. Les Paul playing a flat-top acoustic guitar. But I do believe he’d have fun with this one however!

18

I bought a LAG acoustic when I was working in Czech. It was a decent guitar for the money.

This teched-out version is brilliant...I thought I had no GAS, but now...

19

Very interesting idea. I just don’t see it being anything more than a curiosity. It’s ingenious, and I can see how it would cut down on the amount of gear you might need for a very small solo gig, but anything other than the smallest of gigs would still require a PA system.

Reminds me of a hi-tech version of those guitars Sears sold with a speaker built into the body of the guitar.

20

I think I need to feel one in my hands before I can form an opinion about it, but that being said, I want one in my hands, and that's a good indication that they are doing something right.

21

Fascinating. Looks like they've incorporated the Tonewood Amp concept into the guitar. Ibanez made an Acoustic-Electric with built-in effects a while back, but of course, you had to plug it in to hear the effects.

22

Wowee! My mind continues to be blown.

I just got an email from Matt Volsky of HyVibe (who has either been a GDP member or just joined to message me). He's seen this thread and says, in part:

By the way, it has a standard output (and an input too) and sounds great through an amp. We digitally process the signal so you get a pure sound without the piezo 'effect'.

So there's one question answered.

Thanks for the note, Matt.

23

This and the Acoustasonic have my attention this year. A looper built in to the guitar will be a game changer for many solo acoustic players.

24

His response suggests a proactive customer service approach to business.

25

I like it, I like it! Just wundering... does this guitar have a "line in" input like for maybe adding some tracks of say bass, rhythm, maybe a little brushes on a snare, or maybe even a classy xylophone or strings? That way you could have the whole she-bang right there with ya! Some get-to-gether pickin'-fests are "acoustic only / no electric"!! Some of them folks might just have a run-away if something like this was unleashed upon them. And wouldn't ya know.....it's 11 months till Christmas!! Steve


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