Saturday, March 10, 2007

Strat and Go Digital

At long last, Fender guitars has decided to step into the digital age with a new generation of their venerable Stratocaster. It's about time. It's called the "VG Stratocaster", and it offers virtual instrument modeling features similar to those that have been available in the Line6 Variax guitars for a couple years now.

The VG part of the new axe refers to the Roland VG system. They've partnered with Roland to incorporate a slimmed-down (or is it amputated?) version of their modeling processor[s] right into the body of the guitar, running off of 4-AA batteries. Two new controls are mounted in line with the familiar volume and tone knobs—one for choosing among the emulated guitar voices. The 2nd new control will allow you to change from standard tuning to several others, without ever touching the tuning pegs. The VG-88 is an amazing unit, and it greatly expands the range of strikingly authentic sounds available to guitarists, so I expect the sounds generated by the VG Strat's onboard unit will be pretty killer. But...

((( expected no "But..." from me? I always have a "But..."!!! )))

I have to wonder why they don't offer a 13 pin out for folks who might want to further modify their sound with outboard synth modules? I wonder if a hex output will be available as an option? (Didn't see it, but I haven't dug in deeply yet). Maybe on version 2?

Also, while I understand that Fender has a stake in maintaining their status as a guitar company that's proud of their strong traditionalist history, they seem to be telling potential buyers (As seen in the image at the right, screen-
capped from the VG Strat FAQ page
) that they know what is best for their needs in regards to choices of tuning modes and emulation parameters. To guitarists who seriously want to push the sonic envelope, it's a bit off-putting. Combine that with the lack of hex output, and I kinda get the feeling of being stuck. Makes me want to consider looking at one of the synth-ready guitars by Brian Moore instead.

All of that said, though, I really look forward to taking one of these new Strats for a test drive. And you can be sure I'll be keen to find out more about whether a hexaphonic output is available as an option, or if they plan on offering it in the future.

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