Gibson Intros Digital Guitar

gibson digital guitarNAMM 2006 Winter Show: Gibson Guitar has introduced what it calls “the first truly digital guitar”.

The Gibson Digital Guitar brings the 1930s technology of conventional electric guitars into the Digital Age, opening a virtually unlimited array of musical possibilities for guitarists.

The Gibson Digital Guitar System features:

  • A genuine Gibson guitar, 100% compatible with existing equipment.
  • Gibson’s patented 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.
  • MaGIC-enabled digital transport, carrying multiple channels in both directions over standard Ethernet cable.
  • Gibson’s BreakOut Box, with 8 outputs (1/4″ jacks) – one for each string, plus classic humbucking pickup output and pass-through for microphone; 2 inputs carry audio back to guitar for monitoring; split mode assigns strings to different amps.

Traditional limitations

Since its introduction 70 years ago, the electric guitar’s pickup has translated the string vibrations into an electrical signal which is fed to an output connector on the body. Through the years, individual pole-pieces have allowed for small adjustments in individual string signals, and the guitarist has some control over tone and volume, but output has always been limited to a mono or stereo signal.

The signal itself is noisy by today’s digital standards, and stray frequencies often find their way to the pickups (manifesting themselves in that annoying hum we all have become accustomed to hearing). The guitar cable can also pick up stray sounds. This is the way electric guitars and cables have always been manufactured – until now.

The digital alternative

Leveraging state-of-the-art DSP and FPGA technology, Gibson developed a prototype digital guitar that converts the analog signal into a high-quality digital signal inside the guitar. Stray frequencies entering the guitar pickups are completely eliminated along with analog line noise induced through the guitar cable. In other words, the limitations of analog technology are completely removed. A guitarist can run a cable over 100 meters with no loss of audio quality.

The best part of the Gibson Digital Guitar system is its delivery of signal processing on a string-by-string basis, providing increased quality and flexibility. This provides unprecedented control with the ability to adjust volume, pan and equalization of each string individually. Imagine using six guitar amplifiers – one for every string, or recording all six strings individually into a computer, or sending the six-string digital signal to a compatible guitar processor. The guitarist can have a crunch (heavy metal) sound on the low strings, medium distortion on the middle strings and a clean sound on the high strings.

A variety of third party products will connect to the Gibson digital guitar to create the most advanced electric guitar system in the world, all leveraging Gibson’s break-through MaGIC technology to provide multi-channel, low-latency transmission of the digital audio signal.

MaGIC technology

The technology that enables the Gibson digital guitar is an Ethernet media delivery system called MaGIC, developed by Gibson Labs. MaGIC stands for Media-accelerated Global Information Carrier and is designed to replace all wiring systems in both the musical instrument fields and consumer electronic applications. The current nest of wires behind home entertainment systems can be replaced by a single Ethernet cable. MaGIC-enabled consumer electronics devices will allow daisy chaining devices and plug-and-play capabilities.

Recently, Gibson announced an agreement with Cirrus Logic, a major provider of digital audio semiconductors. The partnership is structured to develop and deliver a new generation of digital audio networking products in 2006. The companies will focus the development on next-generation gigabit Ethernet-based products designed to provide high-bandwidth, ultra-low latency and secure audio and video transport.

More information is available at the Gibson site.

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