13 thoughts on “Vintage Versus New Guitar Synth Options

  1. Thanks for that link. I just got my SY-1000 in the mail yesterday. More on that perhaps in another thread/post. I didn’t really get it for the synthesis capabilities, but will enjoy having access to them.

    I think there are a few main categories of synth guitar these days:

    1. Divided pickup– polyphonic, fast tracking. GK, SA (synth access), etc. Works GK equipped boss/roland gear.

    2. Normal pickup– monophonic, medium to fast tracking (depending on system), does convert to synth waves, so not instantaneous.

    3. Normal pickup– polyphonic, no-tracking– it directly synthesizes the input signal in a way that doesn’t require “tracking” in the traditional sense.

    4. MIDI converter– available both for normal and divided pickups. Tracking speed and accuracy can be all over the place from unusable to barely useable.

    As a caveat, anyone thinking they can do guitar synthesis through an iPad should expect some latency. It’s kind of the nature of the beast.

    The Source Audio C4 is pretty impressive in terms of flexibility and tracking. I expect the other Boss SY synth pedal is also pretty snappy but is more of a preset player.

    1. Stub, do you consider the old Bartolinni (sp?) Hex Pickup; one coil per string, 40-ish db separation in your category 1? I had a friend build a guitar for me like that, but never finished the electronics. DSP wasn’t affordable enough in the 80’s. Was thinking of finishing it lately.

      1. I’m pretty sure that’s the basic structure of the Roland gk pick-up. You would need to wire it to go to a 13 pin jack. I’ve seen the pin-out list online somewhere. Sounds like a good project to finish!

      2. Do a search of “roland GK cable pinout”. You might see GK jack pinout as well.

        If you want an affordable entry into that world, you can probably find the GP-10 used for a reasonable price. Now that the SY-1000 takes that functionality up a major step, people will be replacing theirs.

        1. Very cool! Yeah, getting the multipin jack was a hassle back then. Almost went with just a DB25, but these pickups aren’t humbuckers they used to hum with fluorescents so prevalent in those days. Not so bad these days. My goal was a 6 channel effects setup, for per string effects. I prefer the normal string dynamics of a guitars sound when I play guitar. I save the synth sound for keyboards. That’s just my playing style.

          1. You can alternate the wiring of each string to get some humbucking between pairs of strings.

            If you haven’t tried the recent GK guitar modeling thing, I can understand your thinking that your “normal string dynamics” are not part of that sound. (Especially with the older synths, you are right to think that is sacrificed). The newer generation of processors, GP-10, SY-1, SY-1000 are pretty dynamic (though there is a bit of peak limiting) and many of their “engines” use the strings vibration directly, so the dynamics and response are spot on.

  2. Anybody interested in learning more about guitar synths should check out Wayne Joness’s site:


    There is a ton of information here about all the synth units Roland produced in the 70’s and 80’s. The GR-300 is the cream of the crop — incredibly fast tracking, and the filter is superb. Pat Metheny, Robert Fripp, Bill Frisell, Vernon Reid, and many other guitarists used the GR-300. The synth engine in the GR-700 was based (I believe) on the JX-3P — you can get some very deep sounds from it, but it never tracked as well as the GR-300 and, like a lot of membrane button-based synths from those days, was a pain to program.

  3. I’m going to play devil’s advocate here. But the GR-300 emulation I heard on the GP-10 and SY-1000 didn’t sound that interesting to me. There are other synth engines on those devices (especially the SY-1000) that sound better to my ears. But I’ve never been a big fan of that Methany sound. He’s a great musician, though. Just a personal taste thing.

  4. I have both a GR300, and a GP-10 as well as several other newer Roland guitar synths. If you run the GP-10 through an EHXL2P tube preamp there is no difference in sound between the GR300 emulation an the real thing. You can to tweak the GP-10’s emulation and obtain the exact sound you want. As much as I love real GR300 I tend to go to the GP-10 more often as I don’t have to deal with the perpetual tuning issues. My guitar for the GP-10 is a Godin with the GK guts built in. The only thing I miss on the Godin and GP-10 is the ablitity to volume swell the filter knob with my pinky. In my opinion the biggest problems with guitar synths outside of the old analog beauties is most of preset sounds are awful and require extensive reprogramming. I wish that Roland would make a digital GR300 or GR500 box in an oldschool style with knobs and tweakables to play with and forget about thinking I want to play saxaphone with my guitar.ldt

  5. I had the Roland gk setup for a while, I gave it up because too many random incidentals no matter how I played or set up. I would record a midi track and then spend a lot of time editing it to get rid of the trash notes,

  6. Look Mum is a madman, but I appreciate the angles he takes on things. If you’re going to make the most of a synth, you gotta know how to synthesize. That includes being holographically aware of all the Other Stuff, like guitar synths. He offered a nice spread on the topic.

  7. Hi! Woow fantastic page! Thank you! I have a few questions. I’ve a Graphtech Ghost 13 pin out on my guitar and I want to play synths in the ipad. My rig has to be very portable, small and for the beginning not expensive. I want to do Guitar to Midi and play the Synths inside? Does it work well? I’ve tried Guitar Midi 2 App but .. it works not really very well. I would love to buy the SY-1000 but it’s very expensive for me and with this corona s*** I need to be a little bit careful and not spend to much. Do you have a suggestion or idea? Which gear or interface or whatever should I buy to play polyphonic the synthesizers on the iPad! Saludos Pedro

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