When the Future Came to Play: Fender, Gibson, and Digitech’s Robo Gear

Music has always been about human expression and hands-on creativity. Yet as technology impacts and improves almost every area of life, some guitar and gear designs harnessed the idea of robotic technology. Some succeeded others proved too soon. Here’s a look at three instances of futuristic designs in gear history.

The Fender Cyber Twin

These days, Fender has perfected their digital amp modelling tech in the Mustang series. Yet their first foray into this world was a bold entry in the early 2000s when multi-effect units were exploding with interest. For some reason, people love to hate on the Cyber Twin. The concept is honestly brilliant: it paired a set of tubes in the preamp section with a deep digital modelling library of Fender’s most classic amplifiers. What truly set this amp apart from others, however, were the motorized knobs that would hypnotically spin to the settings of presets. The Achilles heel of the amp was arguably that this motorization only got you so far. The deep design of amp and effects sounds required a PhD in the tome of a manual that came along with it. After a few reiterations of the amp, Fender eventually pulled the plug on the Cyber Twin and poured what they learned from the project into a now more successful and sought after line of digital modelling amps. One thing that didn’t carry over? The robo knobs!

The Gibson Robot Guitars

Gibson is no stranger to tucking clever little innovations into their builds. The boldest move, however, has to be the robotic tuning system that came across their line of guitars from 2008-2012. The tech for this system is found primarily behind the headstock but also includes modest changes to the bridge and body control systems. From the front, you’d hardly notice a difference, yet the backside of the tuning machines are a bit bulkier. Within these mechanisms are motorized tuners that spin themselves to dial in your tuning with robotic precision. While they’re the brawn of the operation, the brains are bridge side. The Tune-o-matic bridge has subtle individual Piezo saddles that dispatch tuning data to the machine heads so they know where and when to spin to keep you in tune. While this self-tuning tech never really caught on, the Gibson guitars that carried this innovation will no doubt become modern classics for their forward-thinking efforts.

The Digitech Trio+ Guitar Pedal

To complete the ensemble of amp and guitar, why not toss in a pedal. This one is a bit more recent and one that has proved its take on tech serves a real need among certain players. The Digitech Trio+ is a robotic band in a box. Simply put, this effect pedal listens and learns from your guitar playing and then throws down a bass line and drum pattern to round out the sound. With options for twelve genres on board and the ability to learn up to five different sections per song, the Trio+ merges looping and machine learning technology at a whole new level. Is it worth firing your bandmates for? Probably not. But it is an ideal tool for jamming, practicing, busking, or even playing that small gig in the pub corner. While you might be lonely over there, the Trio+ will give you some AI company!

One thought on “When the Future Came to Play: Fender, Gibson, and Digitech’s Robo Gear

  • February 24, 2019 at 7:27 pm
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    The Cyber Twin was a thing of marvel to watch operate … didn’t sound too hot, though …

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