Has anyone checked out this video for axes equipped with Antares’s Auto-Tune for Guitar?
I haven’t tried one of these myself, though my pal Art Thompson at Guitar Player gave Peavey’s Auto-Tune-equipped AT-200 a glowing review.
I’d heard of the product, but must admit I hadn’t given it much thought, assuming it was chiefly a pitch-correction tool. But as Antares’s videos make clear, it also does many modeling tasks, and can no doubt be used in some very creative ways. According to the Antares site, the Peavey is the only currently available guitar pre-fitted with the system, though they hint at pending partnerships with other guitar companies. They’ve also announced the upcoming release of a Luthier Custom Kit, which means a) you’ll be able to install the system in a guitar of your choice, and b) there’s a product picture that reveals much about how the system works:
Well, well, what have we here? A circuit board hosting the Antares processor, a hexaphonic pickup of the sort used in MIDI guitars, a bunch of switches, and an old-school MIDI cable for connecting your guitar to your computer or iPad, which can serve as controllers for the Antares hardware. (I don’t know for certain why Antares opted for a retro MIDI cable, though I have a guess: Brian Moore Guitars, creators of the iGuitar, have a patent on the very notion of putting a USB connector on a guitar, regardless of how it’s deployed. Anytime you see a USB jack on a guitar, rest assured that Brian Moore is earning a royalty. No disrespect to Moore, a true innovator, but this strikes me as an absurd misapplication of patent law.)
I suppose I was imaging this product would involve some sort of advanced polyphonic pitch correction tool, perhaps some mind-blowing descendent of Celemony’s Melodyne. But no — it’s six monophonic processors. And that’s probably a good thing. Judging by the videos (and Art Thompson’s comments, which I inevitably trust), the system is remarkably glitch-free, and performs quickly enough so that most players barely perceive any lag.
Antares has also announced the upcoming Guitar Floor Pedal. Here the processors reside in the pedal. You still need a hexaphonic pickup, but here you can use any Roland-style pickup with a hardware connector, and you can add these to most guitars without permanently altering the instruments. (It looks as if the system won’t work with Fishman’s upcoming TriplePlay wireless MIDI guitar pickup.)
I can’t offer many definitive comments about the product till I try it, but I can pass along a few impressions based on Antres’s videos and my experience with other hexaphonic-equipped instruments, such as Roland, Yamaha, and Fishman guitar synths, Line 6 modeling guitars, and the Roland V-Guitar system:
- The Antares system seems to track extremely well. But actually, all these systems have tracked really well for a long time. Yes, there is some lag, but this has less to do with with any hardware or software shortcomings than with the physics of a plucked string. It simply takes a few milliseconds for the chaotic transients to settle into a definitive note that can be perceived by pitch-detection tools.
- Most vocalists can’t sing while monitoring real-time pitch correction — it just freaks them out. But I don’t believe that’s an issue for most guitarists. However, sensitive players definitely perceive the fact that the instrument doesn’t vibrate in the same way as when played organically. How much of an issue this is varies from player to player.
- The main thing that prevents all these systems from sounding 100% authentic is the lack of interaction between the strings. Each individual string actually sounds quite authentic, but the strings don’t “hum” or “sing” together in quite the same way. When heard solo in some of Antares’s demo videos, the tones seem a bit cold and stiff. But as with all such processors, it’s all about the musical context. Some tones that sound stiff played solo work just fine in a mix.
So has anyone tried out the Peavey AT-200 yet? Would you have any interest in such a system if you could install it on the guitar of your choice? Do you have any hard-won wisdom about working with hexaphonic pickup systems? Heard any good Auto-Tune jokes lately?