Gibson Shipping The Firebird X, A Computer Inside A Guitar

Announced at CES 2011, the Gibson Firebird X has been a fascinating example of a traditional instrument maker building something that, arguably, is quite revolutionary. The Firebird X is essentially a computer inside a guitar. The guitar itself contains a Freescale processor and can run apps approved and sold through the Gibson website. The guitar can model over 2,000 different sounds and styles out of the box and, when coupled with Gibson’s auto-tuning machine heads, you can select any number of tuning possibilities automatically.

Guitar purists are an angry lot and many innovations, including the Fretlight, are welcomed with derision and snark. To be fair, guitars haven’t improved much since Les Paul strapped some strings to a hunk of 4×4. As electronic music has eclipsed “real” instruments, it’s good to see that Gibson is still trying new things. They could just sit back and keep making sunbursts until the end of days, but instead they’re building what amounts to a PC in a solid-body electric.

Gibson is avoiding the problems associated with previous MIDI guitars by making the processor completely upgradable:

User replaceable — built to new universal standards for form, factor and connectivity.
Using our secret Pure-Analog™ sauce, gives the player professional analog sound.
Firmware is user-upgradeable, allowing constant improvements and updates.Provides an arsenal of professional, world-class sounds and effects.

The guitar connects to Bluetooth-capable foot pedals and you can control the audio modeling either on the guitar itself (using toggle switches and the “Gold Knob” with LED read-out) or over a stereo cable connected to your computer.

At $5,570 the Firebird is definitely not for the faint of heart and, given the outcry against the guitar among aficionados (who called this the Firdturd) and the history of failed marriages of electronics and git-fiddles, I doubt this will be wildly popular. However, it’s available tomorrow in stores and – at least from a tech standpoint – it’s pretty darn wild.

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