Gibson’s new Firebird X guitar, a high-tech model that boasts automatic tuning, built-in audio effects and support for downloadable apps, hopes to marry the worlds of music and modern electronics in one sweet-sounding package. Available in red and blue, but priced at a wallet-crushing $5570, odds are that you’ll need an already substantial online fan following or ownership stake in an Internet startup to truly appreciate its charms.
Only 1800 units of the limited-edition three-humbucker instrument will be made, which include so-called "robot tuning" technology, on-board special effects processing capabilities and future compatibility with a custom app store for added functionality. Allowing musicians to change tones, add signature acoustic touches and switch between natural and studio produced sounds dynamically, models boast a glossy wood finish and weigh just over six pounds. More notable for features like downloadable add-ons, individual digital string output and wireless Bluetooth footpedal connectivity than the sleek aesthetic profile though, devices’ guts are grounded as much in home computing as hand craftsmanship.
The seeming long-lost love child of rock-and-roll and R2D2, support for downloadable firmware updates, a built-in preamp and companion software editing suit make the Firebird X feel as much like a PC as performance-ready tool. Promising just two hours of battery life though, Gibson says that standard camcorder batteries can also be used in a pinch.
While upgradeable patches and add-ons offer recording artists tremendous promise, support from software developers is likely to be limited, given the product’s miniscule production run. Still, representing an active step forward for both guitars and music-making technology, the instrument clearly hints at what listeners might expect from the recording industry going forward. We’re laying five to one odds that both T-Pain and Lil’ Wayne have theirs on order already.