A single-cable solution for connecting guitar via USB, as Brian Moore
Guitars began shipping this week in the form of their custom
iGuitar.USB axe, has a lot of appeal. But how practical would it be
to use a USB guitar onstage or in the studio? I talked to Robin at
the iGuitar factory headquarters to get some details.

CDM: What’s the resolution of the USB audio connection? Mono? Stereo?

Robin: It’s 16 bit, 48k sampling rate. [Apple] GarageBand maxes out
at 44.1, so that’s what it runs at there.

The audio stream is mono for a regular guitar, and stereo if the
guitar has the piezo acoustic pickups (guitar pickups on channel 1,
acoustic piezo on channel 2).

CDM: What’s the latency like using class-compliant USB drivers?

Latency is very good. I use a G5 iMac running Tiger and GarageBand, it’s not
noticeable, the spec is 3 ms. I have one tester running a XP/Guitar
Rig setup and got it down to 3ms also. So it’s VERY low latency, although
that number can depend on your system and applications.

If the class compliant drivers aren’t ideal for your system, or needs
more support, we’ve had some great results with the ASIO4ALL 2.0 DRIVERS,
www.ASIO4ALL.com
. But they aren’t necessary in most cases, and definitely
not on a Tiger platform.

CDM: What about the USB cable? The cable doesn’t lock in, so does it
slip out?

Robin: The cable does stay in pretty well, there’s no *locking*
mechanism but the jack is snug fitting and certainly wouldn’t just
fall out, you’d have to pull it out.

Keep in mind also, regular 1/4″ guitar cables do not lock either.
The amount of force needed to pull out a 1/4″ cable is about the same
as the USB cable, the USB cable may be just a little bit less snug,
but it’s close. The danger of a regular 1/4″ cable coming out during
a gig a very real, any player who knows this “locks” a cable in place
by twisting it around their strap – not high tech by any means. So,
this question could be asked of any guitar with a regular 1/4″ jack,
which is all of them.

CDM: Is this something people might use onstage, or is it really
intended for studio use only?

Robin: Our data so far definitely shows that the iGuitar will most
likely find the most use in studio/home studio settings.

It is certainly useable live, but the most limiting factor for live
use is the fact that the current USB cable length spec (universally,
not our spec) is about 18′ of cable. After 18′, you lose signal, and
after about 20′–25′, it’s no longer useable at all. 18′ is
generally not enough for most stage setups, when I play live, I am
sometimes using upwards of 30′ of cable. And this is in tiny clubs!
Forget about big stages.

But many people are using setups like this on stage with a laptop, most
notable right now is John Maclaughlin. If you’ve seen any pics of him, he
plays on
stage with his PowerBook right next to him. So in that case, 18′
of cable would be plenty. Also, I have many users and artists using
laptop setups for gigs, again, mostly small places, jazz clubs,
coffehouses, small clubs, and they have no problems, since their
laptop setup is generally no more than 5′ away, let alone 20′.

But, if we’re talking a punk band jumping all over the place, point taken, a
USB cable may not do . . .


Thanks, Robin! Readers, if you have more questions, fire away. I can say the pickups on these instruments are great; combined with the RMC jack for converting to MIDI (see our previous story), they’re also terrific for playing MIDI live. -PK

  • Guest

    Do any of these usb/firewire out guitars also feature a standard 1/4" jack so you can switch from computer to an amp? is there some big added expense to doing this or something?

  • Guest

    I still don't see the actual benefit? OK, you're saving any signal loss down the audio lead, but that hasn't been a problem for… well, any guitarist in history to date. You're reliant on whatever converters are in this thing (and if it's a $200 unit, they're aren't going to be Apogee). You lose compatibility with 50 years worth of guitar gear – pedals etc.
    It's nice if you use a guitar synth to have it built into a nice non-Roland guitar, but that's nothing to do with USB.
    Where's the advantage over using Guitar Rig with a 1/4 inch socket going into the controller?

  • Guest

    Yeah, the Firewire guitar at least had the whole "each string on a separate audio channel" thing goin' for it, but this just seems… unnecessary, at best.

  • Guest

    all the guitars have 1/4" jack. included.
    still a regular guitar that you can plug into an amp and effexts, etc.

  • Guest

    The guitars all have a 1/4" ouput so still a regular guitar. still get to use all your guitar gear.
    If you already have an audio interface or using Apogee, and you are use to loading /updating drivers,etc you can go with our Non Usb guitars.
    You can use the USB guitar to plug into any computer at any location and not be depend on an audio interface.

    The convience factor of not dealing with drivers,another box and such is a big plus for most guitar players.
    Guitar players want to "plug in and play".

  • Guest

    There are no other USB or FW guitars. The last article noted a FW guitar prototype, which may ship someday, with no compatibility with any Amp, or guitar 1/4" plugs…
    Then, the ever lame Gibson "Magic", coming soon for 7 years… I liked the older GIMMICKS but guess they heard it's a dead give away…. reinventing a hex pick up, which does less than existing ones, and how can you use an amp with ethernet?? Why bother?? Coming soon for another 5 years

    To which "I" replied, who cares? Brian Moore already has brilliant guitars, of the finest quality, piezo acoustic RMC, Seymour Duncan, coil taps, nicer wood, plus a hex pick-up 13 pin which already plugs into a TON of available FX units.

    iGuitar.USB is the ONLY guitar that plugs directly into a computer, there may be others some day, but not now…and none I've heard of…

    Apogee sells $200 USB boxes now! Truth is, they used the same AD/DA as M-Audio – implied some ROM but it is just standard parts…

    Electric guitars have a frequency in standard tuning of 80Hz – 1280Hz (bending highest D up to E ) the fidelity is VERY low, and always has been. Acoustic electrics have a far wider response ( Piezo acoustic pick ups ) which regular FX & amps can't deal with well – so a full frequency Keyboard, vocal, PA, or studio monitors will allow the detail to show through….but magnetic pu's still are low-fi

    So, whatever benefit there is in higher resolution sample rates & bit depth is negligible – and equal to many USB boxes you can buy on the low end.
    ( but if you forget it, a printer cable can work in a pinch – less clutter, hassle, and no driver to install even )

    If you are looking for a more PRO solution, the standard pick ups via 1/4" do what any guitar does. Attach stereo 1/4" and you get electric & piezo 1/4" outputs – so you have even more options.
    Then the RMC piezo bridge 13 pin MIDI works on all Roland ready devices. It has Hex – providing say alternate tunings – changing the low string to a Bass, top 2 Harpsicord, rest chello… but the 13 pins carry the electric guitar with MIDI so you can use both & mix at will from guitar…. and still route say acoustic to a PA etc.

    In this case, this guitar does everything a typical guitar does, and all compatible guitar equiptment, plus the piezo acoustic, plus the 13 pin MIDI/ Electric – so it's actually a logical expansion of a guitar. ( rather than Gibson reinventing wheel for no reason, less ability, and no use – or some 1 off FW guitar )

    This is a better mousetrap.

    A Roland ready strat, is a hunk of garbage, as a guitar it's horrid, and the latency of over a second for MIDI makes it useless…

    These guitars, from cheapest, to custom inlay & picture of Wife – they play with all the grace of a Les Paul, or exotic strat, with better woods, and higher end parts than I've seen on anyone at twice the price.
    ( Again, how do they even buy parts for these prices? )

    To "Me", it's difficult to carry many guitars, and sacrifice in any way is not an option. I need a guitar, and I'd prefer a piezo acoustic for recording & performing – so I can play acoustic parts w/out switching guitars mid-song or otherwise….
    Throw in MIDI, again, no one told me this was fixed, with no latency, a real violin with bends, hammer ons, all flawless even at ridiculous speeds… and free feature ( compare Parker )
    Now, USB in guitar, again, still a gorgeous guitar, ( I think I have 2.13 -like a Les Paul, but light! ) as a guitar it stands well against any PRS, Paul, Strat, and the extra's also hold up well ( Say a Tascam 224 ) I think it's brilliant.

    ( I *Wish* we could shuttle MIDI via USB, but I am unsure of how much technically is in the way of this – meanwhile a GR-33 or whatever will give you a lot of FX + MIDI I/O for such things )

    -what's nice about brian moore is they wont ship a technology just to rush, market, or no good reason – it actually works, best in the business, across the board, and a LOT less than anyone charges for less features & quality….

    These guys are truly impressive, anyone who tries them agrees…remarkable.

    Lao Tzu

  • Guest

    Yeah, the main feature of HEX ( meaning 6 ) and a separate pick up on each string – the #1 use for me, is alternate tuning on the fly – go standard, drop D, G slide, standard again in 1 song!!
    ( Tried Line 6 Variax, low end was junky – high end did do interesting nylon, banjo, sitar, via piezo and some proprietary plug – but useless as a guitar, no electric pick ups, harsh high end when trying – but Brian Moore does all this & Moore hehe )

    So, if you're reading this, you must see some use in say, assigning strings to tunings & synths – or a HEX can tell what string you hit – for auto TAB creation in real time….it opens many doors…

    I can't stress enough what a great ax it is, all on it's own. Then the fact that this stuff works not just OK, but even Roland can't get a guitar to work on their stuff like this, (so just found out it's possible!) All of this has that quality, real quality, ( sometimes non players design them, and play poorly, PArker for example, these are a players dream, by players standards…and technical marvels all around )

    Maybe like a Mac? All this power, all working together, beautiful, new technology ( no one else ships ) with design, detail, and a "Just works" implementation…
    ( I don't say positive things about anyone these days, and no I don't work 4 'em or anything – I am just amazed, can't understand why everyone hasn't switched to these exclusively….need special? They will do things other companies cannot, and look& sound better!)

    Peace,
    Lao Tzu

  • rolfspuler

    right, the FW guitar is a working prototype yet. it will be available early 2006.
    a standard 1/4" jack connects with any amp, moreover, usinf FW, it turns to headphone output providing monitor-mix from the desk.

  • Guest

    one now!!!

    If they – Brian Moore – can deliver USB and MIDI via USB 2 that would be perfect.

    All I need is Guitar Rig 2 – I run Logic Pro on my Mac.

    What more do you need? Oh yes talent..

  • skulsniper

    Just currious can u or can u not use effect pedals with this product

  • GuitarNutz

    A friend said he saw a video on some site of a new 'fret scanning' guitar synth – regular frets, regular strings, USB, MIDI out, and no delays. Suppose to react 'instantly' on electric guitar and bass (!) and going to sell for '$500 or so'. I did not see anything like that reported from the NAMM show. Anybody heard of such a thing? I want one!!

  • ok, I give. where is this "RCM jack article" you mentioned in the last paragraph?