The Peavey AT200 auto tuning guitar is now available in the UK, but reaction to the 'self-tuning' market is mixed and Heaven knows that it's something guitarists love to debate about.
As a guitar site, we make no apologies for getting excited about technological developments in the guitar industry. If it's new pedals, new amps, some sort digital/analog hybrid, we're all over it like a rash.
This is why we were so impressed at the Peavey AT200 when we saw it at NAMM, the fact that it uses Antares autotune to change the tuning of the guitar is technologically inspired.
Just to reiterate, the tuning of the guitar is processed digitally.
When you think about the sheer number of harmonic tones being produced by an entire chord, for the software to transpose each of those harmonics in real time and produce something that sounds completely unprocessed is almost unbelievable. If you told Les Paul in 1950 that a guitar of the future would be able to do that... he, well actually he'd probably nod knowingly. Bad example.
But if you told pretty much any other guitarist, he'd shake his head in disbelief and call you the spawn of Satan. But that actually throws up a problem for Peavey.
Some people just plain don't like it. Just like people don't like autotuned vocals, and some people don't like digital guitar amps.
Some people believe that it's pure evil - the death of the golden era of plugging a Les Paul into a Marshall stack and rocking the hell out, and others believe that it's pure genius - another step forward in what is a golden era of music technology.
I can relate to those who do not like the idea of the Peavey AT200, but you can't write it off without at least trying it (trust us, we have collectively reviewed a number of products which we didn't at first like the idea of, but then went on to love).
There is something beautiful about taking your Les Paul, or your Telecaster, or whatever it is you play off its stand, plugging it into your favourite valve amp, turning it up and damaging your chances of ever getting on with your neighbours.
It's pure, it feels right, and you are safe in the knowledge that if it was good enough for Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshend, (insert names of favourite guitarists here), then it's probably good enough for little old you.
If a guitar is built properly, and you don't switch tuning too often, then you shouldn't ever really have too much of problem with quickly adjusting your tuning in between songs.
But for a number of genres, EADGBe just doesn't hack it, and drop D is child's play. For better or for worse, guitarists who play these genres would benefit immensely from a guitar that can change tuning at the touch of a button.
The Peavey AT200 is also a fine specimen of a guitar in its own right, the self-tuning part is really like a side note:
You: "Hey Mr Shopkeeper, what guitar is that?"
Shopkeeper: "Oh that's the new Peavey AT200, try it out if you want."
You: "Okay. Yeah it's a really nice guitar, sounds like it'd be good for high gain stuff."
Shopkeeper: "Oh yeah I forgot to mention, it tunes itself into any tuning you want."
You: "Can I pay in cash?"
Okay so maybe it wouldn't go down quite like that, and you might personally feel that the actual guitar itself isn't exciting enough to be heralded on its own merit. But the point I'm trying to make is that you should judge the AT200 first of all on whether or not you like the sound of it, the feel of it, and the look of it.
Then consider that it costs £500 online, which most importantly makes it affordable for mass market.
Then think about whether you like the idea of self-tuning. This might sound stupid, but imagine if you had the option of being able to switch on 'self-tuning mode' on your favourite guitar. Again, I say 'option', you don't have to switch the DSP on.
If you like the sound of this, then you can't object to the AT200, because ultimately it has used DSP to take a massive step towards the idea that one day we could have such technology on all guitars.
What's that I hear? It sounds like a deafening mixture of ecstatic cheers and terrified groans.
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