Guitar tone is probably one of the most subjective—and important—components of a musician’s arsenal. Guitar players using the exact same equipment can come up with vastly different tone and the audience listening to the music can love it or hate it based on the way it sounds to them.
Digitech has been on a mission to simplify the search for the perfect guitar tone, and they’re in the process of releasing products with a new chipset called AudioDNA2. The first-generation AudioDNA chips powered Digitech’s GNX4 and GNX3000 Guitar Workstations.
AudioDNA2 is the power behind Digitech’s new round of digital guitar processors, the RP series. The RP products, the RP150, RP250 and RP350, are priced from $99 to $199. They're designed to allow practicing guitarists a place to start in the digital realm without sacrificing quality. And according to the company, they are among the most sophisticated guitar products on the market today, but perfectly tuned to the GarageBand-era guitarist, a user that Digitech has focused on over the past few years.
“The balance is in the expectations and capabilities of the products,” said Jim Pennock, vice president of Technology at the Harman Music Group. “Products that used to be made only for the pro guys are coming down in price to where everybody can afford them.”
According to Pennock, one of the things that make its products so popular is that the people making the guitar products at Digitech live and breathe guitars. They know what musicians are looking for and that is what they want to deliver.
“In addition to being excellent engineers in their field, these guys are also players,” said Pennock. “They aren’t just designing products, they are designing products for their peers and that comes across in the end result.”
Ultimately, Digitech said they want to make products that help the musician. That may sound obvious, but many guitarists have so much going on with their gear, it almost impossible to control it all.
“If it’s done properly, any pedal or effect should not get in the way of the guitar player’s talent,” said Pennock. “If you’re on stage, you don’t want a bunch of menus, switches or buttons. You just want your sound.”
The Digitech products also come with a Mac application that lets you edit and create presets on your own. For example, if there is an Eddie Van Halen preset that you think needs a little more Phaser, you connect the RP unit to your Mac via USB, open the application and load the preset. After you make your changes, you write the changes back to the device and you’re done.
As nice as it is to adjust tones on the computer, this is the part that scares a lot of long-time guitarists. Many guitarists are so used to their analog setup and so dubious of the digital-based gear that it becomes a real challenge for companies like Digitech to get them to try out the new products.
Pennock said they are continually working with musicians to make sure the user experience is easy and intuitive. It will, however, take some time to convince the diehards.
What may convince a lot of people to try digital gear is the quality of the sound. According to the Digitech, with the AudioDNA2 chips they can accurately replicate any analog pedal sound on the market. Having that many sounds in one place to tweak your tone is hard to pass up.
“If it’s in the [analog] circuit, it’s in our modeling,” said Digitech’s Jason Lamb. “The end goal is great tone, but also to allow the musician’s creativity to come through.”
“One thing to keep in mind is that this is what we do—we’re not doing 10 or 15 products, one of which is guitar effects. We live and breathe this stuff,” said Pennock.
Many companies are constantly working on the “perfect tone,” so it will be interesting to see how well Digitech does with this new line. As a long time user of Digitech’s GNX4 guitar workstation, I’m very familiar with what to expect from the company’s guitar products. In the next few weeks I’ll be testing out the RP350; I will let you know how AudioDNA2 has changed the new generation of guitar processors.