Could We Soon Be Facing a Guitar World Without Gibson?

Speculation about the financial problems facing Gibson have been swirling for months, but it wasn’t until I read this article detailing the incredible amount of debt the company is facing that I started to wonder if the iconic guitar company might really be forced to shut its doors. Could we soon be facing a world without a company that’s been one of the two undisputed leaders of guitar manufacturing, or is Gibson too big to fail?

The Bloomberg article does an excellent job of explaining the volume of the debt ($560 million!), but also goes on to detail some of the reasons why Gibson finds itself in the sticky situation it’s in today. CEO Henry Juszkiewicz’s strategy to transform Gibson into a lifestyle brand by adding electronics companies to the portfolio never really worked out. At the same time, it sounds like the core guitar making business is being terribly mismanaged and doing everything they can to alienate the people who are in the best position to help them — the guitar dealers. It was shocking to read that stores like Gruhn Guitars in Nashville are being forced to make the difficult decision to stop selling Gibson’s guitars because they can no longer endure onerous conditions like annual credit checks and being asked to place advance orders for a whole year’s worth of inventory.

So what does it mean for Gibson and the industry in general? Will Gibson simply cease to exist or will some investment capital group swoop in and save the company from ruin? If that happens, will the company and their products still remain the same or will it usher in a new Instrument Epoch creating a boundary line for collectors like the “Pre-CBS” Fenders?

As much as we love Gibsons, are Les Pauls and 335s relevant enough for today’s guitar players? Maybe what they need is a guitar playing influencer to strap on one of their guitars and breathe new life into the product line. It wouldn’t be the first time that happened for a guitar company. Gretsch 6120s would have almost certainly faded into obscurity if it hadn’t been for Brian Setzer working his magic for a whole new generation of guitar buyers.

If Gibson does go away, what will it mean for the industry as a whole? Is Fender facing similar challenges? I’ve heard interesting discussions in recent days picking apart where these companies are going wrong. Too many different guitars in the product catalog and confusing choices for consumers about what warrants a $1,000 difference in price tags between a high end Mexican Strat and similarly built American model.

Quality control is a complaint I’ve heard fairly often leveled against both Fender and Gibson. How many times have you gone to a guitar store and played five different guitars from the same manufacture, only to find that only one of them spoke to you and it was the least expensive of the lot. John Mayer made an interesting argument recently when he went online to defend his decision to jump ship with Fender and turn to PRS Guitars to craft his newest signature model, The Silver Sky. He pointed out that, with Fenders, you might have to play 100 different guitars to find the ONE guitar that has just the right combination of playability, tone and mojo. The question of mojo is probably still arguable, but Mayer believes that with PRS every one of those 100 guitars will have consistent playability and tone that you should expect when you’re paying thousands of dollars for an instrument you want to bond with.

Regardless of what happens, it’s bound to be an interesting time. Hopefully one of growth for the entire industry.

iRig Acoustic – A unique recording interface from IK Multimedia

irigacoustic_main_imageIK Multimedia, a pioneer in mobile music interfaces, recently released a very unique recording interface designed specifically for acoustic instruments and that is compatible with iOS, Android and Mac or PC desktops. The iRig Acoustic, unlike most acoustic recording solutions, is designed to mount easily directly inside the sound hole of your instrument. This fact alone takes a lot of the guesswork out of acoustic recording, as you don’t need to worry at all about proper mic placement.

Beyond the convenience of simple mic placement, the iRig Acoustic offers features that make for a really convenient approach. The mic itself features a compact design with a rubberized clip that hooks over the edge of your sound hole. There’s also a generously long wire that connects your mic to the device via a standard 1/8″ plug. The wire is very thin and light, so it’s pretty unobtrusive.

The design of the microphone capsule itself if probably where most of the magic happens. It’s a MEMS microphone, which stands for MicroElectrical-Mechanical System. The technology is actually borrowed from smartphone microphone design, so this is a really interesting adaptation.

The second piece of the puzzle with the iRig Acoustic is a companion mobile app, Amplitube Acoustic, that is designed for processing and recording sound from acoustic guitars or ukuleles. The app starts with a calibration process that lets you attune the microphone to your specific instrument. After that, you have the option to run your signal through a variety of virtual effects ranging from basic compressors and equalizers to more experimental options like body modelers. With the body modeler, you can make an orchestra model sound like a Jumbo body or vice versa. There is also a 12-string modeler and an effect to make your guitar sound like a bass.

The Amplitube app also has a recording function, but you can also pass the app’s audio over to a more full-featured DAW such as Garageband.

I’m sure what you’re actually interested in hearing are sound samples, and I recorded a bunch for you using both a guitar and a ukulele. Before I get to them, I’ll cover the one quibble I have with the design of the device. The rubberized clamp on the guitar is clearly designed to fit a majority of guitars with a regular sound hole and not-so-thick top. I happen to have an archtop guitar with a carved top, however, and the clip did not fit over the edge of the wood. I was able to use it by wedging the mic into a thinner part of the f-hole on the guitar, but it was not an idea setup.

Despite that, hopefully you’ll agree that the sound quality is great. The iRig Acoustic does a great job of capturing the unique voice of each instrument. Listen to the samples below and judge for yourself. The iRig Acoustic is available from major music retailers and you can find out more information on the IK Multimedia website.

Guitar – Loar LH700 Archtop

Guitar – Takamine OM-style Body

Ukulele

BIAS FX for iPad

Ratings_1Positive Grid released BIAS FX today, an iPad app they have been teasing for the last few weeks. Invoking the name BIAS naturally got a lot of people excited, because their BIAS AMP simulator app is arguably the best amp simulator on iOS. I’m afraid a lot of people are going to be left scratching their head after paying $29.99 for this new app, however…

As soon as I heard about the new app, my immediate question was – How is this going to be different from Positive Grid’s existing multi-effects simulator app JamUp Pro? JamUp already lets you pretty seamlessly put a pedal board in front of a BIAS amp. Would BIAS FX let you pop open the virtual cases on the pedals and do a virtual Keeley mod on a virtual Tube Screamer? Would it revolutionize the sharing process? Would the sound quality be significant improved enough to warrant paying $10 more than I already paid for JamUp?

Having played with a review copy for a few days, I can tell you the answer to all of these questions is no.

BIAS FX promises “extremely intuitive operation” and unrivalled, component-level simulation with analog-like sound quality. While it’s not impossible to figure out how to add new effects and turn them on and off, there are icon-only buttons all over the interface that you have to guess what they do. If you’ve used other similar apps, you’ll figure it out on your own, but it wouldn’t have killed Positive Grid to put a few introductory slides at the beginning to help people get acclimated.

Perhaps most disappointing is that BIAS FX seems to have taken a step back in terms of integration with the BIAS AMP app. The app’s description on iTunes very explicitly states “12 classic BIAS amps, import any amp models from BIAS AMP.” Half of that is right. You can select from 12 built-in apps that are drawn from BIAS AMP and that can be edited just like BIAS amps. However, I see no way to import other BIAS amps into the BIAS FX amp slots. That’s hugely disappointing for me, because my favorite Dumble amp is not among the 12 they chose to include. Now, it is possible to plop a BIAS amp into the signal chain using Inter App Audio, but using that method does not allow you to use the dual amp setup BIAS FX is capable of.

What people will likely be most interested in, and willing to pay a premium for, is sound quality. If I was going to pay nearly $30 for another new multi-fx app, I would really expect the sound quality to blow me away. This does not. The dual amp capability is nice and certainly noticeable, but the sound, to me, does not sound radically different from JamUp. One specific example is the Acoustic Simulator. Positive Grid released an update last June that added an acoustic simulator amp that will honestly blow your mind. (If you haven’t heard it yet, check out the samples linked to from Our Review.) BIAS FX has an acoustic simulator too. You’d expect it to be at least as good, right? Nope.

And since they chose to create a new multi-fx app instead of just expanding on their already successful JamUp product, I expected somehow for there to be more choices in terms of the pedals you could choose from. There are not. By my count there are about 50 pedals available in JamUp Pro, when you include extra available as in-app purchases. At launch, BIAS FX only has about 28. My guess is they will add more, probably as in-app purchases, down the road, but right now it feels very limited.

It will be interesting to see what happens. It’s a brand new product, so there are likely some kinks to work out and Positive Grid has certainly shown they’re capable of great things in the past. For now, however, I’d hold off on buying this one. Stick with JamUp. It’s 75% off right now anyway, so it’s only $4.99.

Positive Grid Releases BIAS 1.5

NewsPositive Grid just released an update to it’s popular BIAS amp modeling app for iOS. The 1.5 version update brings with it three eagerly awaited expansion packs – Glassy, Crunch and Insane. Each expansion pack is available as an in-app purchase for $9.99 and adds dedicated preamp and power amp modules optimized for various playing styles and tone.

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Positive Grid Releases New JamUp And We’re Giving Away BIAS To Celebrate!

NewsA new version of Positive Grid’s very popular JamUp software is now live in the iOS App Store! The new app includes what sounds like an amazing acoustic guitar simulator, as part of an Acoustic Expansion Pack, plus an all new Vintage Effects Expansion Pack, a Gurus Amp Expansion Pack and a special BIAS amp to give people a taste of the tasty goodness that is the BIAS amp modeler.

Speaking of which… to celebrate the release of the New JamUp app, we are giving away one free copy of BIAS for iPhone! All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this article below telling us what kind of amp you’ll build with it. Thanks to Positive Grid for sponsoring this contest! Continue reading

Lessons From Guitarjamz To Improve Your Epic-ness

Ratings_4WAIT!!! Have you entered our contest? We’re giving away two GuitarJack 2 guitar interfaces worth $200 each. Check out the Contest Details for more information!

 

If you’ve spent any amount of time on YouTube looking for lessons to improve your guitar playing, it’s a safe bet you’ve come across at least a few lessons by charismatic guitar teacher Marty Schwartz. Between his guitarjamzdotcom and martyzsongs YouTube channels, he has more than 1,300 videos covering everything from basic concepts for beginners all the way up to advanced techniques. Since first hitting YouTube about five years ago, Marty’s videos have been viewed nearly half a billion times. That’s billion with a B. His easy going style and accessible approach to playing and music theory has helped countless people improve their playing and now he’s made it even easier by releasing the app Guitarjamz – Epic Guitar Lessons for iPhone and iPad. Continue reading

JamUp Expansion Packs On Sale This Weekend

SalesPositive Grid just announced a special sale going on now. Between now and April 21st, all JamUp Expansion packs are 20% off.

JamUp is a complete multi-effects processor for guitar and bass. The app features more than 80 different effects (46 guitar and bass amps, 40 effects), drag and drop signal path, built-in tuner and metronome, looper and recorder, preset manager, MIDI support and more. It works with Inter-App Audio and Audio Bus, plus it’s compatible with just about every major guitar interface and pedal controller.

Don’t forget that, if you have Positive Grid’s amp designer and modeler BIAS, you can import those amps right into JamUp and layer on your effects.

To download JamUp, click here. Once you have the app, the expansion packs are available as in-app purchases. For more information on JamUp, visit Positive Grid’s website.

Get the Best of Both Worlds! Win an Orange Tiny Terror from IK Multimedia

NewsOne of the most common complaints I hear when I talk about digital amp simulators, iPhone or otherwise… is that they are no replacement for a good old fashioned tube amplifier. Well, IK Multimedia is giving you a chance to have the best of both worlds. To celebrate the release of their new app, AmpliTube Orange for iPhone and iPad, the company is giving away more than $2,200 worth of gear and apps – including the extremely popular (and very non-digital) Tiny Terror amp from Orange.

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Guitar Interface Shootout – iRig PRO vs. Ampkit Link vs. JamUp Plug

Ratings_4Not long after developers started to create apps for the iPhone and iPad, guitarists recognized the power of iOS devices for mobile music creation and an immediate demand was created for interfaces to help bridge the gap between a guitar and an iOS device. One of the first to market was the iRig from IK Multimedia, a relatively simple device that plugs into the headphone jack and essentially splits the guitar input and headphone signals much like an Apple headset with built in mic.

The basic iRig, and other similarly designed interfaces work just fine and tend to be priced between $20 and $40, so they are great for quick mobile creation. The main drawbacks of these simple devices, however, are sound quality. Because they are unpowered devices passing input and output signals past one another, there tends to be a lot of signal noise and they aren’t always capable of handling high gain input favored by some players. iOS recording devices are capable of much higher quality and interface designers responded by continually improving technology and creating a whole range of devices at different price points and with different capabilities.

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Positive Grid is Giving Away a Free iPad Air

NewsPositive Grid, the app developers behind the popular BIAS and JamUp iOS apps, yesterday announced a BIAS Custom Amp Competition. By submitting short videos demonstrating your own custom-designed amp built in BIAS, you could be eligible to win either an iPad Air or one of four $25 iTunes gift cards. Entries can be submitted between March 18 and April 18, 2014. The winner will be announced April 23rd on Positive Grid’s Facebook page.

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