The heart of this high-performance beast is a high-performance multi-processor from Freescale. This is the same chip family used in ProTools systems, except this engine is the latest and greatest and overpowers older Pro Tools set-ups.
|Pure-Analog™ engine features:
This powerful, turbo-charged sound processor is designed to give the maximum advantage and flexibility to the guitar player. The Pure-Analog™ engine is designed to a new Gibson standard, which makes the engine user-replaceable. When you want to upgrade, the little package encased in metal is removable and a new one can be installed in under one hour. Part of the standard is a standard connector (no soldering required) that has pin outs, allowing the most complex guitar designs with many pots, switches and pickups to be accommodated.
These standards future-proof your investment and will allow third parties to supply their own solutions.
The new size standard will allow this engine to be used with any guitar body, including our most space-challenged. By standardizing the sound processor engine form factor, we can also achieve far higher volume by allowing it to be used in many different types and models of guitar and bringing the cost of this powerful technology down very quickly.
PURE-ANALOG™ SECRET SAUCE — NOT A MODELING GUITAR
This guitar is pure analog, starting with the tuning. Unlike competitors, who use sterile digital math to “correct” pitch and achieve different tunings, we actually tune the strings to very accurate pitches. You get 100% analog with the added benefit of hearing the same pitch coming from the guitar acoustically, or through your amplifier.
This pure analog signal then goes directly into a studio quality preamp, which ensures maximum dynamic range. Since all this activity takes place in the guitar, we use shielded cables, metal enclosures, and other special manufacturing methods to virtually eliminate noise from either external sources, or internally generated distortion.
Our engineers’ attention to detail results in the quietest, highest dynamic range guitar ever built.
We then use high performance ADC chips to convert the audio stream into the digital form on which our sound processor can act with virtually no latency. Inside our engine we maintain the signal stream with high internal precision. What this means is that every effect or operation has such a fantastically high bit depth and resolution that there are virtually no truncation errors or other artifacts, truly preserving the analog quality of the original signal. The signal starts as fantastic analog, and leaves as fantastic analog, using an exceptional DAC. Everything that happens in between is Gibson Pure-Analog™.
It is not enough to get the analog authenticity that all players lust for. A large part of the analog sound is the way analog equipment functions, which is very different from the implementation of sterile digital mathematical formulas. Like a drum machine compared to a live drummer, real life has enormous texture and non-mathematical nuance. Gibson designers are guitar players with decades’ worth of experience. We have studied this very real mojo and added it to every part of what our engine does. These many techniques allow us to achieve Pure-Analog™ that even the most discerning ears will agree is an analog sound.
BEST IN CLASS ONBOARD EFFECTS—GOLDTONE FX™
Our design goal was not to duplicate other effects, but to create unique, very analog-type tones with a lot of warmth that we call Goldtone FX™. The Firebird X comes with a variety of patches, many of which approach some sounds from famous gear rigs, but our patches have their own character. Our patches are not aimed at eliminating outboard gear, although many players will be very satisfied with the huge creative range we allow. Our Goldtone FX™ plays very nicely with other gear — surprisingly nicely.
The Firebird X guitar has two significant effects that have been made part of the instrument:
- Tube Distortion with Compressor and EQ
- Tape Effects (Modulation, Echoplex™, everb)
Usually tube distortion has a very characteristic harmonic quality, but it is very dependent on the rest of the gear being used. Even different amplifiers with the same tube circuits and tubes can sound very different. Because all processing takes place in the guitar, we can consistently achieve distortion exactly the way you want it, every time.
Our Goldtone FX™ captures the analog essence (tube mojo), but allows you to adjust the basic character of the distortion. With a three-way toggle switch, you can immediately dial up three aspects of distortion — compression, distortion and EQ — each controllable in real time with three sliders.
Each of the sliders has a broad range to dial in just the right sound. The most interesting slider is Type, which basically allows a sweep through the personalities of many of the distortion rigs currently in use and then some more.
|Overdrive and Bite both mean much more than they do in most equipment, which use very simplified circuits or algorithms. Overdrive combines what an overdrive does in a tube amplifier with the changes that result from changes in the signal level of the guitar. Thus, you get exactly the same tone at all volume settings, and the ability to dial in, precisely, many magical sounds.|
The rotating shaft allows you to dial in the strength of the effect patch similar to the way a wet/dry control works on a mixer. At zero, there is no effect to full rotation being 100%. Thus you can dial in exactly how much you want and adjust it real-time.
The next group of effects is the EchoPlex group – Modulation, Delay, and Reverb. These three effects can be individually controlled and dialed in, but act in series allowing a huge tonal palette.
These additional effects can be fully controlled by the software editor, which comes with the Firebird X. It allows you to design your own patches and save them as computer files and load them into bank/patch locations that make sense to you. The sonic palette this allows is mind-boggling.
Finally we have a tog-pot that is dedicated to more advanced program control. This tog-pot does not have sliders/faders, but controls more complex guitar functions.
PATCH PLAY MODE
The Firebird X is very simple to use. The default playing mode of the guitar is called “Patch Mode.” This means that different voices are accessed by turning the Gear Shift Knob to select a bank of voices, and the 5 position switch to choose a specific voice. That is it!
The volume and tone knob work as does the function of the Gray Tog Pot, but all other controls are not operative. This insures that you do not accidentally change any of the voice settings, regardless of how intensely you are playing.
The foot pedals always work and their function is available at all times, since it is much more difficult to accidentally trigger either foot switch.
LIVE EDIT MODE
Live Edit Mode turns on all tog-pot functions and sliders and allows you to alter the patch/voice you have called up, and save those changes.
You enter the Live Edit Mode at any time by simply pressing the tone pot twice. The Gear Shift Knob will blink several times indicating you are in Live Edit Mode and LED display on the Number Foot Pedal will also indicate you are in Live Edit Mode.
When in Live Edit Mode, you can change any of tog-pots and slider settings until you get the voicing you are searching for. The physical positions of the tog-pots and sliders may not correspond to the actual parameters in the patch/voice. When you change a tog-pot or slider physically, that tog-pot or slider will change to the physical position of control.
- To leave Live Edit Mode and return to the original patch/voicing, just press the tone control three times in succession.
- To save the new voicing after you have changed parameters, simply rotate the Gear Shift Knob or the 5 position Patch Selector Switch. The last voicing setup is automatically saved replacing the default/factory voicing.
- To return to a factory default voicing you need to be in Patch Play Mode, call up the voicing (select the bank with the Gear Shift Knob, and the patch with the 5 position switch) and depress the tone knob three times in succession.
The factory (or user) defaults are always preserved when a new voicing is saved using Live Edit mode. Thus you can always return to the default voice and delete the new voicing. The guitar comes with some really great factory voicings, but the user can change the defaults using the Computer Guitar Voice Editor.
In the default middle position, the rotary motion controls the amount of piezo signal that is added to the signal path. In other words, this is a piezo blend pot that blends the piezo sound with the electromagnetic pickup sound. It adds a very acoustic-like brightness to the sound palette for an authentic acoustic guitar tone.
A simple push downward puts you into tuning mode. The last tuning setting is the default, to allow you to bring the guitar back to perfect pitch quickly at any time. Strumming the open strings rapidly and lightly gives the guitar tuner the input it needs to get back to pitch. The guitar is muted while it is tuning and releases the mute as soon as it is tuned. Typically this takes two or three strums. The guitar also goes back to the piezo blend state to prevent accidentally causing further robo-tuner motion. The switch is still down, so it should be moved back to mid position at your convenience.
The Gear Shift Knob shows the state of the strings while you are tuning, although tuning happens so quickly this is rarely useful.
PU or PROGRAM MODE
When the toggle switch is pushed up, the guitar turns the 5-position switch to a pickup selector, allowing you to choose five possible pickup combinations without changing otherwise your effects patch. When you move the Gear Shift Knob, or move this tog-pot switch, the guitar reverts to the mode the guitar was in previously.
A LOT OF TONE IS ABOUT EQ AND OURS IS OUTSTANDING
Gibson has done substantial research on what makes acoustic tones sound the way they do, going back to work with University of California, Berkeley in the ’80s. One of our key findings was that a frequency curve gave close to 90% of the perceived signature tone information. In our last two high-technology guitars, we used a four band parametric EQ to sculpt the tone curve, with a plus/minus 12 dB range. That worked well, but fell short of the range of human hearing.
Most studios will use either graphic or parametric EQ’s extensively, but rarely with more range than our previous high-tech guitars. The problem is that boosting or cutting more than about 15 dB causes significant distortion, level and other signal chain problems. We compensate for the change in each individual band to maintain the same output level, and maintain maximum dynamic range within the EQ processing with a proprietary algorithm. This allows us to achieve the full range, that the human ear can discriminate, and some really awesome tones.
We have numerous parametric EQ’s in our signal chain that have six bands with a range of plus/minus 36 dB.