If you fancy expanding your six-string sound beyond the reach of analog stomps, digital effects and power amps and into the world on sonic synthesis, there are a number of ways to go. You could create your own Frankenguitar hybrid like the Guitarduino, or opt for less a less experimental approach by adding a special pickup to your existing axe, such as Roland's divided pickup or the Tripleplay from Fishman. Buying a new instrument with such technology already installed is another option, but Boss has announced an analog-style synth floor unit called the SY-300 that's been designed to be used with any guitar pickup.
With the SY-300 Guitar Synthesizer, electric or bass players are promised full fat, latency-free poly-synth sounds without needing to install a special pickup, break out a 13-pin cable or track fretting hand position and pick action by some other means, such as the smart fingerboard scanner used in the Expressiv guitar. The unit uses the signal from standard pickups routed through a 0.25-inch instrument cable.
The unit boasts digital signal processing with analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversion at 24-bit/44.1 kHz resolution, and the polyphonic synthesis engine has three separate sections, each with its own low frequency oscillator, filter, amp and pitch envelopes, which can be used independently or stacked.
There's a step sequencer with tap tempo control that caters for melodies and arpeggios to be fired from a single note, and up to four simultaneous effects engines are available, with users able to choose from 21 types including chorus, delay, flanger, phaser, tremolo and overdrive/distortion. Some effects types can be doubled up in a single engine, for twice the tone shaping power. A blender feature allows players to experiment with new sounds by dialing in synth settings from different patches.
If you're looking for a synth solution that includes the ability to play sampled instrument sounds like piano, trumpet, flute or drums then you'll need to look elsewhere. This machine delivers classic synth tones only folks. Though the SY-300 can be used to process regular guitar sound through the unit's synth parameters and effects, riding a wave of unique (or at the very least out of the ordinary) sonic creations by applying filters, engaging the LFOs, changing attack or delay flavors and more.
The housing sports three assignable footswitches set at an angle up top, plus a dedicated on/off footswitch, and a user can plug in up to two external footswitches for more real-time control, as well as an expression pedal. The SY-300 comes with 70 presets ready to use out of the box and there's enough storage for 99 user patches. The 132 x 64 resolution graphic LCD display front and center should help players keep track of which patches are active.
The unit has a good spread of input/output options, including a 0.25-inch instrument input jack, dual output pairs, MIDI in and out, USB and a Thru output for sending a dry guitar signal to an amp or mixing desk. It can also be connected to a computer running the company's Tone Studio editor for editing, creation and archiving of tones or to facilitate patch downloads from the Boss Tone Central website.
The SY-300 is expected hit store shelves mid (northern) summer for a suggested retail price of US$979.
The demo video below shows some of what the new unit is capable of.
Product page: Boss SY-300