Analog and digital worlds collide in the Fusion Guitar
One of the best sounding travel guitars we've tried is Yamaha's Silent Guitar, which offers a choice of modeled simulated tones or piezo-sourced sounds routed to headphones or an external amp. It doesn't have its own amp and speakers built-in though, like, say, a Vox Apache. And there's no Lineage-like smartphone integration to mix in some digital effects. In fact, you might struggle to find all three in one instrument. Unless you stumble across the Fusion Guitar from Melbourne, Australia-based designer and guitarist Dave Auld, which combines an iPhone dock, amplifier, battery and speakers in one futuristic-looking axe.
"The three biggest barriers to taking up electric guitar are price, tuition and convenience," said Auld. "I realized that technology was now available to solve all three. High tech manufacturing can bring the cost down, internet based lessons and demos make learning easy and fun, and battery technology can make a full guitar setup portable."
The Fusion Guitar boasts interchangeable docks, making it currently compatible with iPhone 5 and 5s, and 6 and 6s, as well as the fifth generation iPod touch, with a future proof promise from the makers to support upcoming generations of Apple devices. Its integrated Lightning connector caters for both data communication and smart device charging while docked, and as the player looks down on the smart device, it's said to be a good fit for learning following onscreen video instructions. However, a docked iPhone will continue to operate as a phone while sitting in the Fusion Guitar, so players are advised to put it into Airplane Mode while jamming.
The instrument features its own iOS guitar interface that converts the analog signals from the instrument's hot rail pickups into digital at a resolution of 24-bit/48 kHz. The iPhone/iPod brains then process the signal, adding digital effects from whichever music creation app is running on the smart device, and it's converted back to analog on its way out to the Fusion Guitar's built-in 20 W Class-D amp and speakers.
The guitar has two 30 W Tymphany Pearless full range speakers that throw out sounds to the front and an upfiring high/midrange driver that acts kind of like a stage monitor, feeding audio to the player. Pickup selection is via a three-position toggle switch near the bridge, and there are two coil tap switches to change from humbucking pickup to single coil.
A full scale maple through neck topped by a rosewood fingerboard extends into the body right through to the bridge pickup, which is said to help give the Fusion Guitar a genuine traditional electric guitar tone. The string tuning system is also down by the bridge, allowing a little creative freedom at the head end. The body is fashioned from an impact-resistant polymer/fiber composite that affords the instrument some road-ready ruggedness while keeping the overall weight down to 8.6 lb (3.9 kg), slightly more with the smart device docked.
The guitar includes an 11.1 V/3,200 mAh Li-ion battery pack, which is claimed to offer players up to 12 hours of stand-alone noodling on a single charge at medium volume. Elsewhere, there's a headphone jack for neighbor-friendly private practice. When used as a line out feed, this 3.5 mm jack allows players to make use of the digital effects running on the docked smart device. If you'd rather just plug the instrument into a real world effects chain and external amp, that's possible too thanks to the included standard instrument jack. A 3.5 mm line in jack caters for feeding in audio from an external microphone.
"As far as we know it is the world's first iPhone integrating electric guitar with in-built amp and speakers," the development team's Sam Lodge told us. "You can play it anywhere and it harnesses the power of iOS guitar apps like Positive Grid's JamUp or Amplitube to give you awesome sounding amplifier simulations, effects and recording capabilities."
The Fusion Guitar is currently in its third prototype and reported to be production ready, and its developers have taken to crowdfunding portal Indiegogo to bring it to market. It's expected retail for US$799, but backers are invited to pledge $429 for a single instrument.
The campaign has already rocketed past its US$35,000 funding goal with 22 days remaining, and if all goes to plan, the first shipments are estimated to begin in March 2016.
The video below introduces the Fusion Guitar.