After you've spent a considerable time learning to play guitar or bass, you're then likely to want to find an individual tone. For most of us, this involves the never-ending search for an instrument that fits our personality, or taking what we can afford and switching out the pickups or, if you're brave, more advanced rewiring. With the aptly-named Game Changer from Ernie Ball's Music Man wing, you can hang up the soldering iron for good and still get access to millions of tonal variations in one guitar or bass.

Gigging or studio guitarists wanting different tones for different songs probably find themselves having to carry around a number of different instruments to cater for each particular need. Even if you're lucky enough to have your own technician to hand, it's not going to be much use if, mid-song, you need to dial in some nice fat humbucker punch from a particular instrument but you're currently using another with bright single-coil snap. It would be much easier if just about any tone imaginable was available on one instrument.

This was what the company's CEO Sterling Ball wanted to achieve, and his dream has now been realized by the introduction of some clever circuitry to the Game Changer guitar. Rather than have a manufacturer decide on default, catch-all tones for the five positions of a 5-way pickup switch, the new system allows players to assign their own. The system essentially allows the pickups to be rewired without ever having to open up the instrument and experiment with the electrics.

Music Man says that the Game Changer system puts over eight and a half million different tonal possibilities at a player's disposal through more than 250,000 pickup combinations. The vast number of series, parallel, in-phase or out-of-phase coil combinations can be assigned to positions on the 5-way pickup selector, or to the toggle switch on the upper horn of the guitar or bass. A push/pull pot on the tone control switches between banks A and B and the toggle switch offers access to another 15 banks of custom or preset tones known as the Z bank.

Dedicated software can be used via a USB connection between a guitar or bass and a computer to access a huge library of presets, but the system also allows users to create their own configurations. These can be saved and shared via a web portal, and then programmed into the instrument when required.

Music Man artists such as Albert Lee and Steve Morse have already added their own custom configurations to the library, which can be downloaded and assigned as required. If you feel like sharing one or two of your own creations with other Game Changer players, these can also be added to the database.

The guitar version of the Game Changer is currently being made available in twin humbucker or humbucker-single-humbucker coil configurations and as either a hardtail bridge model for US$3,250 or a tremelo bridge model for US$3,350. The twin humbucker bass model is priced at US$3,250. The first production models have been given a Q3 shipping window.

The Game Changer was recently awarded "Best in Show" at this year's Winter NAMM.

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