András Szalay has been designing guitar synthesisers from before the very beginning. He holds six patents related to transforming the twang and pitch of plucked strings into cold, hard data.
Wikipedia credits Szalay with designing several electronic instruments including the Wersi Electronic Grand Piano; the AKAI DuoBuddy (right) and DecaBuddy Vocal Harmonizers; the AKAI EWI 4000s and EWIUSB Electronic Wind Instruments.
He is also responsible for three generations of guitar synthesizers: Shadow GTM-6 and SH-075 in 1986, the legendary Axon series in 1997 and most recently the upcoming wireless Fishman Triple Play. Below is a video clip of Szalay playing an early prototype and Bence Bécsy demonstrating the amazing tracking capabilities of the Triple Play
According to sources close to the company, Fishman Transducers, Inc. is preparing to make a public announcement regarding the anxiously awaited Triple Play Guitar Controller around “the end of the summer.” At that time they will “show the final production hardware and announce a ship date.”
Near final hardware and work-in-progress software were the feature of the Fishman stand at this years NAMM conference in Anaheim. Live demos wowed the crowds and YouTube videos have keep the virtual buzz going online for a few months. Previously announced shipping dates have slipped and the company has virtually gone dark with info on the Triple Play.
Available for Preorder?
At least one online retailer has taken the initiative to accept preorders on the unit. ExpressMusicInc.com is featuring the Triple Play on their site with a retail price of $299 and a delivery date of “August/September ” although further down the page it states the unit is “slated to release in June.” which is incorrect according to Fishman sources.
It looks like ExpressMusicInc cut-and-pasted old information for their advert. As of this writing the Triple Play has yet to show up on sites of any of the larger online retailers such as Musicians Friend, Sweetwater or Guitar Center, although two of the three do offer the Harmon Triple Play Trumpet Mute.
The programming wizards at Fishman continue to toil night and day on software worthy of what could be a tipping point for MIDI guitar. When the Fishman Triple Play Guitar Controller ships later this year it will include at least two pieces of software, hopefully as innovative as the hardware it accompanies.
The standalone software is still cloaked in secrecy as negotiations continue behind the scenes with undisclosed vendors and partners. Fishman is determined to ship the unit with Mac and PC software that includes a library of sounds and effects for DAWless customers. It is expected to include all the effects and editors of its more interesting software plugin brother. Software for iOS is also expected.
Fishman showed off the current state of the software at the 2012 NAMM conference in Anaheim. In addition to patch selection, tuner and other expected elements, it includes an elegant graphic interface for setting up split configurations over the fret board and a display with real-time visual feedback on notes as they are fretted. A Fishaman representative recently told me (while reiterating that all is still in development and subject to change) that configuring split setups will be as easy as dragging a selection across the screen to assign different instruments to different strings or sections of the fretboard.
Recent online discussions have questioned the Triple Play’s ability to track slides, string bends and other staples of guitar playing. Fishman assures me that all this and more is supported by the Triple Play. Bend parameters will be as configurable and flexible as any MIDI instrument, allowing the user to control the range and extremities of pitch bends based on individual patches. For example, you probably want your Synth sound to bend more than your Piano patch. (Or maybe not. You choose.)
Some of the greatest minds in MIDI guitar are working on this product (more on that in a future article) and it appears at this stage the Triple Play will equal or surpass any other existing guitar MIDI product. If Fishman can ship a simple graphic interface for setting parameters and patch settings, this should help propel them miles ahead of the currently cumbersom Roland competition and their nonexistent software editor. Actually there is an excellent software editor for the Roland GR-55 created by a skilled and dedicated user. Apparently Roland Corporation could not be bothered to provide such an essential tool.
Exciting times await the patient MIDI guitar enthusiasts out there.
This week brings new gear, better sound and a new name to my ever-changing, revolving door of technology, guitar system. The Roland CM-30 monitor speaker is out. It had great mixing features and good volume, but lacked a sparkle in its sound. It is now replaced with a very different beast – the Yamaha THR10, cleverly marketed as “your third amp.” With the THR10 taking such a prominent place in the system, it seems appropriate to pilfer Yamaha’s moniker for this third incarnation of the system.
The amazing little THR10 practice amp takes on the responsibility for sound output as well as USB guitar input, leaving no place for the Sonuus i2M USB to remain in the system. As a USB input the Yamaha does double duty by feeding 4 audio channels to the computer; a dry direct signal (doubled to stereo) and the stereo processed signal. The amp sims and effects of the THR10 are well implemented and a great new addition to the system. Direct monitoring of wet signal is a lag-free experience, and the THR features two handy knobs for independent volume control of the processed guitar and the USB audio from the computer.
I missed the monophonic MIDI of the Sonuus i2M so I added a Sonuus G2M into the mix. This unit does the same hardware MIDI conversion as the i2M but there is no USB or analog-to-digital. It sends the MIDI signal out through a standard 5-pin din plug (Just when I thought MIDI cables were out of my life). A quick search through some boxes of ancient gear unearthed a quite servicable USB MIDI interface; the Cakewalk UM-1G. It is a compact little unit that now lives strapped to the back of the Sonuus. This is still a temporary MIDI solution, waiting to be replaced later this year (hopefully) by the Fishman Triple Play.
The waiting is the hardest part. When Burr Johnson demoed the Triple Play MIDI Guitar Controller for Fishman at the NAMM earlier this year, it showed all hallmarks of changing the game when it comes to MIDI guitar. At the time, there was talk of it shipping in June. A recent conversation however with a Fishman representative pushed that date to an indeterminate time later in the year, with an “announcement coming in the summer.” Here’s hoping it will be worth the wait.
Roland has always built capable MIDI guitar controllers, but they’ve not kept up with the times nor the needs of forward-thinking musicians. The recently released (January 2011) Roland GR-55 is a boat anchor of a device that felt ancient the day it shipped. While it sounds great and tracks well, interacting with it feels like traveling in time to the mid 90’s; fiddling with clunky buttons, scroll wheels and sub-sub-sub menus. The 55 is a valiant attempt to aim the product line at the pro guitar player, my experience with the product left me with the feeling that Roland doesn’t understand the modern customer and was resting on its laurels when it comes to advancing MIDI guitar technology. At least that’s how I felt as I posted the GR-55 to CraigsList after a few months of using it.
Fishman is poised to sweep in and make the Roland line look like a relic. Stealth, wireless and far superior tracking (according to a Fishman representative) along with a price point to make one regret their sizable Roland investment. But do they have the marketing power to take MIDI guitar to it’s full commercial potential? Unlikely. Here’s why.
Roland, a huge corporation with ample marketing dollars, has had this opportunity in it’s lap for a decade or more, but has yet to convince guitar player that MIDI is a must-have utility. It clearly takes more than simply having half-broken demo units sitting dusty and orphaned in Guitar Centers. If the Fishman product lives up to its promises on release day, they should be able to take a good portion of the niche market. It my be a nice place to be business-wise, but it would be awesome if some company could really sell MIDI guitar to the main stream. It’s a potentially huge market. Who’s going to crack it? Does Fishman have the marketing savvy and budget to sell MIDI guitar to the masses? Time will tell.