I'm back in Berlin for a few days to visit friends and check out some new technology. Luck was with me, because I showed up just as Chris Adams and Tony from Tronical were testing out a prototype of an acoustic guitar with the PowerTune Robot tuning—the same technology made famous in the Gibson Robot Guitar and Dark Fire guitar.
It was just a prototype, and I couldn't really nail down an answer as to when it would be available, how much it would cost, and so on. In fact, I'm not really sure I'm supposed to be posting this, but if not, someone from Gibson will take it down...so if it's not here tomorrow, you'll know what happened.
The two main driving forces behind Robot tuning technology: Chris Adams of Tronical (left) and Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz.
The first thing you notice about the guitar is an MCK-type knob, as found on the Dark Fire.
The installation inside the guitar was quite unobtrusive; the only obvious giveaway is the MCK knob, which selects different tunings and displays the tuning status.
I could see a magnetic pickup in the “neck” position and there's a Piezo underneath the bridge. A stereo jack carries both outs on a stereo cable, like the Dark Fire. There are three three banks of tuning, but the inventors are toying with the idea of adding yet another bank, as alternate tunings are so popular with acoustic guitars...although too much of a good thing can indeed be too much, so that decision remains to be made.
The servo-motor controlled Powerheads are much smaller and lighter than the ones on the first Robot guitar.
The main difference compared to the final version is that the current time to get in tune is considerably slower than Dark Fire.. Apparently, there are several optimizations that are needed prior to making a production prototype. Still, everyone who played the guitar was definitely surprised at how well it was working.
Ulf Zick of the Gibson artist relations center in Berlin checks out the Robot acoustic guitar. In the background, Milo Street of Echo Electronics is figuring out something esoteric involving high-tech hardware. Or maybe he's just checking his email.
I must admit that when I came to Berlin, the last thing I expected to see was a Robot acoustic guitar. But life is full of surprises, eh? Meanwhile, as a bonus, I snuck in a video camera and did a little video showing the Robot tuning in action and Chris Adams playing guitar...fun stuff!