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Sunday, June 26, 2022

MOD Devices made a guitar synth you can actually play like a synth – so your guitar is the CV

It’s the sound and expression of a modular synth, but you can mix it with guitar sounds and play it with the guitar techniques you already know. Here’s the latest no-extra-cost addition to MOD Devices do-it-all mobile effects boxes.

Guitar synths themselves are nothing new – see Roland et al. But you can run up against two deal killers. First, they typically require special pickups and cables. Second, as synths, many of these instruments are pretty restrictive – like a dumbed-down synth preset made for guitarists.

Plug in your guitar, and play.

Enter MOD Devices’ Guitar Synth. The idea is simple – just nail tracking by making it quick and responsive, then give you a complete set of synths and effects to play. It works right out of the box with whatever guitar (or bass) you want to play. Done.

MOD Devices’ stuff I’ve reviewed before; it’s like having a self-contained, purpose-built, dedicated computer in a rugged mobile stomp format. You get an extraordinary amount of customization in running effects. That’s a natural match for this instrument. I imagined this would be a paid add-on, but it’s not – it’s free to any existing MOD device owners, so also a decent argument for taking the leap as a guitarist.

The real breakthrough here is adding the synth capabilities without having to rethink how – or what – you play. Because the Guitar Synth fast and accurate at tracking, your playing – string bends, legatos, harmonics – all get translated to the synth. And you can mix in effects from the massive MOD library, with any blend of your source guitar playing you like. This can be as out-there and synth-y, or as subtle and guitar-y as you desire, for lack of a better way to word that.

The footswitches are all assigned to additional filter sweeps, modulation, and note bends. I still wish MOD made a box that had more foot expression on it, like some integrated expression pedals, though you can always add those externally if you so choose. (That’s why I tend to favor the Dwarf – you might as well go small here and add only what you need.)

A look at one of the sprawling pedalboards – pre-built for you, so you can just plug and play. (Click to embiggen.) Of course, you’re free to create your own or customize this one, too, with hundreds of modules now at your disposal.

But the real edge here is the fact that you’re cramming a virtually limitless pedalboard into the MOD – and then using tracking to control it. It’s really a bit like having a complete modular rig you can play with your guitar and foot – and for a fraction of the cost, complexity, size, and all-around awkwardness of trying to do that with a full-blown Eurorack on its own.

That being said, this is an extension of MOD’s already-great support for control voltage. So if you do want to mix and match hardware modular, MOD’s software-customizable solution, and a guitar, you could go for all three. Gianfranco Ceccolini explains in a news statement:

The support of Control Voltage by the MOD platform dates back to 2018 when the company released a comprehensive package of officially supported CV modules at the MOD Plugin Store, following the announcement of the Duo X.

In 2020 the “CV Addressing” feature was released, which allowed the control of conventional guitar effects by the CV modules, bringing automation of control to conventional guitar rigs.

The addition of the AutoToCV plugin closes a gap between the Modular and the Guitar Pedal worlds, allowing for a new type of synthesizer that is played in a much more organic and abstract form. Both the new AutoToCV Pitch plugin and all the synth boards are available for free for all MOD Devices users.

With the Dwarf, that’s especially mobile. So if you do have hardware pedals you adore, there’s enough space in your bag to add this and an entire synth on top of it, without adding a single pickup or other form of specialized hardware.

They’ve made some nice demos. I’m not a guitarist, so I can’t test this part, but I do love the MOD solution in general, and its options are truly deep.

You get five different synth boards you can plug and play – and of course, you build whatever you want from their library.

For more on MOD, check my review:

More on the Guitar Synth:

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