Peavey Boggles the Mind by Putting Auto-Tune in a Guitar

Look, I get why Peavey’s AT-200 guitar seemed like a good idea on paper: “let’s put Antares Auto-Tune inside of a guitar so it can’t go out of tune.” Who wouldn’t want a guitar that never goes sharp or flat? So I can forgive Peavey for fusing together such an abomination.

It even looks cool in the video, but right away, a couple warning bells went off. First of all, the Peavey rep lampshades the latency question by simply stating that it’s “not an issue.” What does that mean exactly? Nothing digital has zero latency. So what’s the number? Who knows? Latency bothers some people more than others. When I track vocals into my DAW I leave the digital conversion on so I can hear compression on my voice, but I know another singer that gets really thrown by even 128 milliseconds of delay. And for metal guitarists, every millisecond is crucial if you have to lock tightly into some double-kick pattern.

Second, what are the quality of the digital converters? That’s an extra layer of AD/DA degrading your tone.

Third, I hope you don’t like to play leads with bends. Admittedly I’ll have to actually get my hands on an AT-200 to know for sure about the finer details, but the second (seemingly more useful) mode, “solid-tune,” perfects the intonation all the way up the neck. This is the one bullet point that appeals to me, since I still have nightmare of trying to ear-tune jazzy 2nd chords up past the 12th fret during recording sessions. But it seems like this would also prevent any intentional pitch variation, i.e. your bluesy pentatonic solo that you make that dumb-ass face in the middle of. Stop doing that.

(Addendum: a user pointed out that what I assumed to be two tuning modes were simply two features, and there are no modes to choose from with this guitar, so it seems from the bends at the 2:20 mark that my fears were unfounded. I’d still like to test the guitar myself to see if it’s ever possible to confuse the Antares tech and get glitches, but this does allay some of my concern.)

Fourth, who knows how those custom pickups sound? Since the AT-200 does alternate tunings on the fly, it must have pickups that output every string separately, similar to Roland’s GK pickups. A Peavey guitar, with digital parts inside, retailing for $500, probably doesn’t have the nicest sounding components. And it’s not like you can swap those puppies out.

Fifth, what, no 8-string version? This guitar only has the strings I don’t play, bro.

I hate trashing a guitar I’ve never played. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong when I get a chance to try one out. But seriously, who is this guitar for? It’s bad for beginners, because you can’t use it at a low volume (since you’ll acoustically hear the bad notes), and besides, beginners should learn to tune their guitars. Yet a pro probably isn’t going to tour using a $500 Peavey with cheap pickups.

A better, albeit more expensive alternative is this Evertune bridge, which is a mechanical solution. Check out this video of Dillinger Escape Plan’s Ben Weinman, who goes into detail about the Evertune around the 2 minute mark. And yes, you can bend with it.

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Chris Alfano has written about music and toured in bands since print magazines and mp3.com were popular. Once in high-school he hacked a friend's QBasic stick figure fighting game to add a chiptune metal soundtrack. Random attractive people still give him high-fives about that.