In the 1970s, I developed an obsession with the songwriting and audio production of the band 10cc. So when 10cc’s Lol Creme and Kevin Godley built the original Gizmotron, I was riveted by its undulating, synth-like sounds on various 10cc tracks, Led Zeppelin’s In Through the Out Door, and Godley and Creme’s bizarre epic, Consequences. Unfortunately, manufacturing snafus, reliability issues, and other factors doomed the eccentric device, and it virtually disappeared soon after its public debut in 1979. I never got a chance to see one.
Fast forward to summer NAMM 2015. I stumble onto a small booth manned by Aaron Kipness, who is showing his Gizmotron 2.0—the product of more than ten years of research, development, re-engineering, and manufacturing (and all with a thumbs-up from Godley). Finally, I would be able to experience first-hand the outlandish genius of 10cc’s mad duo.
The Gizmotron 2.0 for guitar ($374 street price) is designed for self-assembly with adhesive strips that should not damage your instrument (there’s a helpful video tutorial on the company’s website). I’m no tinkerer, however, so I chickened out and asked my guitar tech, Grant Baldwin of California Guitars, to do the work. Baldwin reported that it did take a fair amount of adjusting to get the Gizmotron dialed in, so if you’re lame like me, have a reputable tech do the install.
The original Gizmotron was extremely fragile and temperamental, but the 2.0 version seems solidly built, and replacement parts are readily available if there is a mishap. I was less than nurturing in my treatment of the device—during both performance and transport—and it never glitched or otherwise failed.
ERGONOMICS BY THE NUMBERS
Although the benefits are awesome, it takes commitment to embrace a Gizmotron 2.0.
|All hail the ’70s—These mechanical wheels “bow” your strings.
 You have to install it on a guitar, and, most likely, it’s going to stay there, as constantly removing and reattaching the device is a chore.
 The apparatus sits near your bridge, and it’s a hunk ‘o’ plastic, so if you rest your palm on the bridge, or like picking in that area, you’ll have to adjust your technique somewhat.
 You must keep the Gizmotron 2.0 plugged into a USB power supply/cable, and while that’s no big deal in the studio, if you move around a lot on stage, you’ll want to go with an optional USB power pack.
 The Gizmotron 2.0 is a mechanical device, and it may take getting used to the clattering. It didn’t bother me, and you can’t hear the noises through an amp, but if you’re playing a solo gig at a quiet coffee shop, you might get some quizzical looks from the audience.
Are the hassles worth it? It’s a big “yes” for me. I adore EBows, but the Gizmotron 2.0 lets me do all that lush, sustaining voodoo on full chords. I can also pick conventionally, and then simply depress a Gizmotron button to swell into crescendos. Trust me, it takes a bit more technique (and sometimes luck) to do that precisely using an EBow. I can even pluck some notes of a chord, and then sustain others while the initial picked attack is still audible. Super awesome. I couldn’t imagine doing textured pads, spell-like harmony riffs, spooky drones, and slinky melody lines that skip strings without the Gizmotron 2.0. It truly turns a guitar into something magical.
Kudos Dead-sexy sustain. Gotta love that it’s mechanical. A hint of the ’70s.
Concerns Takes effort to assemble and master.