Review: Vibeswear GR-1 and GR-Junior II Guitar Resonators

August 18, 2015

I’ve been lucky enough to be the “EBow Guy” in my locale for some time now, getting calls to add atmosphere, singing sustain, and strange noises to soundtracks, underscores, and theatrical sound design. So I’m super interested in Sustainers, Sustainiacs, Feedbackers, Moog Guitars, Vo Wands, and anything else that compels a guitar string to resonate into eternity. Since 2008, Vibesware’s Markus Pahl has taken an interesting twist on the sustain concept, opting not to utilize guitar pickups, specially designed guitars, or a hand-held apparatus. Instead, Pahl created his Vibesware GR-1 and GR-Junior II Guitar Resonators to be mounted on microphone stands.

The benefits are obvious: You can use any acoustic or electric guitar (or bass), you don’t have to hold a device of any kind, and both of your hands remain free to deploy your usual guitar techniques. Even better, both Guitar Resonators sound amazing. You can conjure EBowlike sustain, distorted death rays, operatic swells, feedback squalls, clean-toned crescendos, and other thrilling tones and noises.

The big dog is the GR-1 Package ($333 direct), which includes a metal resonator head, a resonator box (with cable jacks, On and Phase switches, a Volume knob, and a power input), and a Basic Foot Controller for bringing in three different harmonic voicings (in addition to the Phase, or octave mode, offered on the resonator box). You simply mount the GR-1 on a mic stand, position your guitar strings near the resonator head, and let ’er rip. A handy blue light for Standard mode—or a red light for Phase mode—helps with aiming your strings at the resonator head. If you sing and play guitar, a live setup requires two mic stands or a twin mic-mount adapter, as well as extra instrument and power cables. It’s not a big deal—unless your band is number three on a five-act bill, where the necessary rush factor might make getting a Guitar Resonator up and running a tad nervy. In practice, I preferred the GR-Junior II ($177 direct), as it requires less setup and cables, and it sounds fantastic, as well—even though you are limited to just the Standard and Phase modes. The GR-Junior also has a smaller resonator head with a slightly weaker magnetic field than the GR-1—although I didn’t notice a significant compromise in the sound or operation.

Both models tend to produce more “wow” with humbuckers, you can sustain three strings at once (although one string typically dominates), and optimal operation requires getting your guitar neck at a 90-degree angle to the resonator head. The treadle of the GR-1’s plastic Basic Foot Controller doesn’t travel very smoothly, so I was happy enough using the more surefire and rapid Standard and Phase modes. (An optional, metal-cased Advanced Foot Controller offers four harmonic positions.) Because I move around a lot on stage—and, clumsy me, I must have smacked my guitar against the resonator head a hundred times—I enjoyed using the Guitar Resonators more in the studio, where I could take the time to concentrate and experiment and discover all the subtle and outrageous sounds they can make.
Kudos Absolutely stunning sustain that’ll curl your toes.
Concerns Ordering/delivery via Germany. A bit of extra setup and technique needed to use live.

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