PICKUP WIRING PLAYS A MAJOR ROLE in the tone of an electric guitar, but changing
it can be very time consuming. Imagine if you
could rewire your pickup configuration on the fly
and have 35 different setups available instantly.
That’s what The Game Changer offers. This revolutionary
guitar has a completely analog signal
path with custom DiMarzio pickups that can
be electrically reconfigured based on presets
that you create on your computer. Select and
combine pickup coils in series or parallel with
the other coils, and place any of them in or out
of phase. There are hundreds of thousands of
The presets are downloaded—individually or
in banks—via USB to the guitar where they are
saved digitally. Once you unplug the guitar from
the computer, you select the presets using the
instrument’s cleverly arranged controls. There
is no modeling or DSP used on this instrument.
The Game Changer starts with an Ernie
Ball Music Man Reflex guitar and is available in
several configurations. The review unit was the
HSH model with humbuckers in the neck and
bridge positions and a single-coil in the middle.
This model is also available with a piezo bridge
and tremolo, as is the dual-humbucker version
of the guitar. The pickup designs are different
in the HH and HSH models.
The onboard controls are simple—a Tone
pot, a Volume control, a 5-way selector, and
a toggle switch. The Volume knob doubles as
the Save knob, while the push-pull Tone control
selects one of two preset banks (A and B).
Each bank holds five pickup configurations, which
you choose with the 5-way selector. The toggle
switch steps through an additional 15 presets in
bank Z. Guitars equipped with the piezo pickup
get an additional volume control that serves as the pickup’s on/off switch when pressed.
|The computerized switching system is housed within the control cavity. Power is supplied by three AA batteries.
Each preset bank can be set to active or passive
output, and you can split the piezo signal
from the magnetic pickup output by using a Y
cable with the TRS end plugged into the guitar.
The piezo Volume knob can act as a blend control
for the two outputs.
In addition to the 1/4" output and USB port,
the guitar has an 8-pin MIDI port for sending
or receiving MIDI program and control change
messages. This allows you to reconfigure your
entire performance setup—amp and effects—
from the guitar, or use a MIDI pedal to change
presets on the guitar itself. You have to choose whether the guitar sends or receives MIDI data; it
won’t do both simultaneously. The Game Changer
does not send MIDI Note data, nor does it send
audio over USB. The instrument would need a
digital converter to do those tasks.
The Game Changer is surprisingly easy to program.
Plug the guitar into your computer using the
supplied USB cable, launch your web browser,
then go to the company’s web page and click
on Web App. The app immediately determines
which instrument you have and which presets
are loaded. Now you can reconfigure the pickup
coils using a graphical interface or browse the
presets in the library. If your guitar is plugged
into your amp, you will hear the results immediately.
Alternatively, you can use an Apple iPad
with a MIDI adapter for auditioning pickup configurations
|The Volume knob handles the saving of presets and the Tone control selects between preset banks A and B.
Loading sounds is done with a drag-and-drop
procedure, placing them in a specific bank
and selector switch position. This is very helpful,
because there’s no other way to tell what
preset you’re currently using except by ear or by
memorizing its physical position (bank A, B, or Z)
on the guitar. But that’s a small price to pay for
such a powerful, yet easy-to-use system.
Ultimately, it all comes down to playability and
sound, and The Game Changer gets top marks
in both categories. The differences between the
pickup configurations are clearly audible, and it’s
surprising how even a minor change in the wiring
makes a major sonic difference that can lead you
into certain riffs and musical styles. Whether you
spend most of your time onstage or in the studio,
you’ll enjoy exploring all the sounds The Game
Changer has to offer. It’s one of the most inspiring
guitars you’ll ever play.
|The Web App interface showing a Steve Morse preset that has coil 4 in series with coil 3 out-of-phase.
ERNIE BALL MUSIC MAN THE GAME CHANGER
PRICE $2,275 (as tested) to $2,345 street,
depending on configuration
KUDOS Easy to program and audition
sounds. Holds 35 presets. Prolevel
build quality and sound.
CONCERNS Leaving the guitar plugged in
drains the batteries.
NUT WIDTH 1.625"
FRETBOARD Maple or rosewood, 25.5" scale
TUNERS Schaller M6-IND locking
BODY Chambered basswood w/mahogany
tone block and maple top
BRIDGE String-through-body, w/optional
tremolo and piezo versions
PICKUPS Custom DiMarzio
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, 5-way selector,
Bank select toggle
I/O Stereo ¼" output; 8-pin DIN port
(for MIDI and more); USB port
FACTORY STRINGS Ernie Ball RPS-10 Slinky
WEIGHT 7 lbs
POWER 3 AA batteries; USB bus power