We first met the Antares Auto-Tune for Guitar technology in the Peavey AT-200, which was reviewed in the December 2012 issue and again as an update in the November 2013 issue. The AT-200 succeeded in delivering an instrument that could get perfectly in tune at the touch of a button, and intonate flawlessly all the way up the neck thanks to its Solid Tune real-time intonation. You’ve also had the option of the Auto-Tune for Guitar Luthier Kit, which allows a qualified tech to install the system into whatever instrument you choose. Now there is yet another option for players who want to experience Auto-Tune for Guitar: The ATG-1 Floor Processor. This rugged floorboard not only gives you easy access to all the Auto-Tune options Antares offers, but it also doubles as a MIDI switcher. It’s a very rugged and well-made piece of gear, with beefy switches, a big easy to read LCD screen, and a large, smooth expression pedal. The look and feel inspire confidence and reek of quality.
We tested the ATG-1 with a Godin Passion RG-2, but the system can be used with any guitar equipped with a 13-pin jack. The 1/4" output of the guitar is not used—the ATG-1 gets its info from the 13-pin cable and then sends the signal out its 1/4" output to your pedalboard or amp. I plugged the Godin, which was totally out of tune, into the ATG-1, strummed the strings and hit the upper-left button labeled String Tune. I heard the trademark “scooping” sound and instantly the sound out of the amp was perfectly in tune. As for the guitar “tone,” it’s pretty much whatever you want it to be, because the ATG-1 comes loaded with several pickup models and placements to choose from, ranging from bridge and neck humbuckers to three single-coils to P-90s and beyond. To access them, you hit the Control button (unless it’s already selected) and then the Model button to select the type and—if necessary—the curiously spelled Pick-up button to select the position. If this sounds like a lot of work, don’t worry, because these settings and just about everything else can be saved as a preset and recalled with one click. The pickup models sound quite good and seemed to hit the front end of the amp in a natural fashion once I lowered the Global Output Gain and Global Input Gain (the ATG-1 can actually provide a considerable boost if that’s what you’re looking for).
You can access several altered tunings on the fly with the Alt Tuning button. I called up DADGAD and selected the “Vintage Lipstick” pickup model, saved it as a preset, and could go all “Kashmir” anytime I wanted. Then I was back in standard tuning with one click. Slick! Likewise if you wanted to play slide in open-E for just one song, forget about needing to lug another guitar. You also have access to the Virtual Capo mode, making transpositions super easy, as well as doubled tunings of parallel fifths and octaves, and simulated 12-strings.
So this thing is obviously an awesomely powerful device that lets you do stuff that would be completely impossible otherwise. The questions I keep getting from players, however, are along the lines of, “But how does it feel? How does it really sound? What’s it like?” The answers are somewhat complex and nuanced, but I’ll give you my take. If you can get over the idea that your entire tone is being generated through a 13-pin cable—and not every guitarist can—much of what the ATG-1 does sounds and feels completely natural. There’s no latency that my ears or hands can perceive (it’s supposedly 50 samples, or about one millisecond) and once I start playing, I just react to the sound the same way I always do. The Solid Tune intonation is a bit of a two-edged sword, however: I love the fact that I can play any voicing all the way up the neck, against open strings, and have it be beautifully in tune. But because Solid Tune nudges notes that are close to concert pitch up to exact concert pitch, it does change things in a couple of ways. The good part is that my double-and triple-stop bends are freakishly in tune. That makes me sound like I’m a way better country player than I actually am. The not-so-good part is that slow bends can exhibit a stepping sound and subtle vibrato can get messed with. You can defeat Solid Tune per preset, so if you know you don’t want it on a particular song you can create a patch for that, but I’m a little bummed that I have to choose between awesome intonation up the neck and super-smooth bends. Also, Virtual Capo settings of a step or two sound fine, but bigger shifts sound a little unnatural to my ears, and a guitar an octave down is not a bass, although that tone could still be a useful special effect.
Whether or not guitarists will go for this technology obviously depends on the guitarist. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, I had rack processors and digital effects, and I had some “purists” tell me that my tone was fake, that having all that stuff between the guitar and amp changed everything, and that they could never use a rig like that. Fair enough, although I managed to do pretty good work with that setup. Technology is as technology does, and the ATG-1 is bringing unprecedented tools to the party. If you’re open to that, if you’re tired of having to retune on stage, or if you want to instantly access several different tunings without changing guitars, you should definitely take the ATG-1 for a test drive.
Kudos Powerful technology. Perfect intonation. Instant altered tunings on the fly.
Concerns Some features sound unnatural. Might intimidate old-school players.