Way back in the late ’90s, the very first thing I ever did for Guitar Player magazine was attend a testing party hosted by senior editor Art Thompson for the Roland VG-8, a futuristic processor that could deliver not only the sounds of amplifiers but also the tones of several different pickups. In the years that followed, many manufacturers released products that could simulate amps, but aside from notable exceptions, such as the Line 6 Variax, no one tried to model pickups and the guitars they reside in.
That’s all changed now, thanks to the Sim1 XT-1 Sound Imprinting Processor pedal. The XT-1 allows you to transform the sound of any guitar into 30 different onboard pickup/guitar simulations, with the possibility of adding more at any time from the company’s website.
When you plug into the XT-1, you create a profile of your source guitar by putting the pedal through a “learning procedure,” which involves slowly playing a chromatic scale on each string. Once you’ve done this, the XT-1 will recognize your source guitar and transform it into any of the target guitars. (As an added bonus, your source guitar is now a preset that you can upload to the Sim1 website and share or trade with other XT-1 users.) Additionally, with a simple MIDI/USB adapter (not included), the XT-1 can be controlled by MIDI pedalboards through MIDI program change.
I easily set up my PRS Silver Sky as a source guitar in just a couple of minutes and began auditioning sounds. The results were impressive. When I went from the neck single-coil on the PRS (with the XT-1 bypassed) to a neck-position Tele pickup profile, the difference was audible and real, and not in an exaggerated or cartoonish way. The same was true with the XT-1 Fender Mustang preset. I really understood what was going on, however, when I went from my PRS bridge pickup, which I’ve modded with a Duncan JB Jr., to the Strat bridge single-coil preset. I instantly got more top end, less output and more Strattiness, and the overall effect was very musical.
The results were even more dramatic when I used a humbucker-loaded guitar as my source instrument. It was amazing to take the somewhat dark and overdriven neck humbucker sound and turn it into a brighter, cleaner Tele tone. It also made my amp respond differently, just as if I had plugged a different guitar in. The XT-1 addresses not just EQ but also output and transient attack to deliver a pickup’s mojo. Harmonics, overtones and string noise take on the characteristics of the target sounds, and changes to volume and tone settings seem to stay in character as well. I wasn’t as crazy about the XT-1’s Gibson J-200 and Martin acoustic guitar simulations at first, but they can definitely come in handy on a gig if you run them direct through the unit’s balanced output.
You can purchase additional target guitars from the Sim1 website or get free profiles from other users. And because you can store profiles of any of your guitars, you could conceivably show up to a gig with one guitar and the XT-1 and have access to all your tones, like a Kemper Profiler for pickups.
The bottom line is this: The Sim1 XT-1 does what it says it can do, and then some. Part of the fun about playing other guitars is, well, playing other guitars, so some guitarists won’t understand the XT-1’s appeal. But if you need to cover a lot of sonic territory without lugging a bunch of instruments, this magic box might just be the ticket. Bravo!
XT-1 Sound Imprinting Processor
PRICE $799 retail
I/O One 1/4" input, 1/4" output, balanced 1/4" (for connecting to a PA), USB port
PRESETS 30 (with access to more via the website)
CONTROLS Bypass, up, down
KUDOS Realistic and dimensional pickup simulations. Adds next-level flexibility to any guitar