The Starstream Type 1 has flown somewhat under the radar ever since Vox rolled it out two years ago, and considering all the things this guitar does, it seems high time that we review it. The Starstream’s unique frame construction is striking, to say the least, but its sci-fi appearance isn’t just for show. The catamaran-like pieces, attached to the mango wood body, are contoured in a way that not only makes the guitar quite comfortable to play both sitting and standing but also offers unlimited upper-fret access.
The Starstream incorporates the Areos-D system, which integrates magnetic pickups, a piezo pickup system and a DSP engine. The DSP handles modeling and effects, and it can run for up to 15 hours on four AA batteries. The guitar has a 1/4-inch output for live performance or recording, and a 1/8-inch output for use with headphones. The two magnetic humbucking pickups work even without power, so there’s no danger of going completely dead should the batteries run out. Through a combination of a rotary knob and the three-way pickup selector, the Areos-D system offers nine banks of instruments with three variations in each, plus two user banks that store up to six custom sounds.
Once the power is engaged, the sounds are being modeled, driven by either the magnetic or built-in piezo pickups. To start, there is a thoroughly believable Tele-style single-coil set (neck, middle, bridge), as well as three Strat-style out-of-phase settings, including neck/middle, middle/bridge and something that sounds like a darker version of one of those two. The standard and modern humbucker modes provide more and less midrange, respectively. Played alone and dead clean, these won’t beat a set of vintage or boutique passive pickups, but I would be happy with most of the tones in a mix and/or with some distortion or processing.
The 12-string and acoustic guitar tones might work if placed in the background of a mix. If these instruments are an essential part of your music, however, their shortcomings will be evident, although playing through an acoustic amp or the P.A. helps. On the other hand, the banjo and electric sitar settings were quite realistic and would add interesting textures to any kind of music.
The filtered square-wave lead synth setting is full and aggressive, while the bass synth sound is as rich as an analog Moog. In this mode, the tone control varies the filtering for a wide variety of sounds. As advertised, the synth effects track effortlessly and respond dynamically to touch, pick attack and vibrato. The sustain setting sounds like a polyphonic EBow, and it’s perfect for ambient excursions. These modes are so good that they made me wish that Vox had forsaken the weaker acoustic guitar and Strat sounds, as well as the unnecessary distortion and reverb effects (we all have pedals for that), in favor of additional modern sounds to match the guitar’s appearance.
I should also mention that the fretwork, setup and finish are excellent, making for an instrument that is easy and fun to play. Vox was one of the first guitar companies to offer effects in their guitars, and the Starstream 1 proudly carries on the tradition, while it leaves me hoping for an even more modern Starstream Type 2.
Starstream Type 1
PRICE $799 street
NUT WIDTH 1.7"
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 28 1/2" scale
FRETS 22 medium jumbo
TUNERS Sealed die-cast
BRIDGE Two-point fulcrum tremolo
PICKUPS Vox XLM (x2) and piezo pickups in each bridge saddle
CONTROLS Areos-D System, incorporating the control module and magnetic pickups, piezo pickups, volume, tone and pickup selector
BUILT Philippines (assembled in Japan)
KUDOS Plays easily. Cool sounds. Unique look
CONCERNS Might be too modern-looking for some players