ROLAND PREVIOUSLY PARTNERED WITH Fender to create the GK-Ready Stratocaster, which was equipped with a GK hex pickup to interface with Roland guitar synthesizers or other audio-to-MIDI converters. More recently, the two companies have teamed up to create the G5 VG Stratocaster, which uses Roland’s GK hex pickup and COSM technology to recreate a number of guitar models and tunings.
To a Stratocaster body, Roland added their GK pickup, an M knob for choosing among four modeled guitar types (Stratocaster, Telecaster, Humbucking, and Acoustic), and a T knob that selects among six modeled tunings: Normal, Drop D, Open G, D Modal, Baritone, and 12-String. The M knob also accesses the G5’s standard magnetic pickups for real Stratocaster tones. In this and the modeled Strat positions, the 5-way switch functions as it typically does. However, in Tele mode, the switch offers the three common Telecaster settings and two additional positions featuring Wide Range or fuller neck and bridge sounds. In Humbucking mode, the extra two Bright Humbucker positions provide respectively brighter bridge and neck tones. The Acoustic setting uses the 5-way switch to access Steel-String Acoustic 1 (dreadnought) and 2 (resonator), Nylon- String, Electric Sitar, and Jazz models.
I tested the Roland/Fender hybrid through Egnater Rebel 30 and Orange Tiny Terror amps, and direct into a computer. The instrument played comfortably right out of the box and had a nicely adjusted floating vibrato. The magnetic pickups nailed typical Stratocaster tones, so you might ask, “Why is it necessary to have a modeled Strat setting?” Well, the modeled version eliminates hum, which is handy for stages backed by neon lights on dimmers, and it also let me use the various tunings with a Stratocaster tone. The modeled Strat’s output was lower than the one generated by the magnetic single-coils, but this must have been overlooked in the factory setup, as the volume for the modeled sound is adjustable from inside the guitar. I found the Tele and Humbucking settings to be useful as well when non-Strat tones were needed.
Steel-String Acoustic 1 was handy for switching from acoustic to electric mid-song—a viable alternative to having a flat-top on a stand—but Steel-String Acoustic 2 evidenced more of a banjo or Dobro timbre through a guitar amp, while, interestingly, Nylon-String Acoustic sounded more realistic with a pick than fingers. The Sitar setting’s droning buzz was vibey and cool, and the Jazz position provided plenty of warmth, if not a lot of archtop-style woodiness. The G5’s pitch-shifted tunings offered accurate tracking and very little tone loss, and the Baritone setting combined with the Tele model launched me into twang heaven. My only gripe is that unlike Line 6’s Variax, the G5 VG doesn’t let you add custom tunings, nor does it have any software for loading or creating custom sounds.
Impressive as the G5 VG Stratocaster’s COSM modeling is, the “virtual” tones are not for purists, but rather for working musicians— especially Strat lovers—who need to cover a maximum range of sounds with a minimum of instrument changes. The G5 VG is well equipped for this task and comes in at an attractive price for all it offers.
CONTACT Roland, rolandus.com
G5 VG STRATOCASTER
PRICE $1,299 street
NUT WIDTH 1.650"
NECK Bolt-on maple
FRETBOARD Maple, 25" scale, 9.5" radius
TUNERS Die-cast American inline
BRIDGE Fender Vibrato
PICKUPS Three Fender magnetic Stratocaster pickups, Roland GK pickup.
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, Tuning, and Model
FACTORY STRINGS Fender, .009-.042
WEIGHT 8 lbs
KUDOS Plays well. Offers classic original Stratocaster tones along with a number of useful models and tunings.
CONCERNS Limited features for this type of instrument.