Music Man Game Changer
Price: $2,275 (street)
Since the introduction of the electric guitar, builders have sought ways to increase the variety of tones that can be had from an instrument; in 1959, Gibson created the Varitone circuit for its ES-345, and in the decades since, virtually every company has attempted some means of tonal tweaking.
Ernie Ball/Music Man’s first such effort, the Game Changer, is based on its Reflex guitar/bass but with an electronic memory designed to provide a quarter million – yes, that’s 250,000 – pickup and wiring combinations.
How does it work? The Game Changer’s tonal variations can be achieved through its pickups, pots, and switches, or by connecting to a computer using an included USB cable and logging on to a website dedicated to the instrument. While the cable doesn’t allow the guitar to be heard through the site, the guitar can simultaneously be plugged into an amp with a traditional 1/4″ cable; this method allows sampling of the actual tones produced by the variety of pickup configurations, all of which are graphically displayed on the site while simultaneously programming them into the guitar. Combining any order of the DiMarzio pickups’ coils in series, parallel, forward, or phase-reverse modes, the player can preview tones and save them to the instrument as pre-sets. The site allows comparisons with settings from a library of tones created for various genres, as well as others invented and uploaded by their players featured in the Artist section.
When connected, the USB powers the guitar (though it does not charge the batteries); when not connected, the guitar’s brain is powered by AA batteries. In our tests while plugged into a variety of low and high gain amps, the electronics were free of interference and background noise.
After viewing the online Tutorial (highly recommended), operating the guitar was a piece of cake. The Tone control is a push/pull pot that selects between Bank A and Bank B, each of which have five pickup selections, and the toggle switch on the upper horn gives access to 15 pre-set pickup selections (called Bank Z). We had the most fun playing the guitar straight into a reverb-equipped tube-driven 1×12 combo and experimenting with the sounds from the three banks. Our favorite variations were created by employing coil-splitting and single-coil combinations, which gave unique and useful tones. Favorite tones can be saved by holding down the Volume knob for two seconds. Pressing down the Volume for 10 seconds reverts the system to its factory presets – a very useful feature. One small nit: when not connected to the website, there is no way of identifying which combination of pickups one has saved to the guitar unless they’re physically accessed via the switches and pots. For iPad users, an app for the Game Changer allows access to pickup configuration functions.
Electronics aside, the Game Changer is a well-built, 22-fret instrument weighing just under eight pounds and sporting a comfortable neck, typical of Music Man guitars. Our tester had a rosewood fingerboard and a vibrato of chrome-plated/hardened steel with steel saddles (the guitar is available as a hardtail, with an piezo bridge, and with two humbuckers).
A great asset for studio and stage, the Game Changer is easy to use and does a great job delivering on its promise to deliver a variety of sounds.
This article originally appeared in VG December 2012 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.