It was really only a matter of time before Fender would introduce USB connectivity to their Stratocaster line. We dropped by the Fender booth at NAMM 2014 and were pleasantly surprised to see the innovation that Fender has dropped into their product line. Along with the American Deluxe Strat Plus (with Personality Cards), Fender has opted to subtly introduce innovations in their products that don’t radically interfere with instrument looks, quality or playability.
Why would you want to have a USB port on your guitar? It really comes down to convenience. By putting a small USB port (and A/D converter) in a guitar, your guitar signal is digitized locally and the signal is transmitted to your computer (or other device) over a USB cable. The guitar retains all its standard analog capabilities but outputs to USB as well.
Why Would I Want USB?
The addition of USB to the Fender Strat essentially turns your guitar into an external USB audio interface – an interface dedicated to capturing the sound from your guitar. Right beside the USB port is a headphone jack that allows you to monitor your guitar sound through the computer device you’re connected to. If you really want, you could even use this strat to listen to your music library on your computer or iOS device!
You essentially plug the guitar into a computer device, play the guitar and hear / capture your Strat’s sound – all captured at the closest point to the source possible. All with minimal signal-to-noise distortion. With a USB port, you no longer need any other external device to translate the guitar’s analog signal into a digital signal.
That’s essentially what’s happening with this new Stratocaster. And it’s not really limited to connecting to iOS devices either – it ships with a couple of cables:
USB mini-B to Lighting™ cable to connect the guitar directly to your iPhone®, iPad® or iPod®
USB mini-B to USB Type A cable to connect directly to your Mac or PC
You can use a USB mini-B to MFi 30-pin cable for connection to older iPhone®, iPad® and iPod® models, but you need to purchase that or an adapter separately.
Recording Geek Light Bulbs
From a recording perspective, this got me quite intrigued. I always try and capture a DI (direct input) sound of the guitar in addition to the mic on the amp. I like having the DI signal present for a couple of purposes:
as a reference for transients so that if waveform editing is required, I can more easily pick out where each sound was initiated by the player.
if I want to enhance or replace the amplifier used in the recording, I can route the clean DI signal through an amplifier modeling plug-in or re-amp and re-record the signal.
With a separate USB output from the guitar, I don’t have to mess around with signal splitter units and DI boxes.
It Looks the Same
If you put one of these Strats next to others, they certainly don’t look any different… at first. Upon closer inspection you’ll see a couple of different details become apparent:
The bridge pickup is a humbucker – something first introduced on a select few Fender guitars in the late 80’s.
You’ll also notice that the second Tone knob is labeled “Volume” – this controls the onboard audio interface headphone volume.
And of course, the USB interface and headphone jacks are mounted on the edge of the body just below the ¼” jack.
There are two available finishes of the Deluxe Stratocaster HSS with iOS Connectivity – Aged Tobacco Sunburst gloss finish and rosewood fingerboard or Cherry Burst gloss finish with maple fingerboard.
Common details shared between the two guitars are:
a maple neck with “modern C” profile and gloss finish, maple or rosewood fingerboard with 9.5″ radius and 21 medium jumbo frets,
single-coil neck and middle pickups, humbucking bridge pickup,
five-way switching and three white plastic control knobs (master volume, master tone, headphone volume),
three-ply parchment pickguard
two-point synchronized tremolo bridge with six saddles.
Cause for Excitement?
I guess that’s the big question isn’t it?
I’d be very interested to try it out – I’m planning on noodling around with one soon, now that they are available at Best Buy. I’m sure there’ll be the purists and detractors who always speak out when a company tweaks with an iconic product. I think that Fender is making the right moves here: providing consumers with updates to their instruments but in a way that the changes don’t call attention to themselves nor detract from what made Fender’s products iconic. You can find many of these iconic products, including the new Fender Deluxe Stratocaster HSS with iOS Connectivity at Bestbuy.ca.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Leave a comment or contact me via the social media links below!