Last year, Gibson released a digital version of its venerable Les Paul electric guitar (first produced in the 1950s) with an Ethernet connector as well as the standard quarter-inch jack plug. The digital electronics on the HD.6x-Pro support individual, clean, signals from each of the six strings, allowing these to be processed separately. I've yet to see a live band where the guitarist has a Marshall stack for each string, but if this stuff had been available 30 years ago, The Who's Pete Townsend would surely have gone for it.
Now Gibson's boffins have come up with something that might have more universal appeal. This is the self-tuning Les Paul, a.k.a the Gibson Robot Guitar. Now, most moderately competent guitarists can tune their instruments, but there are occasions when a bit of speedy help would come in handy — switching from standard tuning to an alternative such as 'dropped D', 'modal D' or the 'Keith Richards open G' being a prime example.
Enter the Robot, a key element of which is the gang of six revolutionary Powerhead Locking Tuners — machine heads equipped with tiny servo motors that automatically keep each string in tune. Signals from the specially modified Tune-Control Bridge go via a control CPU to a CPU in the guitar's neck, which in turn drives the clever machine heads. Not only can you quickly tune individual strings, but you can also switch between six alternative tunings at a twist of the Master Control Knob.
This is great when playing live, as you don't have to grab a different instrument just to do Brown Sugar (or whatever). And back home, the Robot tuning system will walk you through setting up the proper intonation on your guitar — that is, setting the bridge saddles so the instrument plays truly all the way up the neck (something most people require expensive professional help with).
If you feel like shelling out £1,400 on one of these blue sunburst axes when they go on sale on 7 December, get in fast. Each of the select squad of dealers will be limited to 10 guitars each.