Not too long ago, Gizmag featured a futuristic digital guitar which replaced the strings of a traditional axe with rows of six buttons on the neck and a resistive touch interface for tweaking tones. Now, the designer has announced that a production model is available for pre-order. The internals have been upgraded, the touchscreen in now capacitive, there's now an onboard polyphonic synthesizer, and the digitar has been given a name – the Kitara.
The demo vid we included with our introduction to the instrument at the beginning of 2010 became a YouTube sensation, and has now been viewed over two million times. However, designer Michael Zarimis told us that, even with this success and a dedicated legion of followers, it's "been really tough getting to this stage, even with over 2 million views on a YouTube video it is very hard to get support from people who share my perspective, but somehow it happened, we have the ball rolling now and it is a very exciting time."
No longer based in Australia, Zarimis says that "to create a high quality product we need to be at the manufacturing hub of the world – China." So, Misa Digital has moved to Hong Kong and will be ready to ship the first instrument in April 2011.
The Kitara (a play on the Greek word Kithara, which is an ancient stringed instrument from the Lyre family) is currently being offered in two flavors, a standard model with a high-density injection-molded ABS polymer body and a limited edition, numbered version machined from a block of aluminum. Both share the same feature set, which includes an 8-inch low latency, multi-touch capacitive touchscreen where the pickups and bridge would be on a traditional guitar, and a full-length fretboard with 24 frets – with 6 buttons at each fret, making 144 individual notes.
The user can choose to have the display show digitally-duplicated strings, so that the instrument can be played somewhat like a normal guitar – where the fingertips can be used to tap on individual strings, perform string combinations or strum up and down for chord play. A player can also choose to allocate a different sound to each string on the screen and much more besides, such as effects mapping to x and y axes.
The onboard polyphonic synthesizer has a library of over a hundred different sounds, which a user can edit or combine to produce new tones, and if the millions of sound possibilities offered by the instrument itself are not enough, the Kitara is also compatible with MIDI devices. The Linux operating system has made it through from the prototype, and the production model now sports an audio out jack to connect straight to an amplifier.
For those who can already play the guitar, the Kitara offers some familiarity in shape and form, but with much more room for expressive experimentation. For anyone who has never picked up a guitar, it's a chance to learn something new.
Both versions are available now for pre-order, the standard edition carrying a US$849 price tag, and the limited edition aluminum model costing US$2,899.
UPDATE, Jan. 12/11: We had a chance to check out the Kitara at CES, which can be seen in the video below...