“IS THIS A BOLD, FORWARD-THINKING MODELING GUITAR, OR AN OVERPRICED TOY?” ASKS CRAIG CARROLL .
Vox (the makers of renowned English amps) were also producers of unusual guitars in the ‘60s - various models featured unusual buttons and dials for effects such as organ, distortion, tremolo, and more. Now, Vox have re-entered the guitar market - not with a classic design to match their traditionally looking amps, but with a forward- thinking modeling guitar that looks like it was used by Marty McFly in Back To The Future II. There are many modeling amps on the market today that clone an amp’s signature tone - saving the consumer money - so why not have a modeling guitar? This guitar doesn’t copy brands of guitars per se, but rather types of guitars. Parker guitars achieved this by putting Piezo pickups in their electric guitars to achieve an acoustic sound, although the Starstream takes this further. Not only are there single coil, humbucking pickup and acoustic sounds - the onboard computer replicates 12-string guitars, a resonator, banjo, sitar, and a funky synth sound which is a lot of fun to play.
THE DELOREAN OF GUITARS
To look at the design may cause some debate. Those who like traditionally styled guitars may scoff at its space age curves, while others may think it looks kind of cool. Whatever your thoughts, it is good that guitar makers try new things and try to advance the guitar in new directions, with new possibilities and sounds. The shape is very comfortable under the arm, however the plastic frame is kind of a cheap move, together with the silver plastic mock-metal bracing on the back. Carbon fiber with perhaps an aluminum rear frame would be expected of a guitar in this price range. The centre body is made from mango wood - used sometimes with acoustic guitars - which works well with the pickups and electronics to achieve a balance with replicating acoustic and electric sounds. The headstock - a nod to the old Vox guitars - is a nice touch, however the Starstream lettering looks like a stock computer font, and as such, rather cheap. The tuners don’t lock, either, which is epected from a modern guitar. The wood and neck - although it feels perfectly fine and plays well, just looks like a beginner model. The bridge is also of low quality with a thin tremolo block that can diminish sustain, and a screw- in whammy bar that doesn’t offer much smoothness when used. A single tone and volume dial with a three- position pickup selector switch offers variations of the preset guitar models. At the end of the body, there are two strap poles, which is a great idea that offers more options for player comfort.
Two humbuckers enable the guitar to play in realtime, so there are no tracking issues like with other synth-type guitars, where you play the note and there is a slight delay. On the back, there is also easy access to the battery panel for quick changes to the four AA batteries.
TIME CIRCUITS ON
The guitar doesn’t work if you don’t have the control panel turned on, so if you run out of battery power mid-song, there is nothing bypassing the computer system. The advantage, however, is that there is a headphone jack, so you can practice without an amp or take the guitar on holidays and not annoy your neighbours. There is an effects button which allows you to adjust the drive or reverb depending on what preset you use, and you can save your own presets into each of the pickup’s selectors as a bank. For example, you could have a banjo in the bridge position, a sitar in the middle position, and a Stratocaster-sounding single coil in the neck position. Each sound is selected by an 11-way dial (which sadly doesn’t go a full 360 degrees) so if you want to quickly change sounds mid-song from one end of the dial to the other, you have to go all the way around. Also, when you change sounds, the sound quickly turns off and on again, which is no good when playing live.
DOES IT GO THE FULL 88 MILES PER HOUR?
There are two banks for user sounds, followed by the single coil option, which gives you a Stratocator vibe. It sounds just like a single coil guitar, however turning up the drive knob makes it sound like a practice guitar that lacks in the mid range. You’re better off using the drive on the amp, or using it in conjunction with the amp or a distortion pedal. Next is a ‘between’ mode, which gives you a Telecaster sound, followed by a Bucker option and then a modern setting which replicates HSS pickup configurations. Following that, we get into the electric 12-string options. Although not as perfect as the real deal, the sound is good enough to get you over the line playing “Stairway To Heaven” live. There is an octave above the twelfth string, and an octave below option. The acoustic guitar presets are where this guitar shines, sounding very close to the real thing with the Piezo pickups - especially with reverb dialed in. The nylon option, however - you can still hear the metal sound of the higher strings, so don’t go Classical Gas on it. The ‘unique’ switch offers a banjo, resonator guitar and sitar, which all sound great and are fun to play around with. The last option on the dial is the ‘special’ setting, which offers synth, bass synth and sustain. The first two are heaps of fun for messing around or playing funk with, and the last is kind of hard to master as it tends to cut out the previous note sharply when you play the next note.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Vox have created a great forward-thinking guitar in the Starstream which would suit gigging musicians who require acoustic and electric guitar sounds, as well as for practicing musicians at home. The acoustic and electric guitar sounds are a real plus, and the banjo and resonator sounds are great additions to add to your swag.
PRICE: $1299 - $1399
TOP FIVE FEATURES
- On board System: AREOS-D
- Body: mango and plastic frame
- Neck: maple
- Number of Sounds: 27 (9 banks x 3)
- User Programs: 6 (2 banks x 3)
WHAT WE RECKON
Great clean, reverb and acoustic sounds
Great for a gigging guitarist requiring multiple guitars: acoustic, 12-string electric, etc
High gain distortion effects could use some work
(03) 9693 5111