When I first heard about the Roland G-5 VG Stratocaster I have to say I was a bit of a skeptic, how could a guitar have all these on board modelling features and still maintain good tone? Well then one day I went to a Steve Stevens clinic in Sydney and he demonstrated both the G-5 and it’s Synth equipped brother the GC-1. What impressed me was that Steve demonstrated the modelled humbucker and single coil tones and they sounded really good. But then I thought, hang on though this is Steve Stevens, how would that guitar sound in the hands of an average bedroom guitarist? Well there was one way to find out so Roland kindly sent over a G-5 VG Stratocaster for me to see for myself.
The Roland G-5 VG Stratocaster is a genuine Fender Stratocaster (I’m assuming Mexican Fender by the serial number) with Roland’s very clever COSM technology which allows you to not only play in different tunings instantly at the turn of a knob but also using the Roland pickup it can model different types of pickups. What that means is that you can switch between the fender single coil pickups and a modelled humbucker, a 12 string guitar, a nylon string acoustic and just for fun an electric Sitar. You can combine these models with the different tunings too so you can have an 12 string acoustic steel string, or a 12 string Telecaster. The thing that amazed me the most was that there really isn’t that much of a difference in tone between the modelled single coil tones and the real single coils so you don’t feel like the guitar is sucking any of your precious tone when you make a sudden mid-set switch to Open G tuning for a burst of Keef riffs. The switch between pickup models and tunings is almost instant so it is conceivable that you could switch mid-song to go from Telecaster twang to roaring wide range humbuckers.
The guitar does run on 4 AA Batteries so if you are planning on using the guitar live I would make sure you have a spare set in your gig bag but if the batteries did suddenly conk out at least you have the magnetic pickups to fall back on. All in all I was very impressed, I didn’t expect the modelled tones to be as good as they are and the tuning has zero latency that I could detect which is crazy when you think that every note and chord is being pitch shifted in real-time, bends and double stops sound exactly as you expect with no strange artefacts. The only thing that can sound a bit odd is if you use acoustic steel or nylon string through your amp as you would generally run an acoustic into a P.A. whose speaker has a wider dynamic range than guitar cab speakers are designed to handle. For that reason I recorded some examples at the end of my demo direct into my Mac, it probably could have done with some acoustic cabinet emulation to enhance the sound a little but for the sake of a demonstration I wanted to keep it totally direct. The reverb effect you hear on the Nylon string acoustic can be controlled via the tone knob.
For more information on the Roland G-5 VG Stratocaster go to Roland Australia’s website