By Dan Ferrisi

At the most recent Winter NAMM show, dozens of press conferences touted a near-countless number of music product innovations that are sure to ring retailers’ registers for many months—perhaps years!—to come. In this writer’s eyes, though, no NAMM press conference was more impressive, and no product more attention grabbing, than Peavey’s showcasing of the AT-200 guitar featuring Auto-Tune for Guitar. In short, the Peavey AT-200 guitar electronically self tunes and intonates continuously as you play, a fact the company demonstrated impressively back in January. And now, the company has announced the product’s availability as of this month. Hartley Peavey, Founder and CEO, Peavey Electronics, briefed The Music & Sound Retailer on the AT-200’s capabilities, where it fits in the market and the feedback the company has already received.

The Peavey AT-200 guitar features built-in Auto-Tune for Guitar DSP technology by Antares Audio Technologies, giving players the ability to tune the guitar at the touch of a button. (Readers likely know Antares for inventing Auto-Tune technology, the vocal processing effect that has become ubiquitous in modern music.) According to Peavey, “The AT-200 is a giant step forward for guitar technology, bringing the power of this technology to a quality instrument that self tunes and intonates continuously as you play.” He continued, “With the simple push of a button on the AT-200, guitar players can now create music in perfect tune and pitch. There has never been an easier way to enjoy the purity of tone that you get from being perfectly in tune at every position, all the way up the neck.”

The AT-200 is a fully capable electric guitar, offering the familiar shape, feel and sound of a traditional instrument. However, unlike other guitars, it has two very different operational modes: Passive mode, which is a standard guitar mode with humbucking pickups, three-way toggle, and tone and volume controls, and Active mode, which activates Auto-Tune for Guitar. Peavey stated, “With Auto-Tune for Guitar activated, the AT-200 will tune all six strings to perfect pitch with the push of a button.”

The player engages Auto-Tune for Guitar by pushing down on the tone control pot. (Pulling up on the tone control will turn off the Auto-Tune feature, and the guitar will then be in Passive mode.) “Once the player has engaged Auto-Tune,” Peavey explained, “all it takes to tune up is to strum all six strings evenly and cleanly, and then press the volume control to engage Auto-Tune for Guitar’s String Tune and Solid-Tune technologies. You can actually hear your guitar come into tune instantly.”

The self-tuning feature on the Peavey AT-200 operates in a completely different manner as compared to previous attempts at creating a self-tuning guitar. Unlike earlier products, there are no bulky gears or moving parts to weigh down the instrument. “The Peavey AT-200 looks, plays and sounds just like a conventional guitar, exactly the way it should,” declared Peavey. But that is only half the story, because the AT-200 also self-intonates when the tuning function is engaged. Solid-Tune technology constantly monitors the precise pitch of each individual string and electronically makes any corrections necessary to ensure that every note of every chord and riff is always in tune, regardless of variables like finger position or pressure. Auto-Tune for Guitar is even smart enough to know when players intend to manipulate pitch, so bends and vibrato sound as natural as they always have. “No previous instrument has had that ability,” Peavey stressed.

Drop D, baritone, open G…all of them are possible on the AT-200 simply by moving your fingers into the proper positions when you engage Auto-Tune. However, this guitar is also upgradable for a host of alternate tunings and features from Antares. “These upgrades take advantage of Auto-Tune’s world-standard pitch detection and extremely high-quality pitch shifting to let you quickly select from among familiar alternate tunings, as well as dramatic new tunings that would be physically impossible without Auto-Tune for Guitar,” enthused Peavey. From tunings that are popular to previously difficult tunings like six-string bass, split bass/guitar, 12-string and polyphonic octaver, these Auto-Tune for Guitar upgrades give players access to virtually any tuning imaginable. And that’s without the need to stop and physically retune or swap guitars.

Apart from the Auto-Tune technology, a great deal of consideration went into the design of the guitar itself. “The shape is clean and traditional,” remarked Peavey, “and the neck has a very natural, comfortable shape.” Indeed, the company designed every part of the guitar for mass appeal, which, along with the underlying technology, helps explain the product’s auspicious NAMM show debut. “The Peavey AT-200 was a huge point of interest for our dealers, as well as for the media,” Peavey commented. “As word spread through the show, more and more people came by to see and hear the AT-200 for themselves.” And now, as one would expect, the company is getting a lot of positive feedback from dealers who are excited to carry it. Peavey noted that this is an instrument for all kinds of retailers—from small to large—and even those that traditionally might not do a lot of guitar business.

For a lot of beginning players, observed Peavey, tuning and intonation are two barriers to learning how to play guitar. Having a guitar that is out of intonation and will not tune properly can take away the motivation and joy in playing. Giving players the ability to correct those deficiencies easily can encourage those beginners to stick with the instrument. And that’s exactly what the Peavey AT-200 does. “But,” Peavey hastened to add, “as advanced as the AT-200 may be, it won’t play itself. It is crucial that dealers demo the guitar, so customers can see how easy it is to use this instrument.”

One of the coolest things is, when you strum the guitar and press the volume control knob, you can actually hear the guitar lock into tune. “It’s remarkable to hear, and it absolutely turns heads,” Peavey said. “The reactions we’re getting from this guitar are priceless!”

The AT-200 has a $999.99 MSRP and is available this month with a $499.99 street price.

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