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Whatever happened to the Dark Fire?


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Actually theres is a whole world of "open tunings", which the Dark Fire provides Slide players, DADGAD performers / studio players to gain instant access to various open tunings instantly, and it offers Hexaphonic processing / recording with a unique FX/Amp signal chain per each string, and more tones than a Jimmy Page LP.


Robot Self tuning is just one aspect of what these guitars do, but it seems this is the principal bonehead marketing angle which Gibson spent Millions in Advertising to tell the masses - with the expected result that the masses remain ignorant of all the features these instruments offer.


I have played mine at regular live gigs for past 9 months, and have not had any major problems. Every other song I'm in a different open tuning - Open G, Open E, Drop D, Eb tuning, DADGAD - can even change mid song.


But most Les Paul customers simply can't "connect the dots" and understand how the Dark Fire is actually a poor mans Transperfomance Tuning System Les Paul for 1/3 the cost of one of one of those systems





And Dark Fire owners all moved to a new forum they created, after the Gibson Forum here began clobbering access to important posts last summer.



Dark Fire Owners can discuss creative implementations of the technology with other Dark Fire owners here:




Of course the reality is everyone here (including me) just wishes Henry would have used the Dark Fire Marketing budget to accurately mass produce every guitar in the Ted McCarty era - focus on 1959 thru 1962 - but price them 1/3 of today's MSRP for a Gibson Custom shop model.


I'll take a repro 1959 Gibson ES-355 for $2500


Just have to head to Tokyo and buy an Orville.

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Good post.


I remain one of the blissfully unaware Luddites - I simply don't care.

I'm one that Gibson's marketing just won't reach - the technology is not something I give a damn about.


I'll post my own comprehensive opinion on the matter then let it go...




I posted in response to a forum question that there are two types of Gibson players.

Dark Fire/Robot and everybody else.


I know very few conventional players (with deep pockets and the ability to buy them) who straddle the boundary between all the joys and capabilities of cutting-edge gadgetry and owning very nice old-fashioned Gibsons.


It's a technological crutch that makes guitar 'easy' and then limits the player's ability to what the electrons are programmed to to for him. The guy with a nice Gibson or two, and even a few years of playing under his belt who has begun the journey to guitar mastery on his own efforts, skill and merit will see the video game-boy aspect of it and shy away.


Give me all the 1960's technology you want, refine it for durability and function, and I'll give you my money.



This may be somewhat more profound when I tell you the pathways technology has crossed in my life.

I work in nuclear power.

I'm not the guy sitting at a desk eating donuts, I'm the guy out in the plant where the 2,000 pound steam is 1,000 degrees, where the valves we have to operate are as big as a car, where the pumps we run would fill every swimming pool in Beverly Hills in seconds.

We produce 12,000 thermal megawatts and harness one third of that and get it onto the grid at 525,000 volts.


I'm well aware of what the advanced math and science brings to the job, I have an education. But hanging around with engineers all my life revealed to me how profoundly disabled those guys are on many levels. I chose to skip the engineering degree and just stay in operations where knowing something matters. You use your skills every day by putting on a pair of gloves and getting the job done - and babysitting the engineers when they wander in so they don't hurt themselves or take the plant down, again....


I started out growing up in the oilfield, where a pumpjack is hooked to a pump WAY under ground.

When it didn't work, we fixed it. Didn't leave until it was done.


I got into cranes via the oilfield.

As a crane operator, somebody is paying for me and my machine by the hour - and he wants the job done.

No matter how many computers were on the crane, I still had to know how to OPERATE it - every day.

One boo-boo and I would be on the evening news.

I cleaned up half a dozen bad crane accidents with news helicopters hovering overhead.


Went into chemical plants and refineries with the cranes for extended jobs and was hooked on the processes there where they harness the knowledge of all those old Greek and European guys you learned about in school to make stuff happen magically inside those pipes.

Crude oil or basic chemicals come in one end, a myriad of finished products is shipped out the other end.


Got tired of the explosions, so I got into something safer like electrical generation.




I'm a private pilot, been around airplanes all my life.

Wanna put a game-boy in the left seat of the airplane you're in?

There's no reset button, it's not a simulator, you MUST know what you're doing.




Getting closer to the Dark Fire Robot stuff, I f-ing hate cell phones.

With all the technology at out fingertips now, I STILL can't consistently do the one thing they were designed for-

I STILL can't actually talk to somebody.


The reason there are so many games and apps for a cell phone now is so the youngsters will get caught up in the gee-whiz technology and pay $100 a month for the equivalent of a Fisher-Price toy. You can't actually have a conversation on either one when it really matters.




So you can buy a computer processor mounted in just about anything - including a guitar.

Sounds like the subject of a sixties Japanese monster movie...

So now you can do all kinds of things the software engineers think you should do.


If you can't tune a guitar by ear - and I can't, at least not as accurately as I like - then buy a tuner.

If you don't know how to tune a guitar, why are you buying one to start with? Takes 10 minutes to learn.


Technology has its place.

It is NOT as a processor inside a guitar.

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I know very few conventional players (with deep pockets and the ability to buy them) who straddle the boundary between all the joys and capabilities of cutting-edge gadgetry and owning very nice old-fashioned Gibsons.


Count me as one of those- I have 30+ stringed instruments, 1922 vega parlour guitar, 1961 Gibson SG Special, 1961 Fender Strat, ES295, 1973 Les Paul, Gretsch 6120 ( still my favorite) been playing since 1966 - yet i do not consider myself a collector.


I suppose its my current day gig as an electronic design engineer that provides the resources to fund my tools for my musical expression today.


But we agree - if i was buying my first guitar, it would NOT recommend a Dark Fire / Robot model.


Its all a matter of perception and marketing.


i needed a guitar for slide and Alternate tunings at live shows, and the Dark Fire works very well in that role.


Most complaints about these Robot guitars are traced to users with no prior experience with any guitar.






FWIW - my bio:

Grew up in both southern and northern California. At age 7, I was inspired to play guitar after watching the Chantays record the surf hit "Pipeline" at Wentzel's Music Town, 13117 Lakewood Blvd, Downey California - back in 1962. I lived around the corner on Woodruff, near Rio San Gabriel elementary school. - this was near Paul Bigsby's shop in Downey , California ( he was a motorcycle mechanic who invented the Bigsby Vibrato) - also home of the Carpenters, and The Blasters, and North American Rockwell - who designed the Apollo command module that orbited the Moon.



My Father worked for General Motor's Ball Bearing division, and he once visited Leo Fender in 1959, to sell him Ball Bearings for a guitar vibrato prototype that never left his R&D lab.

Been playing guitar since 1967, Performed in the Santa Cruz area in the late 1960s, ( I saw bulk of the San Francisco bands live in the park in their heyday) then I lived in Chicago in 1970 - 1978, - used to sit in and play blues at Kingston mines coffee house in Chicago) after college I moved back to Los Angeles. I wrote and performed the incidental music for a cult SCI-FI film "LazerBlast", which aired a lot on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. At the same time I toured the southwest in a rock band called Rocket 88 - whose members went on to big time with Ratt, and Wang Chung.


Here' a MP3 of that band at a live gig in 1979:




A pic of me during that time






Eventually I became service manager at Valley Arts Guitar in Studio City, CA just off Laurel Canyon. I set up guitars for Stevie Ray Vaughan, Frank Zappa, Devo, Oingo Boingo - rewired their studios too.


I worked with Midget Sloatman - Zappa's guitar tech (He's 6'5" !!)




Many people worked on FZ's gear - While working at Valley Arts I worked on nearly Everybody's gear between years 1980 - 1986. I took over Paul Rivera's role at the shop, as he had left in 1979 to work for Pignose, then Yamaha, then Fender.


I worked on Jimmie Vaughan's gear too, and when his brother came to LA to record his first demos at Jackson Browne's LA studio - I set up his '61 Strat.



Here's a video of David Bowie live 1983, I built the red Strat guitar played by Earl Slick:(though I would have tuned it a bit more had I been at that show) Begins at the 1:53 mark.



Pic below is from 1981, the Valley Arts Guitar repair department located upstairs above the store below. I'm on the right. Bob Kerr is on the left, filing frets on a Martin D-28. My '61 SG Special is on the bench in the foreground, The view is from the Client waiting area - a dutch door with a shelf. Around the corner to the right (out of view) was a complete guitar workshop and paint booth. A crew of 3 talented Luthiers from Michoacan province Mexico did a lot of beautiful work. Manuel Rios , Ramon, and Rujelio. Dudley Gimpel was there too. Building a custom 335 for Larry Carlton ( Dudley soon left to become principal luthier for Ernie Ball / Music Man , where he still works today, designing all the models for EVH, Steve Morse, John Petrucci, Luke, Albert Lee, etc).

Sadly the Valley Arts Store and shop was destroyed by a Fire in 1991. Samick had a contract to make import budget versions of VA Strats, the fine print in the contract stated Samick could make the whole VA line should production cease in the USA - which it did after the fire. Major bummer.





I got married and left music to work at NASA/Jet Propulsion Lab where I performed radiation testing on components for deep space probes (Galileo, Hubble Telescope, Mars Pathfinder) In the mid 90's I returned to music as the Technical Director at Machine Head Studios in Venice, CA http://www.machinehead.com/websitemain/index.html This is major LA post production sound design studio that produced all the music and multichannel audio sound effects for TV commercials for Lexus, CocaCola, Budweiser Frogs. I played guitar on many of those. And I performed on the soundtracks for the trailer films for Batman & Robin (with our governor as "Mr. Freeze") , Multiplicity with Michael Keaton



I moved here to San Luis Obispo in 1999 to work for Ernie Ball / Music Man, to cultivate an electronics division and support instrument amplifiers.

I worked on several interesting projects there - Here's me with all the limited production Spinal Tap MusicMan Mr Horsepower guitars with working Tachometer to measure how fast you are playing - I designed the PC boards and personally hand wired each one.




Since 2002, I've been at Ultra Stereo Labs Inc. www.USLINC.COM I'm an electronic design engineer, creating DSP digital audio processing equipment for the Cinema industry. We are a rival to Dolby. Our company has designed equipment which has won Academy Awards in Technical Achievement. http://www.uslinc.com/about_us.html#3 I have a passion for creative invention, and feel quite fortunate to be able to be employed at an innovative local company, as well as reactivate my music career on the side here on the central california coast.


My day gig I design this stuff:




and we sell versions to other manufacturers, like DTS


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Count me as one of those- I have 30+ stringed instruments' date=' 1922 vega parlour guitar, 1961 Gibson SG Special, 1961 Fender Strat, ES295, 1973 Les Paul, Gretsch 6120 ( still my favorite) been playing since 1966 - yet i do not consider myself a collector.[/quote']


No offense, but with all those guitars you could tune one to each of the alternate tunings you're using at any given show and still have a few left over. =D>


Seriously though, I have no interest in Dark Fire and would never use it, but if it works for folks, great. I know it's uncool, unhip, and untechnological, but I just prefer to tune my instruments myself.


FWIW I played professionally for about 20 years, did all kinds of gigs: clubs, festivals, college campuses, live radio performances, museums, "performing arts centers," bars, restaurants, cafés, galleries, weddings, you name it, and was never in a situation where I needed to use multiple alternate tunings over the course of one performance. If I had needed to, maybe I'd think differently of Dark Fire, but I must say that from my perspective and experience it looks like a unnecessary gadget that will most likely appeal to a relatively small number of players.

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