Hands On
I plugged a Fender Stratocaster into the Sonuus unit and tested it by running a MIDI cable out of the device and alternating between two interfaces—an M-Audio Firewire 1814 interface and an M-Audio USB Midisport Uno—that sent a MIDI channel into Ableton Live software on my Mac. The Uno is a MIDI-only interface, but the 1814 allowed me to run audio into a separate channel in Ableton Live, which instantly recognized the incoming MIDI data. With the flow of data intact, I tried the converter with various software synthesizer plug-ins, and everything was easier from the very beginning with the Sonuus.

For starters, the G2M has a unique way of dealing with audio input level. In interfaces that require a hexaphonic pickup, the instrument’s overall output is determined by the pickup’s distance from the strings. Each of the six separate string levels is then controlled within the converter. It is much simpler with the G2M. I started with my guitar volume full up and the G2M’s boost switch off. Finding that the tracking was not as accurate as I’d hoped, I turned on the boost. The clip LED then started coming on more than it should, so I backed off the guitar volume a bit. Once the light only flashed occasionally— as recommended in the G2M’s delightfully brief manual—the unit achieved a level equal to, or better than, any converter I have tried with a few simple adjustments.

Sliding into notes was still sometimes problematic, but vibrato and half- or whole-step bends worked well. Even slight whammy-bar dips tracked accurately, giving me more of the expressive power we’re accustomed to as guitarists. As with any converter, I found that tracking varied greatly by synthesizer plugin— and there was still the typical variation between patches within each plug-in. But the G2M certainly gives you an advantage and flexibility in coping with those variables.

Will the G2M track lightning-fast shredder solos? That depends largely on how cleanly you play. Being monophonic, the Sonuus unit will sound glitchy if any note rings into another note. Rather than thinking of this as a flaw, you could simply practice picking more accurately (which can only be a good thing). And if you record the MIDI signal you’re sending, you can easily go into that track and fix any bum notes or bad timing, as well as erase any falsely triggered notes. One of the joys of MIDI, of course, is that you can also replace the original sound with any other MIDI instrument you choose.

I got around Sonuus’ other monophonic limitations in some interesting ways. Lengthening the release time of the synthesizer patch caused the first note I played to keep going while I played the second, and so on, allowing me to stack chord tones. Many synths let me tune their multiple oscillators to different notes, thereby also creating chords.

Here’s another trick: I recorded an audio Gmaj7 guitar chord and loaded its file into a sampler. I was then able to trigger it via MIDI with a single guitar note and change the chord’s key as I played different notes. Why not just play the different chords? Because once the chord was loaded in the sampler, I could manipulate the guitar sound in ways that audio effects can’t (check out the audio clip on the web).

Placing Live’s Arpeggiator plug-in in front of various software synths, I was able to turn one note into a rhythmic flurry of notes. Using the Arpeggiatior’s hold function, I could keep rhythmic parts playing while I soloed over them. I enjoyed the fact that the G2M let me solo with a synth tone blended with a distorted guitar sound. This technique disguised any latency in the synth tracking, and it also hid the occasional mistakenly tracked note.

The Verdict

MIDI offers guitarists used to—and perhaps bored of—the standard guitar-pedal-amp setup a wealth of new sounds. And with the Sonuus G2M, you can get into the action and start laying down drum parts, bass lines, arpeggiated dance or prog-rock parts, string lines, and more right away—and for half the price of a hexaphonic pickup! (You can even use it with transcription software to print solos or lines for students or publication.) Guitarists looking for polyphonic operation and the ability to switch synth patches from the guitar will want to stick with a Roland GK-2A or Ghost hexaphonic system with a Roland, Axon, or another polyphonic converter. But for those with more limited needs, or anyone who wants an easy way to start exploring the world of MIDI guitar, the Sonuus G2M is just the ticket.

Buy if...
you want a simple way to convert a mono guitar signal into MIDI for recording, performance, or notation.
Skip if...
you need massive MIDI control and polyphony.

Street $99 - Sonuus - sonuus.com