Purchased from: Goodwill
Features — 6
Let's go back to 2010 - Rock Band III was touting the Fender licensed Squier and Fender Mustang Pro MIDI controllers that worked with the game - but another company had another idea, let's make a game that utilizes a "REAL" guitar instead, and who did they bring on board to design the guitar other than that wacky Wal-Mart staple brand for cheap instruments everywhere - First Act! Let's take a look at this thing, shall we?
- Made in somewhere in the East in 2010
- 18 small frets, the first 12 are segmented into 6 pieces as a part of what I assume is the sensing setup for the power-gig software. The scale length is somewhere around 18-22", it has a plastic fingerboard, plastic neck, plastic headstock, and I guess it can count as through body because the underlying structure is a metal beam that provides rigidity.
- The body is a plastic 2 piece affair, hollow, and the string path is reinforced by a 2" wide metal bar that runs from probably the headstock, all the way to where the bridge bolts on (which it bolts onto through the plastic body which is bare, charcoal colored plastic, and has a odd shape somewhere between a Warwick bass and a Parker Nightfly guitar. It's very small!
- The bridge is a top-loading, cast pot-metal affair with a non-adjustable bridge that sets on 2 hex screws that won't let the strings go low enough because if it did, the pickup would get in the way.
- The electronics... umm... hard to describe for a guitar review as there are TWO circuits to the guitar. One circuit is a regular single pickup, one volume, one tone electric guitar. The pickup is a stacked single sized humbucker with a six coil HEX (read MIDI) pickup right next to it, done in the standard First Act Humbucker style. The second circuit is all the flibbety gibbety for syncing this thing to an XBOX 360 wirelessly, which I assume works something like a MIDI controller. I'm currently trying to figure out if I can reuse this for other purposes, which I'll exclude for this review as I don't have the game and it's not appropriate anyway.
- The tuners are a 4x2 configuration similar to the First Act Fuel/ME-636/ME-636 222 series model guitar headstock, but done in plastic. The tuners are not that bad for as cheap as they are.
Overall, as just a plain ol' electric guitar, I give it a six, it's kind of impressive this is a game controller that functions as a regular guitar, but not THAT impressive. I could have done better by packing the guts into something else.
Sound — 7
I am dominantly a hard rock/metal player with avant-garde, pop, punk, new wave, and prog influences.
I ran this thing through a DigiTech RP-250 and a Bugera 333XL, the sound it gets is rather surprisingly good, sounding very much like your typical single humbucker in the bridge position guitar - probably because of the short scale paired with a stacked single-sized humbucker hidden under a full sized humbucker cover (because the hex pickup is where the 2nd coils would be).
Overall, the tone is great! Clean it sounds very warm and tangy with a naturally scooped midrange due to the short scale, but an odd high-end sparkle for the same reason + the single-sized hum when in guitar mode. There's a good bit of variety from changing picking technique, but nothing much to write home about, pretty much the same as playing a Kramer Baretta or the Memphis A-2TR. I'll give it a 7 for sound quality, it's pretty great, but nothing to write home about.
The playability on the other hand, is where this guitar falls short.
Action, Fit & Finish — 1
This guitar could only have the factory setup by virtue of it's very design, which is EXTREMELY flawed!
The whole problem starts with the fact they decided to use a metal beam made of a bent up piece of steel for the string path to be rigit enough not to collapse everything on itself. They did not bother to make an adjustment for the neck, make the neck high enough for the action to be made low, or make the pickup adjustable. So you are stuck with ONE adjustment - a pair of hex screws in the bridge itself to move the bridge saddle up and down, raising the action from about 1/3" off the fingerboard, to almost 3/4" from the fingerboard. This makes upper fret use a real pain and gives it a major speed penalty.
The fit and finish is glorious, no surprise, it's a molded game controller made by robots, but I would think the engineers that designed this thing would have thought about comfort of playing it as a guitar enough. No wonder why Power Gig failed as a game - the guitar controller you needed to play it feels as bad as if not worse than some cheap $30 acoustic from a Pawn Shop that never met a humidifier in its life.
Other downsides are if the pots become scratchy, good luck replacing them, you can't just call up WD and replace them, you will need to go somewhere like Mouser Electronics or some other specialty electronic component supply because the volume and tone knobs double as push-buttons for the XBOX part of the guitar and are not your regular analog era components most guitars use. Ditto for the output jack, though that's a bit more easily replaceable or hackable to be replaced.
What I did to make the experience with this so-called instrument better was I unscrewed the bridge pickup from inside and pushed it down as far as it would go with the screws loosened - it's only about 3-4 mm before the pickup bottoms out on the metal bar, they could have at least cut a notch in the bar to make the pickup adjustable, but then the support issue would be getting accurate readings off the MIDI hex pickup because people would be setting it too low in some cases.
So I give it a 1, there is NOTHING, no way to shim the neck, change the neck relief, or even lower the action low enough to get the strings to buzz. I understand the whole novice idea, but making a totally hard to play instrument from the get go is kind of a bad idea when your software is intended to TEACH guitar!
Reliability & Durability — 5
I could take it out live, but playing it offers no benefit to me as I have guitars far better equipped to the job.
I'll say this, it's definitely not weak, it was sitting at Goodwill under a pile of Guitar Hero and Rock Band controllers, some keyboards, some TV remotes, big wires, and I think an alarm clock or two from the 1970's. So durability is a 9 for this thing, but reliability, not sure I'd gig it due to it's technical limitations due to the limited ability to set it up properly, knocking that score down to a 5.
Overall Impression — 5
Overall, the First Act Power Gig guitar might have satisfied some Game Critics who never touched a guitar in their lives, but as a seasoned player of 22 years, it's a ridiculous piece of hardware that from my higher than usual standards seems more like it's trying to put people off playing guitar than it is to help them to get started as it was intended with it's bundled software... but...
The big reason I bought this guitar was that it came with a HEX PICKUP! Oh heck yes, $20 for something I'd have to pay Roland a bunch to buy - heck yes I'm taking that. And that was the whole purpose of picking this guitar up to begin with, was the cheap hex pickup, as I plan to modify this guitar, or even build it a new body and neck, and make a self-contained guitar synthesizer out of it that also functions as a regular guitar!
It does have one lovely feature though, it makes a great practice acoustic for songwriting or noodling around the house though, lousy setup-ability notwithstanding. AT least the first seven or so frets are tolerable, so I'll give it that.
But at the end of the day, the Power Gig itself, due to its major design flaw in lack of setup-ability, makes it almost unfit as a serious instrument. I'm aware First Act would rather someone like me call their custom shop to make me a full-sized guitar that is designed to work with a Roland synth getup, but I'd rather indulge in my inner DIY electronics guy and luthier - hence why I picked it up in the first place.