Fender announced Monday that it is releasing a Squier Stratocaster with a mini-USB output. That's an electric guitar, for those of you not into that sort of thing. Whether you realize it or not, this is a huge tech story. An entry level model of the most iconic guitar in the world can now plug straight into a PC or iOS device. That opens the world of recorded music to millions of people.
The Mac has already lowered the barrier to entry for aspiring musicians almost to the floor by pioneering the beginner-friendly recording application, GarageBand. PC users have options as well. And with the release of GarageBand for iOS, the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch have also become recording studios for the people. But there was still one hurdle Apple couldn't do much about: It's hard to get the signal from your instrument to the computer.
There are two options for getting a guitar signal into a computer. You can either mic an amplifier, which takes expensive equipment and lots of experience to get a good sound, or you can use a USB interface. These vary widely in quality, and they're often goofy to set up with your system's audio settings. These obstacles can mean the difference between really making music and just dreaming about doing it.
By releasing a Strat with USB connectivity, Fender has blown away the last obstacle. Once you have the guitar, which is available directly from Apple for $199.95, you can plug it straight into your computer and play. But it's also a fully functional Strat you can play through an amp.
You don't even need an amplifier now. It even comes with a mini-USB to 30-pin connector for plugging into an iOS device. The latest generation of iOS devices have a different port, of course, but a Lightning cable would do the trick.
As someone who wants the embarrassing era of robotic pop music to die in a fire, I'm overjoyed to see Fender building a real instrument that's this easy for the next generation to use. There's no hiding the soul of a real guitar, and I hope this starts a tidal wave of new, human-controlled instruments for the digital era.