Gibson Memory Cable - Revisited
Inspiration Insurance, Now with Date and Time
by Chris Loeffler
Gibson's Memory Cable came out a while ago, and like many pieces of gear, there are certain things you figure out only after having used something for a while. For those who aren't familiar with the concept, it addresses what happens after group of musicians jam and someone says “Man… that one thing you did in the middle… you should make that a song!”
The typical response to that statement is, “Huh? What part?” Most players don’t have access to recording equipment to capture every moment of practice and noodling around, so there’s no counting how many of those ethereal moments of true inspiration are lost. Gibson calls the Memory Cable “inspiration insurance”, which is an apt description for the core benefit it offers guitar players (and keyboardists, bassists, noise makers, etc).
What You Need to Know
- The Gibson Memory Cable is a standard, 16' instrument cable that incorporates a solid-state recorder with basic on/off and record controls. It records to a 4-32GB MicroSD card (4GB included), with a 4GB card capturing about 13 hours of performance. Powered by a single AA battery (with an LR44 battery for real-time clock functions), you can record about eight hours of continuous recording needing to swap batteriesd. The cable is thick and sturdy with strong connections to the jacketed plugs and has the right amount of flexibility without being limp. The recording unit itself is incredibly light and thin and is placed about a foot from one end of the cable. It weighs less than the cable and is about an inch and a half thick.
- The cable is bi-directional, which Gibson doesn't make clear. If you don't like the recording part a foot or so away from your guitar, you can plug it into the amp and the long end of the cable inti your guitar.
- There's a single Record/Stop/Tag switch and two operating modes. The Rec/Stop/Tag switchbegins recording, stops recording, and even “tags” a file, essentially stopping the recording at the moment it is tagged and creating a new file so you can find the tagged file later.The recorder features Automatic and Continuous recording modes, with Continuous mode recording until the recorder is stopped and Automatic intelligently sensing when signal is passing through and turning on/off accordingly to save space.
- If the recorder hits the end of its storage space, it will automatically delete the oldest file on the memory card, ensuring a performance doesn’t suddenly stop being recorded because old files were taking up too much space.
- The recordings are captured as 44.1 kHz/16-bit .wav files on the MicroSD card and can be pulled into a computer, as well as most microSD-compatible smart phones, at any time for listening (you can't play back from the Memory Cable itself). While the raw files will be missing the amplifier's tone and any effects placed after the unit during the performance, the audio is still more than sufficient for reference and is actually a handy tool for those who rely on lots of distortion to hear how tight their playing is without it. A cool application of the Memory Cable is to take the raw files into a DAW and re-amp them with a software modeler like Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig. The recorded tone, while flat and fairly unmusical as it doesn’t capture the tone of the amplifier (or effects, depending on where it is placed in the signal chain), is in the perfect format to drop into guitar software and be tweaked to perfection in real time. Obviously, not every performance is “studio ready,” but when those once-in-a-lifetime moments happen it's good to know they can be polished to the perfect tone and serve as a quality track.
- As to audio quality, the Memory Cable held its own when tested against Monster Jazz and George L’s guitar cables, with the biggest (very small) differences in tone between the cables being more about subtle tonal preferences as opposed to one being “better” than the others. The Memory Cable passes through a strong, full-frequency signal and has none of the “blanket effect” found in cheaper cables.
Note that you can date/time stamp your files, although this seems to be a well-kept secret and is not obvious to do. You need to open the included microSD card in a computer (there are handy little microSD -to-USB adapters), then open the config.ini file in a text editor (like Notepad on Windows). Delete the # symbol in front of SetRTCDate parameter and enter the date in the specified format, delete the # symbol in front of SetRTCTime parameter and enter the time in the specified format, then save the file and pop the microSD card back into the Memory Cable.These settings take effect as soon as you turn on the cable, so if you want the time to be really precise, set the parameter a couple minutes ahead and then turn on the Memory Cable at that time. The LR44 will maintain the date and time even after the Memory Cable is turned off, although eventually the time might drift and require re-calibration. However you don't need the LR44 for the memory functionality, only for the timekeeping.
- While 16-bit resolution makes sense given the Memory Cable's intended application and need to maximize storage space, some audiophiles will turn their noses up at anything less than 24-bit recording.
- You can't replay the recordings from the unit into a guitar amp or other playback device. Playback happens only by removing the MicroSD card and placing it in a computer or other device.
For about the same price as a boutique premium cable, Gibson is offering a high-quality cable that does something no other cable has done before. The Gibson Memory cable works equally well as a recording device to drop tracks straight into a DAW, a practice tool to listen to playback and critique playing technique, as insurance that an on-the-fly riff or performance isn’t lost, or just a plain, high-quality instrument cable.
Gibson Memory Cable at Musician's Friend (MSRP $129,99, Street $99.99)
Gibson Memory Cable Product Page
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.