This story starts in December of 2020.
So as described HERE, after a litany of guitars come and gone I have ended up very happily playing RainSong guitars. Now, the loop(er) is an integral part of the music I play. You know, verse 1, chorus, verse 2 (record while playing), chorus, solo over the recorded verse, etc. etc. Standard rock and roll format. However often I’m just wanting to bring a guitar and I don’t want to schlepp pedals and an amp and cables and power supplies. So then I discovered the HyVibe system. This is awesome. Two activators inside the guitar turn the thing into a speaker. Built in effects, a looper and you can even use it as a Bluetooth speaker and play your backing tracks through it.
Alas, it came exclusively in a French Lag guitar. Simple wood guitar, nice but not my thing. I wanted this in a RainSong! I tried to talk RainSong into offering this, but even though the marketing dude agreed it was way cool, he didn’t think it was gonna sell “upstairs”. (Money says it will at some point as more brands will be doing this. It’s THAT cool, in fact as I update this page certain Emeralds are now offered with the system.) After nagging him enough he made me a deal on a drop dead gorgeous tobacco burst (CO-WS1000N2T). Here is the Lag shown sans strings for a better look inside with the RainSong behind it.
At this point I was very close to ripping the system out of my Lag, putting regular sound in it and reselling it and using the system in my RainSong… but doing that to a $1000 guitar is a bit much. Then HyVibe came out with the guts for sale to “Qualified installers, please fill out this form to apply”, which I did. Crickets. Slowly there were a few authorized US guitar stores coming on line. And then, out of the blue, a store was selling them on Reverb. “You must have this installed by a qualified luthier”. Sure, I promise. They sent me one $398.- SCORE. (No documentation of ANY kind included…..hmmmm. On edit, late 2022, they are now for sale on Amazon and there are instructions on the HyVibe web site, as well as TONS of YouTubeU vids. Unfortunately the project ended up on the back burner until now.
But with renewed vigor the next move was to carefully remove the electronics from my RainSong.
Then the install. Connections no problem. One hole to enlarge on the bottom. Pickup, also no problem. Same under the bridge piezo pickup. No need to modify the saddle. The control box…. aaah…. challenge #1. Guitars are curved. So manufacturers curve the electronics to match a certain guitar. HyVibe did for the Lag. Except the curves on the RainSong are MUCH sexier……
And the original electronics were larger:
So, an adapter piece was needed. I will spare you the various ideas and designs, but in the end I settled on carbon fiber, to keep it in the spirit. I don’t remember where I got it, and it wasn’t cheap. But it is nice to work with. On the band saw I cut a piece to more than cover the hole and then used an oscillating drum sander to shape it:
After a lot of fitting and tweaking I was pretty happy with it. Picture shows a piece of the carbon fiber as I bought it. (I got about an 8″x8″ piece)
Rather than try to screw it in from the back through the little holes with the even smaller screws I glued it down using black RTV. This is secure but removable and leaves the hole un-molested should I ever decide to put the old electronics back in the Rainsong. It cleaned up OK. Yes, it’s a little bulky and I probably could have shaved it down a little more…… at the risk of breaking it. (NOTE: Make sure it goes in deep enough for the connectors to be able to go in!!) The carbon fiber is nice to work with. Hard, harder than wood, but still workable with regular tools. Minimal splintering (Only on the backside when drilling through for the cutout, so that didn’t matter) and it sands silky smooth. I probably could have gone nuts and made it shine, but I was happy with where it ended up.
After that it was time for the connectors. I increased the size of the existing hole to fit the HyVibe piece.
Then it was on to installing the other pieces. Again, the Piezo slid right into the spot the original one was. No shaving anything off the saddle. The sensors were another question. Challenge # 2. Where? Under the bridge is the word, but the RainSong has three bolts that hold the bridge onto a reinforced patch of the top. Instructions, and the YouTubers, also suggest testing the activators before glueing them into place. (Good idea) So after charging and updating the brain (you can do this without it built in or anything attached) I connected the activators and went into speaker mode. We had sound, and not only that, they were doing the job laying on top and I was able to move them around on the guitar to listen and find a good spot. This worked out REALLY well as there were locations where it sounded pretty tinny….. Where they show in the picture, with the right one on the end of the bridge like the left one, it wouldn’t stay put for the pic, sounded pretty good. They can come down a hair on the inside. So….. Locktite Gel Superglue applied I stuck them in there. (I did sand the surface a little to smooth it. Wasn’t perfect, but I figured the Gel would be thick enough to seal all around.)
After that it was a matter of connecting and securing the wires. The sound hole is a pretty decent size and I was able to see the back of the box to plug it all in.
And here it is. After an hour of playing, I LOVE the way my RainSongs play I am not unhappy with this change. As far as any of the reproduced sounds, it ain’t Bose. I went back and forth a few times between the Lag and the RainSong playing the same music through Bluetooth and I’d say they’re about the same, MAYBE the Lag a hair better. But I’m not using it as a speaker to play recorded music rather mostly as a looper. With the EQ on the app I was able to get it pretty darn close to good enough. And through an amp it’s a no brainer. I have a small wireless two button Airturn BT-200-S2 Bluetooth pedal that lets me START/STOP recording and play. It is awesome. The only quirk, as always, is to keep everyone connected. After using it for a while I’ve got it (or me) trained to turn on the pedal first then the guitar and it will automatically connect to the pedal. I don’t seem to be using the phone app a whole lot.
Lastly, a few glam shots. I am very happy with this, in fact I may buy another kit for my other RainSong. (Do need to shoot some action video…..)