Self-portrait on the bus to work this morning...
It works. This is now my new favourite commuter gadget for a while.
There's one design flaw, which is that the sockets for USB and headphones are in exactly the wrong place. You can't hold it comfortably on your lap, and it obstructs the hand position...
But I'll get some leads with angle jacks to help with that.
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You can plug the Artiphon into a computer as a MIDI controller, or a mobile app. This has various instruments you can click through; guitar, violin, keys, drums. These presets combine the instrument's settings in an intelligent way. Eg the violin will have the right sound and string tuning with a "fretless" approach, where pitch varies within a fret. The drums, likewise, are configured in a sensible and playable way with a different sound on each fret, and suitable interaction between these, so that a closed hat will stop an open hat, but not a ride.
As well as the 'factory' instrument presets, there are some user-definable ones where you can combine the options however you want. This would enable you to make a fretless guitar, for instance. You can also adjust the sensitivity for things like hammer-ons and aftertouch.
The raised rubber "strings" can be set to respond to touch, or played by a set of thick rubber tabs which can be plucked, strummed or pressed. It might be possible to use a pick with these, but it would have to be a pretty chunky one, and I find it easier using fingers.
The Artiphon can respond to pressure on the strings, pressure on the strummable tabs, and also tilt, so performances can be quite expressive.
The spacing is fairly wide - the strings are about 9mm apart and placed equally at about 29mm the whole length of the fretboard. This makes barre chords and three-notes-per-string scales a bit of a challenge for me, though it might feel more natural if you're used to classical guitar. Overall though, it's a reasonable compromise for the different playing styles available.
Another nice feature, and one I've not seen on any other MIDI controller without its own sound engine, is the built-in speakers. These help to add a comfortable, balanced weight to the instrument. They can be turned up quite loud (Artiphon aimed to make it comparable to an acoustic guitar). It's cool having the sounds play directly from the instrument, and it's also handy having the volume control under your fingers even if you're using headphones.
This morning I found myself strumming open chords quite easily, then I turned it to a touch-sensitive mode to practice scales and arpeggios. I think maybe I'm going to find this helps aspects of my guitar playing after all.https://artiphon.com/pages/instrument1