It’s funny how life works. I was gearing up to write this article last week, and I put it aside and forgot about it…until this week. Over the weekend my SGI box (Studio Guitar Interface) stopped working. Which rendered my electric guitar virtually unusable for our setup at church. Man what a coincidence. So in case my SGI box is listening, or reading as it were, I am finally writing…so please work this week.
All kidding aside, as if my SGI box were either sentient or jealous, there are pieces of equipment that we either take for granted or overlook consistently. One of the easiest to overlook is this useful, but powerful tool: the Studio Guitar Interface. It is common practice, even in the presence of staged (or fake) amps on stage, to have guitars running through the house. For most of us, the best way to do this is to mic an amp that is off stage. This gives us the ability to get all that delicious amp tone that we so desperately search for, while also cutting down on stage noise. This helps the musicians on stage as well as the front of house guys get the best possible mix. However, the problem becomes getting the signal from the pedal board to the amp without appreciable tone loss. This is nearly impossible with a standard cable alone. If you consider that tone loss happens pretty easily in cables of even 20 ft, and you can imagine what running 50-100 ft from your pedal board to an off-stage iso cab could do to your tone…nasty! So if the best way to get a good house mix is to isolate an amp off stage, and it is a ways away from your pedal board, what can be done. Well, the fine folks at Radial Engineering have developed the Studio Guitar Interface System for a wonderful solution.
What are SGI Boxes you ask? They look like two direct boxes that are connected via a mic cable. Essentially a powered transmitter and unpowered receiver with a balanced xlr cable in-between. You plug into the box with a standard instrument cable, and connect the receiver to your amp with the same. Radial states the range to be up to 300ft.
What this allows is for an amp to be located in any number of different locations away from the band and congregation. While, as the name suggests, this was developed with the sound isolation needs of the studio, the increase of in-ear monitors for live music has created a perfect use of the the SGI boxes for the stage. They may not be a guitarists best friend, but for worship, they are imminently useful. They allow guitarists to drive their amps at the appropriate level to get the tone they desire while affording the sound engineer to control the overall volume in the house. Having a good mix is vital for congregational singing, and these devices go a long way in achieving that goal.
The only sacrifice for guitarists is that we have to hear our sweet amp sounds in our in-ears instead of from the amp-itself, and said amps are stuck in an iso cab. But these are small prices to pay for the benefits to the church in achieving the right mix. It is not a flashy piece of equipment, and will not effect your tone (unless you already have an iso cab and are trying to run a long instrument cable to your amp off stage), but it is as useful to your church as any other piece of equipment you may own.