Guitars with built-in effects

Last week, Gibson announced the limited edition Firebird X.  Apart from the fact that its construction reminds me more of a Fender than a Gibson, the integrated effects are being brought forward as one of its biggest innovations.

This got me thinking about guitars with built-in effects. I for one have always thought that integrating a Tube Screamer like overdrive in the body of a guitar would be a great idea. After doing a bit of research I found out that Gibson is not the first company to have toyed with the idea.

The Vox Ultrasonic

As soon as 1967, Vox were already known for their amplifiers but they also had several lines of guitars including one with built-in effects. Called “Ultrasonic”, these axes offered a fuzz, a “tuner” (well something that could play a low E), a wah, a treble/bass booster and a repeater (some sort of percussion device). Be sure to check out the Ultrasonic page at, it is full of information and whacky sound clips. It does not get more psychedelic than that!

Vox Ultrasonic - Picture courtesy of
The Bilt Revelator

Well maybe it does with Bilt, a guitar manufacturer which seems to have taken on some of the features of the Ultrasonic. They make the “Revelator”, a guitar obviously inspired by the Fender Jaguars and Jazzmasters. Fitted with Seymour Duncan antiquity pickups, it’s got a built-in fuzz, analog delay and a theremin type of sound generator.

Bilt revelator with built-in fuzz and analog delay

See it in action here:

The Alesis XGuitar

The Alesis Xguitar has been discontinued but it looks like you can still find it for about $220. Clearly inspired by hot rodded Stratocasters, it features 2 single coil pickups, one Humbucker and a modern built-in multi FX unit with 80 presets and as much as 9 effect modules. Let’s not forget the headphone output for some quiet jamming.

The Alesis Xguitar
The Gibson Firebird X

Finally, here is a video demo of the newly announced $5000 Firebird X by Gibson, which I have mentioned in the introduction of this post. There is not much information about it yet as it will be available next month and Gibson is clearly trying to do some teasing right now but the asking price has raised some eyebrows:

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13 thoughts on “Guitars with built-in effects”

  1. What? No mention of the Electra MPC (Modular Powered Circuits) guitars from the early eighties? I have the 320 and while I don’t actually use the effects modules anymore, the guitar is awesome! The neck is straight and it stays in tune for ages no matter how you bash on it. It sounds great (thanks to the Seymour Duncan pickups and the fact that it’s now 30 years old). It may have been a gimmick but I’m glad I bought it!

  2. And there’s also sadly discontinued Fernandes Nomad Deluxe. I found your post while looking for another one (I have the first model, and now want to upgrade to the newer one, which clearly isn’t new anymore).

  3. It seems no one’s ever heard of the Lyon by Washburn FX-Axe. I have one. I must admit, though, it’s a pretty crappy guitar (but rightly so – it only cost $180). However, it is kinda convenient to have built-in FX if you forget to bring your amp/pedals or if you want to practice without an amp. The FX-Axe is battery- or AC Adaptor-powered.

  4. I once owned a Ventura Hollow body, it was like the guitar Ted nugent plays, but it had a row of effects switches, fuzz, tremolo, echo, reverb, and I think it had a phase or wah. the neck needed adjustment and my friend took it and I never saw it again, if you know of someone who has one that the effects are still intact, I would like to buy it. I own a Ventura Les Paul copy we all call Black Betty, it plays like a dream, neck is straight as an arrow, and I wouldn’t trade it for a Gibson. I think the Army used Ventura guitars in there bands. Any info on the Ventura with effects would be apprieciated!

  5. I have a les paul style body electric guitar that I have not been able to identify in 35 years. It has two pickups, Volume, Tone and Speed dial controls and a Phase in/out toggle, an Effects on/off toggle and toggles each for Echo, Tremolo, Wah, Whirlwind and Fuzz . It also has Microphone and Headphone connectors. Effects run on a 9v battery.
    Bridge has individual adjustment per string. It’s very heavy and well made with terrific action.
    No name or numbers.

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