Tech 21 NYC is the company behind many groundbreaking products, such as the SansAmp range of amp modelling stomp boxes, the Bass Driver DI or the all-analogue modelling guitar amps of the Trademark series.
What all these products have in common is that they’re no-nonsense tools to make the life of the gigging and recording guitarist (and bassist) easier.
Tech 21’s newest product is designed to do away with the need to hire a guitar amp for fly-in gigs. It’s an ultra-compact and sleek, pedalboard-style device called the Fly Rig 5.
As you can see from the picture at the start of this review, the Tech 21 Fly Rig 5 (current price in Finland: 299 €) is extremely compact. It will fit in the pouch of a gig bag, as well as in the accessories compartment of many guitar cases. Just pack your guitar, the Fly Rig, a couple of cables and your tuner – and you’re ready to roll!
The Fly Rig 5’s sturdy housing is completely made from metal, and its brushed fascia gives it a cool modern look.
The unit runs on 12 Volts of DC-power (150 mA/centre negative) and the power supply unit is (naturally) included.
Tech 21 call their new creation the Fly Rig 5, because it features five different main functions/effects.
Two of these functions are grouped together under the Plexi banner. The first one, labelled Hot, is an adjustable clean boost of up to a whopping 21 dB. Secondly, you will find an analogue model of a Marshall Plexi head (based on the Hot-Rod Plexi pedal), with its controls comprising Drive, Tone and Level.
The next section is called SansAmp and includes Tech 21’s legendary analogue amp (and miked up cabinet) emulator (with three-band EQ), as well as a reverb effect.
The last section is labelled DLA (short for delay) and offers you a delay effect with tap tempo. Thanks to the Drift-control you can also dial in grungy tape echo-type wow and flutter.
Tech 21’s Fly Rig 5 is really very easy to use: All the controls and footswitches are clearly labelled, and the control knobs of each section light up in a different colour to give you an easy to read visual clue as to which sections are currently on and which are turned off.
There’s one very minor trade-off due to the über-compact nature of this ’board, and that’s the small, slightly fiddly nature of the control knobs. On the other hand, you’re hardly likely to make major adjustments to your settings in the middle of a gig – and gigging is what the Fly Rig was conceived for.
In terms of its sound and performance, Tech 21’s newcomer easily fulfills the high standards guitarists have come to expect of the products of this company. The Fly Rig 5 sounds awesome and does exactly what it says on the tin. This combination of SansAmp, Plexi-style overdrive, booster, delay and reverb delivers the goods for the large majority of guitarists – be it Jazz, Blues, Rockabilly, Pop or Rock, the Fly Rig delivers! Metal and Thrash guitarists will most probably demand more gain and the inlusion of a noise gate, but I’d reckon that the metal crowd aren’t really the intended target group for this type of ’board.
Here’s a run-through of all of the Fly Rig 5’s effects, played on a maple-necked Fender Stratocaster. The clip starts with the Fly Rig turned off:
Here’s a similar run-through using a humucker-equipped Hamer USA Studio Custom, adding a bit more overdrive and a longer delay time:
The Delay-section’s Drift-control makes it easy to simulate tape echo effects:
A ”hidden” feature of the Fly Rig 5 is the possibility to use the Delay-section as a chorus effect. Because a chorus is basically nothing more than a slightly wobbly, very slightly offset doubling of the guitar signal, you can achieve this effect by setting the Delay-section’s Time-control to something very short, and using the Drift-control to adjust the chorus’ depth. Here’s an audio clip of a chorus setting, played with a Strat:
If you play a lot of fly-in gigs, and have neither the budget nor the manpower to lug a large guitar rig across the globe, Tech 21 NYC’s Fly Rig 5 is a true godsend.
It offers the most important features and effects a guitarist needs on stage or in the studio. And — most importantly – it sounds really great and inspiring.
True, using a device like the Fly Rig may not be as ”authentic” as using a real amp in the eyes of some anoraks, because Tech 21’s brand-new tool doesn’t have the ”kudos” of a mythical vintage amp. But if you’re after a pro-quality, lightweight, no-nonsense solution that will get your sound to the audience with the least amount of fuss and hassle, Tech 21’s Fly Rig 5 is hard to beat!
Tech 21 NYC Fly Rig 5
Finnish distributor: Musamaailma
+ sturdy, all-metal construction
+ value for money
– tiny control knobs