Three of the most popular sustaining devices have been the eBow, the Sustainiac and the Fernandes Sustainer system. The eBow is hand held, while the other two are installed into a guitar. The Sustainiac and the Fernandes Sustainer system are considered the gold standard for onboard unlimited sustain, but, of course, such firepower comes at a hefty price.
On the other hand, the eBow, which has been used on numerous recordings by everyone from Coldplay to U2, is far more affordable but surprisingly expensive. While that might sound contradictory, the fact is an eBow will run you close to a Benjamin.
Enter passionate newcomers Merkaba Electronics from Austin, who have introduced the Sound Stone Guitar Sustainer, an inexpensive alternative to create endlessly sustained sound textures for your guitar.
The Sound Stone Guitar Sustainer arrives in a nifty black pouch with clear instructions. Its ultra-compact black plastic housing fits in the palm of your hand, with a 9-volt battery compartment accessed from the top. Beneath are two string-spaced grooves where you rest the device to vibrate the string you wish to sustain. A tiny switch on the side turns the Sound Stone on/off, with a red LED letting you know it’s active.
It has been said a guitar sustainer is easy to use but harder to master, and while there is truth to that, the good news is the Sound Stone is an ideal introductory device to get the ball rolling.
Simply resting the unit between two strings and flicking the switch, the Sound Stone instantly vibrates the string to sustain the note I select, and then, by gently sliding my left hand to other notes creates a very cool droning effect. But I find the best way to stack textural layers of single notes - especially when using a looper pedal - is to add a heap of reverb and delay wash with some distortion, and then, some freaky oscillating theremin and cello-like sounds begin to emerge.
The only thing to note is the Sound Stone’s boxy shape may take some getting used to, to effectively not choke notes or overly dampen them, so some experimentation with different angles and placement will result in finding the best spots to affect a clear sustained response.
My only minor nitpick is the battery compartment is tricky to seat the battery and close, but once you get it locked and loaded, the Sound Stone Guitar Sustainer is hard to beat at this price.
MORE INFO: Sound Stone