Behringer’s iAXE393 USB-Guitar is a practical gift for the musical geek. This Plug n’ Play Rock instrument is available at various locations. From Berhinger’s Web site, select Check Regional Availability and then Dealer Locator to find the most convenient retail store. The price in the United States, according to Behringer, is $179.99, plus tax. Of course, you can also purchase it online from sites like for as low as $85.00.

The iAXE393 is a full-size electric guitar that plugs right into your laptop or PC. It comes with a lot of goodies, including a strap, three picks, a USB cord, and a software package. The guitar itself comes equipped with a vibrato bridge, three single-coil pickups (two controls for tone and one control for volume), five-way switching, and three outlet ports (one for plugging into a traditional amp, one for the USB cord, and one for your stereo headphones – not included).

I’ve been playing guitar since I was eight years old, so I quickly raised my hand to review the iAXE393 for TechRepublic’s Geek Gifts 2007 series. See the entire photo gallery. First thing to note about this USB-Guitar is that it’s heavy. Now, heavy can be synonymous with sturdy, and that’s a plus. You know you’re not getting a cheap piece of junk. Another thing that I noticed after a while is that the strings were always going out of tune. Sure, this is typical of new strings until you break them in, and the temperature is fluctuating in Kentucky this time of year. However, I didn’t play with this guitar long enough to see if the strings ever really broke in. It wouldn’t hurt to invest in a new, quality set of strings if you buy this bad boy.

The software package that comes with the iAXE393 was the best and the worst part of my USB-Guitar experience. Native Instruments provides three different Guitar Combos for you to try. These demos are, in a single word, awesome! When you download them on your PC, you’ll see that each one contain numerous sound effects, quite a few more than the traditional foot petal. It’s like having a major sweet tooth and being set free in a candy store.

But wait, here’s the bad part. You can only choose one of the Guitar Combos for a full download, 30 days after you install the demos on your system. You better have a lot of free time in those 30 days so that you can make the best possible decision. If you’re like me and you can’t decide which one you like best, I’m sure that you can download the other Guitar Combos from Native Instruments, but it will cost you.

Also included in the package was Kristal’s music production software that allows up to 16-track recording and Audacity’s editing software. Ideally, these tools help you save your music in MP3, WAV, AIFF, or OGG audio files. That means that you can hypothetically create, record, and publish an entire musical CD right at your desktop. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get either one of the applications to work. It could very well be a user error, but let’s just say that it’s not very intuitive or user-friendly. Once again, if I would have had more time with the guitar, I might have had a different experience.

Bottom line: The iAXE393 USB-Guitar has potential for greatness, but for me, it never quite made it there. The sound effects were amazing and could provide hours of entertainment, but I wasn’t able to figure out the recording software. Would I recommend it? Sure, but only if you have some time on your hands. If you do buy or receive this as a gift this year, I’d be very interested to read your review after a few months of tinkering and plucking around.

Geek Gift Score (out of 5)

Fun Factor: 4

Geek Factor: 3

Value: 4

Overall: 4