Review: Tech 21 Fly Rig 5

I hate guitar amplifiers. They’re heavy, unwieldy, noisy, highly directional, and too loud. I obviously can’t play through an amplifier in my apartment. I live in SF, so driving to gigs is a drag because parking; yet there’s no chance I could take an amp on public transport. I’ve longed for a more convenient alternative that still produces good tone.

To solve this problem, I bought a bunch of pre-amps and speaker emulators to try to solve this problem, and the winner is the Tech 21 Fly Rig 5. I might review the runners-up in a later post. Here, I’ll talk about the Fly Rig.

The Fly Rig, along with everything else I need, fits in my guitar case. This is now all I need to bring to rehearsal and gigs:

My complete guitar rig
My complete gig-ready guitar rig: Warmoth Strat, Tech 21 Fly Rig 5, clip-on tuner, extra strings, picks, ear plugs. I quite like the light-weight SKB case.

I plug the Fly Rig into our PA for rehearsal, and it sounds great. Katya can control my volume and the overall mix easily, so our volume and EQ don’t get out of control (as happens so often when guitar players control their amp volume). Similarly, the sound engineer at a live venue will hate you the least of all guitar players.

The Fly Rig has all the basic sounds I need:

Each control has an LED light inside, so you can easily see which options are turned on and what their knobs are set at:

Close-up of the Tech 21 Fly Rig
5
Close-up view of the Fly Rig, all lights on.

When recording at home or in the studio, I tend to use more delays, a looper pedal, and a dedicated reverb and tremolo box (the beautiful and perfect Strymon Flint). But carrying just 1 case to a gig is so convenient that I will give up the extra delays!

Sounds

The signal chain for all sound samples is Strat → Fly Rig → Radial J48 DI box → Alesis Multimix 8 mixer → Garage Band. The recordings are pretty noisy because I live near Sutro Tower. :) The Strat has 6 pickup positions, which you’ll hear me switching through in the first sample: bridge double, bridge single, both pickups double, neck single, neck double, both pickups single.

Here are the Fly Rig’s basic sounds:

I didn’t include it in that sample, but you can get a vicious fuzz/direct-to-mixer sound by turning the distortion on and the Sans Amp speaker emulator off.

Here is the tap tempo delay doing dotted eighth notes, which a touch of Drift:

And here is a Yngwie-like sound: Marshall-style distortion with the Strat on the neck pickup in single-coil mode:

Conclusion

If you share my view of amps, definitely get one of these or something else from Tech 21. I love the Fly Rig.

Good:

Bad:

Ugly: Only some of the knobs come with rubber grippers on them. The gripper-less knobs are very hard to use. If you like, you can let Tech 21 nickel-and-dime you: They sell extra grippers, 10 for $7. Plus shipping.

Extra rubber knob grippers, sold
separately
Additional knob grippers sold separately, for 7 friggin’ dollars.

The Fly Rig is almost perfect! I hope never to use a guitar amp ever again.