The GR-S and GR-D ($299 street, each) are the first in Roland's new
V-Guitar Series of pedals, joining a family of products that also includes the GR-55 Guitar Synth and the
VG-99 Effects Modeling System. The pedals are designed for use with the Roland GC-1 GK-ready Stratocaster
($899 street) or any guitar equipped with Roland’s GK-3 Divided Pickup ($219 street), and require
a proprietary cable with 13-pin connectors such as the Roland GKC-5 ($49 street for 15'), though they
also function in a more limited capacity using standard instrument cables. The pedals may be powered
with either two AA batteries or an optional Boss PSA 9-volt adapter.
The GR-S and GR-D have several features in
common. Both provide four effects types that
may be modified using simple yet versatile controls,
both allow you to save and recall four user
presets, both include global ambient effects
that may be bypassed, and both sport unusually
flexible connectivity. There’s no 13-pin GK
Thru jack, however, so you can’t use more than
one pedal without purchasing a Roland US-20
Unit Selector Pedal ($219 street). And you also
can’t blend the dry guitar sound with the effected
sound without using a guitar cable in addition
to the 13-pin cable.
Both the GR-S and the GR-D produce some
nice sounds when connected in mono, but the
GK technology is all about processing your guitar’s
six strings individually—which offers many
more possibilities within a stereo spread. I tested
them with a Roland GC-1 Stratocaster, both in
stereo through a Universal Audio Apollo audio
interface and Softube Amp Room plug-ins, and in
mono through a Rivera Venus 6 1x12 combo amp.
The GR-S offers four sophisticated takes on
chorusing: Crystal, Rich Modulation, Slow Pad,
and Brilliant Clean. Four buttons allow you
to silently switch between effect types, and a
Select button cycles through the four Memory
locations and Manual mode. Presets are saved
using the Write button.
There are global Tone and Level controls,
along with a Color control that changes function
depending on which of the effects is selected
(typically it deepens and intensifies the effect).
The Crystal effect produces slightly metallic
sounds reminiscent of a modulated harmonizer
set to several octaves up; Rich Modulation
produces an extraordinarily broad sound,
with various layers of compression and modulation
swirling around; Slow Pad adds a delayed
octave down to the high-octave/modulation
combo; and Brilliant Clean is the most chorus-
like of the four effects, though significantly
more complex than a traditional chorus. The
Tone control covers a broad range and interacts
crucially with the Color control, providing
lots of additional sound-shaping capabilities.
Finally, a Freeze footswitch captures and sustains
short sections of audio, which you can
then play along with.
I found all of the effects types to be highly
musical in character, and ideal for adding bold
and exciting movement and color to any mix.
And, not surprisingly, they sounded broader,
more vibrant, and considerably more dramatic
in stereo, in some cases approaching cinematic.
Kudos Gorgeous modulation sounds. Dramatic
Concerns Requires GK-equipped guitar and
optional GK cable.
The GR-D produces a wide range of distorted
tones—some of which are absolutely stunning—
though if you are seeking amp-like classic rock
or blues sounds, you won’t necessarily find them
here. Instead, you’ll find an array of great fuzz
tones ranging from psychedelic buzz to monstrous
sludge to metallic sizzle, along with the
tools to shape many more sounds that are essentially
unique to the technology. Also, being able
to blend the dry guitar signal with the distortion
signal provides additional flexibility.
You select the GR-D’s four effects types with
a rotary switch instead of buttons; there’s a Gain
control in addition to the Color, Tone, and Level
controls; and there’s a Solo (gain boost) footswitch
rather than a Freeze footswitch—but
otherwise the controls are identical to those
of the GR-S.
The effects include three flavors of distortion—
VG-Dist 1, VG-Dist 2, and Poly Dist—along with a simple Synth. Because the guitar strings
are distorted discretely, individual note definition
within even complex chords is vastly superior
to that obtainable with a conventional mono
device, and when panned out across a stereo
spectrum the results can be truly breathtaking.
The Synth is also cool, offering a relatively wide
range of square-wave and saw-tooth-wave sounds,
though it is subject to the same limitations as
stompbox synths generally, including occasionally
erratic pitch-tracking behavior.
Kudos Unique, great-sounding distortion tones.
Dramatic stereo imaging.
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