Review: Boss GT-1 Guitar Effects Processor

Roland’s worldwide #909day celebration this past September 9, simultaneously unveiled more than 30 new products.
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Roland’s worldwide #909day celebration this past September 9, simultaneously unveiled more than 30 new products. With a slogan “The Future. Redefined.” and a 24-hour span of music and gear parties in Tokyo, Berlin, Brussels, Paris, New York, Toronto, and the bash I attended in Burbank, California, the company pretty much delivered something for every musician. On the guitar side, Boss premiered its new line of Tube Logic digital amps—the Katana Series—and the GT-1 Guitar Effects Processor ($199 street) tested here.

While the GT-1 rocks a compelling industrial design, it’s also a darling little thing—but don’t mistake it for a toy just because it’s cute and costs under $200. The GT-1 shares much the same sound-design engine as Boss’ pro line multi-effects units, all surrounded by a tough “fly gig” chassis that’s so small you could sneak it onboard a biplane operated by some cut-rate trans-island airline. I actually pitched the GT-1 across the carpeted GP office a couple of times, and it didn’t implode, explode, or otherwise shatter. I might have knocked off a knob or two had I been tossing the unit with a little more Ben Roethlisberger and a little less me, but I’m still confident it will survive a significant amount of cartage bumps and scrapes.

I learned at #909day that the GT-1 was configured as an extremely easy to operate multieffects unit. Given its processing power, I don’t think it’s “don’t read the manual easy,” but once you do spin through the instructions and familiarize yourself with the controls, the GT-1’s patch selections and editing become fairly intuitive. Expanding your tonal horizons from there really is easy—all you have to do is visit Boss Tone Central to download more patches (via the onboard USB jack) and/or employ the GT-1’s free Tone Studio editor/librarian software.

Feel like busking in the middle of a vineyard? The GT-1 can be powered by four AA batteries for up to seven hours. Need pre-recorded tracks to jam to? Plug an audio player into the Aux In mini jack, and simply set the playback level you wish to hear through the GT-1’s left/right outputs (or headphone jack) from the player itself. Want rapid real-time control of several effects and parameters? Assign the functions of your choice to the onboard CTL1 button, the onboard expression treadle, and an outboard (optional) expression pedal or footswitch (optional).

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Someone at the #909day bash asked me if I’d really use the GT-1 on a pro gig. Why wouldn’t I? There are tons of wonderful amps and effects in this box, and it’s portability makes it a “must grab” for impromptu songwriting sessions—especially if you’re documenting everything into a DAW—as well as last-minute rehearsals when your usual gear might not be available. If I were doing a TV show or a fly gig, I’d absolutely consider bringing the GT-1 as my rig.

Obviously, the easy cartage is a huge draw, but, ultimately, its “rightness for the job” comes down to how you deploy the GT-1’s sounds. For example, to me, many of the 99 presets (you also get 99 user slots) sound too “music-store demo”—meaning awash in effects, compression, saturation, and other hyped-up tones. But, even without visiting Tone Central, I was able to craft an organic Vox-type amp sound. I simply deleted what I didn’t like, and spent some time tone matching my fave AC30. Same with the effects. If something appeared too bright or too hyped, I just tweaked the “hyper-real” tone towards something that sounded more natural to my ears. While there’s no comprehensive or far-ranging tweakability here, I found the GT-1’s foundational sounds and edit parameters powerful enough to get me rocking quite happily.

Kudos Goes anywhere. Tough. Good sounds. Online tone community.
Concerns To use presets or not to use presets?