IF YOU’RE A HARDCORE STOMPBOX PLAYER, YOU’VE probably already adopted an “I’ll give my pedals up when they pry them from my cold, dead hands” opinion when it comes to any discussion of multi-effects processors. But there are plenty of reasons why a multi-effector can be a smart thing to own. The biggest probably is bang for buck, as the number of effects packed into a processor completely overwhelms what you could put on a pedalboard for the same amount of money. Modern multi-effects rigs typically feature most of the popular effects and amps that guitar players need, and while sonic authenticity is often an issue for tone heads, there’s no doubt that digital modeling has come a long way, and many of the amps and effects that are offered nowadays are authentic sounding and dynamically responsive to your touch and the guitar’s volume setting.
Technophobia tends to keep a lot of players glued to stompboxes, and there’s no doubt that the options and deep editing capabilities of most multi-effectors can be daunting to anyone who resides in the analog world. But most of today’s processors are user-friendly enough to where you can power the unit up and step though presets without even bothering to crack the manual. And with a bit of tweaking on the tone knobs that most effectors thankfully feature, you can quickly have an assortment of useful sounds for whatever the gig calls for.
The five multi-effectors on review in this roundup are highly evolved units that provide all the key effects and amp models needed for a wide range of gigging and recording applications. They also have advanced interfaces that make them intuitive to operate—extra points here for the Boss GT-100 with its dual LCDs, and for the DigiTech iPB-10, which utilizes the drag-and-drop convenience of an iPad touch screen.
We tested these multi-effects units with a variety of guitars from Fender, Fernandes, Gibson, and PRS, and listened to them though headphones, P.A. systems, and amps that included an Egnater Rebel 30, Victoria Silver Sonic, and a Mesa/Boogie Royal Atlantic. —ART THOMPSON
Boss GT-100 COSM Amp Effects Processor
A FOLLOW-UP TO THE GT-10 MULTIEFFECTS and amp modeling pedalboard, the new GT-100 offers over 40 kinds of effects and 25 amp models. A cool new feature here is an Accel pedal that can toggle or momentarily engage seven radical effects with names like Twist, Warp, and Laser, which are effective for adding a dash of “wow” to a solo. It also functions as a user-assignable control pedal, capable of controlling up to nine parameters at a time. In addition, there’s an A/B Channel Divide function that assigns different amps and effects to separate channels whose relative levels can be determined either by picking dynamics or by frequency, like a P.A. crossover system.
Booting up the GT-100 through an amp, I noted all the presets included amplifier models, which Boss calls “preamps.” I wished I could globally shut them off to check out the unit as strictly an effects processor, but I had to program one set of patches for playing through an amp and another for direct. Fortunately, with 200 user slots, there is plenty of patch real estate, and the unique dual LCD screen system made programming easy. I merely pushed the Effect button and the left screen revealed the complete signal chain. The four knobs below let me switch an effect or amp on or off, select its type, and/or move it to a different place in the chain. The screen on the right showed the parameters of the chosen amp or effect and its four knobs adjusted them—all of this with a minimum of page scrolling.
The classic Boss tones (OD-1, Metal Zone, Chorus, Delay, Slicer, etc.) are in evidence, and the COSM modeling captures the essence of non-Boss pedals (Rat, Tube Screamer, Whammy, etc.) as well. Whether plugged into an interface from the audio outs, or used as one via its USB port, the GT-100’s essential amplifier models (Marshall, Fender, Vox, JC-120, Boogie) closely approximated all the appropriate flavors. One thing COSM modeling does extremely well is making the amps feel right. Setting up a T-Scream, Rat, or Guv DS overdrive through a Clean Twin amp—Boss isn’t subtle about referencing the modeled hardware—I happily lost hours jamming through my computer.
Though it’s easy to dive into the GT-100, the unit is ultimately deep, with many routing options for switches, knobs, pedals, and MIDI control. It also has the kind of cool goodies that make gigging life easier— like an effects send and return that can be placed anywhere in the chain, and Global EQ and Reverb Percentage for adjusting the tone and wetness to a room without having to reprogram the patches. Manual mode turns six of the switches into on/off controls for individual effects, and an easy-to- use phrase looper can be placed pre or post effects.
Maybe it is because we have heard the Boss sound on so many records, but playing through the GT-100, whether through the computer or the amp, sounded like a finished, mastered recording. If you find that kind of polish attractive, this may well be the effects/amp modeler for you.—MICHAEL ROSS
PRICE $549 street
EFFECTS 40 types
MODELS 25 amps, 11 compressor/ limiters, 21 OD/DS, six wahs, and more
USER MEMORY 200 slots
CONNECTIONS Guitar (1/4”), Aux In (1/8”), L/R outputs (1/4”), headphone (1/4"), effects loop (1/4 "), Amp control jack (1/4”), Amp CTL (1/4”), SUB CTL 1,2/EXP (1/4" TRS), USB, MIDI In/Out
EXTRAS Dual LCD screens. COSM modeling.
POWER 9v (AC adaptor included)
WEIGHT 10.1 lbs
KUDOS Easy to program basic patches. Classic, professional sound. Deep levels of control. Rugged metal construction.
IN A UNIQUE APPLICATION OF THE Apple iPad, the iPB-10 combines the userfriendliness of this compact computer with the stage-worthiness of an all-metal footcontroller. The iPad (purchased separately) docks into the iPB-10, where it displays a broad assortment of amps, effects, and cabinets that can be touch selected, placed in the signal chain in any order, and quickly configured as presets for instant recall with the iPB-10’s footswitches. Noteworthy is the fact that the iPad is merely an interface for programming and editing. You download the iPB Nexus app (available free from the Apps store) onto your iPad, and from there the modeled sounds are generated completely by the iPB-10’s much more powerful pair of Audio DNA2 DSP processors. Once all of your settings are dialed in and stored, you can remove the iPad and use the iPB-10 on its own—albeit without any visual cues other than a 2-segment display and the on/off LEDs for the switches. The tuner still functions with the iPad removed, but it uses the display to show the note and the five lettered footswitches to indicate flat (A/B) or sharp (D/E). When the note is in tune, the A and D footswitches will light together.
The iPB-10’s 54 amps and 26 cabinets offer tons of tonal possibilities, and their ability to replicate the dynamic feel of real amps is impressive—even direct though a P.A. The Hi Wattage and Jump Panel (a ’68 Marshall plexi with “jumpered” inputs) models are tickets to classic Brit rock; Citrus 120 through the Green 4x12 served up killer “Hit Me with Your Best Shot”- style crunch; and running the DigiTech 2101 Clean model with the gain cranked through the 2101 Speaker Filter yielded a nice replication of Bryan Adams’ tone on “It’s Only Love.” Amp models can often fall short at semi-broken up tones, but DigiTech’s Spank amp through the Spank 4x12 accomplished this very well. Match 30 was a portal to Keith Urban-type sounds, and adding compression and backing off the gain was a recipe for twangy country licks. For more rockin’ modern-country tones, the Chief Head through the DigiVintage 4x12 ruled. Probably the most versatile amp in the collection was Les 40, which excelled at everything from jangly Doobie Brothers rhythms to gritty Keef-style riffage.
On the effects side, Rodent delivered a full-bodied punchy distortion (perfect for punk rock), and Later Fuzz, Fuzz Face, and Classic Fuzz were all smoothly voiced and dynamically responsive. The rich sounding Analog Delay and Modulating Delay preserved my guitar sound as if they were patched into an effects loop, and compared to my DOD FX 25 envelope filter pedal, the iPB-10 model had precisely the same range and response. You can run up to ten effects at once, which makes for almost unlimited creative options with all the great-sounding distortions, modulations, delays, and reverbs that can be stacked in the signal chain.
My only frustration with the iPB-10 is its lack of a tap-tempo function. Other than that, the iPB-10’s ease of use, flexibility, and great sounds add up to a killer floor effector for iOS-enabled guitarists.—PAUL “TFO” ALLEN
PRICE $499 street
MODELS 54 Amps, 26 Cabinets
PRESETS 100 (unlimited presets on the iPad)
USER MEMORY 100 slots
CONNECTIONS Input (1/4”), L/R outputs (1/4" and XLR), USB, Headphone (1/8"), Amp Loop send and return (1/4”), Stomp Loop send and return (1/4”)
EXTRAS Expression pedal. Amp/ Mixer Switch. Master output level control. Ground Lift Switch.
POWER 9v (DC adaptor included)
WEIGHT 12.6 lbs
KUDOS Wide variety of killer sounds. Easy drag-and-drop operation. Super
CONCERNS Can’t tap tempo delays on the fly.
Line 6 POD HD400
JOINING ITS SIBLINGS THE POD HD300 and HD500, the HD400 features HD amp modeling with selections based on Fender (Bassman, Deluxe Reverb, Twin Reverb), Marshall (JTM-45 MKII, JCM 800, “Plexi” 1959 Super Lead), Vox (AC15, AC30 Top Boost), and a variety of other popular models such as the Bogner Uberschall, DR. Z Route 66, Divided by 13 JRT 9/15, ENGL Fireball 100, Hiwatt Custom 100, Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier, Soldano SLO 100, and more. Amps are selected via a 16-position rotary switch, and gain, EQ, and volume adjustments are made with the adjacent set of controls. The models do a good job overall of capturing the essential signatures of the classic and boutique amplifiers they’re based on, and with such broad selection of gain structures to choose from, it’s easy to find happening sounds for everything from jazz and blues to hard rock and metal.
Adding effects is also easy with the Smart Control FX section, which has three controls that sweep though a wide variety of distortion, modulation, pitch, and time-based effects (also selectable with the Presets knob), providing a range of level adjustment for each effect as you turn the knob in a clockwise direction. There’s also a dedicated Reverb knob, and you can select from nine different ’verbs (no spring model, however) with the Presets knob. The Tap Tempo button adjusts the modulation and delay effects that are controlled respectively by the FX2 and FX3 knobs. Pressing and holding the Tap button activates an onboard tuner displayed in the main LCD.
The FX Only button disables the amp modeling, but keeps the effects and reverb controls active. This is the preferred mode for running the HD400 straight into a guitar amp. Again, Line 6 has attained a high degree of realism with these sounds, and the delays, modulations, distortions, pitch effects, and ’verbs that I tried out all sounded excellent when pumped through a good clean or overdriven tube amp.
Customizing effects in edit mode is facilitated by a 4-way Nav button that scrolls though the edit pages when pressed side-to- side, and toggles though the available parameters when pressed up or down. Once you’ve landed on a parameter you wish to tweak, adjustments are then made with the Presets knob. Saving and storing updated presets to a new memory location requires a few more steps, but the HD400 also has a free software editor (downloadable for Mac and Windows at Line6.com), which not only makes for easier editing and storing of presets, but allows you to share them online.
Factor in the HD400’s 24 seconds of looping time, its ability to interface with other L6 Link capable Line 6 products—such as the DT-50 amplifier—and its rugged, allmetal construction, and you have a powerful processor that could handle all of your effects needs for a very attractive price.—ART THOMPSON
PRICE $399 street
MODELS 30 HD amps
USER MEMORY 128 slots
CONNECTIONS Guitar (1/4”), Pedal 2 (1/4”), CD/Mp3 (1/8”), L/R outs (1/4” and XLR), Headphone (1/4”), L6 LINK (XLR), MIDI via USB.
EXTRAS Stereo effects loop. L6 Link. 24-second looper.
POWER 9v (AC adaptor included)
WEIGHT 9.4 lbs
KUDOS Excellent amp models and effects. Intuitive operation. Rugged construction.
CONCERNS No dedicated MIDI jacks.
Vox StompLab 1G
NO BIGGER THAN MANY SINGLEEFFECT stompboxes, the StompLab is a fullfledged processor with a sound engine equivalent to that featured on Vox’s VT+ series modeling amps and ToneLab series multi-effect units. A study in minimalism, the StompLab’s interface puts 103 effects and 100 preset sounds at your fingertips with an 11-position Category knob that has settings for Ballad, Jazz Fusion, Pop, Blues, Rock & Roll, Rock, Hard Rock, Metal, Hardcore, and Other (weird sounds). The last position, User, is where you click to for writing custom presets. There are also Gain and Level knobs that operate on any active preset, and also double as Value 1 and Value 2 controls (respectively) for adjusting parameters when in Edit mode (selected by a small button on the left side). Individual effect and amp models are selected with a pair of up/down buttons on the right side. Effect types include amps (44), drives (18), cabinets (12), pedals (8), modulations (9), delays (8), reverbs (3), and noise reduction. A maximum of eight effects can be used simultaneously when noise-reduction is active. All info is displayed in a 2-segment LED screen.
The two metal footswitches toggle you up or down through the ten presets available for each Category setting. Pressing both switches down momentarily activates the easy-to-read tuner, which uses three LEDs to indicate flat, sharp, and in-tune. This is also the StompLab’s bypass mode.
StompLab’s presets offer lots of ways to roll, from sparkling clean and beautifully chorused tones to shimmering tremolos to some very eerie sounds that explore the reaches of the rich modulations, juicy delays, and pristine reverbs. The amp sounds are rich and dynamic in feel, and along the way, there are plenty of happening tones for jazz, blues, and rock (many with well implemented distortion, delay, and reverb) and that’s all before you get to the Metal and Hardcore presets, which offer ten flavors each of grinding tones— some extremely sinister—that are fun to play and sound great for heavy standardor drop-tuned riffing.
The StompLab offers an insane amount of bang for the buck, it stashes easily in a gig bag (just be mindful not to switch it on when stuffing cords, etc. around it), and is an ideal solution for players who want lots of sounds but don’t want to tote a full-sized multi-effector. —ART THOMPSON
PRICE $69 street; 2G version $89 street
EFFECTS 103, including 8 pedal effects
MODELS 44 amps, 12 cabinets
USER MEMORY 20 slots
CONNECTIONS Input (1/4”), Main/Headphone output (1/4” TRS )
EXTRAS Onboard tuner
POWER 9v (Uses four AA batteries or optional AC adaptor)
WEIGHT 1.4 lbs
KUDOS High-quality amp and effect modeling. Covers a wide range of genres. Rugged construction.
CONCERNS No battery hatch. Pushbutton power switch can easily be activated when unit is in a gig bag.
Zoom G5 Guitar Effects and Amp Simulator
WITH THE G5, ZOOM ENGINEERS have somehow extracted extra goodies from the same ZFX-IV chip used in the G3 version. The G3’s trio of LCD display/footswitches is increased to four, while simultaneous use of up to six effects jumps to nine—with four visible at a time for instant tweaking. The new 3D Z-pedal can control three separate parameters with up and down and left and right motion. Looping is extended to 60 seconds, and there are 22 amp models and 123 effect models. Also added is a 12AX7 Tube Booster with dedicated Tone control. Like the G3, the G5 contains an integrated drum machine, a tuner, and a USB audio interface for DAW recording (a version of Steinberg Cubase LE is included).
Zoom multi-effects have long found favor with metal guitarists who groove on their high-gain pedal and amp simulations. The G5 has those in abundance, but there are plenty of quality, vintage-oriented Fender, Vox, and Marshall emulations as well—the 59 MS, based on a 1959 model Marshall is exceptional. The amp models don’t attempt to ape the exact controls of the originals, but capture their feel and flavor admirably. Pedal models also nail the signature tonalities of classic effects like Fuzz Face, Marshall Guv’nor, Pro Co Rat, and E-H Big Muff.
As an occasional experimental guitarist, I was over the moon about some of the more outside effects, such as the wiggle and warping of Space Worm and W-Shift, and the digital chop of Granular. For me, the G5 is worth buying solely for the BendChorus, which automatically slides notes and chords into the target note from above or below. The Tube Booster is touted to kick a solo or signature lick up a notch, but I found leaving it on all the time added warmth to all the models, and its Tone control became a global EQ tweaking tool. One quibble: The only parameter an external expression pedal can control is the master level output, thus cutting off reverb and delay tails.
With all of these digital goodies going on, I expected some sonic compromise— I was wrong. As far as I can tell, the only thing sacrificed on the altar of these additions— other than $100 more of your cash— is the ability to run it all on batteries. Pitch shifting displayed minimal aliasing, the HD Reverb at full wet resisted graininess, and the sound quality overall was uniformly high. If the G5 ran out of processing power, it let me know by rejecting the latest effect installed. I just had to place that effect on another patch.
With its massive range of great-sounding vintage, metal, and “beyond” tones, ease of use (I barely cracked the manual), solid build, and compact size, the Zoom G5 rates a high priority to investigate if you are in the market for a multi-effects pedal. —MICHAEL ROSS
PRICE $299 street
MODELS 22 amps
USER MEMORY 297 slots
CONNECTIONS Input (1/4”), Control IN (1/4”), L/R outs (1/4”), balanced out (XLR), Headphone (1/4”), USB
EXTRAS Tube booster. 3D Z pedal. Up to nine simultaneous effects.
POWER 9v (AC adaptor included)
WEIGHT 6.8 lbs
KUDOS High-quality amp and effect modeling. Covers a wide range of genres. Rugged construction.
CONCERNS External expression pedal can only control master output level.