Tested by Michael Molenda
Typically, power is good. If you have power, you can vanquish the hordes of darkness like Viggo Mortensen and friends in The Return of the King, or build fortresses of solitude like Superman, or keep the nice people running the world like James Bond. But, sometimes, power can completely foul up a good time by overwhelming simple pleasures with way too much omnipotence.
Case in point: All I wanted to do with the GS-10 Guitar Effects System was rock through some bitchin’ guitar tones. I had a guitar, easy access to all of the GS-10’s amp models and effects, and—coolest of all—the unit’s onboard stereo speakers. There was no need to find an amp or some headphones, so I could just plug in and have a blast. Well, that happened. But then, all the GS-10’s other stuff got in the way: the included editor/librarian software and Cakewalk Music Creator hard-disk system, USB capability,
MIDI control, a withering array of user parameters, and more models and effects than you can flick a pick at. In short, journalistic intregrity forced me to quit screwing around and get deeper into this tremendously powerful workstation.
To me, having fun means not reading manuals, so I ignored the GS-10’s instruction booklet. This rather snotty and ill-advised action had absolutely zero negative impact on my ability to navigate the device’s offerings. The front panel is laid out logically, and about the only reason you might trip up is if you’re on an expedition to Mount Everest and attempting to craft tones at an altitude that turns your brain into lukewarm yogurt.
The only glitch I experienced was loading the Macintosh OS X drivers from the included CD. Our office eMac didn’t accept multiple attempts at an install. A helpful tech at the Boss service center advised downloading another driver from the company Web site, and that fixed the problem. Soon, I was using the GS-10 to input original guitar performances into Apple’s fab loop-based music-construction software, GarageBand, via USB.
Thanks to the GS-10’s stereo Aux Input and dedicated Level control, I also plugged in a groove box, set a mix between my GS-10-processed guitar and the drum-machine grooves, and gleefully bashed ideas around. And if I came up with a groove/ guitar part that I dug, I could simply load the performance into Music Creator or GarageBand (or any other suitable music software), and start building a song. I guess the GS-10 taught me a lesson, here: Fun is good, but it’s better fun when you can stumble over something cool and have the power to turn that inspired moment into a tangible work.
The GS-10’s presets tend to deliver those annoyingly overprocessed “designed to wow the music-store buyer” sounds, but you can quickly and easily delete, tweak, and re-EQ each patch from the front-panel buttons.
The basic sonic elements are realistic, punchy, and full of vibe. Each amp model, cabinet, and stompbox model emulates the primary sound and overall dynamic personality—if not the feel—of the original device, and the effects are excellent. The microphone models and mic-position settings won’t fool a savvy recording engineer—there’s a lack of the detail, airiness, signal coloration, and complex room reflections achieved when using actual mics in a good room—but they are excellent tools for adding different timbral perspectives and some ambience to guitar tones.
When I was in “having fun” mode, I’d use the presets exclusively, and enjoy how each wacky patch affected my playing. This proved to be a great way to break out of old habits, write crazy riffs, and discover interesting ways to phrase notes. When in my “serious” recording/production mode, I’d typically strip the presets down to the bone, and recast the sounds from scratch. For most of my tonal explorations, I was more than pleased using the GS-10’s onboard controls. In fact, I really only launched the editing software to test it for the review. (While the editor offers a groovy software interface, all the parameter controls are available on the hardware box.) I was never disappointed with the quality or vibe of the sounds I was constructing, and if I stumbled upon something heinous, there was always a way to rework the mess into a thing of beauty. During a recent demo session, I only resorted to the old-school tube-amp-and-mic approach for some basic rhythm tracks that needed a little more dimension and impact—all the overdubs were tracked using the GS-10’s firepower, and I loved every tone.
Fun, Fun, Fun. . .
The GS-10 strikes a marvelous balance between a processor that delivers the goods quickly, and one that allows almost infinite tweaking. In addition, Music Creator is an excellent mid-level recording program, so the GS-10 system can also be considered an all-in-one preamp/personal studio option for those who already own a computer with USB connections. The GS-10 is tons of fun, it delivers kick-ass sounds, and its onboard speakers let you rock out wherever you want. And while its processing power makes it far more than a toy, you’ll certainly feel like a kid as you discover all the cool noises you can make with this baby.