THE GBQ ($399 RETAIL) IS FOUR BOXES in one: a high-impedance class A FET preamp with a headphone output, a versatile distortion generator, a 3-band sweep equalizer optimized for guitar and bass, and a DI box. The unit sports an all-metal enclosure and metal footswitches and jacks. An included 12VAC/1000mA adapter provides power (though the gbQ will work with any 9- to 18-volt adapter, either AC or DC, and either polarity, as long as there is adequate amperage). There are independent footswitches for the Distort and Meequalize sections, along with a “hardwire” Bypass footswitch.
The preamp section’s Input control ranges from unity gain to +20dB, making it compatible with all types of pickups, from piezo to passive to active. The Output control only affects the level of the distorted and equalized signals, and has no effect when they are switched off or the unit is in Bypass mode. In addition to the standard 1/4" I/O, an XLR jack on the rear panel, accompanied by a recessed Level pot and a small Ground Lift switch, outputs a balanced line-level signal. A 1/4" headphone output accommodates most highimpedance headphones.
The heart of the gbQ is its unique Distort section, which generates both odd- and even-order harmonic distortion. The Odd control dials in hard clipping for classic fuzz and distortion effects, though a Soft button takes a little of the edge off if desired. Turning up the Even control produces smoother effects more akin to an overdriven tube amp, and by using the Tune control to select which frequencies will be most affected, and the Q control to add emphasis to those frequencies, you can create a wide range of overdriven and distorted tones. (You can also enhance clean or acoustic guitar sounds without generating distortion.) Now here’s where things really get interesting. You can combine the even-order and odd-order distortion in nearly endless ways, and use the Structure control to tweak the phase relationship between the harmonics and the unaffected signal, which produces dramatic textural shifts. And that’s all without even engaging the equalizer.
The equalizer, or Meequalizer, section provides 15dB of boost or cut at Low, Mid, and High frequencies, sweepable between 40Hz- 350Hz, 150Hz-2.5kHz, and 500Hz-7kHz respectively. It may be used independently or in conjunction with the Distort section to further shape the character of your overdriven and distorted sounds—and a Post EQ switch enables you to instantly reconfigure the routing.
But wait, that’s not all. In case you want to get really crazy, there’s an effects loop that lets you to patch in an external effect such as a delay, and then use the Bypass footswitch to turn it off and on.
I tested the gbQ with Fender, Gibson, and PRS guitars into Rivera Venus 6 and Vox AC30C2X amplifiers, as well as using the XLR output to feed a MOTU 828mkII audio interface while recording—all with good results.
Given that the gbQ’s controls are far from standard fare, you need to spend quality time with the unit to thoroughly explore what each of the controls does individually, and more importantly, how they interact. Once you get your head around them, however, you should be able to dial up everything from a touch of amp-like edge to massive melt-your-face blasts. A few of my favorites were early- Clapton woman tones, Iommi-approved oldschool power-chord crunch, fat Hendrix-y blues sounds, and Fripp-like singing sustain. I wasn’t wild about the even-order crunch tones at first, as they were a little brittle sounding—but by adding a touch of oddorder edginess and finessing the other controls a bit I was able to get pretty much whatever I was looking for. Again, you need to live with the gbQ for a while to unlock its secrets. The only sound that eluded my knob twiddling was a massive scooped-mid metal tone. You might think that would be one of the easiest sounds to dial in given all of the EQ capabilities, but the voicing just wasn’t right for that specific purpose. Of course, even metal guitarists don’t use that sound much these days, so it won’t be an issue for the vast majority of players.
The gbQ is a truly unique device, capable of producing an almost unlimited variety of high-quality overdriven and distortion tones, as well as providing an excellent discrete EQ—and being able to use it as a direct recording device via the preamp and XLR output is a major plus. It would make a wonderful addition to any recording or sound design studio that takes distortion seriously, though its $399 price tag may be an issue for the less well heeled, and its weight may be a concern for guitarists (and bassists) considering adding it to their pedalboards.
KUDOS Super-versatile overdrive and distortion. Nicely voiced EQ. Rugged construction.
CONCERNS Boutique price. Weighs 3.3 lbs.
CONTACT Joemeek, (877) 563-6335; joemeek.com