Stompbox Fever(15)

You’d think I’d be over it by now, but I’m not. See, whether we’re talking amps, guitars, or effects, the price-to-firepower ratio continues to amaze me. And in the ever more populated world of floor multi-effectors, we’re seeing an arms race that would make Brezhnev and Reagan nod with knowing approval. Zoom’s latest escalation is the G2.1u ($280 retail/$170 street), a pedal that has a lot more going for it than just its low price.
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The G2.1u’s enclosure is a hip-looking and sleek little sucker, with hard-rubber bumpers on its sides and a small, yet sturdy, expression pedal that can be assigned to a single effect. For those who need more ways to express themselves, there’s also an expression pedal jack on the rear-panel that works for volume only, freeing up the onboard pedal for other tweaks. The G2.1u also offers all of the accoutrements that a floor multi-effector must sport these days, including 40 drum patches, a tuner, and all of the whiz-bang-boom effects we’ve come to expect. You also get 40 factory presets and 40 user slots, and for you digital-minded folks, a USB jack.

Sonically speaking, I was knocked out with the G2.1u. Not so much for its modulation, pitch shifting, and time-based effects, but for its organic sounding and musically voiced amp tones. Don’t get me wrong, the chorus, flange, and phasing are all better-than-average

sounding effects with admirable tweakability. But who cares if you’re getting a lush reverb or a chewy tape echo if your basic amp tone sucks, right? I was able to take the G2.1u’s approximation of a Fender Twin Reverb, and turn up the Gain to a point where the tones were barking with a concise, even sweet attack. Very cool. Other standout tones include the vintage wah (dubbed Pedal Baby), the righteous Fuzz Face simulation, and nearly all of the high-gain amp sounds. Equally cool is the ability to select from three different microphone placements on the cabinet simulations, and to choose between dynamic or condenser mics. These functions made an audible difference when I tracked direct into my Apple Powerbook, giving me some tonal choices that actually worked. I was, however, less thrilled with the G2.1u’s spitty spring reverb simulation.

The G2.1u definitely kicks down with some sweet sounding, usable tones, and its well-implemented controls provide a level of tweakability that belies the unit’s small size and low price. Color me impressed!