T.C. Electronic G-System

TC Electronic is a company that has been synonymous with great effects since its inception in 1976. From the ubiquitous presence of their 2290 delays in nearly every rack in the 1980s to Eric Johnson’s exclusive use of their Chorus/Flanger pedal, the message for musicians was clear: If you want the good stuff, go with TC. And that’s just what a whole passel of touring professionals did, quite often with a refrigerator-sized rack case that not only contained a TC 2290 delay or two but also a system of switchable loops that would kick in their TC chorus (or any other effect) at the touch of a button on a custom foot controller. And when the stompboxes were out of the signal chain, they would be totally out thanks to these true-bypass loops. These rack/loop setups would come to be known by many as “Bradshaw systems” (after rack guru Bob Bradshaw), and they represented the Holy Grail of effects processing for guitarists: clean, powerful, and insanely expensive.

All of this brings us back to TC, who have now brought the true-bypass, killer-quality, effect/loop switching rig within reach of working musicians. The G-System is a compact, flexible, great-sounding setup that should satisfy many guitarists’ processing needs once and for all. I got a strong sense of Christmas-morning excitement as I opened the G-System’s neat-looking box and that feeling was amplified when I laid eyes on the unit. It is without question one of the coolest looking pieces of gear I’ve ever seen—a thick, tank-like, anodized-aluminum-over-plated-steel enclosure sporting 18 huge round switches, many of which double as encoder knobs. These buttons call up individual effects, switch presets, scroll through banks, activate the tuner and tap-tempo functions, and engage/disengage three of the five loops. The switches are each surrounded by an illuminated ring that tells you when a function is active and ups the cool factor immeasurably. The processor itself—the GFX01—is nestled right in the foot controller housing, although it can be removed for installation in a rack. It’s so damn convenient, though, to have the whole system right there at my feet that I never took the GFX01 out.

The G-System’s back panel has 17 14" jacks for ins, outs, sends, returns, relays (for switching channels on an amp), and volume/expression pedals. You also get MIDI In and Out, a USB jack, a S/PDIF out, and four 9-volt outputs to power pedals in the four programmable loops. Yowza! All these features add up to a bunch of different ways to use this command center. Let’s take a look at a few real-world applications.

The Simple Life

I plugged a PRS McCarty Soapbar into the G-System’s input, stuck a TC (no relation) Jauernig DGTM overdrive in Loop 1 and a Pro Co Turbo Rat into Loop 2. I then ran a cable from the G-System’s output to the input of a Marshall DSL 401 combo (set to the clean channel). This setup mades the G-System a high-tech pedalboard and the results were glorious and incredibly easy to use. I just kicked the effects such as compression, chorus, and delay in and out with their respective footswitches. I hit Loop 1 if I wanted a rhythm overdrive and I used the Rat in Loop 2 for leads. It was only after playing this way for hours that I ever programmed a preset, which merely entailed pressing and holding the button for Preset 1. Easy.

Up a Notch

I wanted to hear these awesome effects with the amp distortion in the Marshall, so I connected the G-System’s input and output to the Marshall’s effects loop and plugged into the front end of the amp. This was a delicious tone, with the famous TC delays as icing on the Marshall’s heavy-as-hell cake. I loved it, but as perfect as the delays, reverbs, and choruses sounded in the loop of the Marshall (i.e. post distortion), the wah, compressor, and stompboxes are much more comfortable before the distortion, so I couldn’t really use them in this setup. Now if only there was a way to rout the filter, compressor, and stompboxes to the front end of the amp while keeping the time-based effects in the amp’s loop . . .

The Whole Enchilada

Leave it to TC to pretty much think of everything, and the manual details how to use the G-System’s Insert Loop to accomplish just such a feat. (Warning: This application is going to get tweaky and geeky, but I swear it rules!) Here’s how it works: Plug your guitar into the G-System’s input. Run the send of the Insert Loop to the amp’s input, the amp’s effect send to the Insert Loop’s return jack, and the G-System’s output to your amp’s effects return. Once you activate the Insert Loop by accessing the Utility menu, you’ll get gorgeous compression, filter effects (like wah), and all of your pedals in the amp’s front end where they belong. You’ll also get amazing chorus, flange, and reverb in the loop where they belong. The tones were ungodly good—clean, quiet, rich, and full-bodied. It was all I could ever ask for, so naturally I wanted more. I ran a cable from the relay switch jack on the G-System to the footswitch jack on the Marshall. I was able to program it so that every time I switched presets, the Marshall would switch between its three channels as well. With my trusty expression pedal I could manipulate loads of parameters (delay level, chorus speed, etc) in real time. If that’s not enough, the G-System does a lot more. You can, for instance program just about any of its buttons to perform just about any function. I won’t get into it, but you get the idea.

So what doesn’t the G-System do? Well, you don’t get tons of effects—there are no distortions or rotary-speaker simulators. TC obviously favors pristine quality over quantity. But what you do get is a brilliantly conceived, magnificent-sounding processor that doubles as a switching system, foot controller, and effect-tweaker’s best friend. Unless you have a full-blown Bradshaw or Rack Systems rig, there really isn’t anything like the G-System.