ONE HOT GUITAR-TECHNOLOGY TREND IS the incorporation of Bluetooth wireless connectivity, while another (encouraged by airline weight restrictions) is cramming the highest number of effects onto the smallest possible pedalboard. The Zoom MS-100BT ($149 street) addresses both by offering a ton of effects in a compact pedal that can be updated easily and wirelessly via iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch.
Sporting the same powerful ZFX-IV DSP processor as Zoom’s MS-50G stompbox and G5 floorboard, the MS-100BT delivers the realistic modeling covered in GP reviews of those products. It offers nearly twice the number of sounds of the MS-50G, over two thirds that of the G5, and up to six of these sounds (amps and effects) can be combined in any order.
I was happy to see so many of the offbeat effects in the G5 retained in the MS-100BT. Sequenced filtering, slicer, and envelope triggered pitch bending are among the effects that would take up mucho pedalboard space as individual units and probably only be used once or twice a set. Sonic explorers will welcome having them all in one compact pedal, and traditionalists of any genre should be happy with the quality and number of classic amp and effect models that the MS-100BT presents.
I tested the MS-100BT with a Fernandes Strat-type guitar and a Fender Blacktop Jazzmaster into a Fender Blues Junior, an Orange Tiny Terror, and directly into a DAW. A convenience here is that one of the amp model parameters lets you tailor the sound for line, amplifier front end, or power amp in.
Fortunately, choosing presets and parameters is fairly intuitive, as the manual could be much clearer. Once you have chosen or created presets, you can scroll through up to 26 of them with the footswitch. Note that there are a total of 50 presets: 30 are pre-programmed, 20 are empty, and all are user writeable.
Of course, one of the main features separating the MS-100BT from its predecessors is its Bluetooth functionality. I downloaded Zoom’s free app from the Apple App Store and easily synched the pedal with my iPhone. This allowed me to load new sounds from Zoom’s StompShare effects and amp shop. I could audition the effects and amps for 15 minutes (a clock shows the remaining time) then, if I liked what I heard, purchase effects for $.99 or amps for $1.99. The app also facilitated firmware updates and showed me when battery power (two AAs) was low.
The MS-100BT comes loaded with so many great sounds, you may not find yourself needing more—though the CentaGold model of the Klon Centaur is certainly worth another $.99. What would truly bring this pedal into the future is an iOS editor/controller. Though there are plenty of navigation tools on the pedal (three push switch/control knobs and four scroll tools around the footswitch), the MS-100BT is so deep that being able to edit it on a laptop, iPad, or even iPhone would help. And, how great would it be to be able to control parameters from an iPhone attached to your guitar?
That said, the MS-100BT packs plenty of sonic goodness into a pedalboard-friendly package, and as such, it has much to offer any guitarist seeking maximum bang for the buck in a compact effects processor.
Kudos Amazing number of high quality amp and effects models. Small footprint. Bluetooth connectivity.
Concerns Manual could be improved.