Lowdown on Boss’ box of desktop tricks
The guitar world is changing. On one hand, you have the players who swear by the time-honoured tradition of plugging a guitar into a box which makes things very loud. Relationships with computer-based guitar trickery range from ‘handy to have, but I’ll stick to my proper amp’, through to downright scorn.
On the other hand there are players who, for whatever reason, need something more versatile. It could be for use in a studio, or it could be because they need to call on every amp and effect type under the sun in a matter of moments. It could also be due to the fact that playing through a valve amp simply isn’t practical at 9pm when the kids are asleep.
It is to this final camp that Boss’ new desktop effects box, the GT-001, is catering. Lord knows Boss has myriad effects available to the valve amp devotee, yet with this new unit they’re clearly gunning for players who need the versatility, practicality and sheer usefulness of an all-in-one solution.
At its heart, the GT-001 is the brains and the engine of Boss’ flagship GT-100 multi effects pedal, with a few tricks of its own up its sleeve. I’ve owned one for a month or so now, and have tinkered and toyed with it constantly over that period. With that in mind, here’s our Boss GT-001 review.
Upon opening the box, you find a sleek looking unit, encased in an attractive brushed black metal fascia. The knobs and buttons feel sturdy enough, providing you’re not going to be throwing around a stage. The back and sides are a dark red plastic, with various options for connectivity housed within.
On the right hand side are two 1/4″ jack slots; one for your guitar or line-level input, and the other for the external expression pedal which, sadly, isn’t included. There’s also an XLR input to make use of some of the included vocal presets and effects for vocals or acoustic instruments. A 1/8″ input slot allows for external units to be attached, opening up the possibility of using iPads and other devices.
It has a small display so you can see what you’re doing, and four ‘favourite’ buttons for recalling your preferred patches quickly.
The rear of the unit features a USB input which not only allows for computer connectivity, but also enables the unit to be bus-powered, which means it doesn’t require an external power supply. There is however a standard Boss 9v PSU input so you’re not tied to the computer, and it comes with an adapter plug so you’re good to go.
The left hand side has two output slots, allowing it to be connected directly to a pair of active monitors in stereo, or to a guitar amp in mono. There’s also a 1/8″ headphone out for those late night playing sessions.
The GT-001 feels professionally put-together, and looks great as part of a home studio setup. So far, so good.
This is where things get really interesting. Case in point; I’ve tried a tonne of different effects and amp sims through my computer, trying specifically to nail a decent tweed tone. Virtually all of them fall down on this particular sound. Sure, they all have approximations of Dual Rectifiers, 5150s and JCM800s, but none of them can nail the hairy grizzle of an old Fender Bassman. The standard approximation elsewhere seems to be taking a blunt, mid-focused tone and smothering it with enough wool to cover all the sheep in Wales.
Somehow though, the GT-001 can do it. It creates a fantastic, warm tone which responds superbly to picking dynamics and also to your guitar’s volume knob, without losing any definition or clarity. In fact, it’s so spot on I want to stop writing this article and go and play it.
To pick on one small point doesn’t do it justice though. The signal chain available to you can be as complex, or as simple, as you need. Everything is editable from the unit itself, or via the on-screen Tone Studio editor, but we’ll come to that later.
A number of things really impressed me about the available sounds. Once you’ve worked your way through the installed presets, and swiftly disregarded 95 per cent of them, you can set about programming in some truly wonderful tones of your own.
I won’t list all the available effects, however I will point out the very welcome addition of Boss’ Tera Echo, which allows for all manner of capricious delay mangling. The icing on the cake for me though was the custom amp function. If the included emulations (including a Bogner Uberschall and Orange Rockerverb if you upgrade, for free, to Version 2) aren’t doing it for you, there’s the option of creating your own amp from the ground up. From the amount and type of gain available, through the width of the EQ bands, down to the various speaker options and choice of mics, it’s highly impressive. If you can’t find an amp here, you should probably go and learn drums or something.
There’s also a surprisingly decent acoustic simulator included, which has a variety of options to choose from like changing the size of the guitar body. This removes that horrible toppy sound you can succumb to with acoustic sims, and makes it very useable indeed.
Admittedly, playing through studio monitors, with their flat frequency response, takes away some of the inherent room-filling joy of a 4×12 pushing air, but you cut your cloth accordingly. For the home recordist who can’t stretch to a Kemper or Axe-FX, the GT-001 will nail pretty much any tone you want, and do it well enough that you won’t feel short-changed.
It’s pretty obvious it’s a multi-effects unit, so you’d expect the bare minimum it could do would be offer a range of decent quality effects and amp models. What really sets the GT-001 apart is the added extras, the at-first-I-thought-it-was-a-gimmick-but-then-realised-it-was-very-useful-indeed features.
Things like guitar-to-MIDI. Say, for example, you’re running the GT-001 into a DAW. Simply load up a MIDI instrument in a separate track, and start playing. Through witchcraft, or some other magic, you can use your guitar to play the piano, the violin, or even drums. Perfect for those of us who can hear a melody in our heads, but don’t have the keyboard ability (or patience) to work out how to play it. This opens up the potential to record entire tracks, including guitar, bass, keyboards, synths, strings, pianos, drums etc, using just your guitar. That, I can assure you, is pretty liberating.
There’s also Boss Tone Studio, which we look at in more detail here. This provides the on-screen application through which you gain a visual representation of your signal chain. Everything works in real time, so if you’re making drastic changes to the order of effects, or the settings within, you can do it in a few clicks of a mouse. The best compliment I can pay it is that it simply works, without faff or angst, and frees you up to get on with recording or playing.
Re-amping capability, where you take a ‘dry’ guitar signal from your DAW and play it back through the unit is a great tool to have for recording, removing the pressure off nailing the perfect tone first time round.
The GT-001 also functions as a fully-fledged audio interface for your computer as well. Its performance was solid when used for watching YouTube videos or listening to Spotify, broadening the appeal of the unit beyond simply a guitar tool.
I know, I know, I’m writing for Dawsons’ blog so you’re probably thinking I’m bound to big up a product they’re selling, but I can assure you that everything I’ve said is genuine. I’m using it in conjunction with a Boss RC-3 loop pedal, and the ability to have pretty much any sound I want, from any instrument, and construct tracks as soon as they pop into my head is incredible.
The fact that I can pop it in a guitar bag and then gig with it through a PA makes it both versatile and practical, and with it being a Boss product you know it could survive a nuclear winter if it had to.