Headrush Gigboard Review
All-in-one amp and effect sim you can take anywhere
One of the biggest advances in studio tech over the past 20 years has to be that of the simulator. Whereas before, recording instruments meant, y’know, recording actual instruments, simulators have stepped in and done a decent job of recreating the sounds of those instruments.
None more so than with the guitar amplifier. Amps can be, as we know, pretty hefty in their nature. They have a large physical footprint, and the bigger amps need sufficient volume in order for them to sound as good as they are designed to.
In the early 2000s, computer musicians began to see the benefit of plugging a guitar, via an audio interface, into a PC and being able to record directly without the space or volume issues created by ‘real’ amplification. Not only that; these amp sims had the capability to approximate the sounds of loads and loads of classic amps.
The natural progression here was to begin to include effects. Again this negated the need for a studio user to clog up their valuable space with tonnes of hardware equipment. The masters at this game were brands like Native Instruments, with their Guitar Rig app; IK Multimedia with Amplitube; and Eleven, with their Eleven Rack software. Which leads us nicely onto the Headrush Gigboard.
This new unit combines the best sounds, tones, and tools the amp sim world has to offer. All contained within the physical footprint required to make it a valid option for performance. As someone who has tried valiantly to use an amp sim in a live situation, via a PA, and failing miserably, I was eager to see how the Gigboard would perform. Let’s take a look in our Headrush Gigboard review.
The skills that pay the bills
At the heart of the Gigboard is its ‘brain’, the digital heartbeat of the board and the one which gives it its incredible selection of sounds and effects. A quad-core digital signal processor (DSP) powers this part of the unit, meaning sounds are entirely glitch-free. It also means changing between parameters and sounds is instantaneous. As anyone who’s gritted their teeth during a live performance while they wait for the patch to change will know, is kind of a big deal.
The DSP contains 34 amp models, with everything from traditional Fender-style cleans to Mesa Boogie-type gritty leads covered. 15 cabinet models mean there is plenty of variation on offer, while the ability to load your own impulse responses gives further versatility to your sound.
As a recording tool, the Gigboard is exceptionally well-stocked. 10 different microphones give you access to a host of different tonal options which, when combined with the different amp and cabinet models, gives you plenty to choose from.
Where this last scenario comes into its own is when you utilise ‘re-amping’ as a tool. Essentially, rather than recording the sound that’s coming at the end of the signal chain, i.e. out of the amp and pedal chain, you record a ‘dry, unprocessed signal. Using this, you then feed it back through the Gigboard and tweak away in real-time to get the sound you need. Say, for example, you’ve recorded the perfect take, nailed every note, but the sound isn’t quite right. By re-amping, you can get the sound exactly the way you want it. This is also useful at the mixing stage, as sometimes the sounds you record in isolation don’t always sit well in a mix. Re-amping helps you do that in such a way that doesn’t affect the integrity of the recording. Perfect!
The studio application for a device like the Headrush Gigboard is clear. Ultimate tweakability, a huge selection of sounds, and direct interfacing to your recording setup. But how does it fare in a live situation?
As it happens, pretty well. Instead of lugging a huge amplifier stack and pedalboard around, the Gigboard effectively takes the place of both of these components. With it, you can plug directly into a power amplifier or PA system and you’re good to go.
The 7″ touchscreen on the front of the device acts as your method of navigating the various menus, parameter screens and settings. Four pedals at the front enable you to quickly switch between pedals or presets too, giving you more control during an actual performance.
At the rear of the unit is a MIDI in/out duo, which allows for connection to a dedicated MIDI controller. This means you can expand the pedal allocation as much as you need to.
As a final flourish, the Gigboard also includes a looper with a huge 20 minutes of recording time to play with.
Computer musicians are well aware of the benefits of amp simulation software. Having used apps like Amplitube for years, I can fully recommend them for their incredible versatility and potential for experimentation. What I always struggled with was how to take that utility and translate it into a way it could be used live.
The Headrush Gigboard does exactly that. Backed up by the amazing sounds created by Eleven’s proprietary digital wizardry, the Gigboard bridges the gap between studio tool and performance workhorse magnificently.
There isn’t too much in the way of comparison here. Lots of standard multi-fx units approximate the live/studio requirements many players face. However, none do it with the same degree of precision and accuracy as the Gigboard.
Check out the review done by our own Tom Quayle, and hear for yourself.