December 2008

BOSS GT-10 Guitar Effects Processor

The digital effects floorboard is a product that Japanese manufacturer BOSS innovated 20 years ago, and one that represented an obvious ideal for the electronics-dependent guitarist. A digital multi-effects floorboard is tidy, can be powered via a single A/C adapter, and is nearly all-inclusive in regards to the array of effects a gigging or recording player should need: distortions, choruses, flanges, delays; they’re all there, with a slew of one-off timbres that provide hours of exploration and plenty of giggles. The days of stringing together analog stompboxes, hauling around tape delays and rotary speakers, tangling stereo cables and having batteries go dead during the big gig seemed to be over. Not quite.

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BOSS GT-10 Guitar Effects Processor

Trying to convince a devotee of stompboxes—whether mass-produced gems like those offered by BOSS or hand-soldered, all-analog boutique pedals—to replace their hard-earned rig with even the best digital rack- or floor-mounted processor is a lost cause; it’d be like telling a guitar addict to play just one ax. Stompboxes have an organic, tactile usability and analog effects boast a room-slicing presence and vintage warmth—there’s no denying that. But there’s also no reason why every well-rounded arsenal can’t harbor something like BOSS’ latest, greatest multi-effects floorboard, the GT-10; for recording, for tones that aren’t worth buying more pedals to dial in, for rehearsals and gigs where a digital amp model will suffice for the real thing, for sheer sonic inspiration. It’s a remarkable machine. Here’s why:

It’s a terrific-sounding unit, exploiting the COSM modeling technology that won over even the most cynical guitar geeks when BOSS used it in two pedals that deftly replicated classic Fender amps. The GT-10 ($500 online) includes excellent simulations of the most revered channels of numerous historical preamps (no, the tones won’t stand up in a blindfold test against your prized Twin or JCM, but come on), and there’s more: The board has two independent effects channels that can be combined with an expression pedal or switched either by foot or according to how hard you pick. Want a pristine, responsive Roland Jazz Chorus clean signal as well as a Marshall crunch for your Mahavishnu-style leads? You got it.

There are 200 preset tones available, and they’re dedicated to specific styles, eras, groups and even songs, with clever names that let you know what BOSS is going for even if legal boundaries prevent anything more explicit. (For example, the Elegant Gypsy-era Al Di Meola preset is dubbed simply, “Spanish Hwy”; the Eric Johnson-inspired endlessly sustaining rock tone is called “Dover’s Cliffs.”) This is a genre-spanning gadget, so it includes loads of rock-inspired tones (“Creamcrunch,” “Aero Dream”) along with those for funk, country, blues and jazz. The tones and effects sound remarkably like what’s heard in BOSS’ individual pedals—if you were to pick a single company to outfit a Furman pedalboard, BOSS’ catch-all line would be it—and the expression pedal can host simulations of a number of go-to wah-wah makes.

Jazz sounds are fewer, but the ones that are present are quality: “Thumb Octave” is your Wes-style sound, “S.C.O. Fusion” a dead-ringer for John Scofield at his most jazz-rock. Others include the archtop-invoking “Jazz Clean” and the versatile modern smooth tone “Super Fusion.”

If you can’t find precisely what you want in the presets, building original sounds is an idiot-proof process with the GT-10. With amusing (if somewhat corny) graphic displays, its EZ Tone wizard allows players to build and save new patches in a streamlined process using the edges of the dial control and the parameter controls. Simply enter what type of pickups your guitar has, what your signal is going through (combo amp, stack, mixing console/headphones, etc.), then choose your genre from an extensive list (“Jazz” is an option, thank God). Once you’ve established your musical idiom, home in on a more specific tone within that genre (examples for “Jazz” include “Warm Clean,” “Cool Clean” and “Mild Drive”), and finally adjust the fine and not-so-fine details: rhythm vs. lead tones, the amount of effects you want on your signal. Given the seemingly infinite number of tonal options available, the process is astonishingly simple. In a Bill Frisell mood one afternoon, I crafted a convincing impression of his delicate reverb-and-delay-heavy sound using the “Surf” category in just minutes.

The electronics are protected by attractive heavy-duty metal housing that recalls the toughness of a BOSS stompbox, and layout boasts an effective directness. There’s a brightly illuminated display screen, a large dial for running through presets, parameter controls, buttons for certain effects, four patch pedals, two multi-purpose control pedals, the expression pedal, connections for MIDI and USB, a tuner/bypass button, an output-level dial, a channel select, an effects loop and more. Where older floorboard models of this sort suffered from severe drops in volume and quality between tones, the GT-10 provides extensive equalization and compression capabilities.

Two tone-bank pedals next to the main dial double as a 38-second phrase looper with unlimited potential for overlapping, and that location points up the only real bummer about this machine. With my size-13 sneaker, I kept inadvertently hitting the control pedals; the looper setup also meant I didn’t have anything to rest my heel on, so my foot had to hover above the pedals, making steadily grooving, in-time loops a bit harder to achieve.

Still, that’s a small quibble for such a neat, efficient tool. It’s especially effective if your playing hits a wall and picking becomes a chore. An hour of tweaking and dialing on the GT-10 will reaffirm how much fun the electric guitar can be.

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