Review Date: Wednesday 5th of December 2012 11:56:55 AM Last Updated: Thursday 1st of January 1970 01:00:00 AM Reviewed By: Marcus Leadley
Can you ever have too many effects? No, not according to Zoom, and here comes the big brother to the G3 processor – with more of absolutely everything.
Zoom has a history of cramming functions into its gear and the G5 is no exception. At a core level it’s a multi-FX unit, but it’s also a guitar looper, an amp modeller and a USB interface. Add an on-board tuner, a drum machine and an independent 12AX7-powered Valve Booster for soloing and you have a tool that will be at home in the practice room, studio or on stage. Where the G3 offered 96 stompbox models, 100 patches and 40 seconds of looping, the G5 delivers 123 stomps, 297 patches and a full 60 seconds loop time. The G3X added an expression pedal; the G5 pedal rocks sideways as well as up and down!
The G5 is built like a tank with steel and aluminium all the way, and the plastic knobs are well protected. Designing the effects around modelled stompboxes is a sensible move; it mirrors players’ preference for simple independent modules that can be tweaked using knobs and combined as a chain. In the ‘home’ page view of each patch there are four graphic windows for the ‘pedals’ you’ve selected. As you can have nine pedals in a patch (only six for the G3), there’s a left/right scroll function. If an effect is shown in a window, the three buttons below change the settings.
The Page button toggles you through the various controls. One of the great features of the G5 is that changes you make are saved automatically – and when you switch the unit on you come back in right where you left off.
While you can get started on the G5 without the manual many of the buttons are multifunctional, so there is stuff to learn. For example, patches are arranged in banks of three. To move through the banks you have to press footswitch 1 and 2 simultaneously – to move forward – or 2 and 3 to move back. Once in a bank, the individual switches give you access to the different patches. Once you know this it’s easy, but you ain’t going to work this out without a bit of reading.
Holding down footswitch 4 then gives you access to the patch’s stompboxes and amps. At this stage, the Total editing button allows you to switch the position of any effect in the chain: something that can radically alter the performance and sound. The Global button accesses master output level, direction of the signal path, USB recording/monitoring levels and the output classification – which needs to be set for combo, stack, power amp or mixer direct.
Studio/stage connections are well catered for with mono/stereo outputs. The additional balanced output is a useful extra; it can be switched to send a direct signal so you can record your guitar’s clean sound for use in layering or future reamping. There’s a ground lift switch to guard against earth loop hum.
The manual doesn’t mince words: if a stomp or amp module is modelled on a particular piece of kit then it’s properly named, so there are no guessing games with ‘US 60s Fuzz’ into a ‘brown V-Lux’ and the like; if you want to try an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff model in front of a ’63 Fender Vibrolux, you can just do it. There’s quite a bit of boutique and vintage kit to choose from. As well as the usual suspects such as Marshall, Fender and Vox amp models and Boss and Ibanez effects, there’s some unusual stuff: Sound City and Diezel amps, Z.Vex, Pro Co and Moog effects.
Going by the kit I’m familiar with, the G5 pedal models are reasonably accurate. Overall tonality and character is there, but the vagaries of control interactions are harder to simulate. At first the amp models seem less successful, but this is partly due to the fact that the G5 ships with everything running hot and the nuances are lost in distortion.
By winding back to get a clean tone, tweaking the tone controls to personal preference and then easing the gain back in you can actually get very good results. Adjusting the tube compression control refined the playing feel nicely. Spending a lot more on a high-end modelling solution will deliver superior results, but for the price the G5 punches well above its weight.
This punch becomes a knock-out if you condition your input signal by putting a valve preamp between your guitar and the G5 amp models: richer tone, improved clarity and a more three-dimensional sound. Frankly, the unit is missing a trick by not allowing you to reconfigure the valve soloing booster as a switchable input preamp.
Once you’ve got the measure of the G5’s layout it’s loads of fun. It’s easy to operate and the crazy-arse factory presets are a blast. Then you start cooling things down, and the business of reprogramming something that’s actually useful doesn’t take too long.
The Z-expression pedal takes a bit of getting used to; shifting parameters on the horizontal axis at the same time as the vertical takes some practice. However, it does give far more real-time control, so the creative potential is immense. Go further and plug in a second expression pedal if you want: there’s any amount of sonic mayhem in this box. The D5’s multi-function aspects can be confusing and the need to hit two adjacent footswitches at the same time to activate bank shift takes practice.
There’s not too much to say about the looper function because it does what you would expect in a very orderly fashion: excellent sound quality, seamless looping and the ability to build layered parts. You can also play along to the onboard rhythms.
These sound fine, if a bit basic, and you can’t sequence changes or fills for building song structures, so it’s just a practice aid. The valve booster gives you variable gain up to 16dB for soloing. No one is going to complain about a ‘louder’ button – except maybe the other guitarist in your band. Given that there are a number of booster modules in the G5’s software architecture then I’m not sure, as we’ve already said, that playing the valve card is the best use of the technology.
For the price the G5 is an astonishingly well-appointed bit of kit. It’s a robust, flexible unit that gives the player on a budget a good approximation of the sound of vintage and boutique effects and amps worth tens of thousands of pounds. It’s also a practical rehearsal and gigging tool capable of meeting semi-pro and pro needs.
If you’re new to home recording electric guitars, the G5 is an ideal starting point – especially as it comes with Cubase LE6. True, when the G5 falls out of the box it’s designed to wow a certain sort of player with pyrotechnics lead sounds and spaced-out weirdness – but the deep editability is there to enable any player to tailor the G5 to their personal style and requirements.
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