Hands-On Review:Boss GT-8 Guitar Effects Processor
Boss GT-8 Guitar Effects Processor
A floor processor that far exceeds every need
By Howie Soffel
The GT-8 by Boss offers a unique function—the dynamic sensing mode—which will switch channels in accordance with your picking strength. Pick hard for killer distortion or soft for warm clarity. With this unique feature plus 46 amp models that can be layered and panned, a special solo mode for every amp model, 44 types of effects that can be played 13 at a time in any order, and an independent effects loop, the GT-8 is Boss's most powerful floor processor ever.
It started innocently enough—just a flanger with some knobs to make those cool swirly sounds. Then came the must-have wah pedal. Then a volume pedal. And they kept coming. Soon people began to notice. Then came the comments from other band members, the pratfalls, the crackling cables, the dead batteries. Finally I had to admit I had a problem. I was afflicted with Stompbox Buildup.
The first little multiprocessors helped me clean up my act. They were cool but too limited and only a few of the sounds were really right on. After that came the mondo rack, filled with large units of immense complexity and even greater weight. Plus the rack made it hard to use any sexy little pedals I might happen onto. Eventually I fell off the wagon—at first just a few stomp boxes, discreetly chosen. But the Buildup began again. Now I have a pedalboard to keep some semblance of order, but lately I've begun to suffer from a new affliction—Pedalboard Spillover.
Boss' GT-8 is a single unit of manageable size that can be controlled with your feet and may just be the ultimate cure for Stompbox Buildup. By far the slickest feature is the dynamic sensing switching mode. I think if this had been around when I was a younger guy, I might have a very different playing style today. The artistic potential of this advance is truly staggering.
However difficult it may have been to engineer, the idea is fairly simple. When you pick hard enough to make the signal strength coming from the pickup reach a certain threshold, the channel switches to whatever patch you've chosen, including effects parameters, up to ten at a time. Then it switches back when you play softly again.
The obvious use is to have the GT-8 automatically kick you into a more distorted tone when you pick hard, giving you a response similar to a tube amp that's just breaking up. But a little experimentation showed me a lot more possibilities. By selecting radically different channel/effects settings I could use picking hardness to get instantaneous access to two different instruments. And there are some great 2-part presets with various combinations. Call and response licks, trading acoustic and electric runs, soloing over rhythm loops, and self accompaniment with a long delay on the soft channel were just a few of the immediate ideas I played with.
The 46 COSM amp models provide a huge range of sounds so convincing and robust you could leave your amps at home and run this baby right into the board. Each one of these models has a programmed variation optimized for soloing. Just hit the solo switch and a lead tone is activated. It's like having two channels on each and every amp model, giving them a new depth and authenticity. This feature makes it much simpler to use the models without a lot of surfing to find the sounds you need.
Another sweet innovation on the GT-8 is twin COSM modeling engines that allow you to layer, pan, and manipulate two amp models at the same time while you're performing. The most obvious use for this is to set one clean amp for clarity and definition and one distorted amp to give you power and sustain.
da Vinci code
Boss pulled out all the stops when it came to cramming this baby full of sonic paints to make your musical master vision into rich reality. There are 44 categories of effects including everything I could think of plus synth waves, sitar, and acoustic guitar sounds. All these effects—compressors, reverbs, choruses, EQs, wah models, and on and on and on—have unparalleled sound quality. This was no big surprise since half the pedals on my board are Boss units. Which brings up one of the GT-8's coolest strengths—it has an independent effects loop so you can add into the signal path any pedal you just can't do without.
The GT-8 easily outperforms any pedalboard setup by letting you run 13 effects simultaneously and position any effect wherever you want it in the signal chain. It's just like arranging your pedals on the pedalboard without all those patch cords, noise, and power-cord hassles. There's also a seamless program change function that lets you opt to have the delay or verb from the previous patch smoothly transition to the next patch, rather than abruptly cutting off the signal.
A wealth of I/O options includes stereo analog outs, a 24-bit coaxial digital out, an amp control jack that lets it act as a footswitch between two channels on your real-world amp, an input for an external expression pedal, the aforementioned effects send and return, MIDI I/O, and a headphone out.
All the high-powered capabilities of this board are arranged similarly to its precursor, the GT-6. This is by far the most intuitive layout of any floor processor I've used. 15 knobs, a jog wheel, 26 finger buttons, 7 foot buttons, and an expression pedal give you tons of hands-on control without lots of menu surfing.
The people at Boss are obviously working very hard to help people like me—chronic sufferers from Stompbox Buildup and Pedalboard Spillover. I've already ordered a Boss GT-8 of my own and my pedalboard's up for auction online. This time I really mean it.
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