Hands-On Review:Fender G-DEC
A FULL DEC
Guitar World - Fender G-DEC guitar digital entertainment center
By Emile Menasche
The practice room is the incubator of great music. But sitting around and plinking away by yourself can become boring, even for the most committed guitar god in training. The Fender G-DEC (short for Guitar Digital Entertainment Center) makes practice more fun—and more effective—by combining several useful practice and performance tools in one compact package. Housed in a cabinet about the size of a vintage Fender Champ, the G-DEC is essentially a 15-watt digital practice amp, with an eight-inch Fender Special Design speaker, mated to an amp modeler, a multieffect device, a sequencer with drum and instrument loops you can play along to, and a 14-second phrase sampler. The complement is augmented with inputs for external audio sources like CDs or MP3s, MIDI connectivity (which lets you save files, load future software updates and trigger the G-DEC's internal sounds via MIDI controllers) and a stereo headphone output that can drive a set of powered speakers or feed the inputs of a recording device or PA. Plus. with its durable shoulder strap, the compact, 16-pound G-DEC practically screams, "Take me with you!"
Even with its deep feature list, the G-DEC is easy to use. You're never more than a button push or two away from any feature or edit parameter. The user manual takes a friendly visual approach to the amp's features, and a handy cardboard guide points you to all the important buttons. To get started, plug your ax into the guitar input, select from among the G-DEC's 50 presets, set the volume and tone controls and commence wailing. It's simple enough to use right out of the box, but the real fun begins when you load one of the 70 sequencer loops. These cover a range of musical styles, including blues, country, funk, metal, pop, reggae, punk, classic rock, ska, swing jazz, and Latin. In addition, each style has an appropriate guitar sound and effects setting to match, though you can alter these to suit your tastes and needs. When you select a preset, the LCD displays its name, amp type, active effect and reverb setting, as well as the key, tempo and drum loop name. To activate the preset, press the Start-Stop button: you'll hear a brief counting—an audible click—and the Start-Stop button will flash in time with the tempo. Before you know, you'll be jamming with a full rhythm accompaniment.
The loops provide accompaniment suitable for beginners to intermediate players and beyond. Some, such as "Rockin G DEC," are basic, with simple rhythms and no chord changes, while others follow familiar patterns, such as 12-bar blues. A few of them recall classics, such as the Zepplinesque "Viking" and the Hendrix-inspired "Haze." You can change a loop's tempo and base key and adjust the relative levels of the drums, bass and whatever third accompanying voice is present. These changes—as well as those you make to the amp and effects settings—can be stored in one of 50 user memory locations. Want more accompaniment options? If your computer has MIDI connectivity, you can transmit MIDI song files to the G-DEC and play them with the amp's backing instruments, giving you an endless supply of tunes to work with.
Amps and Effects
The onboard loops may be the major selling point, but the G-DEC holds its own as a standalone practice amp, too. The amp models cover the usual territory—Fender Tweed, Blackface and Dyna-Touch, as well as British, Modern and Acoustic—and multiple variations of each model are provided (the lone Acoustic emulation is the sole exception). What's more, the sounds are very good: the clean settings are tight and punchy and the distortion is smooth, raspy or nasty, depending on the model selected. The Edit menu lets you tweak each model's gain, volume, bass, midrange and treble settings. Dynamic effects, such as compression and gating, are built into the amp algorithms and can also be adjusted. A timbre setting puts the final touches on the tone—think of it as a speaker-simulator/global EQ. Effects include several variations of delay (mono and stereo), chorus, phasing, tremolo and flanging, plus favorites like fuzz, wah and ring modulation. A few settings combine delay with fuzz or a modulation effect, such as chorus and sound especially nice. Reverbs include hall, room and plate varieties, as well as—this being a Fender amp—spring. Despite its beginner-friendly vibe, the G-DEC gives you plenty of control over your sound.
Phrase samplers are handy tools for learning musical passages, and the G-DEC's is especially cool. For one thing, it lets you record 14 seconds of music and slow it to half speed at normal pitch. For another, it can be used to record your guitar, a sequencer loop or both simultaneously. Play a rhythm guitar part over a loop, record it with the phrase sampler and solo over it while you play it back. The phrase sampler can also record audio presented at the amp's auxiliary inputs—great for grabbing a solo off a CD.
The Bottom Line
Compact, easy to use and full of fun, the G-DEC lives up to its name as an entertainment center. But it's also a solid tool for learning and practice, and a loaded deck for beginners and experienced players alike.