Hands-On Review:Handsfree digital recording/looping and revolutionary effects
By Gene Perry
An amp-modeling, cab-modeling, effects-processing footboard with mind-bending warp capabilities, a drum machine, and an expression pedal that also happens to include a full-function, CD-quality, digital eight-track recorder/looper so simple you can run it with your FEET? “Gimme a break,” I said. “Even if they could build such a thing, you’d have to be a Gates kid to afford it.”
“Au contraire,” said my illustrious benefactor at Musician’s Friend, “you can bring down this mighty marvel right here at MF for under half a G.”
“This I gotta see,” said I. And I saw.
Having been totally floored by the GNX2 at the NAMM show last year, I was fully aware of its 24-bit sound quality; its amazingly accurate and dynamic models of classic tube amps; its sonically magical cab models and cab tuning; its unprecedented warp function that lets you meld amp/cab combos into entirely unique sounds; its assignable treadle; and its astounding array of 26 dynamic effects, including stompbox models, which can be used in combinations of up to 11 simultaneously. Aside from washing my dishes, I couldn’t think of much else I’d want a guitar processor to do. That’s because I wasn’t thinking as hard as the guys at Digi- Tech. They decided to take the plunge with a whole new idea—digital recording from a musician’s (rather than an engineer’s) point of view, aiming for sound quality, simplicity, and hands-free operation.
The power at your feet
I pulled the GNX3 out of the box, plugged it in, turned it on, plugged my guitar in, hit RECORD, and began to play. It was that simple. When I was finished with the rhythm track, I hit STOP and RECORD, then laid down a lead track. The GNX3 automatically cued to the start of the song, armed Track 2 for recording, and played back Track 1 so I could play along with it.
The coolest thing was that while in record mode the STOP, RECORD, PLAY, REWIND, and UNDO buttons were assigned to the big foot buttons across the bottom of the unit. (You can get an optional FS300R three-button footswitch that lets you RECORD, UNDO, and PLAY/STOP handsfree even when you’re in effects control mode.)
Simple, not stupid
The GNX3 was designed to require minimal user brain power, but it’s a fully functional stereo recorder. After a five-minute scan of the manual I had the basic info on how to run the thing.
To control the level and pan of each track I simply hit the LEVEL/PAN button once for level, twice for pan while the recording was playing back, selected the track, and used the jog wheel to set the level or pan. To record more than eight tracks, with just a few button strokes I merged all the music from tracks 1-6 onto tracks 7 and 8, leaving 1-6 free to record more music.
When I choked on a track, I just stepped on the UNDO button twice. I was automatically recording at the beginning of the now-empty track. All I had to do was start playing again. I could punch in anywhere on the track and record over a clam just by arming the track in advance, then hitting RECORD to punch in and RECORD again to punch out.
I could also use the GNX3’s balanced XLR mic input to record a dry mic signal, a mic signal with reverb and delay, or one with just reverb. I could even set it up to record the mic signal on one track and the guitar on another.
The onboard drum machine could be a virtual track, synced to play a pattern with the recorder without using up recording space.
Time on my hands
Musician’s Friend sent over a 128MB SmartMedia™ flashcard with the unit they sent me for review. With the 128MB card, in “CD Mode” I could record 24 track minutes at 44.1kHz CD-quality sound. In the “Normal Mode,” I could record 48 track minutes. In “Economy” mode I could get 96 track minutes. On internal memory I could get three minutes in “CD Mode,” six minutes in “Normal Mode,” and 12 minutes in “Economy Mode.”
When I completed recording, I just plugged the card into my computer’s flashcard reader and used the Cakewalk Guitar Tracks that ships with the unit to polish my tracks a bit, then burned my own CD. (The GNX3 also ships with Metro for Mac users.)
In the loop
The recording technology of this unit is also tasked for the coolest looper I’ve ever used, by far. I just laid down a track and, rather than hitting STOP, I hit PLAY. This made Track 1 a loop and armed Track 2 to overdub another layer of sound. I could continue to do that for all eight tracks, effectively giving me eight levels of undo. Or I could hit RECORD when I was finished with a loop and it would keep looping, allowing me to add new material. I could play rhythm for the whole round of the song, loop it, and play lead on top of it.
No need for hype
The GNX3 is the real McCoy—an actual revolution in the technology and thinking behind digital recording. The potential applications are staggering. And for my money the effects box alone would be worth the cost. Guitar Workstation is the perfect name. It does pretty much anything you can think of . . . except wash the dishes.
Musician’s Friend can make you the best deal you’ll find anywhere on the incredible new GNX3. That’s a guarantee you can take to the bank.