Hands-On Review:Boss GT-6 and Korg ToneWorks AX1500G multieffects processors.
by Thomas Ross
Once upon a time, you had to make excuses for choosing floor-bound multi-effects over their rack counterparts. Those days are through: technology has advanced to where integrated stomp monsters are now literally laden with features. Even better, these sonic laboratories now deliver the ease of use that guitarists crave, and at a price that’s realistic for the real-world gigging musician.
If an overwhelming quantity of guitar effects stirs your mojo, the Boss GT-6 will send your gear lust into overdrive. This is one of the most tone-packed floor units we’ve seen.
The GT-6’s modeling features include a complete array of amps and cabinets that use Roland’s COSM technology. As a result, the tones are supple and subtle. Just as important, the GT-6 has a mixture of programming tools that consist of dedicated knobs to tweak the most used parameters and a menu system for accessing “deeper” editing functions. The knobs give you direct control of amp type, gain, bass, middle, treble, level and speaker type. You can even adjust the center frequency of the EQ bands—a very useful feature for optimizing the preamp to work with the rest of your gear.
Another asset is the GT-6’s dedicated distortion section, which has tones for OD/Boost, Distortion, Classic, Fuzz and Metal. Front-panel controls for the section consist of drive and level knobs, while variations of each effect and EQ control are available via the menu screen. Better still, numerous parameters can be toggled with the foot control switch, even when the GT-6 is operating in preset mode.
The unit’s Delay section boasts a generous 1820ms of delay, a BPM mode that syncs to tapped tempo, and control over mix, feedback and tone. Effects in the section include mono and stereo chorus and various room, hall and plate reverbs. (Surprisingly, the GT-6 has no spring reverb.) All of these basic effects, except reverb, have a corresponding footswitch, which lets you turn them on and off stomp-box style when you operate the Boss in manual mode.
But these staple effects tell only part of the story. Two more grab-bag slots—labeled FX-1 and FX-2—provide a range of more specialized processors. FX-1 effects include Compressor, Limiter, Acoustic Guitar Simulator, Pickup Simulator, Tremolo, Slow Gear (which changes the guitar’s attack), Feedbacker, Anti-Feedback (a notch filter) and De-Fretter, which does a nice job of simulating the sound of a fretless bass. FX-2 effects include Phaser, Flanger, Harmonist (intelligent pitch shifting), Pitch Shifter, Pedal Bend, 2x2 Chorus, Pan, Vibrato, a Univibe simulator, Short Delay, the vocal-like Humanizer and some real outré stuff such as Ring Mod, Slicer, Auto Riff, Guitar Synth (sounds like a pan flute patch) and Sub Equalizer. In addition, the GT-6 has a number of COSM-modeled wah curves to choose from, all of which can be modulated with the built-in expression pedal. In default mode, the pedal controls volume, but it can be assigned to other parameters, too.
One particularly nice feature of the GT-6 is that it can work in preset or manual modes. The manual mode gives you one-pedal-per-effect operation (the Bank switches handle the FX-1 and FX-2 blocks), but you can customize which effects are assigned to which pedals in manual mode—a nice extra.
Despite its long list of features, the Boss is easy to program, thanks to the dedicated knobs and edit buttons for each effect block. If that’s not simple enough for you, you can enter EZ-Tone mode, which gets you started by creating a number of sonic templates.
Korg ToneWorks AX1500G
If the Boss is the do-everything luxury cruiser of floor effects, the ToneWorks AX1500G is a compact yet powerful sports model. Highlights include a staple of great-sounding effects with an easy-access user interface and a very intelligent channel-switching feature.
Effects blocks include Drive/Amp (which gives you clean compressor sounds, distortion pedal settings, and a complete range of amp models created with Korg’s REMS technology) and acoustic simulation, Cabinet emulation (covering a range of sizes and types), Modulation (Chorus, Flange and Phase variations, and more) and Pedal (volume, Vox-like wahs, pedal-controlled modulation and pedal-controlled delay). They also include Ambience, where you’ll find a variety of sweet-sounding echoes (with up to three seconds of delay), reverbs (Room, Hall, Plate, Spring) and settings that combine reverb and delay.
The AX1500G has an easy-to-use and very logical programming interface. The effects parameters are printed on the top panel in a grid, with knobs corresponding to each column of parameters. When you select an effect for editing, the knobs will control the appropriate parameters. This gives you fast and immediate control over just about every important parameter. This is especially nice when you need to make changes on the fly.
Channel switching is the Korg’s coolest feature. You can set up two separate amp/cabinet settings per preset and toggle between them with the A/B switch. Being able to go from clean to distortion without changing presets is a major plus onstage. The Korg also switches gracefully between preset (where you access effects in banks of three) and manual modes, allowing you to speedily switch by foot. That, coupled with the smart way the pedal can share duties between mod, delay and standard pedal effects, gives you a lot of flexibility.
The Bottom Line
We could double the length of this article by running through all the features of the Boss GT-6, including digital I/Os, MIDI capabilties, effects loop and more. The Cliff Notes version goes like this: With the exception of a couple of the more esoteric doodads, every one of the Boss’ effects sounds excellent. This unit will score you the right tone for any gig, whether you play metal, industrial or country.
As for Korg’s AX1500G, it sounds great, it’s easy to use in real-world situations and it offers some very cool extras—including a phrase trainer, built-in metronome and sampling delay—that make it a good practice and auto-accompaniment tool. Best yet, the AX1500G’s well-integrated feature set lets you keep your concentration off of programming and where it belongs—on your playing.