Boss GT-10 Review
The GT-10 is the most recent multi-effects (MFX) floorboard unit from Boss. It's described as a modeller using Roland's COSM technology and essentially is meant to provide digital modelling of well known amps and stomp boxes. It's in competition with the POD X3 Live, Digitech RP1000 and TC Electronics Nova System.
A review by OzRob
The GT-10 has one 1/4" input, MIDI IN/OUT, SPDIF Out, Headphone Out, USB, Left (Mono)/Right 1/4" out, Send/Receive Loop 1/4" in and out, external amp channel switch, external expression/control pedal line.
Like any MFX, it's designed around patches. There are 200 factory patches which can be modified but changes can't be saved. And there are 200 user patches which by default mirror the factory presets but changes can be saved. These are all grouped into Banks of 4 patches each. A useful feature allows the user to set how many banks are accessible. The player might program 8 patches into 2 banks and restrict peformance access to just those 2 banks which means that pressing the Bank Up/Down switches will only cycle between those 2 banks - useful if you don't want to get lost when live!
To make it simpler for first time users, not only are there the 200 presets to go through and test, they added a feature called EZ-Edit. This allows you to quickly make a patch from scratch following the on-screen instructions and manipulating the sounds with dials.
I would add this feature is a bit of a toy that will appeal more to first-time users to get a feel for what this unit can achieve. As a means to create really useful sounds, it is quite limited.
The basic philosophy of the GT-10 is creating a chain of virtual stomp boxes built around 2 channels.
Every module or block can be moved to anywhere in the chain. You want compressor after distortion? No problem. You want all the effects on channel A and nothing but delay on Channel B? Easy. The only restriction are the 2 channels. Preamps A and B must remain in parallel but you do have options such as only using one channel or running both together, or not using preamps at all if you prefer the real preamp in your Dual Rectifier for example! Every block can be turned on or off. A very useful idea is to have the DGT (digital out) block at the start of the chain. This means you could for example, be simultaneously recording a dry, unprocessed guitar signal to your PC while playing and hearing everything through your amp - so you know what you sound like but you can do signal processing in your DAW instead of using the GT onboard effects.
It's important to note that all the preamps (amp model) and effects are all digital models. For example, in the OD/DS block you can dial in a Metal Zone or DS-1 or Rat or Marshall Governor, but they are all simulated. There is no analog circuitry here. Because of that, models of pedals especially, sound like (maybe 80-90%) of the real thing but not quite the same. That's to be expected though because this is a jack-of-all-trades MFX, not a master of one.
The real selling point of the GT-10 is a new feature called "Assigns" - even though Boss don't market this point. This allows you to program a vast array of variables and map them to switches and pedals. The only drawback is there are a maximum of 8 assigns per patch. However, the power of assigns is what sets this MFX apart from competitors. As an example, my main lead patch uses all 8 assigns. With the inbuilt expression pedal pulled right back, the tone is a low-volume crunch. Pushing the pedal progressively forward increases the volume on preamp A, the drive on Preamp B, the drive on OD, turns on reverb and compressor and several other effects. This is something that can't be achieved with traditional stomp box chains.
The GT-10 can also be run in manual mode. This allows you to treat it live as a collection of stomps rather than patches. So the player can easily turn modules on or off by pressing switches.
The preamps are a controversial feature among the GT user community. Some of them sound very much like the amps they are meant to model, and others don't capture the sound at all. It's becoming accepted among users to think of the preamps as tone generators rather than as specific models. Approaching the unit in this manner results in less frustration as you look for a specific tone among the preamps rather than selecting say R-FIER MDN and then being disappointed that it really doesn't capture an authentic Dual Rec sound. Behind the preamps, users can add a range of cabinet/speaker and mic sims, or create a custom cab sim of your own. Of course these sims can be turned off if you are running into your own 4x12" monster. But the cab sims are a necessity for playing/recording direct. Without a cab sim, any high gain tones will sound like a swarm of killer bees emanating from your speakers.
Another helpful feature is choosing an output type eg. direct/headphones, stack return, combo in, etc which shapes the outgoing sound for whatever receiving system you are using. Once again, these output types should be experimented with as the suggested type may not sound the best for your gear.
I've only scratched the surface here of what this unit includes and can achieve. Check out the Boss website for more details.
Boss also have a very simple Librarian program which allows you to backup and restore your saved patches but Gumtown, a user on the Boss GT Central forum, has created a brilliant freeware program called FxFloorboard that allows us to do live editing/loading/saving on the PC.
I've been using the GT-10 since around August 2008, mainly for recording and playing direct through a PA system. I've not found any of the factory presets to be particularly useful but that's fine because I like to create my own sounds, so I just initialize (wipe clean) user patches and build them from the ground up to get exactly what I'm after.
Own musical preference
Playing wise, I prefer gothic, symphonic and industrial metal and instrumental rock. But I also play in a church band which is a lighter, contemporary pop feel.
Ease of use
This is not easy to use if you want to maximize your results. Playing with factory presets are fine, and even your own patches once they're set up is simple - just push switches and rock the pedal. But!!! There are thousands of variables across dozens of modules and they all affect the tone. This can't be overstated. To get the most out of this unit involves a steep learning curve and plenty of frustration. If you want plug-and-play or stompbox simplicity, look elsewhere. Thankfully the GT user community has invested a great deal of time into exploring these units and if you want to pick their brains then you should head over to the Boss GT Central Forum.
The million dollar question. The majority of users agree that the GT-10 excels at clean sounds and crunches. Where they divide sharply is on the preamp quality, cab sims and high-gain sounds. There's no nice way to say it. Boss really screwed up the high gains in this unit. They're very fizzy and all sound the same. Fortunately, Hadley Hockensmith (who is Neil Diamond's guitarist) created a small external filter called the Harmonic Converger that does magic in cleaning up the preamp/distortion quality and giving them all their distinct tones back. Unfortunately, the HC is not cheap and Boss missed the mark by not doing the job properly themselves. There are dozens of GT-10 clips on youtube so spend some time going through them and you'll find plenty of good and bad points and samples. Quite a few users have solved the high-gain problem by putting a quality distortion pedal in the Send/Receive loop. Others have found that by lowering the gain, not using as much as one would want, can achieve very usable heavy distortion sounds - but the digital fizz remains. I chose buying a HC and have not regretted it
It's Boss - it just works. The casing is very tough and the switches will take a lot of use. But don't add beer.
Price paid and where it was bought
I paid Australian $899 from my local music shop but they are available now on ebay in the mid US$300 range.
Once you've got a good working working knowledge of this unit, it is capable of creating amazing sounds and textures and I still haven't worked my way through all of the included FX. I said earlier that the power of this unit really lies in the assigns, but I also highly recommend it for its range of clean tones and FX, such as reverb, delay, phaser, flanger etc. If you want modern metal sounds out of the box I'd suggest looking elsewhere.
A review by OzRob