ZOOM TURN THE HEAT UP WITH A SUPER-COOL FLOOR UNIT. BY STEVE HENDERSON
When the Zoom 9002 was released in ’89, it was a revolutionary design that was probably a little ahead of its time: a feature-laden, digital-based multi-effect worn on the belt or strap. It was clearly a development of the Scholz Rockman – a simple, great-sounding analogue pre-amp/headphone amp with distortion, echo and chorus. The Rockman was a real keeper (I still have mine!) but its limitations opened the door for a more complex device - just as digital technology slammed into an analogue music industry.
Zoom grabbed the concept, shrunk it to half the size, and packed it with a dozen effects (six at once), memory locations, simple controls (with faders!) – in fact, more “stuff” than anyone knew what to do with. The 9002 was incredibly clever and hinted at Zoom’s potential, while in parallel, companies like Boss and Ibanez were producing floor-based multi-effects. Zoom has since produced powerful floor units, and more recent units have clever facilities like loopers, amp simulators and recording interfaces.
THE NEXT GENERATION
The G5n is a development of the G3X and a replacement for the G5 – both clever, feature-laden units offering what we love about individual pedals but with multi-effect efficiency. The G5n includes digital emulations of classic effects, amps and cabs (up to nine at once, in any order). There are 100 factory patches, 200 user memories, full effect and amp controls, separate boost with volume and tone, tap tempo, tuner, stereo phrase looper, and a rhythm machine. There are two rows of footswitches to access and control all of this, an expression pedal for volume or particular parameters, and various ins and outs for interfacing with amps, mixers, computers, and other control switches. Phew!
Since I own a G3X, the G5n “language” is familiar. Zoom has made each emulation “look” like a pedal (or amp) on the screens, with actual knobs to access the parameters. The main row of footswitches accesses effects and patches; the front row accesses functions like tap tempo, patch banks, tuner, scrolling through the effects and switching between patch and pedal modes. Sounds complicated? Right. But the G5n is actually pretty easy to use, and incredibly intuitive.
The G5n has great sounds and facilities, but you could spend days creating patches. An easy “way in” is to treat it as a row of separate pedals, and the main LCD display shows the pedals in order. Did I mention great sounds? For example, the TS808 emulation driving the Tape Echo effect sounds solid and authentic, especially into something like a Deluxe or a Bassman. There’s that soft TS compression and a warm analogue tape decay. Save this as a patch, and there’s immediate access without any interface issues. Very cool. Add some Plate Reverb, and there’s a zingy ambience to everything. Even cooler! Along with some great sounding delays and reverbs, other noteworthy and authentic emulations include MXR’s Dyna Comp (with that lovely squish), a Boss GE-7, an Echoplex preamp, a Boss DN-2, a Boss Metal Zone, an RC Boost, a Boss DD-5, an MXR Flanger... Too many to list here.
If you need to connect to a mixer or an acoustic amp, the amp and cab simulators can be inserted anywhere along the signal chain (after the drives is best). The amp/cab combinations allow for classic pairings or some unusual combos – like a JCM800 into a Boogie 112, or an AC30 into a Bogner quad. More importantly, there’s a genuine amp feel to the sounds. The Vox and Boogie emulations, especially, have that lovely sag in the attack and the big, rich bloom that follows. The Twin effect has a seriously robust thump to the delivery, with a broad frequency range that’s fantastic for “big” rhythm – rock, country or jazz - this just works. There’s oodles of authentic sounding effects, and they can be adjusted in real time at any time: various Boss, MXR, Z.Vex, Ibanez, etc. – plus a few of Zoom’s own ideas.
LOOP ME IN
The looper is independent of the effects, so you can lay down a clean track, choose an effect (or combination) and lay down another track with the effects, then do it again with another sound. And there’s an expression pedal for volume, wah and selectable parameters on a bunch of effects: gain in the drive pedals, speed in the phasers, level in the reverbs and more.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The G5n is a powerful, professional tone machine with killer sounds and too many features to list here (check the website). The downside? I wish there was a Deluxe or Bassman sound, or a 110 or 410 cab. Also, an assignable effects loop would be nice. Those things aside, the Zoom G5n remains one of the most useful, best value, easy-to-use devices you’ll find. Great sounds, well thought out and it looks really cool, too.
TOP FIVE FEATURES
- 68 effects
- 5 amp emulators
- 5 cabinet emulators
- 100 custom-designed factory patches
- Use up to 9 effects simultaneously, in any order
Simple, logical layout
Loaded with features
No effects loop
No small amp patch
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