“When I went to school, I had to walk through 8 feet of snow and it was uphill. Both ways!”
I remember growing up and hearing various versions of this tale when I would ask for a ride to school because it was cold out. It served to remind us young whippersnappers how easy we had it compared to our parents and grandparents. The gist being that things were much easier now than they used to be. When I became a parent I fell into this line of thinking although I had to alter the story to reflect my reality as a youth. When my boys would ask for a ride all I could really say was something like, “when I was your age, sure I got a ride to school, but our car only had AM radio!” It didn’t really carry the same effect. The point I am trying to make is that with the rapid innovation in music recording technology, over the past few decades specifically, things are much more convenient, much more affordable, and ultimately provide us the ability to produce and distribute our own music in ways unimaginable just a few years ago. The BOSS GT-001 is just another example of this and ups the ante even more.
While famous for stomp boxes and floor based effects processors, Boss’ GT-001 is a desktop unit that takes up very little real estate, is aesthetically sharp, and can cover a multitude of tasks. It is, at its heart, a guitar effects processor with distortion, overdrive, delay, and all of the effects you expect and would in fact find in their GT-100 floor based unit. It is also an amp modeller which essentially means that through their COSM technology (Composite Object Sound Modelling, described in slightly more detail here), they can replicate the output sounds of other amps or instruments. It has 200 presets already onboard and ready to use the moment you turn it on for the first time. It also has 200 user patches that allow you to tweak and save existing patches or create your own from scratch.
The GT-001 also provides effects and patches for acoustic guitar. If you have an electric acoustic you can plug that in through the ¼” jack on the side of the device but if you only have an acoustic guitar, the presence of an XLR input means that you can record your guitar with a microphone and then apply the effects to that signal. Where the GT-001 steps up even more by adding an XLR input is with the inclusion of vocal effects. Simply plug your microphone into the XLR input on the front face of the unit, dial up the appropriate effects preset (or make your own), and there you go, an easy breezy vocal effects processor. You may be saying at this point, “sure, that’s cool and all but what do I do with this? I don’t have a PA at home so what’s the point?” Good questions! You can access the “sounds that are produced a few different ways. First of all you can simply plug your headphones into the 1/8” jack on the unit and you’re off to the races. Play your guitar with the processed output directly to your hungry ears. It’s a great way to practise without disturbing the neighbours. Of if you’re Black Sabbath circa 1982-83, without disturbing the priest. Another way to access your output signal is another one of the great features that is included in this device.
The BOSS GT-001 is also a 24 bit audio interface with a 44.1 kHz sampling frequency. This means that it allows you to connect the unit to your computer through a simple USB cable and provides professional quality sound. You can then hear the output signal through your computer whether you are using its onboard speakers, connected computer speakers, or a pair of monitor speakers. If you are doing any recording and/or mixing of music, it is essential that you have a solid pair of monitor speakers. Fellow blogger, chckn8r, has a great blog entry that talks about studio monitors here. You connect your monitors directly to the GT-001 and it’s just like having an amp on your desktop. Being connected to your computer also allows you to direct the signal into your computer’s DAW (Digital Audio Workstation. Again, see Dave Chick’s post on DAWs here). You are now ready to record your music.
And that’s not all. The GT-001 is also a MIDI controller. Within your DAW you likely have virtual MIDI instruments like pianos, violins, or drums and now you can use your guitar to operate these instruments as the unit can convert a guitar signal into a MIDI signal. The Roland GR-55 also offers this but unlike the GR-55, the GT-001 does not require a special pickup to perform this task. Any guitar will work. Roland has free software called Guitar Friend Jam software, which is a great place to try this function out.
Perhaps my favourite function is that I can record an unprocessed signal into my DAW while hearing the GT-001’s processed effects and modelled amps. This is great for a couple of reasons. Rather than spending forever trying to nail my guitar tone before I record it, I can simply use an adequate facsimile to hear while I am recording and then spend the time later to work on the clean signal. This is called “re-amping” and this way saves much time and effort over having to re-record parts if you change your mind later. Of course I could simply record an unprocessed signal in the first place but depending on the song and style of music, recording a clean sound isn’t preferable since the sound you hear yourself playing can have little relationship to what it will sound like and is frankly difficult to imagine while playing if not also a little awkward tonally. This feature adequately addresses that problem.
Some of the other significant features include free BOSS TONE STUDIO software that let you create, organize, and edit all of the patches on your GT-001 through the USB connection. This is a quicker and easier way than doing it through the unit itself although even that is fairly straightforward. You can also access the BOSS TONE CENTRAL website where you can preview and download additional patches. If you also happen to own the GT-100, the patches all work with both units so you can create in the software and use in both effects units. TONE CENTRAL also features demo videos, how to videos, interviews, and other premium content. It comes with AC adapter but can also run off of the power from your computer’s USB bus, adding in more flexibility, versatility, and portability.
Overall, this one simple and attractive unit can meet almost every need you would have for home recording. If there is one thing missing that I would have liked to have seen included are effects presets for bass guitar. Electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and vocals are covered so adding bass guitar presets would have been an easy addition. Now, having said that, you can in fact play a bass guitar through the BOSS GT-001 and then tweak any of the presets to fit your need and oddly, to me at least, while BOSS acknowledges this fact, do not really market this and to be honest I am not sure why. Beyond that, to get all of these features in this small unit and with this quality it’s easy to see why the BOSS GT-001 is getting the love and attention that it is.