Boss GT-001 Effects and Nord Lead 2

Boss GT-001 with Nord Lead
Boss GT-001 with Nord Lead

Just today I found a used Boss GT-001 effect processor and thought the size and form factor was perfect for the Nord Lead 2. I was interested in the Tera Echo effect that can be found in the GT-001 as well. I was going to buy a dedicated Tera Echo but for a little more that a used one I could get the GT-001 and have a whole slew of effects for the Nord Synth and other stuff. So far, the GT-001 which is similar to the Boss GT-100 has been a wonderful addition. Below are some initial thoughts as I worked with it today.

First, there is no dedicated BYPASS switch on the Boss GT-001. To start fresh or basically have a patch initialized, I turned all the effect data off and saved a dummy patch called “BYPASS”. I then assigned it to Favorite A button which allows me to call up the Bypass patch at anytime. The GT-001 probably colors the synth sound a little but I didn’t really notice any major sound difference. There is also a bypass switch located in the Tuner function, but found just creating a dedicated patch to work fine. I’m not even sure if the Tuner bypass function will work as desired anyway.

The second favorite B patch I created was a simple EQ and Reverb Combo Patch for the Nord Lead 2. This allows me to boost the bass, add mids, or sprinkle some reverb onto the basic sound. I then created a Favorite C patch that added some Tera Echo and that was a blast to work with. I love that Tera Echo on the Nord. Finally, my initial Favorite D patch is a dotted 8th note delay which is fun to play along with the Boss RC-202. You can dial in the BPM, so although there is no external midi sync, one can effectively play with the same BPM which works just fine in my book.

Like I mentioned above there are no Midi Din jacks on the back. Yes, that’s a shame, but the GT-001 does allow you to dial in the BPM to match your synth, sequencer, or in my case the Boss RC-202. I actually have the Nord Lead 2 midi’d up to the Boss RC-202 so that the RC-202 controls the Nord’s arp tempo. The Boss GT-001 I just punch in the BPM and I’m set. So far I’ve had zero timing issues. For live playing, I think this setup works just fine, but for studio recording, one might wish for the dedicated midi connections.

The individual effects and effect chain are very easy to control with the GT-001 itself. You actually do NOT need the Tone Studio software to work with the GT-001. I did however spend some time with the GT Tone Studio doing some basic tweaks on all of the patches to make them more “synthesizer” friendly. I now have a 200 patch bank of synth patches without all of the guitar and vocal oriented effects added. Reverbs, EQ, OD, Delay, Chorus, Comp, and a few other effects were changed to sound better with a synthesizer. A cool thing about the GT-001 is you can create your own user category for the 200 patches. So, I was able to create a “SYNTH Category” and keep my synth patches separate from the guitar ones. Very nice.

My hardware setup is basically the Nord Lead 2 connected to the Boss GT-001 which then goes into the Boss RC-202. The RC-202 then goes into my mixer and out my PA system. While the effects are excellent in the Boss RC-202, I enjoy creating specific synth patches on the Boss GT-001 that might consist of several effects at once. Basically,like a stomp box, the Boss RC-202 is easy to quickly turn on and off effects. While the Boss GT-001 does have four favorite buttons, it is not as easy to disengage individual effects on the fly. However, it is VERY easy to sculpt your own sound and then save that patch for a one click solution.

I have not tried using the foot controller option for the Boss GT-001 just yet. I plan to plug in an expression pedal most likely. I also haven’t used the XLR jack yet which provides a mic option. I actually use both a Boss VE-20 and TC-Helicon Voice Live 2 for vocals, so it’s likely I won’t use that feature anytime soon. It’s nice to have it though. The build is not that bad with the Boss GT-001 and I like very “light” objects on my synthesizers to avoid devices falling or banging the expensive synth gear. So while guitar players might cringe at the light plastic feel of the GT-001, us synth players might actually prefer it. The Boss RC-202 has a better build by the way than the GT-001, but not by much. Note that the Boss GT-001 and Boss RC-202 are not battery powered in case someone asks.

While the Boss GT-001 is not setup for synths straight out of the box, it can handle them very well once you go in and tweak the patches. The preset patches are awful for the Nord Lead which is why I spent and hour or so tweaking all of the 200 patches in the Tone Studio Software on the Mac to my liking. I then could tolerate and tweak further with the synth plugged in. The effects are shaping up really nice now and it’s so nice to have such a small, yet powerful effects unit on the Nord Lead. The effects do sound great and definitely help the Nord Lead 1, 2, and 3 catch up to the Nord A1 in terms of that vintage effect sound. The GT-001 fattens up the Nord very nicely.

I’ll update this post further with additional thoughts as I progress with the Boss GT-001 effect processor.

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Boss RC-3 RC-30 Synthesizer Looping

Boss RC-30 RC-3 Looper
Boss RC-30 RC-3 Looper

Although I already have both the Boss RC-50 and RC-300 Lopp Station Pedal Boards, I couldn’t pass up on an excellent deal involving a Boss RC-30 and RC-3 combo package. Some guy brought in both to the store a second hand Boss RC-3 and RC-30. The sales clerk asked if I was interested and I responded quickly when I found the price to be too good to pass up. These things are kind of expensive and honestly I think he got them mixed up with the RC-20 and RC-2 combo because he pretty much sold them near the same price as those used. I’m very happy with getting a great deal on these.

Today I hooked up the Boss RC-3 to my Roland D-50 and had quite a bit of fun with it. How I use the Boss RC-3 with synths is perhaps different than others. With the Boss RC-3, I transfer about ten 8 bar drum loop WAVs to memory slots 1 to 10. I then choose one and loop over the 8 bar groove. I then save the loop to a “DIFFERENT” slot so that I can then reuse the original drum loop again. For example, I copy a drum loop WAV file created in Audacity to memory slot #1. I then perform my overdubs and jam over the finished loop using the D-50. I then save the loop to memory slot #11. That way I have a finished loop in slot #11 and the original drum loop still intact at slot #1. This method kind of gives me 10 new drum grooves to work with instead of the factory drums in the internal memory which I don’t particularly care for. I also don’t mind being locked into an 8 bar groove in this example because that’s what I usually do anyway with creating a loop. Actually when using the Boss RC-3 or RC-30 I record both the A and B sections in one loop. I’m not a big fan of loop redundancy. I think if people were to create their loops a little longer it would be a bit more interesting, but that’s just me.

Note that when transferring WAV files to the Boss RC-3 there is a drop in volume. There are a lot of complaints about this around the web. The solution is to lower the volume in Audacity or your favorite audio editor. You’ll have to experiment with this but I found -20db to be about right for my particular WAV loops. When I transfer WAV files to my Boss RC-50 I don’t have to lower the volume at all, so clearly the Boss RC-3 has changed. In addition, you get latency when changing loop phrases. This is also well known and in my opinion quite deliberate of Boss Japan. I’ve been in Japan now for 19 years and can tell you the thought process coincides quite clearly with the decision to add latency to the RC-3. It doesn’t surprise me the RC-3 has such limitations and I highly doubt a firmware upgrade will fix it. If Boss Japan does decide to fix it, then be on the look out for a Boss RC-4. That seems much more realistic than a firmware update in my mind.

Anyways, the Boss RC-3 also works fantastic as an addon to the Boss RC-50 and RC-300 for use as a “free mode” looping device. I put the Boss RC-3 and RC-30 “BEFORE” the RC-50. I always use the RC-50 and RC-300 in Single mode so that I can easily record a Verse, Chorus, and Bridge or Vamp for synth songs. I use drum WAV files of predetermined lengths in loop 1, 2, and 3 on the RC-50. I then use a blank silent drum WAV for the RC-3 or RC-30 that matches the tempo and length of the files in the RC-50. When I now stomp on the RC-3 I can record a loop that will sync for 4 to 5 cycles of the RC-50. This allows me to add some color or flavor to the mix temporarily. The free mode effect allows slight shifting which lends to an interesting analog feel. I don’t play ambient stuff, but rather straight forward rock, synthpop, and up tempo oriented songs In most cases I don’t detect any drifting. Again that is due to use the RC-3 and RC-30 loops working in short cycles and not for the during of a song. This brilliantly extends the RC-50 or RC-300 with more looping options which is awesome. Also note that with the RC-30, the effects on board are more useful because you can use the dive effect in like a one shot mode over the RC-50 composition. It’s all hard to visualize perhaps so I might do a video here shortly of how I loop.

Other loopers I have here are the Lexicon Jamman, Gibson Echoplex, and the Digitech Jamman Solo. I use them all, but nowadays I primarily use the Boss looper stuff. I thought about getting a Boomerang III, but with no midi sync nor the ability to save loops it was quickly scratched off my list. As a synth player, midi and the ability to store my sketches are very important to me. Indeed the Boomerang III is probably the best by most, but without midi and loop storage it’s definitely not a good looper for what I do, although I do have my eye on it in case things change. Originally I bought the Jamman and Echoplex for the fantastic midi capabilities. The newer Jamman Solo had the first significant loop storage ability. The Boos RC-50 and RC-300 loopers I have found suit me well for synth looping. I really like them. Now adding the Boss RC-3 and RC-30 allows a lot of expansion possibilities and additional fun. If you haven’t tried looping check them out! I sure wish these loopers were around when I was a kid in the 80’s.

Zoom MS-50G for Synths and Keyboards

Zoom MS-50G
Zoom MS-50G

It’s been a busy month so I haven’t had a chance to post some new articles, but I have quite a few on deck this month. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch up. It was an excellent September month for picking up old used gear.

Today I present a stomp box that I actually bought new. It’s the Zoom MS-50G and right on the box it says for guitar. I wondered if I would need a DI, but it actually works great with all of my synths. So plugging the Zoom MS-50G right into the synth direct will work just fine. I am a huge fan of the recently released Zoom G3 and G5 pedal boards. I have them both and use them all the time with my synths and of course guitars. I really like how easy they are easy to program and of course I like the sound of them. The Zoom MS-50G is no different in that “if correct” it uses the same chip as the G3 and G5. It’s sounds great and as you can see it has a very small footprint. Right now I have it plugged into my newly acquired Roland EP-30 and it’s absolutely wonderful.

There are many patches which can contain up to six different effects. Yes, there are default factory patches, but you can also modify or create your own. Each of the three knobs on the front can dial in specific parameters. Plus there are four scroll buttons surrounding the toggle switch for scrolling through effects that have more than one menu. It’s super easy and for those who have the G3 or G5 it’s nearly identical. There is no looper on board, but that’s no problem for me given that the G3 and G5 have loopers. The Zoom MS-50G sits nicely up on any of my keyboards and works great at adding additional effects when needed. It’s simply awesome to be able to scroll through different effects quickly and experiment with them on the fly. As many will know, old keyboards don’t necessarily have a lot of effects on board and this Zoom MS-50G becomes a nice addition.

If you need to add effects to your synths or keyboards on the go or for just easy experimentation, you can’t go wrong with the Zoom MS-50G. It’s super small and easy to setup. It will add a lot of fun to any synth lacking in the effects department. It you get a whole lot of bang for your buck with this little gem.

Here is a quick clip of the Zoom MS-50G in action on the guitar. I suppose I’ll have to try and record one with a keyboard setup as I don’t see any on Youtube yet.

Zoom G5 Multi Effect Pedal Review

Zoom G5 Guitar Effects and Amp Simulator Pedal
Zoom G5 Guitar Effects and Amp Simulator Pedal

A short while ago I bought a Zoom G3 multi-effect pedal for my synthesizers and was really blown away by it. Since then I have really used the G3 quite a bit and have had my eye on the new Zoom G5. Today I got an email from a music store here in Nagano-city, Japan and was told that they had just received a Zoom G5 this morning. I have a friend who works at this particular store and was able to get a nice employee discount so I decided to buy the Zoom G5 and give it try.

I haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and play with it today, but I can say the footprint is very good. It’s small, lightweight but sturdy, and in my opinion very cool looking. I plan to use this with synths and keyboards that lack effects and to experiment with different patches that are extremely simple to dial in with the Zoom G5. In fact, that is one thing I’m most impressed with the G5. It’s amazingly simple and fast to use. I really like how you get a nice visual display for each effect and have three dedicated knobs to tweak the parameters. The sound of the effects is fantastic and I do notice it’s better than my G3 but that’s subjective I know. The Zoom G5 appears to be built rather well and the displays are wonderful to see on a dark stage. The looper and built in drum machine are a nice bonus for laying down some nice creative song ideas with effects and I use these features extensively with my Zoom G3. I’m excited to do more with the Zoom G5.

Two features missing from the Zoom G5 are (1) and effects send/return loop and (2) midi connectivity. Midi is usually important to me as a synth player, but with the Zoom G5 it doesn’t bother me yet that it’s missing. Perhaps later, but for now I just enjoy the ease of use in allowing me to experiment with a multitude of effects that can be used to create patches with up to 9 effects in total. Wonderful!! The sales clerk at the music shop said there already was a waiting list being generated at the store and he felt the Zoom G5 would likely be a big hit in Japan which is why I ran down today to pick up their only model.

Although a good unit, the new Boss GT-100 isn’t selling as well in this particular shop and he thought it likely was due to the price point and the relatively low sales of the Boss GT-10 they had before. Their G3 and now G5 zoom products will likely fair much better although that doesn’t necessarily indicate they are better than the Boss or Line6 models in the store. For me, the Zoom G5 is a fantastic solution for experimenting with different effects in a synth or keyboard setup. The simplicity makes it so much fun to use!! I highly recommend the Zoom G5.