This summer, I built a pro-quality pedal board, but after receiving the Zoom G5 for review, I realize that my summer would have been better spent working on new tunes instead of hunting down parts, soldering cables and grappling with power problems.
With 125 effects (up to nine available simultaneously), 297 patches, a built-in tube booster, a 60-second looper and distinctive Z-Pedal control, the G5 has effect-processing capabilities that far exceed those of my 12-pedal and audio-controller setup, yet it carries a street price that’s less than what I paid for the Mogami cable and Switchcraft plugs to wire up the board.
And with features like a built-in rhythm machine and digital-audio-interface capabilities, the G5 delivers impressive bang for the buck for guitarists seeking a powerful, compact and easy-to-use all-in-one effect system.
The G5’s front panel has a simple and easy-to-understand layout consisting of four multifunction footswitches, a dedicated Tube Booster footswitch, four effect sections (each with three parameter knobs, effect selector keys and a large display), and a variety of keys for selecting patches, tapping tempo, selecting rhythms, storing patches and more.
The Tube Booster section is driven by a 12AX7 tube, provides up to 16dB of signal boost, and has its own footswitch and boost and tone knobs. On the far right is the Z-Pedal, which operates in an up/down fashion like a traditional wah or volume pedal but also rotates side to side, allowing guitarists to manually control four independent parameters at once with their feet.
The rear panel has a mono 1/4-inch input jack with a level switch for passive or active pickups, stereo 1/4-inch outputs, a 1/4-inch headphone output, a balanced XLR output with pre/post and ground switches, a 1/4-inch input for controlling parameters with an optional footswitch or expression pedal, and a USB interface.
When it comes to effects, the G5 offers all of the essentials (as well as a few unusual selections), including various compressors, noise reducers and gates, EQs, wahs, exciters, filters, envelope followers, auto-wahs, step/sequencer effects, overdrives, distortions, fuzzes, amp emulators, acoustic simulators, tremolos, slicers, phasers, choruses, flangers, vibratos, octave/pitch shifters, ring modulators, bit crushers, synths, panners, delays, reverbs and combination effects.
The G5 also provides 22 speaker cabinet models for programming almost any imaginable amp rig.
Digital multieffect units usually involve a certain degree of compromise, whether it’s the integrity of the signal or the amount of available parameters, but that’s not the case with the G5. Even with patches that use all nine available effects, the guitar’s basic tone remained full and dynamic.
Most of the effects provide at least three parameters for modifying sounds, although all of the amp models and some of the more sophisticated effects (like the M-Filter, Duo Phase and Stereo Delay) offer eight parameters for tweaking sounds with satisfying detail. Once again, Zoom earns bonus points for including outstanding models of uncommon boutique and vintage amps (Bogner, Carr, Diezel, Engl, Krank, Matchless, Sound City, Two Rock and so on) as well as the usual Fender, Marshall, Mesa and Vox suspects.
By making the 12AX7-driven Tube Boost section easily accessible, Zoom shows that it truly understands the needs of performing guitarists. The Z-Pedal, with its up/down and side-to-side action, takes a little while to get used to, but with a little practice guitarists will discover new expressive capabilities that make a traditional wah-style treadle seem pathetically simplistic. The G5 automatically saves settings when parameters are adjusted, so you don’t have to constantly worry about performing save functions as you dial in tones.
THE BOTTOM LINE
At a street price comparable to a fancy-pants boutique stomp box, the G5 offers guitarists a complete effect pedal board and much, much more, in a compact, no-nonsense self-contained system.