Price paid: € 225
Purchased from: Musikhaus Thomann
Sound — 8
I'm running it as an effect loop on my Peavey 5150II, using the amps own distortion (obviously). At home I use it as you would with any pedal board. I generally don't use it as an audio interface, but it works very well as that too and is fully compatible with (in my case) Cubase 6. The guitars I use are Ibanez UV777 (DiMarzio Breed), RG3520Z Prestige (customized with DiMarzio D-Activators), Ibanez RG2550E Prestige (customized with DiMarzio Evolution (N) and EMG 81 (B) and a Martin XCT1 Ellipse. The board isn't noisy at all. Very quiet! Far less noisy than my friends Boss G8 and my old Behringer V-Amp Pro or Zoom GFX-5 for instance. The (usable) effects are generally good, although I feel Zoom tend to tweak them too light. But as stated, they're easy to tweak so it doesn't really matter. I don't tweak to sound like my own artist. I wanna have my own sound. For that, it works nicely. The amp effects, regular distortions and cleans are nice. But a lot of these modular ones are cr@p. But I don't use them, so I don't care. I just push them out of my way. The noise gate and compressors are generally very good. So are the EQs. I let my amp do the distortion work.
Overall Impression — 6
I play heavy metal with some influences from progressive metal, extreme metal and whatever makes the songs sound cool. Mostly rhythm parts but also some leads, Harmony sections and clean. The board works very well in that setting. I've been playing guitar for almost as long as I can remember, but my band is only 5 years old. I did a lot of research and testing before I got the board, so I was pretty well covered. If someone stole it... Dunno, actually. I love the easy editing and set up. BUT it has some MAJOR drawbacks that even makes the old GFX-5 laugh. Firstly, the tuner is a bit too "nervy", exaggregating how much you're actually off. But that's not a big deal once you've gotten used to it. But it get worse. For instance, there is no way to pre-arm one patch on another bank while staying in the old one (on another bank). This means that unless all patches in the same song are stored either on the same bank or nicely lined up vertically to one another, you might get lost in "riverdancing" between patches and banks. The GFX-5 had separately bank and patch switches where you could arm one bank while still satying in another. A FAR better solution! Also, having to press two switches to change banks is a b1tch! Cause they need to be pressed simultaneously, and with equal force. Easy "on paper", but in a heated live gig moment... Not. Good. At. All. The switches are also WAY too close to each other (internal distance 2 cm shorter than for my Peavy foot switch) making it too easy to actually swith banks while really only trying to switch between patches. I've come out from a lead part a couple of times, all worked up and "on" and slammed my foot down to go back to the previous patch, ending up hitting two switches and thereby going into another bank instead. It kinda ruined the moment. The last annoyng feature is that if you cut the volume (by assigning the expression pedal as a volume switch) on one patch, change to another patch, the volume is still cut, which is ok, BUT the expression pedal is disregarded! So, say you go from a distortion part and into a clean section. You cut the volume to avoid feed-back or whatever, change patch to the clean one and then turn up the volume on the expression pedal, it's still quiet no matter how much you step on the expression pedal. Anyway, to the price you get one of these boards for, there is not much out there that matches it. If anything. The Boss G10, Line 6 HD PODs, DigiTechs and VOXs with similar are twice the price (and some of them sound awful... ). So you get your moneys worth. That's for sure! I don't need MIDI swithing for the amp either, so... If you can live with the drawbacks (I guess it's just a question about getting used to it and a well thought through set-up and what you wanna use it for- probably better suited for home recordings and rehearsals than live settings in a metal band), then get one! Probably wont regret it. The tube pre-amp is worth half the money alone.
Reliability & Durability — 8
My old GFX-5 had some issues, so that is lingering a bit in the back of my head. But this one seem to be built pretty sturdy and, well... Yeah. I guess it's pretty reliable. If it ever breaks down on me live, I'll just de-activate the effect loop, going all direct in the amp. That works too. So I never bother bringing a back-up.
Ease of Use — 9
I bought the G5 to have something for both live use, rehearsals and studio/home recordings. Getting a decent sound is a walk in the park. You choose a patch and tweak it into your own liking. The presets are... Typically Zoom, not too good. The only negative thing here is that it might be quite some "knob-work" going through the (long) effect "Lists" to get what you want. But changing the order of the effects or swapping patches is easy and adjusting them is as you would on a stomp box or an amp thanks to the displays. Learning how the different modules work towards global settings takes a little bit more time, but it's pretty intuitive any way. The built-in tube preamp is very nice for recording as it adds a kinda tubeish sound to otherwise digital effects, reducing the need for re-amping. I haven't really explored all the features of the 3D expression pedal.