We go hands-on with the BOSS GT-1000, running it through its paces, evaluating its features and sound quality.
Written by Julian Williamson
The BOSS GT-1000 is the company's latest (as of 2018) top-dog, professional-grade guitar multi-effects processor. I demoed a unit over several days by more or less flying blind and figuring it out as I went, to evaluate its depth and intuitiveness.
In the last couple of years, several big-name guitar effects companies, including Line 6 and Headrush, have rolled out flagship, do-all, multi-effects processors. They're all quite impressive in processing power and how versatile they are, and in the quality of sounds they produce—which is what's most important in a multi-effects processor. But this isn't a comparison with other models. Nor is it just a list of its impressive specs, which includes the most powerful processor in the market. This article is all about what it's like for a real person to use the BOSS GT-1000.
What the GT-1000 Can Do
Oh, man, this thing does a lot. If you're looking to run a host of effects without all the clutter, the GT-1000 can do it. If you want to play board-direct, use an external power amp or powered cab—no problem. If you play in a cover band and need a huge range of song- or band-specific tones on tap, it takes but a couple of button pushes. If you want a digital-direct recording interface, you only need to plug in a USB cable between your computer and the unit. If you want to adjust your signal chain from your phone, just download the BOSS Tone Studio app and connect. If you want to run a split stereo signal or use stereo effects through two amps, just get two instrument cables and away you go.
Over 100 Effects for Guitar and Bass
The guitar effects lineup of the GT-1000 is spectacular, as one would expect from a monolith in the industry such as BOSS, which has more than 40 years of experience under its belt. There are 116 built-in effects, which range from all over BOSS' impressive resume to classic stomps with names similar to—but legally different from—what you might buy from other brands. The lineup includes the company's high-end 500-series effects, six different types of wah effects, modulators, distortions, delays, reverbs, an acoustic-guitar simulator, phasers, pitch shifters—pretty much everything you could ever want.
From a purely technical standpoint, all of the effects sound great. I couldn't hear any traces of the squashed, compressed, overtly digital sounds of processors from my youth. And each effect has deep control sets, depending on the effect.
That's both a plus and a minus for me, as a player who doesn't love a ton of knobs and menus between the tone I have in my head and the one that's coming through the speakers. For example, the “Reverb” category has 10 choices (Hall, Plate, Spring, etc.), and each one has as many as 22 parameters to adjust for level, time, pre delay and so on. That tends to get a bit daunting and tiresome when you just want to dial in a good tone to start playing.
While I love having the ability to do anything and everything in the tonal world, simplicity tends to get sacrificed in the process.
New Realism in Preamp Modeling
After effects, the second biggest piece of the tonal pie is the amp modeling, which has made progress by leaps and bounds in the last decade or so. Instead of fizzy, lifeless and overly compressed tones of yesteryear, the GT-1000 sounds, well, like the amps it's modeling. BOSS definitely did its homework to dial in the responsiveness and minute characteristics of these amps with its highly touted Augmented Impulse Response Dynamics tech.
Keep in mind that the unit doesn't have a built-in power-amp section, so the AIRD preamp models require external amplification to play through more than a pair of headphones. And, by adding a post-processor power amp and speaker(s), or playing PA direct, it'll color the sound somewhat, so you'll have to adjust your EQ accordingly. But the models will still have the feel and tone of an analog amp. The more transparent the speaker or PA system will lessen the coloration.
The GT-1000 also lets you select left and right stereo mic type, distance and position from the cone of the digital speaker. Those change the sound and response of the tone along with the EQ sections of each amp model.
The organization of the patches (the digital signal chain of amps, effects and settings) is broken into two categories—user and preset. The preset side comes loaded with 250 tones, most of which are generic archetypes (rock, lead, fuzz, blues, etc.) with varying levels of effect layering. Some others are effects-heavy showcases. And the rest sound very similar to—but have legally different names from—a wide range of bands and songs. Examples include: “Nothing 4 Money,” “70s Barracuda OD” and “Green Stew.” You can try to figure out the inspiration behind those.
Besides sounding extremely close to their inspiration sources, the pre-loaded tones, and the ones you can add manually, are extremely useful for cover-band situations, as many offer two-channel switching for songs with multiple tonal sections.
If you're lucky enough to find yourself with a GT-1000, don't feel bad if you skip over the majority of presets. Many of the patches are there to represent the potential of the GT-1000, and will no doubt inspire you to go where you have never been before. There's such a massive range of tones and effects that no one player could possibly make use of them all. But, still, they could be used as templates for creating unique user patches—which brings us to patch creation and the BOSS Tone Studio.
Creating Patches and BOSS Tone Studio
While you can do everything on the unit's built-in 6” screen, I could only really use it for on-the-spot tonal triage and slight adjustments. If you want to build a new patch from square one, get a computer and USB cable, download the appropriate drivers and get the BOSS Tone Studio app. If you don't have a computer to use, download the app to a tablet or phone and control the GT-1000 wirelessly via Bluetooth.
That said, the BOSS Tone Studio app is absolutely delightful to use. It's such a well-laid-out and intuitive design that I was able to figure it out fairly quickly without any guidance whatsoever. All of the amp and effects blocks are gray when off, colored when on, and pull up a lower control window to adjust parameters when you click on each. The signal paths are clearly laid out, and switching or combining them is just a couple of clicks away. And all of the changes made on the app also happen on the GT-1000 itself, in real time, so you can test, approve and save it with just a couple of clicks.
One thing I really liked about the app/unit cooperation is that it lets you change the control functionality of every foot-switchable button on the physical unit. For example, you can turn the pressure toe switch under the expression treadle (the long pedal on the right) into an on/off switch for a non-expression effect, make it a level cut/boost or any other function. Or you can turn off any switch to avoid accidentally triggering something while playing.
As someone with wide feet who's been burned by accidentally stepping on a “Bank Up” button when trying to activate a boost, it's a great call by BOSS to let users reassign (or deactivate) everything. Plus, you can assign one of 10 colors (or no color) to each of the LED blocks above the buttons to keep things clear on a dark stage.
The BOSS Tone Studio app is also fantastic for downloading new patches, as it acts as both an editor and a portal to the BOSS-curated tones. I was able to get some “clearly inspired by” two-channel tones that sounded like old Guns N' Roses and Iron Maiden tunes. And the interface even features audio samples so you know what you're getting before downloading them.
Run Multiple Tones on Each GT-1000 Patch
As I mentioned with two-channel patches, another feature I really like with the GT-1000 is its ability to run up to four different signal paths within a patch.
Each blank user patch starts with a switchable A/B split setup, with an amp model, distortion, noise gate, EQ and send/return block (more on that later) on each side. You can add, move and adjust anything within either of those paths, or combine them into a blended stereo setup, or into a split left/right output. And the system allows you to add two more switchable splits to the chain, acting as a loop switcher for songs with stacked effects that you need for short periods. That gives you the ability to set up different channels you can change with the footswitches, so you can just select the signal path instead of the entire patch.
For example, if you wanted to play lead guitar on Metallica's Master of Puppets, you can set one path for the basic rhythm tone, one for the clean interlude, and drop in a boosted lead tone with a wah for the solo. For me, it's mentally easier to make one divided patch for a song with multiple parts than cycle through different patches, as I'll inevitably step on the wrong button and activate a different patch. Plus, you're assured volume parity when you stay within the same patch. And, again, it's super easy to set up with the BOSS Tone Studio app.
Adding External Effects
Yet another feature I'm a big fan of is the ability to run physical external effects in your digital signal chain via the two effects loops built into the GT-1000. And, through the software-hardware relationship, you can move the placement of the external effects anywhere you want in the digital path.
So, let's say you have a sweet A/B setup dialed in with clean and crunch rigs and a lush reverb, but you really want to use your vintage octave fuzz and boost with the crunch and a prized rack delay with the clean. No problem. Just plug those effects into the two loops (extra cables are required), move the switchable send/return block to where you want those effects in the line, save the patch and get rockin'.
Recording with the GT-1000
I'll admit I didn't do a deep dive into the GT-1000's recording capabilities, but I did do some basic multi-track stuff, and it works very well. I just had to change my Pro Tools settings on my MacBook to talk with the unit, created a new track, played and was deeply satisfied with the ease of use and quality of the sounds.
In the "USB Audio" section of the menu, the GT-1000 gives you the option of sending your wet, processed signal, or your dry signal for re-amping later. All I needed was the unit, a USB cable, a DAW (both Pro Tools and GarageBand worked equally well) and my trusty Gibson SG. The GT-1000 handled playback through the headphones, so I didn't even need to run external monitors (though you can) or any other external interface.
BOSS also gives you the ability to load external impulse responses for speaker-cab modeling. Unfortunately, I didn't have the ability to try it out. But that feature adds a whole other world of versatility and fine-tuning to create your perfect tone.
As a general overview, I really like the GT-1000. It does a lot more than the vast majority of players will ever need. It sounds stellar. It's built like a tank without being oppressively big or heavy. The ease of customizability, especially with the button assignments, is outstanding. And recording with it is incredibly easy, so it'll make for an invaluable studio tool, especially for those with cranky neighbors (or, in my case, a week-old baby in the next room).
While I wish the GT-1000 had a few more bells and whistles, and changes with its functionality, it's still a phenomenal piece of gear that most any guitar player would be more than happy to have. And, given BOSS' historically impressive reliability, it's sure to deliver years of use in rehearsal, in the studio and on the stage. I know I'll be sad to send it back from whence it came at the end of this review.