Okay so another in my series of beginners pedal reviews. This is really the pedal that got me into guitar effects. I bought it with some Christmas money and had no idea what I was getting myself into. It remains the most essential piece of guitar equipment that I own due to its massive power and tonal versatility. So I’m reviewing the version of this pedal WITH the expression pedal. They also make a version of the pedal without the expression pedal, but if you’re looking to buy, I highly recommend investing in the version with the expression pedal. It adds so much functionality and possibilities to what you can do with the pedal. So the pedal looks like this:
image credit: Music-Blvd.com
Upfront Statement: I am not getting paid to say any of this, nor am I receiving any gifts. I am simply issuing a fair review to get the information out there.
Baseline (still not going for that pun): If you’re a beginner in the world of guitar effects, the Zoom G1Xon is perfect for you. Its current firmware has 100 effects and it supports 100 patches which can have up to 5 effects each. The possibilities are endless. Given that it retails for about $70 and likely (though I haven’t done the math) has thousands of dollars worth of effects on it, this is a fantastic starting point. You can go from wacked-out, funky effects-heavy patches to crisp clean vintage patches with the touch of a footswitch. Plus it comes fully loaded with patches so you don’t have to worry about having to fill up the space yourself.
Cons: Before I get to the many many good things about the G1Xon, I should note a few of its limitations or shortcomings. I’ll go on for ages about all the possibilities this pedal gives you, so it’s only fair that I tell you some issues with it.
- Made of plastic: While this is only really a concern for players that are going to be in rough gigging environments, it is fundamentally less sturdy than pedals made of metal. This has not been an issue for me, as I’ve been using it in a studio environment, and it is built well, but as I said, for gigging environments, I’m unsure how it would hold up to that kind of wear and tear.
- Single stereo output: While it’s a nice feature that the G1Xon has a stereo output, to take full advantage of that you need a specific type of cable or cable splitter. This seems easy enough, but when I went through the process of finding the right cable/splitter, it took me 3 times to get the right one (hint, make sure the cable/splitter specifically says it splits a stereo signal into left and right mono signals. There are a ton of different splitters). Obviously it’s not a huge flaw, but it would have been better with left and right outputs.
- Noisy/doesn’t always play nice with others: On the topic of your effects line, the G1Xon can create a bit of noise and hum especially when paired with other pedals. For example, putting my Jim Dunlop Cry Baby Wah pedal after the G1Xon created a ton of noise, while putting the Wah pedal before the G1Xon was fine. This is not a widespread problem. I’m NOT saying “this pedal will make your lineup noisy,” because that’s not true. But in some combinations it will be a bit fussy. The handy thing, though, is it has both a Noise Gate and Noise Suppressor so for noisy patches you can just throw that in the mix and it calms it right down.
- Clipping: This is something that only happens in a few specific situations, but it’s worth mentioning. It seems that when the G1Xon’s internal volume is set to 100 or above (it goes to 120), on certain effects, with certain parameters, you’ll get a nasty kind of clipping distortion. I found this out when using a patch that utilized Chorus, DuoPhaser, and a Wah pedal. All of them were set to max depth, and no matter what amp, speaker or headphone I was playing them out of, there was like I said a pretty ugly clipping noise (clipping, if you don’t know, is essentially the distortion sound you get when the volume exceeds the amp or pre-amp’s maximum capacity, think of when someone speaks too loudly and too closely into a microphone and you get that overdrive/distortion sound). Now this was an easy fix as once I figured out why it was doing this, I just turned the internal volume down and everything was fine. Still, though, not an ideal situation.
Pros: So before I start talking about the specifics of the G1Xon, I’d like to give you an overview of why I think this pedal is so special.
- Maximum versatility: I’ll demonstrate this later, but for now, chew on some numbers. I ran the most basic factorials to find out how many possible combinations of effects this pedal was capable of. I won’t bore you by taking you through the math, but the number I came back with was over 75 million combinations. And that’s just taking into account that there are 100 effects, 100 patches, and 5 effects per patch. Dizzying right? That’s not even taking into account how you can change an entire patch’s sound with the expression pedal, or how much you can change with the parameters of any given effect (which range from 3 to 9, and probably average about 5). For all practical purposes, there are infinite effects combinations that this pedal is capable of, which means you can deliver a soft, warm vintage tone, then go to a spaced out trippy tone, then come in with a balls to the walls metal tone, before hitting your audience with an effects-heavy robotic sound, all to circle back to calm acoustic sound. It’s honestly amazing what this thing’s capable of.
- LCD screen/intuitive controls: So you’ve got all these possibilities, which is great, but it doesn’t count for anything if you can’t access them easily. This is where I’ve found the G1Xon to be incredibly superior to other multi-effects pedals. The LCD screen makes it easy to show what parameters you’re adjusting, what patch you’re on, and what effects you’re using. The menu layout is superb, with an intuitive rolling knob and enter button. While it might be difficult on other Multi-Effects Pedals to, say, change the depth of your chorus for a patch you created for a specific song, with the G1Xon, all you have to do is remember that you named that patch “AstroTurf” (for some reason), go to it on the menu, select “chorus,” then select “depth,” and finally adjust to your desired amount. I’ve looked into a lot of different multi-effects pedals, and played a few different ones, this is by far the easiest way to access your saved patches and tones, and the easiest way to create new patches and tones.
- Aux-in jack/headphone access: The auxiliary-in jack allows you to connect your smartphone, mp3 player, or computer to play anything you want through the Zoom G1Xon. The sound will come through completely unaltered by any effects, and it allows you to jam along with your favorite songs. While I mentioned the Stereo-out as a potential limiting factor, where it comes in handy is when you’re playing into headphones, which this pedal allows you to do because of its built-in preamp. You don’t even need to run it through your amp, just get a headphone adapter for a 1/4″ jack and play to yourself without disturbing anyone, and while taking full advantage of the stereo sound.
- Expression Pedal: This is the reason to pay the extra money to get the version with the expression pedal. Not only does it give you 3 different wah pedals and 2 pitch shifter/whammy pedals, it’s assignable to almost any parameter of any effect. For example, there’s a brilliant patch that I’ll show you later that comes preloaded that mimics Jimi Hendrix’s sound, specifically (in my opinion) his sound from Woodstock. The patch was already fantastic, but I assigned the expression pedal to the speed of The Vibe (an effect that’s a little hard to explain, but if you search for Uni-Vibe, you’ll find it) and it gave me complete control of that patch. I can now go for a slow oscillation (think of oscillation as being like a wave, it’s what you get with tremolo, phaser, and other mod effects) in parts where I want more clarity to a quick oscillation when I want something to be accented. There’s a million and one ways you can use the expression pedal, and the fact that you can use it for more than just the pedal effects gives you endless possibilities like taking a patch from completely clean to heavy distortion with the flick of the pedal.
- Price: I believe this is the cheapest true multi-effects processor on the market, but it does not act like that. It’s certainly cheaper than it’s direct competitors from DigiTech and Vox, but it does not sound like a cheap pedal. For the $70 price tag you get an almost infinite array of sounds and effects. You actually get more effects than you do with the DigiTech pedal since their latest firmware update which took it from 75 effects and amp sims to 100. By the way that’s another plus, you get free firmware updates which do not mess up your patches but give you more and more effects as they roll out the firmware. For the money you’re spending, there is not a better pedal on the market.
The Sounds: Okay now that we’ve gone over the general pros and cons of this pedal we can get into the sounds you can get from this beast. Obviously I can’t take you through every possibility this pedal can give you. As I stated before, there’s over 75 million possible combinations. However, you can look at all the different effects they currently carry on the online manual here (though I’m not sure what firmware that is for so it might be missing a few effects). So what I’ll do instead is show you my favorite effect from each of the 6 groups of effects and then I’ll show you 2 patches that I created and 2 patches that came pre-loaded.
1.) Auto-Wah: So let’s start off with the Dynamics/Filter Category, where my favorite solo effect (meaning it’s my favorite when I have to use it on its own) is the Auto-Wah. The Auto-Wah gives you a funky clear wah sound with the ability to control the resonance (which is more or less the clarity of the wah sound) as well as controlling the sensitivity which can also be put in reverse to give you a different wah sound. It’s actually one of two auto-wahs on the G1Xon, and while I like this one better for clean playing, the other one, labeled Cry, does some amazing things when you combine it with distortion. I have the sensitivity dialed up to about 8 in this clip, i believe with the resonance around 8 as well. Let’s take a listen.
As you can see very funky effect, but it’s also very versatile with the parameters in place. If you don’t know much about Auto-Wahs they’re meant to make the same sound as a traditional way pedal, but instead of having to control the wah sound with your foot, you control it with your playing dynamics, or how hard you hit on the strings. This is where the sensitivity comes into play. Set to low sensitivity, you have to hit this strings very hard to produce the wah sound, whereas set to high sensitivity like in this clip, basically everything trips the wah sound.
2.) DuoPhase: Now let’s move on to the Mod/SFX Category, where my favorite solo effect, and possibly my favorite effect in the pedal, is the DuoPhase. The DuoPhase is an 8 stage phaser, and while I’m not nearly knowledgeable enough to tell you the difference between a typical 4 stage and 8 stage phaser, I can look it up for you. So from what I can gleam from this wikipedia article, and don’t quote me on this because this is a little too technical to be in my wheelhouse, is that a traditional 8 stage phaser will essentially have a greater effect on the sound because as opposed to a 4 stage phaser which will produce 2 “notches” (basically areas of feedback where the dry or clean signal interferes with the wet or altered signal), an 8 stage phaser produces 4 notches, giving it a richer and fuller sound. That’s all very technical and like I said very much out of my wheelhouse but that’s the best I can describe it. Now, I can explain a little more based on what I see on the screen for this effect, which again is a huge help, basically it seems like the DuoPhase, true to its name, runs two phasers at once. You can actually choose whether to run them in serial mode (one after the other), parallel mode (both at the same time), or in stereo mode (one in the left channel and one in the right). What I can do better than explain, however, is show you what the 8-stage phaser sounds like. Which I’ll do here:
There’s also some great Chorus effects in this category as well as a few flangers which are always fun, but like I said the DuoPhase is my favorite.
3.) Great Muff: Moving on to one of the more fun groupings of effects, the Overdrive/Distortion group, I’m going to show you the Great Muff, which, true to its name, is a Muff Distortion. Muff Distortion was pioneered by Electro-Harmonix, which still produces some fantastic Muff pedals. What distinguishes the Muff from other types of distortion like overdrive, fuzz, or plain distortion is its ultra-high gain sound, as well as it’s incredible sustain. The muff is known for giving artists prolonged sustain while producing a very unique distortion sound. Of course the best way I can describe it is to show it to you:
As you can hear, this produces a sound that would be optimal for soloing and riff playing (for guitarists better than myself), due to the sustain it gives you and the unique and overwhelming distortion.
4.) Filter Delay: From the Delay/Reverb Category, my personal favorite is the Filter Delay, which leaves your original signal unchanged, but modulates the feedback or repeats on the delay with a filter. I’m a sucker for filters so this was an easy choice for me. You can really do some fun things with this effect, especially when combined with other effects. Take a listen and notice how you get the clean signal coming through with modulated repeats:
5.) Mono Pitch Pedal: From the Pedal category, my favorite is a bit of a shocker given how much I love wah pedals, and this pedal has 3 great wah pedals, but I’ve really grown to love the Mono Pitch Pedal, or PDLMnPit as it’s referred to in the menu. This imitates the DigiTech Whammy pedal, and while its tone isn’t quite what you’d get from the Whammy pedal, it still gives you incredible versatility, with octave bends, stepping up an octave on a run without a hesitiation, playing sounds higher than your guitar could normally produce. This particular pedal is monophonic, meaning it’s meant for one note at a time, so you might hear some tonal grey areas when I do more than that, but there’s also a pitch pedal that is polyphonic (multiple notes), on the G1Xon. I’ll show you what I’m talking about here:
6.) Deluxe-R: From the Amp and Cab Simulators, I’ve chose the Deluxe-R for it’s rich, bluesy tone with slight overdrive. This simulates a Fender 1965 Deluxe Reverb Amp, which is a classic in the guitar world, and from what I can tell it does so pretty well. This is going to be a bit more nuanced than the other ones, but take into account the clean tone you’ve heard in previous clips like the Pitch Pedal or Filter Delay, and stack that up against this tone:
Patches: Obviously, again, I can’t take you through all of the patches I have to give you the true scope of what this pedal is capable of, but I chose a few that I think illustrate this pedal’s versatility:
1.) Spacey: This is a patch I created which uses Mod Reverb, Tape Echo, Chorus, and the Tone City Amp Sim to give a spacey kind of ambient vibe:
2.) inFormant: Another patch I created, this one is really wild and effects heavy as you’ll see, and with the help of some filters almost creates a vocal formant sound. It’s using Noise Gate, Filter Cycle, M-Filter, Fuzz Smile, and DuoPhase:
3.) MS Stack: Now for a more vintage tone that was one of the pre-loaded patches on the G1Xon, this uses Noise Gate, MS Crunch amp, Parametric EQ, and 160 Compression:
4.) Jimi: This is probably my favorite patch, and it’s one that came pre-loaded. It mimics Jimi Hendrix’s signature sound, especially, in my opinion, from his Woodstock performance. Truly incredible how close they were able to get to his sound. It uses Noise Gate, Fuzz Smile, The Vibe, Tape Echo, and Marshall 1959 amp sim:
So if those four don’t show you the range of this pedal, I don’t know what will.
Bonuses: As if all of that functionality wasn’t enough, the G1Xon also comes with a fully functional which records on the patch you’re playing on, and doesn’t change the pre-recorded loop when you switch patches. In addition to that, it has a bank of 68 drum beats to play along to, of course with tempos that vary by the BPM you put in. It has a master BPM that is capable of syncing the oscillation of effects like phaser and tremolo to the BPM you’re playing at. The G1Xon also boasts an easy-to-use Chromatic Tuner which is capable of tuning to alternate tunings just as well as it tunes to standard. And finally, while there is a model specifically for bass, which is obviously recommended for bassists over the guitar model, I’ve found that most of the effects on the G1Xon work perfectly well with bass (and even with vocals but that’s another story).
Takeaway: The Zoom G1Xon’s versatility, superior tone, and competitive pricing make it a must have for beginners in the world of guitar effects. This is a great way to introduce yourself to effects, get a pedal that will give you more versatility than you can dream of, and not break the bank doing it. It’s intuitive design makes it easy to use and for only $70, you’re saving thousands of dollars on the effects it gives. This pedal transformed my guitar playing and took my recording to the next level. I highly recommend it.