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I'm about to go shopping, and I decided to buy a multi-effects unit for versatility (I thought a lot and decided I do need it). Now I gotta decide which one (not that it's really relevant, but my 'main candidates' are Boss GT-10 and Line 6 Pod X3 Live).

Obviously, I'll get myself to a guitar shop and try out these units. But how should I approach my "test drive"? I'm meaning specifics here. Like, do I just listen to the preset patches or put everything on bypass to test one at a time? If that's the case, what effects do I try out first? What combinations of effects? What amp settings/guitar (do I even care about those)?

Important note: obviously, "taking an experienced player" is important and I'll do it if I can. But for the sake of the question, let's just assume I'm experienced/detail-aware enough and just wanna set up a "ritual" to get the most efficient try-out possible. =D

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Do not get the GT-10 unless you have spent plenty of time with it and are in absolute love with it. The GT-10 has a flawed pre-amp section that creates a sort of cocked wah sound(look it up on google). It will limit the useful sounds out of it and is somewhat useless for distortion sounds. It does have a lot of nice features but unless you only play clean it will be almost useless for you(you can get around it but why go through the trouble?). For heaven's sake don't buy a pedal until you have spent plenty of time checking them all out with a good amp. –  Anonymous Feb 11 '11 at 4:32
    
Make sure you look at the Vox Tonelab LE. I was an avowed hater of multi-effects pedals until I used that one. It's not an ideal for me, but it beats carrying 6 to 10 pedals to rehearsal. –  Anonymous Feb 11 '11 at 6:30
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4 Answers 4

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Bring your own guitar to the shop! And preferably play the effects through a similar amp as you have at home. If you are going to buy a digital Multi-effect I would try them out in the same situation as you are gonna use them. For example if you mostly will be sitting at home playing with earphones, thats how you should try it in the shop as well. Many try the effects through a totally different amp than they use. Any pedal will sound Awesome in front of a vox Ac30 from 1965 or a huge Marshall stack.

I only have analog pedals so for the testing of a multi effect I'm not the expert. One bit of advice, though, Don't be fooled by millions of cool effects combined to make a (weird) cool sound you never will use. Spend more time on listening to the real sound. If you can get a good starting sound from the pedal chances are you will be more happy with it in the long run. After you have found a good sound, try adding some gain and effects and so on.

EDIT: For some reason I can't comment (even on my own answer) so I will write it here.. By Starting sound I actually mean a rather clean sound without any effects or distortion. In this way it is easier to hear the different cabinet/Amp/whatnot settings that can be changed.

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That's some good advice! By "starting sound", you mean just the pre-amp setting? –  Rafael Almeida Feb 10 '11 at 8:02
    
"Any pedal will sound Awesome in front of a vox Ac30 from 1965 or a huge Marshall stack" This is absolutely not true. Pedals are very finicky, and take some experimentation to even get good sounds through "awesome" amplifiers. For example, a dimed out fuzz will sound like trash through that Marshall stack you mentioned if the overdrive tones aren't mixed properly. –  Jduv Feb 10 '11 at 13:10
    
Other than that you are right on though :D. –  Jduv Feb 10 '11 at 13:11
    
Good answer :) I would only add - try to download manuals beforehand, and get know how to tweak the unit in home. Otherwise You may spend time to learning this in shop instead of checking how this unit sounds. –  Hubert Czerski Jul 29 '11 at 7:16
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Do not get the GT-10 unless you have spent plenty of time with it and are in absolute love with it. The GT-10 has a flawed pre-amp section that creates a sort of cocked wah sound(look it up on google). It will limit the useful sounds out of it and is somewhat useless for distortion sounds. It does have a lot of nice features but unless you only play clean it will be almost useless for you(you can get around it but why go through the trouble?). For heaven's sake don't buy a pedal until you have spent plenty of time checking them all out with a good amp.

The G-Force/G-Major is a very nice effects unit(very high quality) but AFAIK rack only. They have some newer stuff out like the Axe-FX which I'm not that impressed with but for the versatility is very nice(distortions are good but not better than a quality tube amp). For 1500 it's probably not worth it over a good amp but probably has all the effects you could ever dream of(so it coupled with a good distortion amp would be awesome).

If I were you I would get individual pedals unless you never plan on doing anything more than your bedroom. That or save up for the nicer units(Axe-FX or G-Force or whatever else is out there). The pedals generally sound good and allow you to mix and match. Your not stuck with a pedal that you don't use. It can be more of a hassle though and for simplicity the multi-fx pedals are generally the way to go.

In any case spend a lot of time with them because they generally are not as good as the demo's you see or require a lot of tweaking to get good sounds. This isn't always the case but the GT line has some serious issues. You might love the GT-10 but I can't stand the cocked wah sound.

Most of the effects on these pedals are all the same. They are simple mathematical algorithms that are almost identical for all the units(even the most expensive ones). Generally it is the features that make an effect useful. Having said that, the GT has a nice harmonizer that tracks well and some other effects that work as expected(octaver, chorus, etc..).

What you are looking for is the quality of the clean sound(does it sound too thin or dead) and the distortion. If these suck no amount of fx will make them better(ok, not 100% true but true 99% of the time).

If you're not playing live then get a cheap multi-fx pedal that you like. If you are or will be then save your money for the more expensive quality brands. If you use your computer a lot and are playing near one a lot then you can get a computer based one such as guitar rig which offer just as much if not better sounds than most. I think you can get a free demo for these.

Best advice I can give you is for you to take your time and explore all your options. If you impulse buy you'll most likely be completely unhappy with your choice.

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Why am I seeing all these down votes with no explanation? Is there some kind of childish shit going on behind the scenes? The GT10 absolutely has the problem he he describes and the other advice here is good. –  Anonymous Feb 11 '11 at 6:35
    
This is a great answer, but a mix between a recommendation on what to buy and what the asker really wants--which is guidelines on how to test drive something cool. I think the info about the GT-10 is a great thing to have, but belongs in the comment where you originally placed it. –  Jduv Feb 11 '11 at 9:12
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A lot of what you're looking for depends a lot on you. If you're a rock player, you'll want to try out the distortions. If you're a U2 or Pink Floyd fans, you'll want to look at the echos. If you play freak-out psych, you may want to poke at the ring modulator. We can't tell you what effects to test without knowing how you want to sound.

What you should try is the ease of switching through the presets and the ease of modifying and creating a new setting. If you play out, the last thing you will want is to have to crouch down and poke a lot in the middle of practice or a gig to switch, and if you can't figure out how to save a setting once you've modified, you won't be happy with it.

I started going toward being a pedalboard player rather than multi-effects because I want to be able to have the tremolo on or off no matter what else is going on. With a multi-effects unit, if you don't have the tremolo set up, you can't have it.

And I agree about the gear thing. You may want to ask before you bring it into the shop, but bring your guitar. I know you have to check in stuff at the door at GC and Sam Ash. Jduv's right that not everything will sound great through this holy grail amp, but it will sound different, and you don't want that.

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When I test drive a pedal at a shop, I try and play equipment closest to my actual rig at home as I can, or if they have the exact models of amplifier and guitar I would play through those. If not, then get as close as you can. Be careful, however, what amplifier you choose. Especially when testing overdrive settings on the multi-FX unit. A tube amp reacts entirely differently than a solid state amp--and both will yield interesting results. Also consider that you may like a mix between the amplifier's overdrive and the overdrive of the FX unit. On my board, I have two overdrives and a boost--both of which are blended with my Orange's natural distortion. This way, some of the attributes of the overdrive produced by the pedal make up for some deficiencies in the amplifier's natural overdrive tone. So, there's a bit of a mix and match problem here that you'll have to overcome if you choose to blend overdrives. If you play a tube amp, I highly recommend you test how well the FX unit mixes with the amp's natural overdrive. Some settings will play nice, others won't.

I would approach the test drive from a couple of avenues. First off, what do you want to sound like? Multi-FX units can't really do everything awesome (subject to debate I know), so they do most things really well. Preset patches are a good way to test drive the general tones of the unit and also discover how some settings mix with others, but that doesn't open you up to the creativity of the unit itself. I would first do some research online and find out the specifications of the units you want to play with. Is it software controlled? How easy is it to program my own patch? What are other people saying about this unit? Once I have that information I'd head in to a local guitar shop and plug each one in. Once you're there and test driving the unit play through each tone that you think you would use individually. Keep a list of which tones you like, and which tones you don't like. Do a simple cost analysis on each unit and decide which one you like the best.

In the end, your sound will be an aggregate of many features. The amplifier you use in tandem with your guitar and the multi-FX unit you pick will dictate how easy, or hard, it is to get and use your sound. Have fun with experimenting of course :D. Don't approach it too much like a science. Some of the cooler sounds I have discovered come from taking the knobs on my pedals to places I normally would never go.

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