ZOOM G2.1nu

Sunday, June 13, 2010| by Will Chen

Though not as well known in the North American market as some of the domestic brands, Japanese effects maker Zoom has been constantly pushing the boundaries of compact multi effects processors for nearly 30 years. Zoom has recently redesigned their the G line releasing their forth generation G2nu and G2.1nu boasting vastly improved drive sounds and the fasted patch switching (5ms) in the industry.

The G2.1nu shares the familiar layout of modern compact multi-effects units with dual footswitches to select patches and a built in expression pedal to control select parameters. Quick note on the built in expression pedal, it has a pretty shallow throw so it takes a bit of getting used to especially when trying to precisely control an effect. Programming theG2.1nu is accomplished via four surface mounted knobs across the top of the unit and the effects you’re controlling and parameters affected are shown on the new 1.9” LCD, which looks great. The less complicated interface is a huge and welcome enhancement from the G2, making programming an extremely intuitive affair. The back panel of the unit features a single stereo ¼” jack, ¼” guitar input, power switch, usb port, and ¼” jack which allows the usage of an additional expression pedal or momentary footswitch which can be globally programmed for additional control. Kudos! For those who always feel compact units don’t provide quite enough control, Zoom’s been listening…

One area in which Zoom has all other effects makers beat hands down is in their visual design. I know. I’m supposed to judge with my ears not my eyes. But I simply can’t help but admire their sleek, compact, and modern design. On top of the visual aspect, the unit is a pleasure to hold with an ergonomic design which seems to curve in all the right places.

Like the majority of multi effects processors, the Zoom programming architecture is based around modules which contain effects allowing selection of one option from each module. The modules are linked together to form an effect chain. But Zoom has put their unique spin on the effect chain by placing some effects within modules you might not expect. For example, you can select the Octave effect from the special effect module and select a secondary pitch effect from the modulation module, or stack delays by selecting the tape echo from the modulation module fed into the reverse delay of the delay module and the multitap delay in the reverb module. Very nice, I’m not aware of another manufacturer offering the ability to stack delays at a competitive price point. Additionally, Zoom offers dual selection for the rate of repeat using either milliseconds or rhythmic notation (for example, eigth note, dotted half note, etc) based off the tap tempo. This is implemented on all the effects which are time based within the unit. Awesome!

While realistic modeling from both a tonal and control perspective is currently all the rage, Zoom has opted not to include the full range of original controls in their models instead providing a simpler three parameter per effect approach. This programmatic efficiency will certainly turn sticklers for modeling authenticity off but those who don’t require the control deep editing provides will be more than pleased with the three parameter layout.

Zoom’s big marketing push behind the G2.1nu is their redesigned drives. I was really interested to hear what they’ve accomplished as while their previous generation units excelled at high gain tones, the lower gain and clean tones left me uninspired. The G2.1nu offers nearly double the selection of the G2 with many of the usual modeling suspects from the big amp and pedal manufacturers including a few unique choices as well (Diezel Herbert, an ADA/Marshall Hybrid, and Mesa Boogie Road King Lead Channel). A pretty big disadvantage for those seeking an all in one solution of the Zoom programming architecture is that stomp box overdrive/distortion and amps are part of the same module which means you can’t use them together. Boo! While there are plenty of high gain models available and Zoom has included a booster effect in the special effects module, being able to run a virtual stomp into a virtual amp is a feature pretty much all the multi-effects manufacturers offer and I’d hoped Zoom would follow suite. Maybe next time around…

Where the Zoom G2.1nu really shines is in some of the more unique effects it offers. For example it’s slow gear is tuned perfectly to mimic backwards guitar playing, the envelope filter’s funk is super easy to dial in and sounds incredible, and their talkbox simulator is uncannily realistic.

Enough chatter already, how does it sound? Well, Zoom’s marketing claims are on the money...kinda. The G2.1nu is a big tonal improvement versus their previous offering especially regarding lower gain amps. While their previous generation left me feeling a bit flat, pretty much all the models are usable here. That being said, I wouldn’t really say many of the lower gain offerings sound very much like their real world counterparts as Zoom has upped the gain pretty much across the board. Ever wondered what a Tubescreamer with nearly double the gain would sound like? You got it. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the modeling strength of the unit is in high gain tones. For example, the new Diezel Herbert is just punishingly cool and their version of the Mesa Triple Recto is one of the better ones I’ve heard. While I think they largely missed the mark on capturing the Voxey chime, their model actually sounds cool in its own unique way. Their Fender Bassman is rather…interesting. Used direct, it’s not very convincing and sounds…well…like a pedal. On the bright side, it’s very usable into the front of an amp and in this application provides possibly the best lower gain tones from the unit. On a few of the modeled amps, I felt the cabinet modeling was a bit overdone yielding a slightly unnatural sound overemphasizing the comb filtering which occurs in cabinets with multiple speakers. Of course you can select an alternate speaker model rather than the matched option, though this has a universal affect. It would have been nice to allow cabinet selection as one of the effects modules.

While the G2.1nu doesn’t capture some of the lo fi charm of vintage modulation effects, on the whole they sound very good with a modern and polished sheen perhaps closer to the tones of the racks of the 80’s than the stomp boxes of the 60’s and 70’s. The pitch effects were a mixed bag. While their polyphonic pitch shifter is quite a feat for a compact multi-effects processor, it just misses the mark due to tracking latency and slight pitch warble. Also, G2.1nu’s pedal pitch shifter isn’t anywhere close to the smooth coolness of Digitech’s Whammy. On the other hand, the intelligent harmonizer tracks very well and offers a tone control to take some of the metallic edge off the synthetic notes which plagues many budget harmonizers. And like pretty much all pitch effects, the hotter the signal you send it the better it performs.

Where the Zoom G2.1nu really shines is in some of the more unique effects it offers. For example it’s slow gear is tuned perfectly to mimic backwards guitar playing, the envelope filter’s funk is super easy to dial in and sounds incredible, and their talkbox simulator is uncannily realistic. But the pièce de résistance in my humble opinion is the reverse delay. Zoom was gracious enough to include a reverse delay with up to 2.5 sec of delay time with the possibility of dialing in a 100% wet mix. And remember what I mentioned about stacking delays? Yep, since the reverse delay is in the delay module, you can also load up the multi tap delay in the reverb module to get some truly spaced out tones.

The Zoom G2.1nu certainly is a good sounding and versatile pedal. While the programmability and modeling accuracy isn’t as robust as some other comparable all-in-one units, there is still plenty of control on tap to satisfy the casual tweaker. In the end it boils down to tone and usability, and while many manufacturers seem to be racing back in time, the G2.1nu’s scale is tipped a bit more towards the modern side of the tonal spectrum.

Intro | Digitech RP255 | ZOOM G2.1nu | Head to Head | Spec Comparison

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