One Month with the Boss GT-100 v2

The GT-100, flagship of the Boss line of multi-effect units, has been around for about two years. It benefited recently from a software upgrade, dubbed V2 which introduces new capacities and effects .
Instead of writing a catalogue of all the features offered by the GT-100 v2, I thought I would go with a more personal approach of my experience with the unit, and a little video of my favourite tones and effects.

Upgrade Procedure

First off all, I was lent a V1 version of the unit by Roland Australia and I performed the upgrade as per instructions. You need a USB cable and a Windows or Mac computer after which it is pretty easy. The upgrade itself takes less than a minute. This video from Dawsons music in the UK explains it all. Alternatively, This blog entry from Roland Australia has all the info, including all the new V2 features.
Before upgrading the unit, I spent some time with the V1 version to get a feel of the changes. Well the good news is that the V2 version is the same, but better, I could find no regression per se (which can happen sometimes!)

A virtual rig

The GT-100 v2 is a virtual guitar rig: it takes your guitar signal and runs it through virtual amps, virtual effects and virtual speakers. A lot of classic pedals are simulated both from Boss and from other manufacturers. For instance, in the distortion/overdrive department, you find the OD-1, the Blues Driver but also the Big Muff, the RAT, the Marshall Guv’nor, etc. Same goes for compressors, Boss compressors are in there but also the Dynacomp, the Orange Squeezer, etc. And the v2 software adds MDP effects such as Tera Echo, Adaptive Distortion and Overtone, all available in separate pedals. I personally love the Tera echo (see the video below).
Something that I found really cool was the fact that the effect order can be changed. You want to put a delay before the amp simulation, no problem! There is also a mono effect loop to put your favourite pedals in and make them become an integral part of the signal path. Finally, another great feature: there are two amps (A and B) in one given “virtual rig” so you can go from one amp to another by pressing the “accel” footswitch.

Building my direct recording dream rig

The way I approached the GT-100 v2, given the fact that it is like having the best amps and pedals in a box, was to build my “dream rig” so to speak. I used the GT-100 v2 direct (more on uses with an amp later).
Let’s start with amps, the Bassman is the grandfather of all amps and it was my choice for Amplifier A. On a side note, it was used by Hendrix a lot in the studio, Voodoo Chile is the perfect example of the kind of big creamy tone you get out of an old Fender amp. The Bassman simulation in the GT-100 v2 did not disappoint me, it’s very responsive to touch as well as the guitar volume, like a good cranked amp (by the way, if you can crank a Bassman when you practice, you are a pretty lucky chap) . The GT-100 v2 has several EQ sections (at amp level, as an effect and globally) which allows to tailor the tone to your guitar. I found the global EQ most useful when going from my Strat which is quite bright to my SG which is darker. Same goes for the reverb, there is “global” setting so you can adapt to any venue without reprogramming all your patches.

Second amp I chose: the good old Marshall Plexi, classic amongst the classic loud rock amps. I chose the mixed inputs (I+II) version of the simulation and I found the results quite Malmsteen-esque given that the level of gain goes further than on the real amp, a nice touch. I also put a slight overdrive in front of both amps.
Finally, I like my guitar tone to have a bit of a studio quality, so I put a slight chorus, a discrete delay and a good dose of plate reverb and, voilà, I suddenly have two vintage cranked amp and some studio quality effects going straight to my computer. By pressing on the “accel” footswitch, I can go between the two amps, Bassman for blues tone, Plexi for big rock tone. By pressing the end of the expression pedal, I have a nice Wah to complement the amps, the ultimate rock rig in my opinion.
Of course, this is one example of how you would adapt the GT 100 to your style and taste, there are many amps and many effects to choose from.

Boss Tone Central

Customizing patches from scratch on a machine as complex as the GT 100 can be a daunting task. The built-in presets are pretty good and don’t yield to the temptation of being “over processed”, kudos to Boss for that. But if those presets leave you wanting, here comes Boss Tome Central, one of the V2 feature for the GT 100.
Boss Tone Central is an online library of (free) patches. A software called “Boss Tone Studio”, available for Windows PCs and Macs from the website, can control the GT 100v2 through the USB connection and download presets from Boss Tone central directly into the unit, pretty cool.
Some big names such as Steve Lukather contribute patches to Boss Tone Central and presets are added on a weekly basis.

In the Studio

There has been some improvement on the Audio Interface for the GT-100 v2. Like the Desktop Version (the GT-001), the GT-100 v2 now presents 4 inputs to your computer. I have tried this with Cubase 7 and it works out of the box. The idea is that 2 inputs send the signal with effect and 2 inputs send the dry signal of the guitar in case you want to re-amp an already recorded track, using the GT 100 v2 or plugins.
And last but not least, a monophonic Guitar to MIDI converter has been added to the GT-100 v2, pretty cool to play a synth or bass part using your favourite virtual synth. As always, the tracking depend on a number of factor and it is not as good as using the Roland hexaphonic pickups and a unit like the GR-55 but great feature still.


So far I have mentioned using the GT-100 v2 direct to a computer or to a console. Chances are some of you will want to use it to their favourite amp. I have given it a try with my trusty 1974 Fender Champ and although it requires some tweaking, this can sound pretty good.
I got some good results by turning off amp simulation and using the GT 100 v2 as a collection of pedals. The RAT simulation sounded particularly good though the Champ. I also had good fun with the Tera Echo and some reverb through the amp. Note that the GT 100 v2 has an output selection feature to adapt the EQ to small amps, combos or big stacks. Coupled with the various EQ features, this makes for a highly adaptable rig. Let’s not forget the expression pedal and the Accel footswitch which can control pretty much any parameter in the unit, perfect for those crazy Whammy moments.


The GT-100 v2 is an impressive piece of gear. Of course, the age old argument comparing real tube amps to simulation will never be put to rest. What I think is that the GT 100 v2 sounds really good and in situation where you can’t crank a Plexi or a Bassman to get your tone, this is definitely a good option. It’s useful in the studio as well as live where it can replace a collection of pedals. Amp simulations have come a long way since the 90s and the wizards at Boss have obviously been working hard. I have compared some of the simulations to the 2007 Micro-BR and the progress made is very palpable. If you don’t care for the switches, check out the GT-001 which is basically a GT-100v2 in table top format!

MOD Duo: Open Source Signal Processor – Kickstarter

The MOD DUO is an open source based effect pedal which can be loaded with all sorts of different effect models, all free and open source.

For those of you who don’t know what open source is, it is a software movement which aims at sharing the source code so that you can augment it or change it yourself which in turns benefits the community.

I can’t comment on the quality of the models first hand but this is quite an interesting product.

Anyway, this video probably explains this a lot better, it illustrates a Kickstarter project, which means you can get your hand on one by supporting it:

Harmonisers and Pitch-Shifters: Tips and Tricks

Pitch-Shifters are not very common on pedal boards these days, possibly because there aren’t that many Pitch-Shifting pedals around. On the other hand, they are found in virtually every multi-effect units since the 90s, so chances are you have already come across one.

Apart from the obvious “Brian May harmonizing effect”, Pitch-Shifters are full of tricks and can be used to simulate a number of other effects, or even instruments, as I have attempted to show in the video below: octavers, octavias, 12 string guitar, chorus, etc.

Before we go into the settings used for the demo, let’s dive a bit into the history of Harmonizers and Pitch-Shifters.



As is often the case with effects, Pitch Shifters were invented to reproduce a very common musical practice: in this case, harmonising, very common in orchestras where one set of instruments plays a phrase while another set plays the same phrase but at a different pitch, say one fifth above for instance.

Guitarists have taken advantage of multi track recording techniques to record the same phrase at different pitches and thus obtaining that “harmonising” effect. Brian May, Queen’s guitarist in case you don’t know him (I suggest you pick up another instrument if that’s the case), is famous for his harmonised guitar parts, used on more Queen tracks that we can count. On live recordings, you can listen to his “Brighton Rock” solo piece where he uses long delays to “super impose” different guitar parts played at different pitches, brilliant stuff.

80s metal guitarists pushed harmonising to new levels. In Iron Maiden for instance, the two (now three) guitarists often play harmonised guitar parts, listen to “the seventh son of the seventh son” for a good example.

The Pitch Shifting Effect

The problem with harmonising is that you need at least two guitarists in live situations. Early analog “Pitch Effects” such as the Tycobrahe Octavia used by Hendrix were not really good enough to reproduce the sound of two or more instruments playing together, but they opened up new areas in tones. Analog Octavers like the Boss OC-2 allowed for an octave or two octaves down. Still limited but great for beefing up single note guitar lines.

A bit later, thanks to the advent of digital technologies, Pitch-Shifting effects which could actually “play” what you are playing at any pitch with good accuracy were invented. Eventide is probably one of the first brands to have solved the problem and Steve Vai made good use of their gear back in the 80s, on Passion and Warfare for instance (listen to Ballerina 12/24 for an extreme example).

And of course, let’s not forget the Digitech Whammy, now in its 5th incarnation. The red pedal took the guitar world by storm in the 90s as a pitch-shifting pedal geared towards “real time pitch effects”, thanks to its integrated expression pedal. I went to see Rage against the Machine in 1994 and the whammy was very prominent in Tom Morello’s rig, the sound was completely outlandish at the time.

Harmonizer or Pitch-Shifter

Although Harmonizer and Pitch-Shifter pretty much both means the same thing, there is a bit of an accepted rule that Harmonizers are more “intelligent”. What this means is that Harmonizers will Pitch-Shift by staying “within a scale” whereas Pitch-Shifters will always shift by the same amount of semitones. Let’s take an example. If you set an intelligent Harmonizer and a Pitch-Shifter to a third up, you will end up with the intervals shown on the following table:

Original Input C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B
“Intelligent” Harmonizer One 3rd Up E E F F# G A A B B C C# D
“Dumb” Pitch-Shifter One 3rd Up E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D D#

The “dumb” Pitch-Shifter will always play 4 semitones up while an Intelligent harmonizer will modulate to stay within the scale, here C Major. Playing a D for instance, will trigger the “intelligent” Harmonizer to ‘ play’ an F over your D which is a minor 3rd (3 semitones), which stays within the C scale. Obviously, “intelligent” Harmonizers work on single note lines, not on chords but that is quite true of any Pitch-Shifter effect. The Boss PS-5 pedal that I demonstrate in the video below can act as a Pitch-Shifter or an intelligent Harmonizer depending on which mode is selected.

Tips and Tricks

The following video shows how to use a Pitch-Shifter/Harmonizer in a traditional way but also how to use it to “emulate” other effects, or even instruments. For this, I have used my trusty Boss PS-5 (now replaced by the PS-6 in the Boss line), one of the only full blown Harmonizers in compact pedal form.

In summary, the emulated tones I am showing in this video are:

  • Chorus: the detune mode of the PS-5 allows for a nice chorus emulation. Actually, a lot of big guitarists have been using a slightly detuned pitch-shifter as a chorus. Mike Stern comes to mind but also Eddie Van Halen in the 90s thanks to his Eventide H3000.
  • Octavia Emulation: pitch-shifter mode, one octave up (12 semitones) and mix quite high (past 12 o’clock) to have a lot of Pitch-Shifted signal. Sounds better with a distortion or fuzz before the pitch-shifter.
  • 12 String Emulation: almost the same setting as before but the mix is back down to around 10 o’clock to allow less pitch-shifted signal. It sounds better with a clean tone
  • Octaver emulation: Pitch-Shifter set one octave (12 semitones) down, mix around 12 o’clock. Sounds good with either a clean or distorted signal. Note that if you set the mix on maximum (only pitch-shifted signal), you can almost emulate a bass. The tracking can make it hard to use on fast licks
  • 2 Octave Octaver: same setting as before but with the pitch-shifter set 24 semitones down.


Pitch-Shifters are a lot of fun and can actually be used to generate a variety of tones and effects, not jus the classical “Brian May” effect. As always, experimentation is the key, there are hours of fun to be had.

Small Selection of Pitch-Shifting/Harmonizing Pedals

As I mentioned earlier, there isn’t a huge array of Pitch-Shifting pedals to choose from, the most notables are:

  • Boss PS-6 Harmonist: the latest in the PS series, does pitch-shifting, intelligent harmonising, detune and more in the classic compact boss form factor
  • Boss OC-3 Super Octave: will only do one and/or two octaves down, perfect to fatten any line.
  • Eventide Pitch Factor: not cheap but this is the real deal from the inventors of Harmonisers
  • Digitech Whammy: although not a “regular” pitch-shifter, the whammy is a classic
  • Electro-Harmonix has a full range of pitch-shifting products from the small Micro-POG to the insane HOG2. Although they rather fall in the octaver or synth categories, they are nonetheless interesting. The super fat tone in the intro to “Super Colossal” by Joe Satriani was made with the original POG.
  • Most multi-effect units will carry a Pitch-Shifter and some of them are small enough to fit on a pedal board.

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