When my guitar teacher told me that the Zoom had released a really good pedalboard, the Zoom G3, I laughed at him! Come on, I still had in mind those plastic crap of the beginning of the millennium impossible to program and sound… Well, let’s say otherwise arguable.
Plus at that time (2014) I was the happy owner of a TC Electronics Nova System, which really sounded great. I never thought that the Zoom G3, presented at Winter NAMM 2011, could ever be of any interest. Instead he told me that this time the Zoom had hit the mark with a truly innovative and valid product, that he had bought it and played around with it.
Okay, I said, let me see it. And feel. No sooner said than done, take out this very compact pedalboard with a completely metal chassis apart from the front, in the shape of 3 single stompboxes placed side by side, with the relative knobs for adjustments.
And in fact, the great turning point of the Zoom G3 is just that: the intuitiveness of use. You can program it as if each slot were a single pedal in its own right, with the same controls as the real ones, also placed in the same way!
Extremely robust, very light and compact. 175 x 55 x 225 for the G3 model, while we are at 175 x 55 x 330 for the G3X, the one with the integrated expression pedal. As an alternative to the G3X you can buy the G3 and then the Zoom FP02M expression pedal separately. The only particular is that the one integrated in the G3X also has the activation switch, Crybaby or Vox style, so to speak, the FP02M does not.
Inside it has a 32-bit digital processor with the ability to store 90 fully programmable presets (well, better, because those supplied are… ehm…). Initially only 3 elements could be placed for each patch. However, soon after its release, Zoom released a firmware update that in addition to adding amp models and effects, expanded the ability to patch 6 elements. We began to think.
There are 13 physical models of amplifiers plus countless pedals divided into 7 pedal sections, (dynamics, filter / eq, drive, modulation, delay, reverb, sfx), clearly recalling famous models but with a lame name. The three footswitches can be used to turn individual pedals on / off, or to switch between patches. In the end, the philosophy of use is divided into two schools: use a patch, perhaps per song, turning on / off the individual simulated pedals, or change the sounds in the race by switching between the various patches. I definitely recommend the first one, for practicality and latency times. No way.
Finally, we have: tuner, looper (40 seconds with one track and 20 per track if we record two), built-in electronic drum kit, USB interface with which to connect to the computer to modify patches or use it as an external sound card. That’s all? No, there is also the Zoom Edit & Share software, with which you can program patches directly from your computer, even while playing, and save them on a separate file.
Basically, if the Zoom G3 breaks, perhaps before a concert, you can take any other one, connect it to a PC and pass it the file with all the settings of the patches that you have made and that you have with you in the USB pen that keep in your pocket. A nice convenience, right?
Okay, now all digital pedalboards allow it, but I was from the Nova System, and… well, it wasn’t exactly that practical. It was also immensely bigger and heavier, to program the presets it was completely old school and .. it had to be powered at 230V. I had integrated it into the Behringer PB1000, but it wasn’t exactly practical.
The power supply is the classic 9V with central negative (convenient if you want to integrate it into the pedal board), or directly from the PC with the USB cable.
An important feature is that you can arrange the effects as you want (obviously a maximum of 6), in the sense that you can repeat the exact same effect if you want, as a cascade delay, or even two or more wahs. Perfect for experiencing any sound.
The convenience of the Zoom G3 is that you can use it at the input of an amp as well as directly in the mixer with the amp simulation. I start immediately by saying that of all the sounds it has I really liked very few, but at least I do everything with them. I mostly play jazz to blues ending in rock / grunge, so I use clear cleans and distortions ranging from a slight ripple to a mid-loaded lead. All with a slight delay at the end.
Personally I have come to use only one patch, but with which I do everything. Then in special cases, for example if I need particular modulations, I create other specific patches, but the basic one is enough for 95% of situations.
My base patch consists of: Pedal Vx (Freq = 12, DryMX = 0, Level = 110) -> M Comp (THRSH = 46, Ratio = 1, Level = 100, ATTCk = 1) -> T Scream (Gain = 82, Tone = 90, Level = 31), I use this for hard crunches, lowering the volume of the guitar I get a great choppy clean, better than what I would have using amp distortion, too boost -> T Scream (Gain = 82, Tone = 74, Level = 40) I use this to push myself into leads with good cream -> FD Combo (Gain = 30, Tube = 50, Level = 60, Treble = 65, Mid = 50, Bass = 52, Presence = 65, CAB = MS 1959 4 × 12) if I have to go out in the mix I turn it on otherwise if I connect to the amp I turn it off -> DLY + REV (DlyTm = 180, DlyMx = 36, RevMx = 12, DlyFB = 36, Level = 100).
For example, I have another identical one where I replaced the compressor with the Pitch Shift, to lower by half a tone those songs that require it, while if I know that I do not need to leave the system, the amplifier slot becomes free, such as that of wah if I don’t use it.
Here is a presentation video of the Zoom G3, which explains the various features a bit:
The FD combo is the only one I liked. It has a really nice sound, especially when paired with an MS 1959 4 × 12 speaker. I would say that in the clean it almost resembles a Marshall rather than a Fender (of which it is the clear reproduction). It has a nice clear sound with a good attack and also eats virtual pedals well. The others were a disappointment for me.
Ah, the amp has a clean septum, because using its distortion messes up the sound too much. Too bad for the reproductions of the Marshall and the Vox, which really did not convince me, too pushed in the distortions and not very usable in the mix, they simply have no body and you do not come out.
Here is another video where it is explained how set up the amps to create a good clean sound, from which I was inspired to create my basic sound:
Overdrive / Distortions
Ditto com for the amps, I only liked the T Scream, obvious reproduction of the Tube Screamer, and the Guv’nor, of its Marshall namesake. The sound of the is not identical to the original but it gets quite close (even if with less body), perhaps the simulated one has more distortion. The T Scream has a nice punch and a nice dynamics, which helps both to come out in the mix and to… be distorted without being too distorted in the sense that the sound is not fuzzy, it feels clean.
The Guv’nor has far less distortion than the T Scream, which makes it usable for slightly choppy sounds, but it also has a lot less body when playing live (clearly it’s less midrange pushed). The others find them too distorted or greasy, they get lost in the mix and have a bad sound. When you increase the distortion the sound gets a little confused, even if it has less gain than the T Scream.
Delay / Reverb and modulations
Here, this is the real strong point, unexpected, of the Zoom G3. They are really beautiful! There is everything and they are really realistic, at least I don’t think that live someone would really be able to distinguish them from other much more famous analogs.
Zoom G3, 8 years later?
The problem is that if with the update that brought the elements per patch from 3 to 6 you started to think, immediately after that we stopped! No major updates have been made, and even the software that allows you to edit patches easily from your computer (practically half the convenience of the G3) has been dropped by the wayside. On Windows no problem, but on Mac you can forget to use it, since it is 32-bit. I who have the Mac are forced to virtualize a Windows machine. The Zoom G3 is a pedal board with hardware possibilities that go well beyond what its firmware can make them express.
The research of sounds and their modeling are constantly advancing and Zoom pursues this research, pouring it into its new products, such as the G3n, G1X or the very latest G11. Too bad that none of the products after the G3 have ever had, in my opinion, its same combination of practicality and completeness. For example, the G3n does not have a sound card inside! Even the screens themselves where the parameters of the individual effects are displayed are much smaller. And it’s incredibly plasticky. It almost seems that Zoom did not want to update the G3 because otherwise it would sink the sales of the following models… Personally I think it is better to design fewer but really successful products, keeping them current with appropriate updates.
The big positive is that the Zoom G3 is still full of enthusiasts still creating new patches. If you want to get lost trying a lot of different patches (… and completely free!) I recommend this site: https://guitarpatches.com/patches.php?unit=G3, really rich and continuously updated! But beware, I warn you, there are so many that you will lose whole evenings trying new sounds! ????
Pros / Cons
Pros: robust, light, full of effects, including amps, overdrives / distortions, reverbs / delays / mods (great!), XLR output to connect them to the mix (but you can also connect to one of the two unbalanced outputs), outputs stereo, amp simulations, 9V standard power supply, usb interface for pc, works as sound card, programmable via Edit & Share from pc, patches can be saved on file, tuner (nice bright, plus it also allows you to interrupt the signal), looper , COST!
Cons: the tuner is not very accurate, the looper when used together with the built-in drum has a pre-count that makes the drum slip and sends you out of time, the simulations of the amp and distortions are not the best, it is not possible to assign patch to each footswitch, the mechanism for switching is not very practical live, such as turning on / off the remaining 3 of the 6 pedals in the patch not displayed (two footshichs must be pressed at a time).
So, is it worth it?
Yes of course! For what it costs it is a wonderful machine. I have two for example, a G3 that I always keep on the pedalboard and a G3X that I use as a backup or simply if I have little space available and want to have everything in a small and light stompbox. On music market or reverb.com used is about 70/80 euros the G3 and a little more the G3X.
In particular, the modulations are its strong point and perhaps here we go into what is the real advantage of the Zoom G3 (less than the G3X, given its size): integrated in the pedalboard, after the distortions generated by quality pedals, the G3 is a swiss army knife . And if in a particular piece and only for that we need a flanger, for example, it is not necessary to buy it, but we have everything there. Or as a backup of the entire pedal board. Or as a backup for the amp if it doesn’t break. Or to record by entering the PC.
In short, absolutely to have on the pedalboard, at the end of the effects chain. But also only on the desk as a sound card to play from a PC without breaking the bales to the neighbors.
Ah, there is also a version for bass, red, the Zoom B3 ????
Published on musicanza.it on: 10/05/2020.