The Company Line

Roland Corporation has been around since 1972 – initially making rhythm machines – and creates products under the V-MODA brand and the BOSS brand. V-MODA makes popular high-performance audio headphones and now Bluetooth speakers, and BOSS makes high-quality guitar and bass effects boxes and other small utility boxes (such as tuners and metronomes).

The first BOSS-branded product and the first appearance of the “BOSS” logo was on a product called the “B-100 The Boss.” This was a pickup and preamp combo package for acoustic guitar players to allow them to “go electric.” The first BOSS-branded pedal was the CE-1 Chorus Ensemble in 1976. Throughout the years, under the BOSS name, they’ve made several great individual effects boxes we’re all familiar with, including multi-effects pedals (the “ME” series), and most recently amps and cabinets. In 2011, they came out with the higher-end multi-effects units called the GT-10 (and 10B for bass), to be followed a year later by the GT-100 (they never came out with a 100B for bass – more on this, below).

Fast-forward to September 2016, where they released the newer GT-1, and in June 2017, the GT-1B for bass. Both the newer GT-series products were designed with a focus on compactness, which means they’re much smaller than the original GT models – they will actually fit in the pouch of your typical bass gig bag! This compact size does mean that the GT-1B comes equipped with a smaller display, fewer pedals, buttons, direct access controls and connections, than the GT-10B. However, the addition of the effects direct access buttons do make navigating the unit much easier than the older and bigger GT-10B. The GT-10 series has been discontinued, but the GT-100 is still available today as the big brother to the GT-1.

BOSS GT-1B Bass

Remember that GT-100B which never came to be? Well, in a way, it lives on in the GT-1B, since the processing in the newer GT’s is based off of the GT-100 (the GT-10 and GT-10B were previous tech designs). This means that the GT-1B received a revamp of all the amp and effects models, so that it would be up to date with BOSS’s most current standards.

summer NAMM show badge

 

We were sufficiently wowed by the GT-1B at the 2017 Summer NAMM Show to award BOSS a Bass Gear Magazine Best of Show Award. In fact, you can find a quick video demonstration of the BG-1B from Summer NAMM here: 

Needless to say, we were excited about the opportunity to spend more time with this pedal, and BOSS agreed to send us one for review.

Digging into the Details

Don’t let the size or price fool you. This is a well-outfitted multi-effects processor. It includes 90 unique effects, including 13 different preamp types, which are all specially tuned for bass, and even a 32-second looper. It also has a built-in tuner.

It has various buttons and alpha wheels on the face panel for selecting functions and editing patches, as well as one built-in expression pedal and three footswitches. One footswitch is a Control function and two others for accessing patches. If you combine the “patch” footswitches, they bring up the tuner. If you combine the Control and nearest patch footswitch, that accesses the looper. The footswitches are lit by a border around the pedal that turns from blue (default) to red when pressed, or in the case of the Control switch, latches to red, then back to blue on the next press. There is also an LED indicator when the footpedal has an effect assigned to it for a given patch (such as wah or pitch bend). The external inputs include instrument input, 1/8” aux input (for external audio source), 1/8” headphone jack, an external controller/expression pedal input, and power for the optional wall wart. The outputs are 1/4″ outputs for “R” and “L/Mono.” It also bears mentioning this unit does not have an on/off switch. It operates like a compact pedal in that the instrument input turns the unit on.

It also has a USB connection which serves several functions. When you plug the GT-1B into a computer, it becomes a new audio input/output device. Drivers are available for download, but if you have Windows 10, it’s already supported – so for me, it was plug-and-play. This is also how the Tone Studio software (discussed later in this review) accesses the unit.

The processing layout is an effects chain of nine processing blocks that can be rearranged and individually edited. There is also a “Master Setting” block, though it always has to be last. The Master Setting block controls things like overall patch level, bpm, key signature for the harmonizer, and a master EQ. The blocks that can be rearranged are FX1, FX2, PDL (pedal effects), OD (overdrive/distortion), PrA (preamp), NS (noise suppressor), FV (foot volume), DLY (delay), and REV (reverb).

Just a little bit more on those blocks:

  • FX1/FX2 is where you’ll find EQs, various tone enhancers, synthesizers, harmonizers, octavers, chorus, phase, flange, wah, and others, including a bass simulator, which attempts to make an active bass sound passive, or vice versa, as well as emulating different pickup types.
  • PDL controls the pedal’s interaction with wah and pitch bend effects (most of the time, the pedal is a volume control).
  • OD is where you’ll find all the overdrive, distortion, and fuzz effects.
  • PrA is where you’ll find the amp and cabinet modeling, including several popular amp brands, and speaker cabinet types (though not specific brands on that one). The speaker types are generalized to 1x15, 1x18, 4x10, etc. There are also “guitar” preamp types, which also alter speaker type choices.
  • NS is the noise suppressor, basic controls, threshold, release, and detection point (main input, NS input (further down in the chain), and FV output).
  • FV sets the volume parameters for the pedal when it’s being used as a volume control (min/max, etc.).
  • DLY is where you’ll find the various delay and echo types including an emulated tape delay.
  • REV is where you’ll find various reverbs such as plate, halls, and some with effects applied such as panning and modulated.

Just keep in mind, the synthesized effects (synth, octaver, harmonizer) are all monophonic, so be careful popping harmonics and avoid chords or double-stops (including octaves) when using these effects. This should be nothing new to those familiar with those effect types, however.

There are three control functions (one button on the unit and up to two more via optional external footswtiches) as well as support for an optional external expression pedal. The external controls or pedal are all connected via the same jack, so choices have to be made there.

By default, BOSS expects you to run the GT-1B off four AA/LR6 batteries, since the unit does not come with the power supply (Roland PSA-120S). Claimed battery power is about seven hours of continuous use. I like the idea of eliminating a power cord from front of stage, but prefer to use rechargeable batteries as much as possible. The manual does not address the use of rechargeable batteries, so I asked BOSS directly. Here is their response:

 There’s not a problem physically, but the specs are based on alkaline batteries, so results may vary with the amount of time the unit will operate before the batteries die (probably less than the alkaline spec). 

The GT-1B features “Easy” Select or Edit buttons, but using them requires you also have access to the alpha wheels, so this is not going to be a stage function. This is more for when it’s sitting on a table, or maybe a stand next to you. The Select allows you to pick by genre of music, or general effected sound type. The Edit function allows you to pick effects by general sound type, like tone shaping, “vibes” (chorus, flange, etc), or echo (reverb). In Easy Edit mode, the first alpha wheel does tone shaping, the second adjusts the “vibes,” and the third adjusts the “echo.”

Otherwise, editing is accomplished by using the various direct effect access buttons, the alpha wheels, and the menu, memory edit, write/exit/enter buttons. I found it surprisingly easy to move around and make changes, but I still vastly prefer the computer software method for that work. Speaking of which…

The BOSS “Tone Studio” Software

On the surface, moving to a smaller footprint and having to compromise on editing convenience as a result, may seem like a big hit (despite the help of the “easy edit” capabilities). However, these days, most people don’t do most of that work directly on the unit, so it really depends on how well the computer-based editing software works.

The BOSS Tone Studio software works easily and intuitively, making editing a snap. It also has built-in support for connecting to Tone Central, where “LiveSets” (patch banks) can be downloaded or shared with the rest of the GT-1/1B community. It also contains a built-in librarian, so you can build your own LiveSets and save them to your computer whether you share them at Tone Central or not. As of the writing of this article, two LiveSets were available. One was the “Progressive Soul Collection by Dominic Cabusi,” and the other is the “Rock Bass by Felipe Andreoli.” I played with both, and they’re quite good, as well as useful as references for building your own. You’ll find these at http://bosstonecentral.com/liveset/category/gt-1b/.

As mentioned earlier, when you plug the GT-1B into the computer, it becomes a new audio input/output device. I bring it up here because you can use it as a powerful practice tool by connecting headphones to it, selecting it as your audio output device for the computer, and then playing audio tracks on the computer to practice along with. It even brings up the tuner on screen if you click it, so you can leave it all on the floor and do all your work on the computer … including switching patches and even tweaking them on the fly, as needed. The software also supports importing WAV files to play along with, including pitch controls and looping, but I already have software on the computer that does all that, so I stick with those. Those who don’t may find this useful, though.

On The Stage

The power of this unit lies in its compact size and the ability to run off of batteries. The size is great. Your mileage may vary, but I was able to throw it in my gig bag without too much trouble. I was not able to do a battery life test with rechargeables, but if alkaline life is around seven hours, I’m sure rechargeables would last at least half of a typical show, if not maybe even a full one. This means that unless you need some outboard stuff, you need no pedalboard at all. Just the GT-1B, your instrument cord, and another cord back to your amp (or the mixer) and you’re done. That’s clean; I like that.

The buttons are robust/sturdy, easy to hit, and well-lit. The footpedal, while small, is also easy to use. For a multi-effects unit, I generally prefer at least some direct patch access footswitches, but there’s just not enough real estate for that on a unit this size, so it’s all about organizing a group of your favorite general patches close to each other so you can go up and down and get to them without too many clicks. Otherwise, you can pre-program for designated set-lists – but our band often strays from set lists if we read the crowd and need to start calling audibles.

The processing is really impressive, and very powerful. The overdrive/distortion/fuzz functions work very well, and have low-pass and blending options to keep the bass dynamic during the effect. The delays, reverbs, flangers, chorus, and phasers are all clean and sweet. The synthesized stuff (harmonizer, octaver, synth) are good, but I wasn’t blown away by them. I use those effects sparingly, anyway, as I have to be careful to play very purely without multiple notes in play (overlap, chording, harmonic stacks, etc.) to keep them clean. Especially with the octaver, you have to watch your range, depending on if it’s an up or a down.

I can’t attest to how “faithful” the amp and cab modelling are, but at the very least, they’re really useful as global tonal profiles to work within – so they still do what they say they do, at least in a more general sense. The patches that come with the unit sound very good to me, and while very usable “out of the box,” I still found myself tweaking each one a little bit. Sometimes the sound they were going for was a bit too “effected,” but that’s purely subjective. Some of the really interesting sounds – which are more like “special effects” than they are “musical effects” (at least to my ear) – were more extreme than I am likely to use live, but they’re good examples of just how much this unit can do with a simple input signal. Besides, while all the preloaded patches are designed to be useful, they’re also intended to be thought-provoking as starting points.

BOSS GT-1B Bass

From a flexibility standpoint, with all the controls, adjustments, assignments, and connections, this little box is very impressive. Used with or without outboard devices, it’s capable of an astonishing array of processing options for your signal chain. It’s impossible for me to imagine any style of music, or even avant garde “musical art,” where this unit wouldn’t have something to offer. However, the one thing I really would like to see on a device like this is an XLR DI output. There seems to be enough space for one. I imagine a transformer-isolated DI would be too expensive for this unit’s price point, but at least one with a ground lift would be nice.

For more general information on this product, see https://www.boss.info/us/products/gt-1b/.

The Bottom Line

  For a highly compact, yet powerful multi-effects unit at a very affordable price, it’s hard to imagine a product done better. I do wish it had an XLR DI and a separate on/off switch, but given the small form factor, you have to give up some things. While the effects in these units won’t replace high-end studio outboard gear, they’re absolutely worthy for live performance, as well as recording. There are a few comparable products out there, but the GT-1B is excellent, and should warrant a trial before you decide. BOSS has a long, rich history in this kind of technology based on artist input and technological advances over the years, and all that is reflected in this unit.  

GENERAL

Company:Roland Corporation U.S.
5100 S. Eastern Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90040-2938
Phone: 323-890-3700
Roland Web: www.roland.com
BOSS Web: www.boss.info
County of origin:China
Country of Origin:2017
Warranty:1 year parts, 90 days labor
List Price:$276.50
Street Price:$199.99
Available Options:BOSS Tone Studio software (free download)
Roland PSA-120S power supply ($29.99)
Roland FS-5U ($29.99), FS-5L ($29.99), FS-6 ($59.99), FS-7 ($54.99) footswitches
Roland EV-5 ($59.99), EV-30 ($99.99), FV-500L/500H ($109.99) expression pedals
Inputs: ¼” input (mono), 1/8” aux in (stereo), CTL2/3/EXP2 ¼” external controller input jack (stereo/TRS), DC power, USB
Outputs:two ¼” jacks (left/mono, right), 1/8” headphone jack (stereo)
Controls:On-board expression pedal
Up/Down footswitches (combine for tuner access)
CTL1 footswitch (combine with Up footswitch for looper access)
“Easy” Select and Edit buttons
Select buttons for FX1/Limiter, OD/DS, Preamp, FX2/Mod, Delay, and Reverb
Memory Edit button
Write Enter/Exit buttons
Menu button
Alpha wheels 1, 2, and 3
Other Features:132x32 dot backlit LCD display
99 Factory Presets
99 User Presets
Amp and cabinet modeling
Mute/Tuner
24-bit D/A conversion
44.1kHz sampling frequency
32-second looper
Power:4xAA (LR6), alkaline recommended or Roland PSA-120S (sold separately)
Dimensions:305mm (W) x 152mm (D) x 74mm (H) or 12-1/16” (W) x 6” (D) x 2-15/16” (H)
Weight:2.9lbs /1.3kg

CONDITIONS

Acquired from:Roland/ BOSS
Dates: Fall 2017
Locales:Central Illinois
Test Gear:GK Neo112-II, TecAmp Puma 900, Skjold Pro Series 5, Sadowsky Jazz 5, Fender Elite Jazz, Fibenare Globe 5

TEST RESULTS

1-5 (unacceptable to impeccable)

In-hand

Features: 5
Tonal Flexibility:5
Ease of Use: 3
Aesthetics:4
Ergonomics: 3
Tone: 4
Value:5

In-hand Score 4.14average

SONIC PROFILE:

Low: Big and rich
Mids: Full and even
Highs: Crisp and clean


Overall Tone Profile:

This device is designed specifically to cover a broad range of tonal needs for special and more traditional effects. It can be used with any style or form of music effectively.