The Mustang Floor multi-effects unit for guitar we featured earlier this month is a good first effort from Fender, but Japanese digital tone-manipulation veteran Zoom is about to really show how it's done with the introduction of the G5. The company's most advanced guitar FX unit to date, the Zoom G5 Guitar Effects and Amp Simulator Pedal - to use its full name - features hundreds of stompbox and DSP effects, tube drive boost, looping and recording, and an onboard drum machine.

Zoom says that even though its new effects unit is bursting with novel ways to digitally alter the signal from a guitar as it passes through the unit, the G5 is still quite easy to use. Each of the four footswitches on the face of the multi-effects unit gets its own LCD display for displaying graphic images of the chosen effects, and below each display there are three control knobs for selection and control.

Whereas Fender's new Mustang Floor has only 37 onboard effects and 12 amp simulations, the G5 features 100 stompbox effects (including distortion, compression, modulation, delay, and reverb), 20 amp models that are described as "super-real" (each coming with its own distinct cabinet modeling but users can combine cabinets and amps for a custom rig) and over 120 DSP effects courtesy of the unit's brand new ZFX-IV DSP effects processor. Up to nine stompbox and amp effects can be used simultaneously.

The G5's newly-developed sigmoid curve clipper is said to authentically recreate the smooth clipping of a tube amp's waveform for digital tube tones such as clean and full-gain overdrive. The unit also has a built-in chromatic tuner, 60-second phrase looping functionality, and an overdub feature that allows players to layer sound one on top of the other as many times as required. There's a built-in drum machine with more than 40 rhythm patterns, and a pre/post switch that offers control over the signal path.

ZNR noise reduction technology has also been included, which I've experienced myself on other Zoom units and been very pleased with its ability to effectively remove unwanted background noise, while still allowing a natural note decay or reverb tails. Players can store up to 297 of their own creations on the device (via 99 banks multiplied by 3 patches) but purchase will include a free download of Zoom's Edit&Share; software for Mac/PC that allows users to create, edit and save amp and effects settings on a computer, and download the latest patches and share custom patches with others.

Zoom says that the G5 is very responsive too, with a patch change speed of just 1.6 milliseconds.

To the right of the effects banks is a tube booster that can add up to 16dB of amp overdrive, and has a Tone knob for precision EQ, along with a Boost level knob underneath. The booster also offers extra power when recording directly to a line input. Heading right again brings you to the unit's 3D Z-pedal. Players are offered the familiar up and down expression control, but the pedal can also be moved from side to side. Although the pedal has been treated to its own specially designed effects, users can also assign up to four parameters to each axis.

The G5 Guitar Effects and Amp Simulator unit benefits from balanced XLR output (for direct connection to a mixing console, for instance), and a USB audio interface for connection to digital audio workstation software on a computer, such as the included Steinberg Cubase LE recording software. It's powered by an included AC adapter and is scheduled for release in May 2012. Pricing has yet to be announced.

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