Review: TC Electronic G-System

Front panel of the floor unit

The G-system is TC Electronic’s flagship floor-based guitar effects processor. The unit owes its effects lineage to TC’s successful high quality rack-mount processors, but aimed at the professional player who needs a flexible floor-based unit and will seamlessly integrate into almost any setup without compromise.

First impressions

It’s difficult to explain just how good my first impressions of this unit were. “Solid” does not begin to describe the thick machined aluminium facing, steel casing and the impressive 7.8 kg heft. Similarly, “classy” does not begin to describe the no expense spared looks, features and build quality. The footswitches are all oversized with plenty of space between them and have thick plastic rings around them which light up brightly to show selection. It features both backlit LCD and bright LED displays, as well as two LED bargraphs for input level and compressor gain reduction. One odd omission is a complete lack of a power switch, which is not a major issue, but a minor inconvenience.

Connection

Connection options are comprehensive, with the designers having missed nothing to make the G-System the control centre of any size rig, from a simple “in-out” arrangement between a guitar and amp to a hugely complex system with multiple preamps, amps, outboard effects, amp switching,  MIDI control and computer editing.

Rear connections

It features four analog true bypass loops, an insert for a guitar preamp, four channels of switching to control footswitchable amp features, two expression jacks, MIDI sockets, a digital S/PDIF output and even four 9VDC power outputs for your pedals.

Another very impressive feature is that the “brain” is a 19″ rackmount unit which can be unbolted and fitted in a standard rack. The floor pedal then connects to the brain via a normal CAT-5 (network) cable. Driving home the attention to detail is the duplicate set of expression and guitar input jacks on both the floorboard and the rack unit, allowing for either control setup.

Front panel of the rackmountable "brain"

Effects

Effects are a fairly comprehensive set of the 40 divided into nine different categories/blocks: Filter, Compressor, Modulation, Pitch, Delay, Reverb, EQ, Noise Gate and Boost. Up to nine effects can be used simultaneously – one from each category. The boost effect is great feature for live players, offering a programmable amount of volume boost for soloing.

There is a built-in chromatic tuner with basic indication, calibration and muting options. A nice live feature is an even simpler “always on” tuning indicator on the display for tuning while playing.

The effects routing order is unfortunately very limited, not allowing you to change the order of each effect or loop independently or run parallel chains beyond the limited choice of three preset options.  The preset selections however will suit everyone but the most serious studio effect user.

Some might be surprised by the lack of any sort of overdrive or distortion in the G-System, but the assumption is that pro guitarists will always have a strong preference for a specific pedal and use that in one of the loops. What it does have is excellent integration with TC’s own Nova Drive dual distortion/overdrive pedal – when plugged into a loop and connected via MIDI, the Nova Drive can be switched, edited and saved from the Nova Drive itself, the G-system or the computer editor.

Also “missing” when compared with many other modern multieffects is any kind of amp modelling or speaker simulation – it’s assumed that players using a unit of this calibre will be using it with an amp.

In use

The G-System shines in a playing situation, with footswitches for both patch and stompbox style selection. Patch changing is done by a familiar bank up/down and five patch selection switches, while a further 10 switches to turn effects/loops on or off within a patch. The final switch doubles as tap tempo and tuner on/off. The top six footswitches also work as rotary data entry dials for programming – very nifty! After a brief period of adjustment, patch editing proved relatively simple and straightforward for a unit with this kind of processing power. However, this is not a unit for beginners.

Sound

The G-System effects are the typical TC Electronic studio quality reverbs, delays, modulation and filtering. Pitch shifting is surprisingly good too. With all effects bypassed, the system tone is transparent and even with heavier effects usage, individual guitar character is retained.

In conclusion

The G-System is a well conceived, designed and built piece of pro level gear with a very impressive feature set and build quality. It is more than just a multi-effect pedal, but is also a digital switching system which will be the heart of any size guitar rig, letting you not only use the onboard effects and interface with other pro-level rack gear, but also apply digital switching to your favourite analog effects and any footswitchable functions on your amplifier. My only real complaints are the fairly inflexible effect routing and lack of a power switch. It is an expensive unit, but worth every penny in my opinion.

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