I've recently been thinking about multi effects. I've got a couple of them. Sitting on my desk here next to the laptop is an old Vox ToneLab. It's what I generally use when I'm recording to my DAW. I may work up a patch for it that includes some effects and an amp sound or I may have my pedals on the floor and run them through the ToneLab to get an amp sound in the mix. It's one of the Valvetronix ToneLabs and not one of the original ones. I got it because my first "real" amp was one of the Valvetronix amps, and the tweed Bassman model in it was what sold me on tube amps.
Sitting on the floor next to the desk in front of my amp is a Fender Mustang Floor. I pulled it out of the closet a couple of days ago. When I did, I put the pedals boards in their respective bags and back in the closet. That was mostly to just save some space on the floor, but I digress.
I bought the Mustang Floor back like 7 or 8 years ago. I bought it for a couple of reasons. I had heard some good things about that original Mustang line (the v1 and v2 series), and so I knew it has some good sounds in it. They hadn't announced that the Floor had been discontinued, but I noticed that the were getting harder to find, so I got one used before everyone else realized the same thing and the price on them went up. They never announced that the Floor had been discontinued. Retailers just no longer had them. I'm not sure if they even made the Floor in the v2 line; I don't think they did. I also wanted something that was a one-size-fits-all piece of gear. You need an amp model or a small pedal board or both? You need a 1/4" out or maybe a balanced xlr out? The Floor seemed to check the boxes I had pretty well and was a good bang for the buck.
Neeways, they've both served their purposes well, and they continue to do so. But, I've recently been thinking that the tech in my ToneLab is the same tech that was in that old Valvetronix amp that I bought in 2007, and those Mustang v1 amps came out, I believe in 2010. That means that both of the multi effects that I use are running tech that is 12 and 15+ years old.
That got me to thinking, with the changes in modeling technology that have been made and the addition of IRs and other improvements to multi effects, I'm betting the stuff being made today is pretty good in comparison to what I've got.
I mean there's the Helix/HX Effects stuff that's supposed to be really good. Then there's the Fractal and Headrush units. You've also go Zoom still putting stuff out, and now Mooer and NuX and some of the other more budget minded brands have multis on the market too. So I've started asking around for opinions on what folks are using and what they like and dislike about it.
I think the big question I have to answer for myself at the moment is, if I get one of the new generation multis, how do I see it being used. Do I want it to take the place the ToneLab sitting next to me on the desk? Do I want it to take the place of the Mustang Floor sitting just to the right of my chair? Do I want something that will do both? Once I decide that for sure, I reckon I start to decide what I want to do.
I don't expect myself to do anything quickly. Heck, what started me down this whole line of thought was that I saw a NuX somethingorother last weekend on Amazon, and I almost made an impulse buy because I thought that I had to see what kind of multi that included amp emulation and IRs they were selling for $150. But I caught myself and didn't pull the trigger because the next thought was, if I'm going to spend $150 on something just to see what it was, I may as well spend a bit more and get something that I could be assured would be better than what I've got now.
So, come a couple of months from now, I might have a new multi, and I may not. Time will tell. What I do know is that I will hopefully have one of those MXR Duke of Tone pedals before too long. I pre-ordered it the day they announced it. I've got a Prince of Tone, and it's my current fave drive pedal. I'm anxious to get the DoT and try them side by side. They supposedly dropped today I think. So I'm hoping to get my ship notification on Monday morning.
Are any of you using a multi effect for anything? Let me know what you like or don't like about it.
I've never been a real big fan of multi effects. At least not in the past. It seems that, as time goes by, they're just getting better and better. And, when I talk about multi effects, I'm not talking about the pedals that have a couple of actual pedals in one housing like the ElectroHarmonix Turnip Greens or TrueTone Route 66. Those are a different breed of multi effect and don't really count. I'm talking about the boxes made by Zoom and Digitech and even Boss and Fender that have LOTS of effects in them.
My opinion is probably a little jaded because the old ones are small, in plastic cases that, face it, weren't really made to withstand much abuse, and generally sounded (to my ear) pretty crappy. Back in the day, I'd look at the Zoom offerings from time to time at the local guitar shops. I really wanted to like them. But in my not so humble opinion, they seemed like they would break too easily and weren't very intuitive.
Don't get me wrong, I've always like tech. I work in and around tech, and have done so for nearly 20 years. I just think there's a lot to be said about making tech easily understandable and easy to use for everyone...even the lay person. When I install something on my computer (especially these days), I want it to be plug and play and not have to install a bunch of obscure drivers for it to work correctly, and I want to be able to look at its interface and get a good idea of what I need to do to get it to do what I want it to do. At least on some of those earlier multi effects that I always looked at, this totally didn't describe them. You had to dig for most of the settings, and it was an all or nothing thing. On your preset you either got everything you originally programmed to it or you had to re-program it. If you had some OD and reverb on it, and you wanted to drop the reverb for a bit, well, you couldn't. The preset had OD and reverb so you either got both or neither.
I eventually broke down and bought a Digitech RP50. I really, really tried to like it. Kept it for a couple of years playing with it and trying to get it to a point that I thought it was usable. To do that, I created a bunch of presets and then grouped them. The first would be a completely clean sound against an amp sound. Then I'd add some drive to it on the next slot. Then the next slot would add chorus to that. Then the next would add reverb. Then the next would be the reverb added but without the chorus. And so on.
The sounds coming from it weren't really good. They weren't really bad. They were just sort of ok. I eventually tossed it in the closet where it sat for several years. I found it, pulled it out, and a buddy offered me $20 for it. I just gave it to him. Not like I was using it.
Then along came the GNX3 and GNX4 and some of the other units that did what I had wanted them to do before. You could setup a preset, but turn parts of it on or off. I knew a guy that had one of those (a GNX3 I think). He never actually let me play around with ("you're gonna ruin my presets, dude!"), but it seemed like they tech was finally getting to where I wanted to try it again.
Fast forward a few years after that even, and I eventually picked up a Fender Mustang Floor. I had a couple of buddies that were using the Fender Mustangs, and their amp models seemed really good. That tech had finally come far enough that, even though it still wasn't tube amp good, it's believable enough that most folks aren't going to know the difference. Especially when run though a PA in an environment where there are LOTS of other instruments playing at the same time.
I also like that it's pretty intuitive. You can change the settings pretty easily through the on-board interface or you can use the Fender Fuse software. The on-board interface is easy to understand and use. You do have to go several levels deep on some of the settings to change them, but the basic settings are right there. I prefer the Fuse option though because the settings are all right there.
I actually picked it up for when I'm doing the worship band gig. Nobody but the other guitarist cares if I'm using a tube amp or what my pedals are. The Mustang Floor not only does a good enough job with the amp models and effects that it doesn't sound bad, and it has enough outputs that I can give the sound person whatever kind of line out they want. In a situation like that, it's always been my experience that you either don't get an amp or you don't get an amp on stage with you, so you can't hear it anyways. So the Mustang Floor gives me a sound that I can live with, and makes the sound tech happy too.
The Mustang Floor was discontinued like 3 years ago, and Fender hasn't done anything to replace it. Because of that, I'm waiting on the day that the Fuse software doesn't work anymore. At the moment, it doesn't seem like it's supported at all, so, when it breaks, I guess it'll be done.
However, as multi effects and modeling tech get older, they're still getting better. Nowadays you have the Kemper amps and rack units like the Eleven Rack. I don't know if you can truly consider those multi effects or if they're more profilers, but their amp models and effects are good enough they have been known to fool even some of the diehard cork sniffers.
Looking back on multi effects, if they continue to move at the same pace they have the last 15 years, there'll be no reason to ever lug an amp and board anymore within just a few years.
And, yes, I stole the pics below from Sweetwater because I am too lazy to try to take pics of mine, and couldn't find any stock pics from Fender.
Snarf is a wannabe musician who currently resides in the great state of Texas. His wife is his favorite. He believes chocolate milk made from milk that is anything less than whole milk is basically water and deserves to be dumped down the sink so nobody has to suffer through it. He hates having to shop for clothes. But he has a thing for really cool bags, and, consequently, has more gig bags than guitars and a closet full of messenger bags and backpacks. He still misses his dog who was taken by cancer 5 years ago. Check out his Reverb shop and see if he has any gear he's trying to get rid of.