Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Multi-Effects Pedals? Zoom G3X. And thoughts on Zoom G5N XLR failure

UPDATE Sept 2016 - To see my change of heart and review of the Zoom G5N click here

Back in the day I had a Boss ME-50 multi-effects pedal. It was fairly small, had a cool blue colour but the effects were absolutely horrible and difficult to tweak. Yes it was early days and yes the Boss individual pedals are absolutely amazing!!

I quickly moved to using individual stomp pedals!

Then one day I stumbled across the Zoom G3X and this has been the mainstay on my small venue electric guitar playing - and always my acoustic guitar playing. It's small, its (non-overdrive) effects are brilliant, the volume pedal works (although admittedly sometimes I have to rock it back and forth a couple of times). You can also record and play with some of the effects via the USB!

Front of Zoom G3

But more than anything else, its advantage is the XLR / DI output on the back. This means I can use it easily at church and elsewhere and play electric without an amp. Priceless. Literally.

Rear of Zoom G3X with XLR balanced output

Now I've been meaning to upgrade for a bit and it's tiring hauling round a pedalboard in a beasty case to be honest! Sometimes you just want to go simple. I've looked at the Line 6 HD500X but the level of options and messing around via the tiny LCD screen (or even spending hours on my computer) is a bit of a deal breaker for me. I love my Mac but I spend much of my work using it, plus recording, doing videos etc. Yes, the sounds from the HD500X are perfectly good and useable but the very small LCD is a strange decision.

So ideally I'd kind of like something more easily tweak able! So I've looked for something else.

Computer software for Line6 HD500x

So when Zoom released their massively upgraded model, the G5N (upgraded from the G5), I thought to myself, "Aha! This is what I need." It has fewer sounds, yes, but is pretty simple and has a slightly better layout on the unit - plus improved sounds and tones with upgraded processing power. The opportunity to edit and add sounds is also there for those that like it.

Except no it isn't because Zoom have decided quite unbelievably, not to have a DI out at the back of the G5N. Who is this pedalboard being aimed at? People at home in their bedroom? It even has 10 of their best used amp models on there - presumably so you don't have to output to an amp on stage. Great. So where is the balanced XLR out / DI on the back?!

Zoom G5
Rear of Zoom G5 with XLR balanced output
New Zoom G5N
Rear of Zoom G5N and no XLR output. Why?

Huge oversight and huge fail from Zoom in a moment when they could have delivered a killer pedal. Yes, you can use a DI box and a patch cable etc and that's not a hassle. But what was the thinking from Zoom behind this decision, effectively downgrading the pedal from the Zoom G5. I truly believe they will lose customers because of this which is very unfortunate.

Maybe I will get that HD500X instead!

Any thoughts out there?


  1. Hello there! thanks very much for your great reviews, it does help a lot in order toknow what to buy and what to expectfromgear. Please can you explain a bit more why the balanced xlr output is so important? what would be the big difference with using the other outputs? Thanks very much again, and looking forward to hear from you. Andres

    1. A balanced output will effectively help cancel noise from a cable. A guitar cable (unbalanced) has two wires in it - one carrying the signal, one to ground it. A lead that's balanced (e.g. XLR) has 3 wires - two signal wires (one of which reverses the 'polarity') and the ground wire. This means it cancels noise and you can run the cable further. An unbalanced cable shouldn't go more than 6m (it can pick up interference). Secondly, an unbalanced cable (such as a guitar lead) has a 'high impedance' (resistance to the signal) so when you plug it in direct to a mixer it has a low level volume ('line level'). Converting to a balanced signal (via a DI box) will raise the level to a 'mic level' volume (think greater volume). This is the case unless the mixer has Hi-Z inputs, which means a line input has a mic level 'volume'


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