Zoom G3/G3X Multi-Effects Pedal Review
• Pros: Intuitive design, 100 effects, 22 amp models, in-built looper and a low price. The expression pedal on the G3X also offers on-the-fly control over parameters.
• Cons: A little too small and too few footswitches for dedicated live players, especially if you want to change patches or banks during a song.
• Overall: A fantastic option for semi-serious guitarists and home studio owners on a budget; capable, dependable and very affordable.
Zoom released the G3 in 2011, then the G5 in 2012, and then followed it up with the G3x in late 2012 which sort of took the best of the earlier two models. Checking out the specs, many guitarists would probably still opt for the older G3 to save a bit of money. Would you lose out on some functionality? Absolutely, but the question you need to ask yourself is, do you really need 140 effects? If so, you’re better of with the G5. If 100 effects is still more than you know what to do with, then either the G3 or G3X will give you almost endless combinations to explore. The G5 allows you to combine up to 9 effects at a time, while the G3 and G3X only allow up to 6, though that still seems like plenty to me. The G5 does have a funky three-parameter expression pedal, some extra looping time and more footswitches, but since the G3 and G3X use the same effects processor as the G5, you might still get a better bang for your buck on the G3. Decisions, decisions, decisions!
Stuffed with Features, Slightly Smaller Numbers
This is the name of the game when looking at the differences between the G3/G3X and the G5. There is a tendency amongst effects pedal manufacturers to offer larger and larger collections of effects, although in practice many players will stick to a much smaller subgroup of options that are actually useful. The G3 version may be lacking an expression pedal, but if you go for the G3X which has the expressions pedal, you really won’t be missing out on too much and you may save a little cash.
Both the G3 and G3X are fairly compact, measuring 6 and 1/10 inches (15.5 cm) front to back, standing around 2 inches tall (G3 – 4.3 cm, G3X – 5 cm) and the larger of the two measuring only 9 and 1/3 inches (23.7 cm) wide (the G3 is 5 and 3/4 inches or 14.6 cm). They cram more stompboxes than you could use into the space of three or four. The body is rugged, with three sturdy metallic footswitches sitting under three LCD display screens each with dedicated knobs.
The operation of the pedals follows on pretty directly from the many stompboxes in one unit style of design. This is a huge benefit, because as long as you’re familiar with guitar effects, you can pretty much use the Zoom G3/G3X without so much as glancing at the manual. The basic idea is that three effects (or two and an amp model) are displayed on the screens, with the option to turn them on and off at will with the footswitch, adjust the parameters (shown on screen) by turning any of the dedicated knobs and change the specific effect displayed in any location with the up and down buttons above the screen. With the updated versions, you can use scroll buttons to switch to another set of three effects, offering up to six simultaneous effects with control over three at any one time.
There are a total of 100 patch locations available on the G3/G3X, each containing a specific collection of effects, whether they’re activated or deactivated by default and the parameter settings. These are saved automatically (as long as you haven’t disabled the auto-save feature) whenever you make a change to parameters. Selecting a specific patch is fairly easy if you’re in the right bank (simply holding down one pedal to enter selection mode then using the other two to choose a patch), but some double-presses are required to switch banks. If you’re doing it on the fly, you’ll need some pedal-tap-dancing skills under your belt. The patch change speed is 1 ms (1/1000 of a second) according to Zoom, but since no human being can judge such a time-frame, we guess we’ll just have to take their word for it. Needless to say, you don’t skip a beat if you change patches during a song, and that’s all we really want.
Previously, the G3 and G3X only featured 13 amp models, but this has been increased to 22 with version 2.0, offering the same number of amp simulations as you find on the flagship unit. These included classics from Fender, Orange, Vox, Marshall and Mesa/Boogie, offering players more amps at their feet than you could so much as fit on a non-stadium stage. The amps also have cabs, meaning you can use a matching cab or create your own unique digital setup. The amp models do eat up a lot of the processing power, though, so many players choose to focus on the stompboxes and rely on their own analogue amps.
You have a full complement of stompboxes at your disposal, with 94 options – including some well known options like the Big Muff and Tubescreamer distortions – translating to plenty of unique patch combinations. If you get the G3X, you can adjust parameters with the included expression pedal, and they are automatically assigned (no submenus or settings to deal with) so you can stomp the effect on and start making on-the-fly changes. From the classic wah operations to boosting the gain on overdrive effects, the pedal is well worth the extra expense, especially for live players.
The G3/G3X also comes with a 40-second looper, activated by the right footswitch and controlled using the ordinary looper record-play-overdub functionality on a single switch. There is also an undo/redo feature, but using this does slash the recording time in half. By way of comparison, the G5 has a 60 second looper but the same restriction if you opt to use undo and redo. If you want accompaniment for your loops, or just a backing beat to jam to, there are 40 different rhythm patterns built in to the G3/G3X.
The unit is also reasonably well-stocked in terms of inputs and outputs, with a passive or active switch for the mono input jack, 1/4 inch stereo outs (with pre/post switch to determine when effects are applied), a balanced XLR output, a jack for an optional pedal and a USB port. You also get the Sequel LE recording software, and when connected to your PC via the USB port, the pedal’s in-built circuitry helps to remove latency issues when recording. You can also use the included Edit and Share software to fine-tune your effects settings and catalogue or arrange your patches through your PC.
Is the G3/G3X Worth it?
If you’re considering purchasing the G3, it’s likely that the bells and whistles on the G5 aren’t really working their magic with you. Actually, you won’t notice a ton of difference between the G3X and G5. The G5’s 3D pedal is a cool idea (allowing control of up to three parameters at once via the expression pedal), and more looping time is a bonus, but the small differences in number of effects means that, as long as you’re happy with minor sacrifices, you don’t lose out on too much.
The G3/G3X isn’t perfect, of course, but with an excellent selection of effects, CD-quality audio and extremely user-friendly design, there is very little worth complaining about. Some players may want something a bit larger, to reduce the chance of, say, catching two pedals accidently and switching banks instead of patches, but for what it is, the G3/G3X seriously delivers.
Generally, it’s better for use in a home studio or to practice than for live playing, but it’s definitely capable of doing both. For example, if you need to change a patch during a song, the choice is either holding one pedal down and then scrolling with more pedal-taps (all while playing) or stooping over to use one of the dedicated buttons. With some careful planning, however (so the patches are arranged in the order you’ll need them), it is still a capable live unit, even if it would be improved by a bigger array of footswitches.
Unless you’re looking for a full-time gigging companion, it’s hard to imagine you doing much better for the price than the Zoom G3/G3X. With more effects, amp models and patches than you’re ever likely to need, a looper and additional features like a well-executed and useful tuner, it’s hard to imagine a guitarist outside of professional or regular gigging circles that wouldn’t be impressed. It’s worth going for the expression pedal, G3X version if you’ll need the functionality (it’s cheaper than buying one separately), but even without it there is plenty to get excited about with this pedal.