To say the Boss GT-10 was a polarizing device is an understatement the likes of saying Warren Buffet is rich. Several of the higher gain amp models contained an unnatural, prominent, upper mid frequency peak which took on the name "Cocked Wah" (as in an engaged wah pedal set in the middle of its sweep). "Cocked Wah" became a meme among GT-10 users with many claiming to hear it in all aspects of the GT-10 (in my humble opinon due to the power of suggestion). Despite the unit being powerful enough to dial out this sound, for many it became the death nail in the coffin of Boss and (parent company) Roland's COSM modeling in general. So When Boss announced the GT-100 at winter NAMM 2012, the internet forums were abuzz with speculation. Did Roland/Boss address the cocked wah?
The GT-100 is solidly built at approximately 10 pounds and, like prior GT family members, the unit has an ultimately durable feel. All the foot switches and expression pedal also feel very sturdy and will likely stand up to stomping abuse without issue. There are plentiful inputs and output along the back of the unit including an effects loop, MIDI, USB jack, SPDIF jack, and stereo ¼” outputs. Unfortunately, Boss continued their bizarre tradition of neglecting to include XLR jacks.
One big upgrade over the GT-10 is the new user interface. Dual LCD screens adorn the face of the unit providing easy view of the GT-100's multiple modes of operation (performance, programming, etc). Boss has done a fantastic job of making the unit intuitive to program utilizing a combination of 8 rotary encoders and left/right page buttons. Despite the depth of the unit, its very easy to program as when in patch editing mode the function of the rotary encoder is displayed across the dual LCDs. When in performance mode, the knobs allow quick adjustment of user definable parameters...a much more efficient design than a dedicated control approach. Very nice!
GT-100 marketing is claiming the unit's processor is six times more powerful and as such they've added some new advanced amp modeling in addition to vintage amps from the GT series. The new amps are named to describe genres of tones rather than a specific company's amps, a bit of a risky move as amp modeling consumers are becoming increasingly obsessed with the accuracy of modeling with real world counterparts. All the amps have four EQ bands (low, mid, high, and presence), a three way (low, medium, high) gain switch, gain, volume, t-comp, and solo (mid range boost) controls and select amps also have a bright option. Boss has also included a nice custom amp function allowing users to customize the tonal response and breakup characteristic to taste. Cabinet modeling takes a similar generic approach to the new amp models with no mention of specific company's or speaker types but rather number and size of speaker paired with a mic model (which are strangely enough specifically named) which can be switch on/off axis and moved closer/father from the modeled cabinet. The GT-100 also allows building cabinets from scratch controlling parameters such as open or closed and number/size of speakers.
the GT-100 works fantastically well in a four cable setup or even directly into the front of a clean amp and will likely be a big hit in that scenario
So, how does is sound already! I've found with some digital modeling units, sometimes the cleaner side of things can be tricky sounding more like an EQ applied to a direct signal or a bit lifeless as compared to overdriven tones. But the cleaner side of the GT-100 is extremely nice with my personal favorites being the new Natural Clean and the vintage Clean Twin models. Either can be dialed in just before the point of break up which results in a nice subtle compression and low end body which is incredibly inviting to jazzy neck pickup noodling as well as chimey bridge pickup strumming. The Pro Crunch as well as customizing the Crunch preamp allow a wide range on mid gain tones that I found equally enjoyable and responsive to volume knob changes cleaning up very well. While the high gain tones on the GT-100 are a defintie improvement over those in the GT-10 and do not suffer from the dreaded "Cocked Wah" which required much programming trickery to sound natural, I still feel that area leaves much to be desired. The high end slice is there but the amp modeling doesn't quite have the low mid growl and tight low end wallop I like to hear without significant deep editing and multiple EQ staging. Of course, with the ability to stagger multiple overdrives and the great lower gain and clean options you don't really have to use a high gain amp model to get a high gain tone. And for all the depth of control Boss provides concerning cabinet modeling, tones don't quite achieve that elusive level of realism when monitored in isolation. The comb filtering you'd expect from multiple speaker cabinets isn't there nor the boxyness you'd expect from very small speakers. Though take into consideration I'm looking through a tonal microscope and being nitpicky. In the context of a dense mix or loud soundstage, such things are masked and/or intentionally minimized by mix engineers/soundmen. Also, Boss includes a 'Resonance' effect which can go a long way towards closing the "reality gap".
With the exception of the new Accel effects, Boss' GT-10 effects have been ported from the GT-10. That's certainly nothing to complain about, as the general effects quality on the GT-10 is very good and there is enough parameter depth to customize tones to fill one's tonal niche. In addition to all the garden variety effect, Boss includes several nice off the wall options such as a Defretter, Sitar emulation, and Wave Synth. While GT-10 users will be familiar with these effects, anyone new to the GT line will certainly have some fun with them, specifically with the Defret effect which provides a nice platform for some very cool exotic instrument emulations. But despite all the strengths of the GT-100 effects, I have to subtract a point for not improving their pitch shifting algorithms. While the unit does offer real time pitch bending (Whammy) and intelligent harmonization, the tones don't quite hold up against the competition at this price point. The manual even alludes to polyphonic pitch shifting, but its latency ridden and pulses as if a tremolo effect is also on. If the GT-100 sold for less than $300, I'd chalk it up to a case of getting what you pay for. But at a ~$550 street price, I expect all the effects included in a unit to function as expected. Granted, as of this writing the competition at this price point doesn't include polyphonic pitch shifting...but the days of upping effects count totals by including substandard versions of effects needs to end. These companies need to be focusing 100% on quality over quantity as the multi-fx floorboard market has become extremely competitive in recent years.
All said, the GT-100 works fantastically well in a four cable setup or even directly into the front of a clean amp and will likely be a big hit in that scenario. For direct tones, I liked the cleaner side of things much better than higher gain, but the unit has enough tweakability that I find it hard to imagine anyone completely dismissing the unit as a whole out of box. Its certainly much easier to get good sounds than I recall from the GT-10. So, is the GT-100 a worthy upgrade for GT-10 owners. Well...maybe. While the new amp models do expand the GT-100's tonal options in comparison to the GT-10, the unit is more of an incremental step than a giant leap forward. The updated user interface is incredibly easy to navigate and well worth it if one is deciding between getting a GT-10 or GT-100, but the effects appear to be a direct port from the GT-10. That's not necessarily a bad thing as the majority of the GT-10 effects are stellar and the same holds true for the GT-100. I am a bit perplexed by Boss' choice not to include XLR outputs as well as their continued tradition of not supplying a computer based graphic editor, both of which will likely be off putting to some.
Price: ~$550 USD
Pros: Generally excellent effects, Great GUI
Cons: No XLR Outs, amp modeling not quite the quality of the competition