Before we get into our Zoom G5n Review, Zoom is an interesting company to look at. Founded in Tokyo just 36 years ago in 1983, there rise to prominence, and international recognition has been mercurial. They have created a range of effects for instruments that are recognized as being some of the best available. They are most known for their guitar and bass guitar effects and for their studio rack-mountable effects processors.
Still based in Tokyo, their products are distributed in the UK by Zoom Distribution Ltd., and in Germany by Sound Service GmbH. In the US, they are distributed by Zoom North America.
So, let’s take a look at one of their exceptional products in our Zoom G5n Review an find out if it’s the right choice for you…
There was a time when we picked up our guitars and bass guitars and plugged them in and played. Some of us may have been lucky enough to have built-in to the amp a tremolo effect, but that was it. Effects had been around a while, but we never knew about them because they were rather poor.
Rickenbacker built a series of pulleys into a guitar to move the bridge around in the 1930s. In the 40s, DeArmond created a kind of tremolo. Fast forward to the 60s and early 70s, and the fuzz box arrived to give us distorted sounds. We didn’t need them; we were already overloading our amps, but we bought them anyway.
To anyone who was in a band, but wasn’t actually a guitarist, it actually became very irritating. We had a guitar player who bought whatever came out. The stage was littered with them. No short leads for connection either. We couldn’t move for the cables and things. Eventually, it became a game to push one and see if he noticed. Most of the time, he didn’t. He had his silly floppy hat on ‘acting’ the rock star. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed.
Someone had the idea of the best guitar pedalboard, a good idea when they worked, but even they were limited in size, and there were still overflows. But now we have what seems a better idea. Why not put all the effects into one box of a manageable size and run it all from there.
The next generation of effects modeling has arrived. The downside, we can’t have some fun and change the tones or the effect anymore.
The Zoom g5n effects list is staggering. If we are going to conduct an overview, it can only be a series of statements about its capabilities and what it can do. The finer points we will discuss later.
In a nutshell, the Zoom g5n amp models it will recreate are impressive. Five well-known tube amps and five speaker cabinets are there for you to get the base sound exactly right. The 24-bit design gives you 68 different effects, all that you can edit. These include all the favorites, reverbs, delays, overdrives, flangers, phasers, and so on.
One great thing from a control aspect is that there are ‘real’ knobs for adjusting your sound. There is a choice between two virtual dynamic microphones and a host of drum rhythms. It is easy to operate, and providing you are willing to donate the time you can get virtually any sound you want.
This is a big point as it would be near impossible to use that may stompboxes for the effects. Mind you; we could have some fun again if the guitarist did try. He’d be so angry his silly hat would fall off.
This is a powerful unit. Effects processor, amp modeler, and multi-fx unit and more all-in-one. Let’s have a closer look at what the Zoom G5n is all about.
Design & Build
This is a sturdy little machine and is built to last. It has a full-size expression pedal; each of the tone banks has its own footswitch. Each of the tone banks has additional controls, and there are a few other knobs and controls. These tend to make the unit quite large. That may not be what some want. The extra controls do, though, provide a better user experience and make it more efficient to use. It’s probably a choice between size and functionality.
Each tone bank has its own LCD screen. These screen covers are made of plastic, so care needs to be taken not to scratch them. There is also a larger screen at the top of the unit. Between them, you get a complete description of what the unit is doing. It also shows you the effects chain. The buttons that control the tone banks are small but quite rugged and will take some use. The expression pedal itself is also a tough little pedal and very well made for some serious use.
On the rear of the unit is the extra I/O’s. Nothing too clever, mono and stereo ¼” outputs and mini jacks for the Aux input and headphones. There is also a control input should you need to bring in more control parameters. Interestingly there are no effects loop or MIDI ports, given that this unit has so many bells and whistles that it is quite surprising.
We have mentioned some of the control elements in the previous section, but let’s get a little more explanatory.
There are four separate modules on the unit, each with their own LCD screen. They also each have four control knobs and on/off footswitch. At the top of the unit is a further Master screen known as the Overview display. This has a Master level and Tone controls. It also carries the control for the Output boost. A further major advantage this screen displays are the global settings that are in operation. At a glance, you can see exactly what is going on where and in what order.
These allow you to move between stomp and memory modes. They also control the movement between the presets and the Memory Bank. The final footswitch is for the onboard tuner, which really is very good. On the right of the unit is the very evident full-size expression pedal.
This pedal will perform in different ways, depending on how you have it set up. It can be a straight expression or volume pedal or a pure wah pedal. Alternatively, it can be set up to control individual parameters.
The Memory/Stomp mode has some interesting features worth taking a closer look at. When it is set in memory mode, each module displays a preset, four in total. Actioning the directional arrows will take you to the next preset. Scrolling through your preset setting is, therefore, easy.
By entering Stomp mode, it becomes four pedals each displayed in a module. Those visible on the screens may all be edited using the parameter control knobs. You can scroll through effects. As you can use up to nine at any one time, this can be an important feature.
Each module will display one effect on the chain. If there are none operative, you simply get a blank line. On the Overview screen at the top, all the effects in the chain currently being used are visible. The controls allow you to change the order of the effects in the chain if necessary. It has a memory bank of 100 empty patches — plenty of space to store your own settings for later use.
One of the things we most like about the controls and the parameter changes were the knobs that are real hardware, not just flimsy efforts. It gives you the feeling and the option of really controlling the sounds.
We have already mentioned the Zoom g5n amp models and cabinets it makes an attempt to simulate. We also talked about the Zoom g5n effects list and the 68 effects options. But it also includes presets from well-known guitarists to give you a little inspiration.
If you have ever dreamed about having a studio with a wide variety of vintage amps and cabinets and having endless effects, they are all included as we have already mentioned with editing options, you are pretty close with this unit.
Ever wished you had the Marshall JTM45 or JCM800 or a Fender Twin. A Vox-AC30 or Hiwatt?
Simulations of those iconic amps are included. And whilst it must be said that this unit is optimized and voiced for guitar, you can get a Fender Bassman simulation. Excuse us while we rush off to the shop.
If you need tempo, it has built-in loops for drums. There are also added some special features. Sequential filters, Reverse delays, and oscillating echo add to the effect possibilities.
We haven’t finished yet. An onboard looper with an 80-second loop is a huge asset for solo performers, and the onboard tuner is there should you need it. It is accurate and easy to use with good visuals.
The I/O’s we have already mentioned but briefly, are located on the rear of the unit. They feature a ¼” instrument input. This will accept standard guitar cables, and a ⅛” Aux-in. The Aux-in allows you to connect MP3, headphones, and other devices.
There are two output jacks that will hook up your guitar amp or PA system. Outputs are two ¼” stereo and USB Type B port. The USB gives you connections to a Mac or PC. The unit can then become an audio interface to make recordings.
This link is more than just a connection to a computer. It is where you will find Guitar Lab, which brings you updates and new additions to the software and facility on offer. Once you are connected to your computer, the Zoom library is at your disposal. Further, you can also download a free version of Cubase LE8 recording software. There is a ⅛” headphone socket, which is a dedicated headphone socket.
How Does It Sound?
For the price point of this unit, you have to be impressed with the sounds on offer. There is a great variety of amps and cabinets, as well as the effects. We are not sure that the sounds you get are equal to the very best stompboxes, but you can’t expect them to be.
But generally speaking, the reverbs, delays, chorus, and the other standard effects are good enough. If there is a weakness in the sounds, it is the overdrive options that are bit ordinary and digital sounding with very little punch.
The sounds and options then you have to say are good and exceed what you might expect to find in another similarly priced unit.
Zoom G5n Pros & Cons
- God sounds for the price.
- Solid construction.
- Easy to use and navigate.
- Massive variety of amps and cabinets.
- Nearly every effect you can think of.
- Presets from well-known guitarists to get you going.
- Guitar Lab connectivity for continual upgrades.
- Very affordable considering whet you are getting.
- No Midi.
- No effects loop to add even more wonderful strange sounds.
- Does not come with a case.
Need Some Accessories To Go With Your Zoom?
If, so then check out our reviews of the Best Wireless Guitar Systems, the Best Guitar Amplifier under 200 dollars, the Best Headphones under 100 dollars, and the Best Guitar Strap Lock currently available.
We think for the price it is a great unit. It packs so much in that you begin to wonder if anything else will pop out and surprise you. The simulations are good, though of course not exact replicas. But then no one can do that and the special effects are better than might be expected. It is easy to get around once you have learned the basics and are well-designed. As with all these things, there is a learning curve to go through.
There is not a MIDI port and the same for an effects loop. There is no carrying case of any description, which is very surprising given that this could be used at gigs. Zoom apparently doesn’t sell them either. You will have to have a look around because you will need one.
We have always been a little dubious about effects processors that try to pack in too much. They are either very poor or just too complicated to get your head around. This Zoom G5n Review has shown us that this is not always the case.
It is obviously not in the same league as an AX8 Fractal or a Helix, but it is far less than a quarter of the price.
We think it is a great product at a very good price.