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Alternatives to Black Box & Digitech GNX4


BrutusSiezeHer

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I'm looking for a setup that will allow me to jam through a PA/monitor and record to PC. I've been looking at the M-Audio Black Box because it's cheap and gives me:

 

- Amp Simulation for both Guitar & Bass (I play both & don't want to double the ammount of kit I buy & carry)

- Multi FX including some really cool beat-synced features

- Beat sync from the track you're recording to PC or a tap-tempo for jamming

- A USB connection to record straight to PC & monitor no-latency output without having to buy a soundcard. It also allows the simultanious recording of processed + dry guitar sound which could be good if you get a bad sound on that perfect take.

- A mic socket (again, saves cash on a soundcard)

- An expression pedal for loads of different FX

 

The only 2 disadvantages it seems to have are:

- The presets are stored in a 1-99 manner rather then in banks, making it a pain to switch between them in jams or live gigs.

- There aren't enough knobs to do quick intuitive editing of sounds. For example, bass & trebble can be quickly edited but you need to use a shift function to tweek the mid. And the compressor only has one control so delay times can't be altered.

 

Basically, Black Box seems to be a bit of a cheapo entry level system.

 

I've also looked at the Digitech GNX4 & GNX3000 which can also be used for both guitar & bass + they have a USB that allows latency-free recording to PC's without the need for a soundcard. They are quite expensive though and they have a completely un-necessary multi-track recorder built in that makes them a bit over-the-top.

 

The question is, are there any other systems that can do a similar job that are pitched somewhere between Black Box & GNX4 in terms of price & quality? Also, have you used either of the above systems & what do you think of them?

 

Any views really appreciated.

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I was just in GC doing the same thing and looking at both,after weighing out both, I walked out with the GNX4,it has way more possibilities at the price I paid.I got the salesman down to 450 out the door,he threw in a 2 gig card and a cable also.There are quite a few software upgrades for these that I saw of in the reviews here,the midi drum machine kinda sold me and the software it comes with is probably not the greatest, but it will do the job.

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Digitech GNX4=The effects suck,even with the mxr's loaded they suck,this could be the cheesiest unit I've bought,the rhythm tracks are vomitous.I'll stick with my stomps and the Boss RC50 I traded it in for today,it has a better drum machine and is very easy to set up and use.Just thought I'd give you the heads up,the guys here that say seperate pedals are better,are totally right,especially as far as sound quality goes,they don't sound fake.

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I've been working with the BlackBox now for about 4 or 5 months and able to get some terrific sounds out. It does take some tweaking and is a bit fussy with the knobs. I wouldn't use it for gigs at all - just studio.

 

I used to use the Digitech RP300. Again, was able to tweak-up several nice tones after more than a little experimentation. A bit more stage friendly but not as easy to work with as straight stomp boxes.

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had a GNX4 for a +yr now. you have to get used to the features to appreciate them.

 

for amp sounds, always use the speaker compen switch on back panel. or it gets fizzy.

 

the recorder with comp flash cards goes up to 2gb (6.5hrs) . you can store mp3 backup tracks, midi drum files, your own song tracks. I record outside my house with gnx4 and just snap the com flash into the comp. import the wavs into sonar and voila. other gnxers and balck box users have to connect to a pc no matter where.

 

for drums there are more kits than the other pedals which only have 1.

 

if you want a midi drum file. parts, or full songs you can do it in the cakewalk protracks software bundled. or use something else.

 

go to any midi site and get a midi file song. mute or delete the tracks not using the drums. export the midi track as type 0 and save to the digitech GNX4 midi folder. its not that hard. i've saved hundreds of songs and beat patterns on cf cards and pc for this thing.

 

gnx4 is not my main amp rig. I dont like using multief EVER for playing live with my guitar amp. you cant do that. models of an amp into an another amp sounds like crap no matter what multfect. it digitizes and kills the amp head tone. all of the ones I tried did. so I only use the amp modeller gnx4 for jamming around and recording tracks.

 

 

for recording and getting sound ideas down its awesome. you have to learn how to use it. almost sent mine back. glad I didnt. I upgraded my amp models and love the new amp model tones. plenty of resources around for learning the gnx4. theres a lot this thing does if you set down with it.

 

last thing to add- i do take it to gigs. its a backup to go to a mixer. but I also use it to practice with headphones. brush up at a gig with a backing track without bothering people in the club. really helps me improve.

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Thanks for the comments guys. :thu:

 

Does anyone know of any other similar units that have:

 

- both guitar & bass amp-simulation

- USB that allows recording to PC with zero-latency monitoring + without the need for a soundcard

- an expression pedal to control as many FX parameters as possible (perhaps even a facility to use 2 pedals)

 

 

I was also wondering what to play this through at jam sessions. If it does amp-simulation by itself, I don't really want to send it into another amp (like HKS said). I was thinking of some reasonably priced monitor that doesn't colour the sound & that can handle guitar + bass sounds.

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Digitech GNX4=The effects suck,even with the mxr's loaded they suck,this could be the cheesiest unit I've bought,the rhythm tracks are vomitous.I'll stick with my stomps and the Boss RC50 I traded it in for today,it has a better drum machine and is very easy to set up and use.Just thought I'd give you the heads up,the guys here that say seperate pedals are better,are totally right,especially as far as sound quality goes,they don't sound fake.

 

 

How were you running this unit? I find it hard to believe in one day of sitting with this unit you can say that. Yes, I work for DigiTech but I'm also a guitar player songwriter. The GNX4 has been a god send to the songwriter in me. Were you running it through an amp or powered monitors? The optimal way of working with this unit is through a sweet pair of powered monitors. I have a full Pro Tools rig that I never power up anymore. I have over 65 songs on my Compact Flash card and everyone who hears it find it hard to believe all the sounds are coming from the GNX. I get the feeling you are bailing on something way to early, this thing can be the most useful tool you will own.

 

If you really don't dig it, that's cool. I just get the feeling maybe you didn't have the speaker compensator switches engaged or something was set funky.

 

Also Brutus, don't be so quick to blow off the on board recording section. It's one of the best things about the GNX4. You should look at it as a flexible looper. You have this on board 8 track recorder that can function as a linear recorder or as a looper. I'll set the first track to record drums and a guitar track, I'll hit record and off I go. When I'm reaching the end of the section I'll hit the record button again and it will loop back around. Now I'll just stop it, pick my next guitar sound and hit record and off I go. You can then just jam over the loop you've created.

 

It's by far the best writing tool out there. You never get bogged down in technology. It's all about capturing the moment. I have my favorite three or four guitar sounds, my favorite bass setting, my favorite vocal effects and my line in set up for keyboards. Once you get those down you can whip through song ideas faster than any product out there. Because we are part of Harman, this thing has Lexicon reverbs and a dbx silver series mic pre. It's the real deal.

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Cheers for that Doug. How good are powered monitors for handling bass sounds? Most of the ones I see have pretty small speakers and seem designed for working at a PC or mixing desk.

 

I don't necessarily need stereo for guitar or bass sounds but I do want to compete with a drumkit for jam sessions - I'm assuming that I would be looking at a 12inch speaker & 100W minimum for this?

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How were you running this unit? I find it hard to believe in one day of sitting with this unit you can say that. Yes, I work for DigiTech but I'm also a guitar player songwriter. The GNX4 has been a god send to the songwriter in me. Were you running it through an amp or powered monitors? The optimal way of working with this unit is through a sweet pair of powered monitors. I have a full Pro Tools rig that I never power up anymore. I have over 65 songs on my Compact Flash card and everyone who hears it find it hard to believe all the sounds are coming from the GNX. I get the feeling you are bailing on something way to early, this thing can be the most useful tool you will own.


If you really don't dig it, that's cool. I just get the feeling maybe you didn't have the speaker compensator switches engaged or something was set funky.


Also Brutus, don't be so quick to blow off the on board recording section. It's one of the best things about the GNX4. You should look at it as a flexible looper. You have this on board 8 track recorder that can function as a linear recorder or as a looper. I'll set the first track to record drums and a guitar track, I'll hit record and off I go. When I'm reaching the end of the section I'll hit the record button again and it will loop back around. Now I'll just stop it, pick my next guitar sound and hit record and off I go. You can then just jam over the loop you've created.


It's by far the best writing tool out there. You never get bogged down in technology. It's all about capturing the moment. I have my favorite three or four guitar sounds, my favorite bass setting, my favorite vocal effects and my line in set up for keyboards. Once you get those down you can whip through song ideas faster than any product out there. Because we are part of Harman, this thing has Lexicon reverbs and a dbx silver series mic pre. It's the real deal.

 

 

I will say I like my gnx4 and it has worked well for me playing live but I just got a tube head and am going to try to get away from it. The pedal is somewhat overwhelming if you dont take the time to learn about it. My biggest problem at practice and gigging is getting the volume levels on different effects the same. It is a great tool for when you are jamming and you come up with a riff or a whole song and dont want to forget it. But I guess the Boss micro br would do the same and fit in your guitar case.

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How good are powered monitors for handling bass sounds? Most of the ones I see have pretty small speakers and seem designed for working at a PC or mixing desk.


I don't necessarily need stereo for guitar or bass sounds but I do want to compete with a drumkit for jam sessions - I'm assuming that I would be looking at a 12inch speaker & 100W minimum for this?

 

 

Studio monitors might not be what you'd look for against a drum kit. A pair of Roland Cube cm30s might work or if the budget allows, a pair of Tech21 power engines would work for most stages plus allow a DI out to the board.

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The JBL Eon's are way out of my price range & I'm not sure how good the CM30's would be for bass with their small speakers & low power (but I'm pretty ignorant on all of this so please put me right).

 

I've just spoken to Tech 21 about the Power Engines because they have a separate version for the bass. The bass version has a different 12" speaker and a closed back. They recommend the bass version if I'm going to use it with both guitar & bass but warned that I will loose a few highs on the guitar. They also said that playing bass through the guitar Power Engine might possibly damage the speaker cone.

 

So I'm still in a bit of a dilemma here:

- I play guitar more then bass so I'm tempted to go for the cheaper guitar Power Engine & risk the speaker cone. Is there any way of upping the bass slightly by building a removable back pannel for when I'm playing bass?

- I'm assuming that I need a minimum of 100W if I'm going to compete against a drumkit. That might mean that I need a 2nd 60W Power Engine which would be quite expensive. Would I be better off going for some different 100W neutral amp?

- Does anyone know of anything similar to the JBL Eon that is cheaper? What features should I look for beside power & 12" speaker.

 

 

I really appreciate all the advice so far - keep it coming in guys :thu:

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I have been playing with the GNX4 for about 6 months and I was at first disappointed with it. I researched the product about a year before I bought it, so my expectations may have been a little high. But as I have been getting used to it, and I think it is a good unit and it suits my purposes. However, I am not a professional musician. I mainly use it for gargage ban type jams and recording.

 

It does have a lot of features, and does take some getting used to. I still have not quite figured out computer recording, but it is simple to record directly to the on board 8 track recorder.

 

I had just about given up on using it in live situation and was primarily using it for practice and recording. I tried using the unit through a pair of 15" powered monitors and it sounded ok for certain clean and high gain settings, but I couldn't get a good responsive rock or blues tone. It's also a pain to hall around monitors to garage jams.

 

Recently, I have been running the unit through the effects loop of a Fender Super 60 tube amp, and I have gotten a much better rock and blues tone. I think a tube power amp is key to getting a good live sound out of it.

 

The unit is great for practicing and creating. You can play with headphones, which is great for me because I can't play if my kids are awake. You can jam with a metrone or drum track and record small riffs or song ideas. Then bring the unit to band practice to play back and expand on.

 

The unit also has numerous routing options. You can split the signals. You can route you guitar to one or two amplifers and the mike, line inputs, MP3 player to a PA or monitor. You can run just the guitar through the effects and have the remaining inputs dry or just through the reverb and delay banks. You can also run all he line inputs through all of the effects.

 

With that said, even through an effects loop, the unit does not sound as good as a cranked tube amp. While there are numerous amp models out there, I have not found any to be very convincing in a live situation--however, they sound pretty decent on recordings. It is versatile and has a lot of effects, but the individual effects may not be the best available--but they are decent. The unit gives you a lot of contol over the effects with the expression pedal and three separate control pedal that can control just about any parameter of any effect.

 

While the unit is expensive, $500 at GC, it is a pretty good bargain for the amount of features. It all depends on what your needs are.

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I've just spoken to Tech 21 about the Power Engines because they have a separate version for the bass. The bass version has a different 12" speaker and a closed back. They recommend the bass version if I'm going to use it with both guitar & bass but warned that I will loose a few highs on the guitar. They also said that playing bass through the guitar Power Engine might possibly damage the speaker cone. So I'm still in a bit of a dilemma here:

- I play guitar more then bass so I'm tempted to go for the cheaper guitar Power Engine & risk the speaker cone. Is there any way of upping the bass slightly by building a removable back pannel for when I'm playing bass?

- I'm assuming that I need a minimum of 100W if I'm going to compete against a drumkit.

 

 

Believe it or not, 60 watts will keep up with most drummers. If not (perhaps your drummer is particularly loud), add another passive speaker cabinet to "fill out" the stage on his other side. It would be OK to mix another speaker cab here that isn't the same 12" . . . maybe something here with a bit more bass. Really unlikely that you'll damage the speaker cone playing a Bass thru a Tech 21 PE to begin with. Company reps have to cover their a$$es . . .

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Hi, I was reading this thread about using the GNX4 to jam with MIDIs. I've been working to do this, with my new GNX4. I have the set up like this:

 

Guitar->GNX4

ComputerGNX4

GNX4->Amp

GNX4MIDI Keyboard

 

On my computer when I play a MIDI file and pump it out the the GNX4, I would like the GNX4 to simply pass the data out to the keyboard/tone generator rather than play the drums. Sometimes, that's desirable, but most times I'd rather my keyboard do it. The keyboard is a synth and does all the MIDI playback just fine, generally. My solution to date has been to turn the GNX4 drum level all the way down.

 

Here's my problem. When I pass the MIDI to the GNX, it almost always wants to play the drums, generally with the level cranked way up. Also, the GNX settings seem to change all the time from the keyboard, or from MIDI file playback. This happens mostly at the beginning of MIDI playback, but sometimes in the middle of a song. Doh!

 

I'm assuming there is some simple aspect of MIDI that I don't understand yet or some setting I can make on the GNX to make it do more pass-thru. But ultimately , I want put marks in MIDI files so when they are played back, the GNX will switch when I want it to. Verse/Chorus etc. rather than what it's doing now, which is somewhat unpredictable.

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Sounds like a simple MIDI mapping issue. I really don't use the MIDI function that much but you could ask Craig Anderton. Craig wrote an advanced users guide for the GNX4, he loves this thing and uses the crap out of it. He mainly uses it within a MIDI environment. Just go to his forum at the top of the HC page here and ask him. He's always good at helping out.

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