The look and layout of ZOOM's G5 processor has more in common with a control panel on the Starship Enterprise than with the spare control layouts of the other two floorboards in this roundup. But what looks complex on the surface is all about ZOOM giving players more on-the-fly amp and effect adjustment possibilities, rather than placing the majority of those features in a series of scrolling menus. And compared to the other two processors in this roundup, the G5 has a lot more tools on hand—not just for producing and shaping tone, but assisting in songwriting and riff ideas too.
The G5 has a ton of emulated amps and effects—22 amps and a whopping 102 stompboxes. The amps cover pretty much what you would expect from most modelers—vintage Fender cleans from such hits as the Twin Reverb and Bassman, ballsy British crunch and cleans from a Vox AC30 and a handful of vintage Marshall emulations, and pummeling metal wallop from interpretations of the Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier and Krank Revolution 1. They could have stopped there, but ZOOM went a step further and filled the G5's amp coffers with some great boutique choices, such as the Diezel Herbert, Bogner Ecstasy, Carr Mercury, and Matchless DC-30, among others. And while the G5's emulated effects models are populated with common selections such as the Boss CE-1 and MXR Dynacomp, they also include a ton of custom models that are pretty unique, such as delays that are routed in tandem with reverbs, stepped sequencers, reactive resonance filters, and a bunch of other cool gizmos. There’s even a separate footswitchable boost that uses a real 12AX7 tube to goose the output with tube warmth and feel. And the unit also includes ZOOM’s 3D Z expression pedal, which not only senses up and down movement, but side-to-side as well—making it possible to control effects parameters in wildly different ways.
The G5 does a lot of things. Unfortunately, some of that feature richness comes at the expense of being intuitive. After connecting the unit to my iMac with a USB connection and plugging in an Ibanez JS-1000, I was able to call up the first four patches pretty easily, but switch to different banks required some in-depth consultation of the manual (not necessarily a bad thing).
User-friendliness aside, the G5 has some really neat tones wired into its circuitry. The clean amp models are great backdrops for building tones—especially the highly responsive ’63 Vibroverb and ’65 Twin Reverb models. Bloom and decay had a very real-world feel, and adding overdrive stompboxes had a very natural, sagging quality that was a blast to play with. However, digging into the strings harder—no matter which amp model that I was using—pulled back the curtain a bit so to speak, inducing as slightly cold-sounding digital edge on the high end frequencies. The modulation and delay effects are quite spacious and detailed, though the choruses and phasers in particular sounded a little less natural—almost as if they were stuck on top of the tone and left to modulate while the dry tone lay unaffected underneath.
The G5's British amp emulations were surprisingly accurate—capturing the sag and upper midrange bite that a lot of those amps are known for. The Marshall Super Lead model conjured up some very convincing ’70s rock rhythm tones—perfect for laying down Angus Young-type pounding riffs with a decidedly bright and smooth attack. And as I laid back and let up on my pick attack to play bluesy leads, the model responded in kind with a cleaner, more organic tone that retained great high-end definition. Even higher gain models with boosted front end signal chains were nice and tight without being overly bass-heavy. Still, heavier tones sometimes caused some digital artifacts to show, mostly in the midrange and highs—and we're particularly noticeable when I would crank the Bogner and Diezel models to the levels where their real counterparts are thickest and most dynamic.
The G5 is a nice tool for recording and working out riff ideas, and has some very convincing amp emulations to boot. It can exhibit a digital edge, especially when using some of the modulation effects or coaxing out very high amounts of distortion. Regardless, it has the biggest feature set of the three models presented here, and while it has a steeper learning curve, its tonal capabilities and applications are impressive.