Can an entry-level modeler hang with the big dogs?
Excellent interface. Very portable. Nice modulation tones.
Some subpar low-gain dirt sounds. Could be a little more rugged.
The allure of portability and sonic consistency has become too much to ignore for some guitarists, making smaller digital modelers more appealing than ever.
Since 2017, HeadRush primarily built super-versatile floor units aimed at players that like large-format, feature-packed boards. The new MX5 is a clear downsizing move. It's considerably smaller than the company's Looperboard and Gigboard models, but it also includes features not typically seen on setups in this price range.
The Power of Touch
At about 3.5 pounds, the MX5 is made for players who don't like a complicated or back-breaking load in. On the back side of the unit, you'll find an input, stereo outputs, an effects loop, an additional expression pedal input, headphone output, aux input, and MIDI, and USB ports. These options are standard on most modeling units, but kudos are due to HeadRush for retaining these features while keeping the price low and the size so small.
All of HeadRush's boards feature a full-color LCD display, and the MX5's 4" display is just big enough to be readable and effective. Naturally, larger displays make it easier to tweak rig and effect settings on the fly. But given the small size and price of the MX5, they've accomplished a lot with a little. Using other modelers, I tend to default to programming presets via a standalone editor. But the gurus at HeadRush made the MX5's interface very intuitive and maintained a balance between function and complexity. There are just enough parameters to give you plenty of control without falling into option paralysis.
The amp emulations ranged from good to near perfect.
When you open a blank preset, you're able to load up to 11 different elements to your virtual signal path. With a single touch of the signal path button, you can call up one of three templates. Two of these offer parallel paths for more complex setups. Because the MX5 has just three footswitches, I wanted to start with a straight-ahead setup that would cover clean, crunch, and high-gain. My rig started with a JTM45-style head feeding a 4x12 cab simulation and miked with a virtual SM57. From there, I added a "green" distortion, a full-range boost, '80s-style delay, and a plate reverb.
Sounds To Start With
Headrush's core technology is derived from a significantly enhanced, evolved, and reconstructed Avid Eleven Rack processor.. The delays and reverbs in the Avid system were excellent, and they've carried over nicely to the MX5. As with many modelers, distortion can be the toughest nut to crack, and in the MX5, the low- and mid-gain dirt emulations lack a little nuance and depth. High-gain distortions, however, were much more convincing.
Many modelers come with effect presets that may not immediately match your needs. But the MX5 does something that I haven't seen before: It loads up several presets for each effect. So, when I dropped a reverb in my signal chain, the screen provided the means to edit specific parameters as well as alternative presets that were ideal jumping-off points. This feature adds a lot of flexibility on the fly. Preset switching, by the way, is gapless and you have the option to program in delay and reverb tails and spillover.
With 46 amps and 63 effects—not to mention all the cab and mic options—it would take a novel to describe every sound available in the MX5. But generally speaking, the amp emulations ranged from good to near perfect (particularly the classic rock half stacks). Many modulation effects were standouts as well. And if there's an analog pedal in your collection that isn't represented in the HeadRush's library, the effects loop makes it easy to work the real deal into the mix.
Most modelers have robust recording features these days. The MX5 is no different. You can record directly to your DAW of choice with a single USB cable. (The USB connection is also used for firmware upgrades, backing up presets, and loading loops and IRs.) All the clips you hear with the online version of this review were recorded direct into Logic Pro X without any additional sweetening. While not essential, a good audio interface is a good thing to have if you want to get the most value from the HeadRush—enabling you to easily move from re-amping duties to fine tuning tones within a mix, or jamming along with a backing track.
At just a hair under $400, the MX5 sits comfortably on the affordable side of the contemporary all-in-one floor processor price spectrum. It's an even better value when you consider the built-in expression pedal. The unit is powerful and stable, and I never had to worry about DSP power when using processing-intensive effects. Although the distortion and overdrive emulations weren't head spinning, there were plenty of amps and effects that authentically copped the sound and feel of their analog counterparts. The MX5 might not have the sonic depth of more expensive units, but pound-for-pound—and at this price—it more than holds its own while offering the very valuable convenience that comes from a small package.
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Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
Complete with a range of game-changing design features, such as the patent-pending attachable FREERIDE Wheel System, premium water-resistant and reflective materials, shockproof shell structure and improved ergonomic features, the Vertigo Ultra Bass takes gear protection to the next level.
The Vertigo Ultra Bass features:
- Patent-pending FREERIDE Wheel System that allows for wheels to be attached on the case in no time, giving you the option to travel with it seamlessly
- Upgraded materials, including a water-resistant 1680D Ballistic Nylon outer shell, plush inner lining and new reflective trim for maximum backstage and night visibility
- Enhanced protection with a shockproof shell structure and heavy-duty water-resistant YKK zippers for protection from the elements
- Improved ergonomics and functionality including added back support and load-lifting detachable shoulder straps with side release buckles
- Flexible storage options with added space for touring essentials
The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.