Having upgraded my guitar, my thoughts turned to upgrading my effects. I’ve had my faithful Zoom 505 for about a decade. It was an affordable multi-effect device at the time, and I was pleased with its versatility despite its shortcomings. The biggest flaw was probably the inconvenience of changing the settings with only six buttons: once I had set up some patches I liked, I mostly left them alone.

However, technology has moved on in ten years: 32 kHz, 16 bit processing is no longer cutting edge, and some of the effects on the 505 sound coarse.

I was tempted by newer devices, and when I saw that old 505s are still selling for £20-£30 on eBay, I couldn’t resist any longer. If I can buy a new effects box and get that kind of return on my old one, why not?

I decided to go for the Zoom G2, a bargain at £42 including a mains adapter, and highly rated in reviews. I did consider its brother the G2.1u, which is basically the same thing with USB output and an expression pedal, but I’ve never been able to get the hang of wah pedals, and it’s twice the price.

The Zoom G2 is, I suppose, that grandson of the 505. It’s familiar enough that I could get the hang of it right away.

What’s better?

  • It’s got knobs on! Twiddling parameters is much better than pressing increment/decrement buttons.
  • It sounds great. Perhaps that’s the higher sampling resolution (96 kHz/24 bit), or perhaps it’s improved signal processing algorithms.
  • The cabinet-and-microphone simulation sounds good through headphones.
  • You can set some parameters—the echo delay for example—by tapping. Very simple and intuitive.
  • It’s more robust. Or at least the metal case gives that impression. To be honest, the 505 held up very well despite being plastic.
  • The tuner is more responsive and usable: it clearly indicates when the correct pitch has been achieved.
  • Very low noise, even at high gain.

The default patches are more of a shop window of effects than usable sounds. The parameters are cranked vulgarly high. Hear that chorus shimmer! Listen to the flanger whoosh! Notice the notice echo the echo! Turned down to subtler levels, I was able to coax some convincing sounds out of it.

Before I put my 505 up for sale, I should try to record some riffs with equivalent parameters on each effects box. That will show whether there’s really a noticeable difference in sound quality.

I’m pleased with my new acquisition so far. For home recording and practising, it’s just what I need.