I’ve had the Zoom G3 for a few weeks now and am really happy with it. I don’t use the amp models because I’m quite satisfied with the amps I’ve got already. My son has a Vox Satchurator he intends to sell on so I thought I would put it up against some of the Distortion box models in the Zoom G3 unit. I tried to avoid the overdrive models, to do a more meaningful comparison, but I added the HotBox sim because I like it. However it doesn’t sound as good in the video as in reality, or it didn’t come across as good as some other sounds I tried and don’t usually use… Like “Dist 1”. We actually had a Boss DS1 in the house a couple of months ago and this Zoom sim sounds a lot better IMHO. In fact I like it, but the actual Boss DS1 sounded too raspy to me.
On with the review and the specs of what I used to listen to the differences;
- Vintage V100, with stock Wilkinson Alnico Humbuckers and old strings which I should have changed by now.
- All distortion tones tested with guitar volume and tone on full, bridge pickup.
- All distortion boxes set to about 2 o’clock, tone at 12 noon and the volume/level to balance the clean amp.
- Weather was cold, playing was rusty, more or less similar chords/riffs for consistency
- Clean Blackheart Little Giant 3 watt mode – beginning of video.
- Vox Satchurator – 53 seconds
- Zoom “Dist +” (MXR Distortion+) – 2.15
- Zoom “Dist 1” (Boss DS-1) – 3.27
- Zoom “Great Muff” (EHX Big Muff) – 4.29
- Zoom “HotBox” (Matchless Hotbox) – 5.46
- Zoom “MetalWorld” (Boss Metal Zone) – 7 minutes
So I’m testing everything here with “affordable” kit. First up the clean sounds of this Blackheart Little Giant combo are very nice but it’s a simple amp with no master volume or gain controls so you need some kind of pre-amp, overdrive or distortion for hard rock sounds at bedroom friendly volumes.
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Some distortions suited different passages in the music better than others. You can hear the tone bias of most of the distortions are quite different. The MetalWorld had a lot of mid and treble where the HotBox sounded muddy in the recording here, that sound isn’t a distortion, rather an overdrive/preamp kind of effect, I think it’s suited less to the jangly chord playing and you have to stick to the power chords of 3 notes or less and single note passages. In that area it sounds great IMHO.
More about the Vox Satchurator
Looking at the Vox Satchurator in particular it’s got a very nice tone and the six strings all rang clearly and distinctly which is a great quality in a distortion effect. It’s quite configurable with the three controls. The Gain has a very workable range, the lower and higher settings are all useful sounding and the middle setting was used in the video above. The “More” button lets you have more Gain. If the gain is not set at full already then it boosts the gain value up to full. If the Gain is set at maximum already then the “More” foot-pedal switch will turn it to “11” 🙂
I used the tone set at the middle setting on the Vox Satchurator distortion and all the Zoom distortion pedal simulations, you have to put limits on your testing and comparisons! The tone on the Vox works just as you thought it would; as an EQ that darkens the sound or brightens things up, depending which way you turn it.
The level control lets you adjust the volume level of the pedal output, also as usual. Slightly unusual is the little switch labelled “pad”, it changes the way the distortion sounds subtly which makes it work better with trebly pickups or wah effects.
Overall the Vox Satchurator is a very versatile and musical sounding distortion pedal. I like how it’s got a smoothness and more sustain than other distortions I’ve tried before. The More switch is a great extra, everyone wants more sometimes! Great flexibility and it’s well built too.
Back to Zoom G3 comparisons
In comparing with the Zoom G3 I didn’t try and replicate the Vox Satchurator sound. As you can see I left all the tone controls and gain controls at 50% and 60% respectively. Some of the pedals were very close, even so – the “Dist 1” sounded a lot like the Vox to my ears which surprised me, like I said above I never liked the actual Boss DS1 that I had for a short while. The “Great Muff” might have been able to be tweaked to be more like the Vox Satchurator too, it was just a little darker at the given settings. If you have a Zoom G3 pedal it’s easy to get the more setting too. There’s the optional Zoom expression pedal (I got one for £18, used) that can control the gain setting on the distortions. Also you can put several distortion, boost and overdrives in the virtual chain you have. In fact, I’ve seen someone ask this before but never saw the answer, you can have 3 identical distortion pedals in a row if you like, all with different or any settings you like and then with the expression pedal to give you more… crazy.
I have actually tried 3 distortions at once on the G3, when I made a patch of several different sounding overdrives to compare. There are several more distortion and overdrive effects on the Zoom G3, perhaps I will try and copy the Vox Satchurator sound more precisely another day.
That’s it for now. I might do one more article about the Zoom G3 and the optional expression pedal, it’s a very good addition to this box of tricks and magic! At the time of my original review of the Zoom G3 I had no expression pedal and now I have more experience of the settings on the unit itself.