REVIEW: TC Electronic iB Modified G-System
The original TC Electronic G-System is pretty hard to top. An integrated effects and switching system, it’s been at the heart of the guitar rigs of some pretty influential artists, including Steve Vai, Peter Thorn and Bullet For My Valentine. Pro players love the way it brings together all the essential elements of their rig (more on that in a minute) along with some very high-quality effects. But TC Electronic knows good advice when they hear it, and the G-System iB Modified was born out of some helpful suggestions from a few industry insiders.
But before we get to those suggestions, what exactly is the G-System? Well it’s a multi-effects unit. It’s a MIDI floorboard. It’s a few true bypass loops. It’s an amp channel switcher. And it’s a pedal power supply. The 18 heavy duty foot switches give you access to 99 presets with up to nine effects simultaneously including filters, compressors, modulations, pitch shifters, reverbs, delays and a boost. You can switch effects in and out of each preset at will. Not only that, but there are four analog loops, each with a 9V DC outlet, so you can hook in up to four individual pedals which you can then program within your effects patches. Say you want your trusty old Tube Screamer with some of the G-System’s delay for your lead sound, and a Big Muff with a little G-System reverb for your rhythm tone. No problem! And there’s also a dedicated loop/insert point for preamps, which means you can actually use your head or combo’s own distortion sounds or an external rackmounted preamp/power amp combo.
There are also two switch outputs which you can use to change channels or turn effects on and off on your amp. For instance, if you’re using a Marshall DSL50 like I do and you have separate foot switch jacks for channel selection and reverb on/off, you can configure the G-System to handle each of these tasks, individually programmed within each patch. Genius. Not many units have amp switching in this way, and even fewer have two switch jacks. It all just reinforces that this is a pro piece of kit. And speaking of foot switches, there are connections for up to four expression pedals. How about one for volume, one for wah, one for whammy effects and one for modulation rate? And another neat trick the G-System has up its sleeve is that the guts are contained in a removable unit which you can stow in a 19″ rack case along with your effects pedals while leaving the control board on the floor, tethered only by a CAT 5 cable.
So what makes the iB Modified so special? Well in Europe, tech wizard Massimo Mantovani had been offering a popular modification to the input buffer stage. Meanwhile, a US retailer had asked TC Electronic if they could improve the G-System. So the company put one and one and one together and designed the iB Modified G-System with Mantovani and the retailer, changing the input design and a number of other components to create a punchier, snappier response. And to truly differentiate the new model, it’s finished in a sleek and sexy black colour scheme that kinda makes it look like Darth Vader.
I hooked the iB Modified G-System up to my amp in full performance mode, with preamp insert, effects in the loops, and channel switching enabled. The new buffer design was especially apparent when the G-System took the signal of my Ibanez UV777BK – with high-pass filter on the volume knob – and faithfully maintained exactly the kind of gain reduction and treble clarity that the filter is designed for. A lesser buffer squashes down the difference between soft notes and hard ones in this situation, but there was plenty of snap and sparkle with the G-System. It also seemed to be very much at home with my Bullet Coil Cable, a 30 foot long cord which pushes the limits of sonic transparency when used with lesser input sections.
And of course, the G-System’s effects sound incredible. The delays, reverbs and pitch shifters are world class, and the modulations sound very detailed and noise-free. There’s no audible pop when switching presets, and the delay tails spill over nicely when you go from one patch to another.
TC very cleverly integrates the input control knobs in the form of the top row of foot switches. You actually turn the switches themselves to change the various parameters. There’s also an online editor for your computer if you’d prefer that method, and it really does make the process a lot easier if you’re a visual person like me.
Incidentally, while the G-System has no distortion sounds of its own, a recent software update allows you to integrate the TC Electronic Nova Drive pedal with the G-System and control it via the G-System’s menu screen.
My only issue with the G-System is that although there are several effect routing options including parallel, series and semi-parallel, you can’t change the order to place, say, the compressor and modulation before the preamp insert and the rest of the effects after it. You can do this with your own physical pedals in the external loops though.
The input stage tweak on the iB Modified G-System takes a good thing and makes it even better. From a practical standpoint it’s stage-perfect. From a sonic standpoint, it’s studio quality. And from a user perspective it’s easy to program and intuitive to operate.