The Roland GR-55 is the Guitar Synth unit that I've been waiting for. Great-sounding new PCM voices, better tracking than ever, powerful COSM effects and voices, and a built-in looper. I'm in heaven! If you're serious about guitar synthesis, this is a must-have unit.
Studio Tool Extraordinaire
If you are a guitarist, or studio owner, you seriously need to read this honest review. Being a studio owner, I have seen a lot of gear come and go as far as the actual usuage and pupose of the product whatever it may be. Trendy guitar foot pedals, a new compressor type, preamps, guitar simulators, whatever. Very rarely, have I ever seen such a ground breaking product come along as this one.
So here is the review, to the point, step by step.
Opened the box, and was very suprised by the build and weight of the GR-55. This unit weighs about 8 pounds.Very heavily built.
LARGE SCREEN: well lit, extremely easy to see and read. Much larger screen in real life than it appears in corralation to the size of it shown in stock photos of the GR-55. Its about a quarter of the size of the entire unit. When is the last tme you saw a 4000 dollar synth keyboard with a screen that was 1/4 of the size of the entire unit?......you haven't. There is no such thing. Its large on the GR-55.
POWER UP: in about 5 seconds, ...no waiting.
BUILT IN TUNER: There are actually 2 of them. One can tune all six strings simultainiously, meaning it shows all six strings at one time in a vertical line, so that you can tune all six strings with a single strum of the strings at once, in mere seconds!!... and shows on each string whether they are sharp or flat, or you can set it for the old standard one string at a time style tuner. You can set it at 440 hz, or whatever tuning you desire. I have a big name 500 dollar tuner in the studio ....that can't tune 2 different strings at one time, let alone all six. And thats just the tuner folks.
MANUAL: Comes with a VERY in depth manual of operation. They did not miss a thing. Has a fast start guide in the begining, which we all love to see that in any manual to get up and running right now.
SET UP: Plug in your 13 pin synth cable, page over to the System screen for guitar set up, hit GK set up, scroll to the synth pup that you have on your guitar, and exit out. It is that fast. You can even fine tune it for your guitar and playing style.
SOUNDS: This is where it all happens. I have never heard , or seen anything like it...ever. 26 different guitars, 17 different basses, expensive boutique amp heads, and some of the guitars are very high end guitars, like Gibson, Martin, Rickenbacker, Guild, Stratocaster, Telecaster, etc. And these are not your everyday crappy modeling software wannabe type sounds...these are the sounds of the REAL THING. And every single sound, whether it be the guitar, synth sounds, effect sounds, are completely adjustable to your liking. Lets just cut to the chase at this point.
EXAMPLE: Imagine having a old acoustic Martin D- 28, which today is worth about 4-6000 dollars, which sounds beautiful in and of itself.
And, as if that wasn't good enough for any of us to ever own a guitar like that in the first place? Just click a footswitch, and there it is, in your hands. Now, imagine being able to just click a button, and it is now a 12 string version...of itself!! And I mean a REAL12 string. Not the thick chorus effect, with the pitch shifted a few cents to get it to simulate a make believe 12 string. NO, I said a real 12 string.
You can even tune all 12 strings individually. Simply put?...UNREAL.
Want to hear a beautiful 6 string electric, or 6 string acoustic, or nylon classical acoustic with orchestra strings fading and swelling like the real thing, with every note and guitar chord that you play?
You have two individual synth patches,as well as your own guitar sound on top of it all, which you can adjust ALL to your liking, then hit the WRITE button, and its saved forever, to be called up at the click of a foot switch. Need a Mandolin? Banjo? Harpsichord? Sitar?
Every style of tuning and drop tuning invented by mankind? Strings? Quartet Strings? Orchestral Strings? Cello? Synth leads?12 String Guitars? and on, and on? Its one of those products, that if you write songs, you will be writing endlessly just by the inspiration of the sounds that you are hearing. This unit is endless in sounds. So the inspiration never stops.
TRACKING: Once you set it to your guitar pup, you have just entered a whole new world of sound. This is not the garbled, warbling sounds of guitar synths of the 80's and 90's, this thing is a dead nuts on, note for note, strum for strum tracking synth. Whether you have a GK-3 pup, or graphite Ghost pup, or a RMC pup, doesn't matter.
OVERALL GR-55: Once you start working with it the first day, it is seriously ....a jaw dropping experience, just to hear the sounds that are coming out of this unit. As a studio owner, and as a guitarist, I could never afford all the instruments that are in this unit. It would cost 100's of thousands of dollars to even attempt to do so. A Gib 335, Les Paul Std, a Rick 360, a Martin D-28, a Guild D-40, a 5150 amp head, a Matchless amp head, a priceless Marshall head, just to name a few??? and synth sounds from Rolands most expensive keyboard synths?.....You get my point. As a studio owner, it is probably the most valuable instrument piece of equipment that you will ever own as put into its proper perspective for sound creation.
As a guitar player, you have no earthly idea, of what this machine is capable of doing until you actual have one in your possesion. It is stunning to hear it.
Lead guitar players? Your world just changed...forever.
OUTPUTS: It can be configured so many different ways, too many to even list. Even has USB to go direct into your DAW.
THE GR-55...IS A BEAST.
VALUE: I will be using it in the studio until the motherboard fries.
And will then, buy another one. You can't place an actual value on this unit, you really can't. Dollar wise? Roland could have sold it for 2000 dollars, and no one would have even raised an eyebrow.
This thing is a monster piece of professional equipment, that you will be using non stop. And for a guitarist?, it will allow you to define and create, your own original sound that you have never even thought possible. Roland said the GR-55 was a culmination of 35 years of building guitar synths...I am here to tell you..there is no hype involved. A 5 star rating?, is a very huge understatement.
Three big boxes in one
This has to be the best deal in guitar equipment. It You can spend years coming up with your sound. I run it directly into the board through a full range monitor. I prefer the modeling to real tube amps. YES it's THAT GOOD!!!
I LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY WITH THE GR-55. IT CAN BE FIGURED OUT EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT A COMPUTER TYPE GUY. I LIKE THE GUITAR SOUNDS THE BEST. I HAVE HAD OTHER GUITAR MODELING DEVICES BEFORE AND TO ME THIS IS THE BEST. THE SYNTHS ARE NOT SOMETHING I WILL USE ALOT BUT THEY ARE FUN TO PLAY AROUND WITH. SWEETWATER GAVE ME THE BEST SERVICE I HAVE EVER HAD. I ORDERED ONE DAY AND IT WAS HERE THE NEXT. GREAT JOB GUYS.
Ive had this unit for 6 months now and im still blow away by it.U can do any sound stuff that sounds like a movie soundtrack.I loop piano progressions and use other sounds to play the melody.And u can loop other sounds over that too its like playing with a bunch of musicians playing different instruments.The modeling amps r the best ive ever heard and ive played and owned lots of modelers.And im not havin to change my tone it sounds that good and I dont want to change a thing.The alternate tunings allows me to play songs I never would try to play cause I would had to have other guitars not anymore.And the telecaster modeling gives me awesome chickin picking tones.It has a ny horn istrument u wanna play any organ hell it does animal noises.If u are looking for something that would be a great recording tool this is what u get.The possiblilitys with this thing is damn near endless.U will save loads of money buying this thing cause u wont need anything else u can do it all on one guitar.Dont think about it get this now!
Roland GR-55 . A masterpiece of design, a Classic
By any measure a Classic of Guitar effects design , Roland should rightly be very proud of the GR-55.They have given all guitarists a chance to buy this incredible machine at a very reasonable price, I hope they sell bucket loads of them.
It sounds fantastic and is completely malleable. When Roland get it right, they get it done perfectly right.
The King of Tone!
The Grr55 can emulate the sounds of any rig, replace a big pedalboard, interface with a computer for digital recording, and play backing tracks for live performance or praactice. It tunes all 6 strings at the same time. Wether you want an inexpensic=ve alternative to a GR99 or want the best of both worlds (synthesis and COSM models) this is the kit for you. It plays two synthesizers, a modeled guitar and your pickups at the same time! Killer!
This "Gear" is, by far, the most incredible Guitar Synth that I have ever used. All the information you get and the demo's are "SPOT ON!!!!" I can NOT even begin to tell you how you will feel. You guitar players, out there, should surely, most definitely, get one. You can create any sound you can imagine. As a, "Pink Floyd, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Rick Wakeman", fan I can now lay my own tracks and I need no one to lay any for me. I HAVE ALL THE CONTROL!!!! YESSSSSSSSSS! Try it, you will not regret it. I recommend Mark Maxwell.....he is the best.......again I absolutely love it!!!!! Larry McCutchen
This is simply Roland at its best. Unlike the last review I find it easy to use. Take the time to set it up properly and move your patches in the order of your set list before you perform and there is no need to "edit on the fly" I added 32GB of memory and the patches are outstanding!!! I run the dry or guitar out into my Line 6 Pod Pro, both units then feed into my amp stereo for total control and a sound no one can match. This is also a great addition in the studio on it's own or linked to my Phantom X8 or G
What a blast...!
I could hardly wait to get this out of the box and hooked up. I spent the first few days getting into the GR-55's programs and editing some of what I will use to make the programs work for me. Easy to edit and navigate. I love it...!
The most awesome guitar produt for a long time
I've read a lot of reviews out of others opinions. To those who say this unit is not perfect, no product is perfect for everyone. IMO, this unit is the most advanced product ever for a guitarist. The learning curve can be strong, but that satisfies those of us who own a VG-99 and took the time to learn it. For those of you who are used to a GR-20, use the easy edit feature and take the time to organize the sound you use most in the User section. The sounds are fantastic. IMO, those who bash the sounds are looking for a holy grail without spending time to dial in what they like. C'mon man, set up your guitar right and set your amp flat. Better yet, get a keyboard amp. It's a synth!
This unit has unlimited tweakability. There is no excuse for a negative review. By the way, no tube amps. You shouldn't expect a modeler, or a synth to sound good going though a tube preamp. C'mon man. The GR-55 is a fantastic item and a worthy alternative in price to the VG-99 with the FC-300.
GR-55 + GK-3a
I installed the GK-3a on my RPS Mira this past weekend. I just followed the installation guide. Wow! Very cool. The sonic possibilities are amazing, and I noticed instantly that I approached composition differently when I used some non-guitar tones (grand piano, for example). The last time I was this impressed with a product was probably getting the Axe-Fx Ultra. I am very impressed. And I'm buying a second GR-55+GK-3, and additional GK-3 pickups for two other guitars. Yes, it's that cool... for me, anyway.
What a cool unit... a great blend of a VG-99 and a GR-33.... plus a GK-3 pickup for an extra $100..... you just can't beat it!!!! The COSM and synth sounds are top notch... the tracking is vastly improved over the GR-33 synth. Great job Roland... will change live gig and studio guitar playing as we know it.... Much thanks to Dave Walent and Sweetwater for their fast, personal and professional sales help and lifetime support.....
Roland Gr 55
I have a Gr 33 & had just recently purchased a Gr 20 I took the Gr 20 back the same day I purchased it in exchange for the Gr 55. I tried it with midi 'd gr 33 & gr 55, it works ok & yes, there is some latency, so I asked Nick Schenkel & he advised getting the US 20 - A 13 pin selector switch now I have access to the Gr 33 ' s harmonizer & arpeggiator & while either combining the Gr 55 's sound engine @ the same time The US 20 is A / B switch plus a combination switch. Thanx Roland & thanx Nick Schenkel
More sounds than you can imagine
I do a lot of creative multitrack recording and as a guitarist I wanted to get more sounds out of my guitar. This unit definitely does that. The synth comes in around the 1:30 mark. You can hear the cello, piano and string sounds. They sound awesome. I'd give it 5 stars but I'm a pretty fast player and sometimes certain patches can't keep up with me. Also some patches have an attack that is delayed so you canít use those patches when youíre shredding. You can get lost in the editing of the sounds if you want to modify them. There are countless variables you can change. It does have some odd glitches when saving them though. Many users have posted the same complaint on various forums. Thatís another reason to give 4 instead of 5 stars. The acoustic guitar patches are really amazing. The scat singing patch will crack you up.
Excellent sounding and very playable sounds
Excellent sounding and very playable acoustic and electric guitar sounds.
And many other fun and useful keyboard sounds.
For me, most of the Synth sounds that come pre-programmed were not very useful but with a bit of tweaking I found that I could create patches that sound great and work well.
The Game Changer
Here are the good reason this unit is a must have.
1. Alternate turnings with no tracking delays. Not only can you drop tune, but you can have any tuning you want. You can up or down tune each individual string 24 frets, which isn't even possible in real life. Any open tuning you want, any tuning you haven't tried yet cause it took to much time and was to much of a hassle to do, you can do now. This is all done through the COSM modeling section so there are no delays or tracking issues.
2. Over 900 instrument sounds to play with. If you are into ambient music or just want a variety, this synth integrates all these instruments into the "guitar" interface you already know.
3. Guitar/Amp/Cab/Mic modeling. You can model the main types of guitars, tele, strat, Les Paul, Acoustic, Bass etc... So any sound you want is pretty much yours. You can even model how far away whatever mic you choose is from the cabinet you are mic'ing.
4. Graphical Editor for the Computer. The only way I edit is through the GR-55 floorboard which was created by a third party. Rolands editor sucks. If you get this unit, download that editor. You wont edit any other way after that.
5. The user community. Vguitar forums has hundreds of user defined patches for you to download. These are much better than the factory ones.
6. Layering. You can layer up to 4 instruments together. 2 Guitar, 2 Synth.
7. Levels. You can adjust the level output of each string on any patch. This in conjunction with the tuning capabilities make this a first in guitar history and it opens up many possibilities. For example you can have certain instruments ONLY come in when certain strings are played, making for some awesome combinations.
8. Built in tuner. This in and of itself isn't so special. I expect it in multi effect pedals these days. But you can change the Hertz at which you tune. If you are playing drop tune where metal bands mess with the tuning Hertz, then you can do the same by tuning down to whatever Hertz, then adjusting your pitches for each string from there.
9. The ability to store hundreds of user presets.
1. Roland support sucks. They say many things they don't follow through on. If you have to deal with them prepare to be frustrated, and I'd suggest making them accountable for what they say they will do.
2. Tracking. You HAVE to set your string sensitivity up to have better results with tracking. Expect to mess with that for a while to get the best results. I really wish they would have not made that a system setting and put it changeable per patch as some respond better to higher sensitivity and some to low.
3. The factory patches. They suck...they really suck. 90% of them. The fact they are taking up memory and I can't replace them blows as well. However, the unit IS capable of producing great sounds with very little effort if you just spend a little time dialing things in. Vguitar forum users have tons of useful and awesome patches. Ones you will actually use in real world scenarios.
4. The effects are ok. They get the job done, but they do not wow you as with most multi effect units.
Those are really the only bad things I can say about the unit. It is amazing. I installed the GK-3 pickup on an Epiphone Les Paul with no issues. Though I did go online to find instructions on doing so as the manual and pictures were confusing. I've heard some say it's not worth the money...and to that hogwash! The ability to use this as a "midi" guitar interface to control other synths, along with all the good points I mentioned make it worth every penny. I mean come on, you have access to like 20 guitars, amps, cabs. Along with any tuning you could possibly want, eliminating the need to go buy 20 - 40 guitars to do it! You have access to entire orchestras, brass sections, drums, and synth sections! Go hire all those in real life for hours on end messing around with different sections, and have them practice so they play to your stuff. You'd spend millions. Millions 99.9% of us don't have. Be realistic and see this for what it is, a great tool for experimentation and creativity.
Great inspirational piece of gear
I spent months combing over reviews etc. I must say this is the best piece of gear I bought in a long time. It is easy to setup and it sounds great. I use my GK bass amp for the synth sounds and play my guitar thorough a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. Wow!
Read the manual first to get your head wrapped around how the device works. Then start tinkering. I use a Fender Jaguar guitar with the Gk-3 pickup. If you compose music from the guitar, then the GR-55 will take you further than if you did not have it. No gear is perfect, but this piece of gear is worth the $$ IMHO.
The GR-55 is midi guitar for everyone
I am a long time guitar synth enthusiast having used them for 12+ years. I started with the GR-30 in 1999. I have also used the GR-33 and GR-20. I have always found it easy to adjust my style to their idiosyncrasies. The new GR-55 for me has done away with the triggering delays that scare most guitarists away from synths. I have always used the GK pickups rather than the piezo types as I have experienced problems with them in loud bands and also with handling noise. It is important to screw the pickup to the guitar, sticky tape causes triggering issues IMHO. The new GK-3 pickup solves this with it's bracket for easy attachment to a tune-o-matic style bridge. This also places the pickup as close to the string saddles as possible, which is the optimal site for accurate triggering. It also has adjustable pole pieces to further enhance triggering. I find it easy to set these up but if you have problems pay someone to do it if necessary. The GR-55 has a great array of sounds set up and programming is easy to do (there is also a good program that also eases editing shareware/freeware). I do highly recommend you RTFM! I have used it on gigs and the audience loves it. I like to keep a fuzz pedal between the guitar output and the GK 1/4" input to spice up the guitar tones. I believe the GR-55 is finally the answer for most guitarist looking for something new to spice up their music. It does require some investment of time to be ready for the stage but it will feel comfortable to most stringsters fairly quickly. The tones available are very nice the organ tones are very faithful and the GR-300 patch is worth the price of admission all by itself. If you have been wanting to take the guitar synth plunge and are willing to invest sometime learning you will be amply rewarded.
Roland GR-33 is a winner
Six years ago I walked away from guitar synth hungry to get back to "real" guitar as my main instrument. I had owned the GR-30, the GR-33 and a VG-8 along with two synth-access Godin guitars. It was fun and it had it's time and place, but it wasn't a priority in gear for me until now. Never seeming to have the right musicians around put demands on be to do more than just play guitar, so I order the GR-55 with the GK-3 pickup and held on tight.
I was really surprised to notice the unit and pickup performed better than the old gear (which weren't too bad themselves). I wasn't getting as many accidental bloops and bleeps from the strings as in the old GK-2 days. The GR-55 provides a lot of what I enjoyed in the VG gear and gave me more usable patches than previous GR models.
I have to confess that I ordered a Godin guitar because I can't stand that big GK wart on a guitar, especially on my Grosh custom shop guitar. You just have to do what your budget allows for a time - so if you can't afford a synth ready guitar and the GR at once, the GK-3 will work for you in the meantime.
I'm loving the sounds, especially those setup for rhythm use. I can't wait for a week of vacation to dial in my own custom patches.
The GR-55 is an inspirational piece of technology. My choices were, add to my collection of guitars or a synth. I'm glad I chose the GR-55. There are endless ways to shape guitar sounds and synths. You can be there for hrs dreaming and my ears are never tired of possibilities.
Problems-which guitar to hook it up to. It's very versatile and you can make changes on the fly. Quietly while a lot of things are going on. There is a learning curve accessing all of the internal amps and effects. But it's worth the time to invest. It's also worth the price.
Have used the GR20 and Axon for years in a very hi tech 4 piece live act that uses a software (Solo Performer) that plays backing tracks, sends MIDI commands to vocal harmonizers and EFX pedals, Roland electronic drums and 32 channels of DMX lighting. The git synth is integral to our sound. The GR-55 is a big step forward. Tracking is faster & much more accurate--but you still better be a 'clean' player! I agree with other reviewers that many of the presets are trash--the GR20 had many better and more usable out of the box. Some of the new individual instruments are improved but yes, the pianos are pretty bad. I am redoing/editing/modifying almost every patch I need and store then in the 'user' banks. I find that I need to save each patch with an assigned guitar I need to use on that tune. (I use 4 different axes at gigs) Thats the price of improved tracking parameters--each axe responds very differently to the GK-3 pickup--whether its externally mounted or you have an axe with built in 13 pin connectivity--like a Carvin or Godin with Ghost piezo saddles or a Roland-ready Strat with the built in GK-3. Psudeo drop/alternate tunings work pretty well (don't need to bring that axe anymore!) Running units audio through the PA and an Atomic amp for stage audio (Atomic originally designed for 'modelers' like Pod, etc, provides more 'full range' audio)The learning curve on this device is huge but it is very flexible. It's not perfect--it may not be a total substitute for your GT-10/Pod, etc. type modelers and your ME50 type multi-EFX pedals. AND an external editor is definitely needed (3rd party editor in process--check out VGuitar Forums), but there is nothing else on the market like this unit without having a six foot wide pedal board!
Another Huge Jump in Guitar Synth Technology
As a point of reference, I have owned the Roland GR-20 and Axon 100 for several years, and have used the GR-20 in live settings.
The GR-55 is built very well. I like the general layout, steel enclosure, switch quality and action, the large display, and so forth. It is a solid device that should handle live environments better than the mostly plastic GR-20.
In regards to layout, I prefer the GR-20 method for calling up instrument groups. It was nice having all of the instruments grouped and easy accessible by top side switching.
IMHO, for the most part the Lead, Rhythm, Other, and User presets are poorly done. Unfortuntely, you cannot edit AND save the Lead/Rhythm/Other presets over their original locations.
With that said, several presets are outstanding, but most are unusable for me. And I know this is a different sound engine than the GR-20, but many of the instrument/presets sound very very very familiar. Like identical. How can that be?
Plus, the best piano preset is buggy. The Concert Grand patch, lead preset 07-1 cuts out like a speaker is going south. I informed Roland.
I do not like the three bank setup to access presets. I find the whole preset setup cumbersome. Three banks 30 presets deep (or 99 deep for user presets) is a pain to cycle through. Am I missing something?
I appreciate the ability to include two PCM (synth) paths into a preset. The GR-20 has a few multiple instrument patches but I never found a way of creating them.
I absolutely love the configuration and voice programmability. I dialed in my RMC pickups (Piezo R) and triggering etc is improved over the GR-20 and perhaps better than my venerable Axon 100. Anyway, suffice it to say the GR-55 offers full control over hex pickup type, string sensitivity, you name it. Plus, you can configure multiple guitar/pickups.
However, some dialing in of the individual presets are necessary. Some presets trigger without ghost notes, but others are all over the place. I created my own piano preset in a couple of minutes that works well.
Also, when dialing in the string sensitivities I noticed that when I picked or plucked one string, the sens display bars moved for all of the other strings at varying strengths. Not sure what it means, but it can't be good, right?
The tracking is very good. As fast or faster than an Axon at least when triggering the GR-55 internal synth and "VG" voices where no hex-to-midi conversion is required. But as the external MIDI (requiring hex to midi conversion) latency numbers show, the Axon is much faster driving external MIDI devices than the GR boxes. Any latency above 20 to 30 ms can be problematic. And reviewers are reporting latency numbers in the 100ms + range. Yikes!
Editing or creating presets is easy and intuitive. The large display is much appreciated. Even still, bending over to the floor to edit presets is a pain. Roland needs a PC-based and MAC-based editor for this box. A third-party is working on one that looks great in alpha/beta form.
The GR-55 includes COSM effects and amps. I prefer Line 6 and Digitech modeling over COSM. The COSM related sounds and presets sound terrible through my acoustic guitar amp, but sound okay through headphones and our new keyboard amp. I will sort them out on my own (still using the presets) when I get time. On the positive side, the COSM comfortably numb preset is nice.
Love the AC, 12 str, nylon, and jazz guitar presets/instruments through headphones and our new keyboard amp. They sound only so-so through our Loudbox acoustic amp.
I have not connected the GR-55 to our midi keyboards or computer yet. There is just so much to this box to configure, test, experiment with. It will take weeks, maybe months to figure it all out.
Regarding amps. I was greatly disappointed that the GR-55 sounds muddy, bassy, and lifeless through my Loudbox acoustic guitar amp. The GR-20 sounds pretty good through it; not so with the GR-55.
I have experimented with all of the GR-55 output options and found the best for my use was the JC-120 Return. Still sounds muffled, bassy, and dark. Turns out, according to Roland, you need to connect the GR-55 to a PA or keyboard amp to realize its high-fidelity.
So....I broke down and purchased a Peavey KB4 keyboard amp from Sweetwater (thanks for the 10% gift card discount). The KB4 is not a "stereo" amp, but even so, the GR-55 (and my amp-effect modelers) sound great through it. The sound is very tight and crisp without being brittle. Plenty of bass and highs.
As implied earlier, the GR-55 sounds great through headphones. And I mean, GREAT! But that is typical of stereo devices such as these synths and modelers. They sound great through headphones and not so great through any form of amplication. Search for "Fletcher-Munsen effect" on the Web to understand why.
So, that's it in a nutshell. If some of it sounds negative, well, it's how I see it. I still give the GR-55 a solid 4.5 stars. IMHO, the majority of presets are poorly done. However, in each case so far, I was able to create similar presets from scratch that were much more acceptable (sound and playability). The sound quality of the unit (at least through headphones and the keyboard amp) is incredible. The editing and configuration control is outstanding. It tracks better than any hex-to-midi device I have ever used (GR-20, Axon), at least for the internal synth/cosm engines.
The GR-55 is a huge jump in Guitar Synth technology!
All you'll ever need
I got this new unit as soon as possible because i was tired of using my keyboard as my only midi-capable unit to hook to my computer. I've never used an earlier version so i'm not sure how this compares. After installing the GK pickup (a simple but tedious process) I just plugged it in and it was ready to go.
There are tons of sounds to go through, I've been using it non-stop for a few days now and haven't gone through half of them, but the presets are all good to play with so you don't have to mess with the details. It even has them categorized by lead, rhythm, and other for convenience. The sounds are all good. The strings aren't very realistic, but they're just basic synth strings so they work for basic stuff.
But besides the synth sounds, the amp/guitar modeling capabilities of this thing are amazing! Much better than i expected, and in fact if all you had was a fairly nice guitar and this, you could make it sound like you had hundreds of guitars, amps, and pedals. I've been using just the fx section without anything else and just that would be worth a large chunk of the price!
It only gets 4.5 stars though because the midi out works pretty slow (150 ms latency i would guess). But if you're not hooking it to your computer it works extremely fast by itself.
P.s. make sure you don't play sloppy like me, or else it'll have trouble picking up all your notes.
My GR-55 and GK-3
With many usefull tones and effects I find this unit a nice addition to my Church playing rig. The GR-55 is opening up many doors even for traditional style of hymns. And then if I need to rock it can do that as well and I love the metal tones and being able to edit them is a cool easy to use feature. Currntly I run the GR-55 through one amp and play my guitar through my half stack and with the GK-3 pickup I can mix the two tones or bypass one or the other. The GK-3 installed easily on to an Epiphone Les Paul though I do have concerns about the pickup wire as it placed where my hand rests on the tail piece. All in all this unit is a blast and easy to use and my next investment may be a synth access guitar!
Great guitar synth but some lits.
I"ve used the GR-55 in live applications for over a year now. I love the portability of this unit. It has replaced my VG-99, GR-33 and GR-30. There are great features with this unit but also there are some compromises I have had to make in order to use less gear. I use a vocal harmonizer and the GR-55 does not have midi transpose (GR-33 has it) so digitally transposed songs will not work with the vocal harmonizer. Also I am not super impressed with the piano sounds (GR-33 piano sounds, in my opinion, were better). Also I've found that the looper is not very practical and no harmonizer is also a setback. That being said, I expected some compromise by replacing 3 units with one. The GR-55 does a great job and I am able to get most of the sounds I am looking for. It's pretty easy to program, very durable and easy to set up. I use an FC-200 foot controller with the unit so that I can access 10 presets at once. I have programmed all my sounds (No Roland patches although the Roland V-Guitar Forum is a great tool to use with this unit). Tracking is fast and accurate and the guitar sounds and synth sounds are very good. In conclusion I would recommend the GR-55 very highly.
Way to complicated
I have been using a gr20 for several years. I had high hopes for the gr55 but find it very disappointing. I spent 4 hours trying to get delay on my actual guitar output with no luck. While the modeled sounds a good and the tracking is better the setup of patches is not user friendly. The banks on the gr 20 are set up by instrument type while the 55 is a jumble with no order at all. The unit makes it impossible to do quick edits on stage on the fly. I will stick with my Line 6 Pod x3 pro. I will be sending the gr55 back for a refund.