Buy it before you buy anything else
The first day I spent messing around with the HOG2 was greeted with disappointment. I was completely unable to find any settings that seemed interesting. I got more familiar with it the second day, and things took a far more positive turn. As I probed for some settings to store on the foot controller, I found all sorts of interesting sounds, from flute to xylophone to synth. Although it probably isn’t a true synthesizer from an engineering standpoint - I doubt there are any oscillators in it, for instance. Nevertheless, from a player’s point of view, the HOG2 adds selected harmonics, controls the envelope, and filters the output, and therefore should be considered a synthesizer in every functional standpoint that matters.
The price of the HOG2 may make some reluctant, but, given the degree to which it functions as a synthesizer, one is getting off cheap in comparison to a Roland guitar synth. The only cheaper route for guitar synthesis is a Line 6 FM4, but those are monophonic with occasionally questionable pitch-recognition. The HOG2 is fully polyphonic with exceptional clarity for each note strummed. I really enjoy playing chords with my flute sounds, for instance. Whatever process of digital modulation the HOG2 uses, there is no detectable lag time between playing notes and hearing notes and glitchy warbles simply do not occur.
The HOG2 can add parallel notes in harmonizer-like fashion, as one so desires. Alternatively, I have no idea what a “spectral gate” is, but when it’s on, it combines together all the notes into a single more complex timbre with added harmonics and overtones (something I’ve fiddled with on my own with combinations of harmonizers and ring modulators). The HOG2 is a culmination of everything Electro-Harmonix has learned from its own Superego, Micro Synth, and POG2. But the composite has its own unique character, and should not be thought of as simply a multi-effect. The Micro Synth remains interesting for its more dramatic filter sweep, and the POG2, for whatever reason, still produces a better organ sound. Nevertheless, if a guitar player is looking to maximize their access to a wide range of timbres, the HOG2 is priority number one.
The foot controller is absolutely essential for storing all the many favorite settings one will accumulate. My foot controller is actually filled up already with my hundred most favorite settings. The expression pedal is perhaps not as essential as the foot controller, but very desirable and very recommended all the same.