With its impressively fast tracking system and analogue synth-like sounds, this is a guitar synth with which guitarists can finally feel at ease.
Many seem to think guitar synths too complicated, too slow or too unreliable, but Boss's new SY‑1000 might just change that: not only does it offer more analogue synth-like sounds than their previous devices, but it also responds really well to your playing — and it doubles up as a good effects processor to boot. You can clearly see aspects of this pedal that have evolved from Roland's COSM guitar modelling, Boss's SY‑300-style 'normal guitar' synthesis, and their GT‑1000 effects processor, but there's also a new GK-driven synth engine here. It's based on custom 48kHz/32-bit DSP circuitry that we're told is six times more powerful than what's used in the SY‑300. While it's undoubtedly the exceptionally fast and reliable tracking of the new hex-pickup-driven Oscillator synthesizer that sets this instrument apart from its predecessors, the sounds themselves are a big improvement on the mostly sample-based offerings of previous Roland guitar synths. Everything is much more like an analogue synth — for example, when editing the sounds you'll find all the familiar analogue waveforms and resonant filter options at your disposal.
The SY‑1000's top panel sports eight assignable footswitches, and above these a large LCD is joined by a modest number of buttons for patch navigation, page selection and editing, and six turn-and-press encoder knobs. The encoders, arranged beneath the screen, access the adjacent on-screen parameter, and there's also a master output level control in the top right-hand corner. By default, the footswitches select four patches, step up or down through banks, and provide two control assignments (for things such as switching rotary speaker speed, part muting, hold, and pitch gliding), but they can be reassigned to other functions. Each footswitch has an LED bar indicator that changes colour according to the selected function. There's also a Manual switching mode, providing fast on/off switching for the individual voices that make up a patch.
On the rear are stereo Main and assignable stereo Sub outputs, an Effects Loop, and five-pin MIDI I/O DIN sockets. A USB socket provides a connection for the Mac/Windows software editor, allows the SY‑1000 to act as a direct recording/MIDI interface, and caters for firmware updates (I updated to v1.03 for this review). There are also two dual control inputs (TRS jacks), allowing up to four controllers or switches to be connected. A TS jack input caters for conventional guitars/basses, and there's a 13-pin input for GK pickups. (If you use a GK pickup, set its selector switch to its mid position to send both the Hex pickup and the regular guitar sound to the SY‑1000 via the 13-pin cable.) Global settings allow the output to be EQ'd to suit different types of amplifier, including guitar or bass combos and PA systems, but for the best results a full-range, flat-response keyboard- or PA-speaker is recommended. While the Main and Sub outputs are normally used for stereo signals, they can be reconfigured as four...