Sep 2, 2010

Every effect manufacturer, from tiny boutique companies to huge multinational conglomerates, makes at least one distortion pedal.  So when Fulltone announced the GT500, my first question was: “why?” Why are they competing with their own product line–which already contains some great distortions, overdrives, and fuzzes–in a market that could already be described as saturated?

I did a little research and decided to try it out. Essentially, the GT500 is two effects combined in one sturdy steel enclosure: an overdrive/boost and a distortion. The unit’s controls are simply laid out, and even a novice user should be able to plug it in and start without even glancing at the manual. The really ingenious feature of the GT500 is a tiny toggle switch that allows you to decide the signal path—whether it goes from overdrive to distortion, or vice-versa.

But enough about design. What does it sound like? The overdrive section is fairly transparent; it can give you everything from a gentle push for your preamp tubes to an absolutely alarming amount of volume, without drastically changing your tone. The EQ controls are effective, without being extreme. I was able to find a setting that I liked pretty quickly. The distortion side does exactly what it should – provide a ton of gain and volume with some radical EQ options. The real magic with GT500 comes when you turn on both sections and start experimenting with the signal path toggle switch. With the distortion first, adding in the overdrive/boost gives a great lift for soloing or from transitioning from verse to chorus. Alternatively, with the overdrive section feeding into the distortion, this pedal becomes a totally different animal. The signal becomes super-compressed and fuzzed out.

With a little experimentation, the GT500 goes from mild-mannered bus driver to evil scientist. There are two things that the GT500 will not do for you. One: It will not make you metal. Even at its most distorted, the GT500 has a fuzzy, indie-rock feel. Think Big Muff, not Metal Zone. Two: It will not make a bad amp sound good. This unit works with your amp, not in spite of it. If your amp sounds bad, the GT500 will not fix it. Unless you’re the kind of player that spends your evenings shredding Anthrax riffs through your Crate amp, I recommend giving this box a try. – Matt Kane

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