The Zoom GCE-3 is an ultra-compact USB-powered audio interface and digital multi-effects processor. Able to fit in the palm of your hand or in a pocket, the device works in conjunction with Zoom’s Guitar Lab Software.
The onboard DSP lets you dial in sounds with near-zero latency, and it records to a computer via a single USB-C cable. It features a 1/4-inch input for your instrument, an aux-in jack for external connectivity, 1/8-inch mini headphone and volume out, USB connection, power indicator and an external 5V DC connection. The Zoom Guitar Lab for Mac/Windows is a free download, and it includes a free Cubase LE download.
Note that this is not a standalone unit; it must always be connected to a computer. As an audio interface, I was able to select it in Pro Tools and record directly through the Guitar Lab Software. However, my HD I/O is no longer in the picture at that point, which means I have to use the GCE-3 as the physical output, running either to speakers or via headphones. For my use, I connected it via stereo 1/8-inch mini to a pair of good preamp channels and dialed it up “analog.” This gave me the most flexibility and allowed me to use my rig in the way I was used to—and since this is a 44.1/24-bit kHz box, I was able to record at higher frequencies.
The Guitar Lab software, which works with a number of compatible Zoom effects products, is quite easy to use. The built-in DSP handles the processing for circuit emulation of the Zoom G5nn, G3n, B3n, G1 FOUR, G1X FOUR, B1 FOUR and B1X Four, each available via drop-down menu at the top of the GUI. The Effects, Patch and Editor tabs let you navigate around to find the sounds you need and tweak accordingly. You are able to see the amount of memory used, and you can swap out, drop in or save/reload effects and patches. There’s a tuner available as well as a tempo button.
Simply put, there are some great sounds in here. Zoom GCE-3 offers a huge selection of presets, as well as many options for amps, cabinets, stomp pedals, delays and verbs. Right out the gate, I plugged in a D’Angelico guitar and jumped into a funky patch that featured AutoWah, some Boost, a Phaser and some Reverb. Taking just a minute to turn down the gain on the Boost while turning up the Volume, and switching the reverb to Room and turning that up to 82 percent in the mix, I had a sound cool enough to save as a preset. Pushing through many of the other presets, this thing can get me through quite a lot of TV cues, from ambient Edge-like delay patches to pitch-shifted hard and heavy sounds.
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When writing music, I will use anything that gets me from A to B and works for the track. While this little box may not have “pro features” externally, it serves a powerful purpose to let guitar and bass players interact with their computer and dial up some really good sounds. A mobile composer myself, I will absolutely use this not only when space is at a premium, but anytime I want some cool guitar sounds on the go. Combined with the Guitar Lab Software, this little guy—which you can pick up for under $100—packs a big punch.
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