Updated: Feb 12
Mooer GE300, amp modeller and multi-effects to boost your guitar arsenal to the stratosphere.
Again Mooer Audio tops itself bringing a mammoth device to take your guitar dreams to the next level. Known for their mini pedals and for recently dabbling into the multi-effects and amp modelling arena, the company has recently launched the GE300. It is aimed at the same spot occupied by Line 6 Helix, Headrush, Fractal Audio FX8/AX8 and many others.
This shiny and robust piece of gear responds to the growing demand for tone versatility allied with portability. Before anyone asks, yes, firmware upgrade is the new replace a valve. This seems to be an unstoppable trend in the guitar business. Even major bands are now using these devices online instead of the good old Marshall stack. Well let's see what this one brings to the table.
Why would you want it ?
There’s a few scenarios where a floor amp modeller and multi-effects is handy:
· As your only source for guitar tone. It is not as portable as compact models such as the Mooer GE200 or the Line 6 HX Stomp. It is still small enough to fit a gig bag and might as well be your ultimate guitar tone device;
· As your Home Recording Studio USB interface if you don’t have one. You could record your guitar without the need for a separate interface. If all you do is practice your guitar and occasionally record it in your DAW, this could be it;
· As your effects box in your pedalboard, in addition to other pedals. The GE300 does support the 4-cable method, so it can be combined with the amplifiers you already love;
· Playing live. It has a mode to disable the cabinet simulation in case you want to send one of its outputs directly to a stage amp while performing. The other output can be sent to the PA system with the cab simulation on.
On the USB front, It will output two channels to your DAW, allowing you to either record the output in stereo if you’re using stereo effects, or dual mono with dry and processed versions of the signal. Yep like on the GE200, you can go to the system menu of the unit and disable the effects in one or both outputs, so you can use it as a DI Box to capture a dry guitar signal alongside the processed one.
The stand out features are really the synth and the tone capture blocks. We will discuss these in a bit more detail further down this article, but I would say that Mooer has been brave enough as it's the first company to release some sort of tone capture in such a cost oriented unit. Kemper are the market leader in this area, but their devices are more amp-specific and cost more.
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Look And Feel + User Interface
The Mooer GE300 is a bit smaller than its direct competitors, and it looks very well finished and robust.
It delivers 10 footswitches which can be assigned to effects, patches, tuner and looper, all supported by coloured LEDs to make your on-stage tap dancing efforts a bit easier. It also contains direct switches for every effect in the signal chain, knobs for adjusting volume and parameters, and a very usable expression pedal.
The large colour LCD is becoming a staple in units of this kind, and clearly shows the patch being played or its signal chain, allowing for on-the-fly customisation and adjustment of settings.
The whole look and feel is of a 'larger' GE200, which brings the feeling that Mooer are serious about their product line-up and may have even more ambitious releases in the horizon. The idea behind these products is to allow full configuration and visualisation of effects and modelling right in the unit. In addition, the Mooer GE300 Studio app extends the functionality to a PC or Mac via USB connection.
Our view is that ground up patch creation is easier via the Studio app, and further tweaking is probably easier if done directly on the unit while playing. The nomenclature between them is quite consistent, so it's quite easy to alternate back and forth until you reach the ones you want.
On the I/O front it has a clear advantage over the GE200, as the effects send and return allows insertion of your own effects in the chain or the use of your own amps via the 4-cable method. It can also connect to professional PA and monitors via XLR, be inserted into a MIDI chain, or take line input instruments instead of guitar.
Effects and Presets
Loaded with a plethora of presets, this unit has tones for all tastes: rock, funk, world music, acoustic, you name it. The list includes classic amps such as Marshall JCM800 and Fender Twin Reverb, as well as iconic Ibanez Tubescreamer and a plethora of other effects. To understand the full list we recommend you go and download the PDF version of their manual – the onscreen names are just too short and sometimes might not entirely give away what the effect or amplifier are.
The presets don’t have the concept of snapshots or scenes, but can be tweaked on the fly by using the provided individual effects buttons explained before. This is not something you can do with your feet while playing, so do prepare your presets in advance and in the order you need them. As the preset switching is quite fast - albeit not gap free - you can make multiple copies of the presets you need and then save each one with different settings and different effects on and off so you can switch between them as if they were snapshots.
Our systematic approach to test the amp modelling and presets was to re-create the baseline used to test other models. So in the same fashion followed during our review of Line 6 Helix Native, we carefully recreated some of those favourite patches and loaded the accompanying IRs to get a good reference for comparison. The result is quite favourable and comparable with the market leaders we tried before. The number of blocks in the chain is sufficient, the processing is relatively glitch-free, and the cab modelling or IR option opens virtually infinite possibilities. Adding external effects in the chain is obvious enough, as two symbols which match the lettering in the physical unit can be shifted around in your signal chain to indicate where you want the signal tapped out, and where you want it to return to. All smooth and intuitive.
Synth sounds and Tone Capture
Probably the stand out features this unit has. It clearly shows Mooer's desire to face the global titans head on in what we consider to be tricky fields.
Synths are tricky due to the amount of processing blocks and the quality needed to achieve decent results. We've been experimenting with synths for decades. Melbourne even has a studio dedicated to these beasts, which was the subject of a recent AES meeting. But the issue is that sounding good is hard; a lot of synth based music sounds like a poor attempt to sound like an 80's pop band...
The Mooer GE300 achieves the job with reasonable results here. The synth block - one per patch and placed strategically as the first element in the signal chain - is quite flexible and configurable. The included presets provide flute sounds, violins, hammond organs and others, which can extend quite a lot your tone quest.
Tone capture is certainly a bold attempt, and is offered in three flavours: guitar, amplifier + stomp box, and IR. The easiest way to try this out is to capture the sound from one guitar and then play it back with another. For our tests we captured a Gibson SG playing from the bridge humbucker, and played the tone back with an Ibanez RG. The tone has to be placed in the chain as an effect and can be assigned to a footswitch so you can easily turn it on and off. Capturing amp and cab sounds are a more tricky endeavour which we will leave for future reviews.
Enough talking. Let's play.
Mooer are certainly becoming a powerhouse and the modelling space is getting crowded. We’ve pinpointed some of the standout features the Mooer GE300 has when compared with others:
· Remarkable look and feel and finishing;
· Expression pedal built in, usable and robust;
· Reliable footswitches and intuitive user interface;
· Ability to load new amp models and IRs;
· Synth and Tone Capture;
· Good overall sound and usability.
There is room for improvement in these areas:
· Snapshots or scenes;
· Support for FRFR speakers via AES/EBU digital links;
· More signal options when connected to a DAW.
Another great addition to this ever growing universe of modellers, where clever software and digital signal processing seems to be replacing some of the hardware from the past and projecting us into the future.