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Audiofanzine FR 12/11/2008

Rocktron Utopia G300 : Audiofanzine FR's user review

4

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(Originally written by pierrelaforge/translated from Audiofanzine FR)
Description: The Rocktron Utopia G300 is a simplified Prophesy in footboard format. The controls are similar but with less settings (e.g. in the EQ section: frequencies and Q are fixed). The unit is totally digital and has no tube inside (unlike the Prophesy) so some distortions sound cold and unreal. However it does add something new in relation to the Prophesy: it has a new preamp simulation (the SCORCH named RECTO in the user's manual) which is quite good for aggressive and fat rhythm parts (the sound is violent and well rounded but a bit too synthetic). The best preamp in distortion mode is the MEGA (specially for lead parts). On my monitor speakers, it sounds very good with the speaker simulation (boost bass and reactance and attenuate the mids).

Connections: very comprehensive with two jack outputs (to play with two amps or with a stereo P.A. system), FX loop (to connect your favorite overdrive or distortion pedal, for example, or to use the preamp stage of your amp), headphone output, MP3 player input (to play with your favorite songs), two MIDI connectors (the G300 can be used as a MIDI footboard but I haven't used this function) and USB port for direct recording into your DAW (not tested either).

Very rugged steel housing: you immediately see that the unit is sturdy... but it's also a bit heavy!

I give it 9/10 because I miss a 12AX7 tube (like in the Prophesy) to get a warmer sound. It was made in Asia and there are a couple of details that remind you that, like the cheap "store" button. My Voodu was made in the USA (it's one of the first series) and you can see that in the manufacturing quality...

UTILIZATION

The unit is very easy to use especially for people who already know Rocktron products (I also own a Voodu Valve for my home studio). The top panel is a copy of Rocktron's rack versions with three controls (for selecting and setting parameters), one "store" button, etc. Typical Rocktron. But I miss a "compare" button (convenient for A/B check when you edit a preset) and a "simu on" LED (that indicates if the speaker simulation is on). But it's not really that important.

The expression pedal can be assigned to virtually every effect parameter. For example you can assign it to the distortion's gain! The unit provides classic effects like wah-wah and whammy (which sounds like the original whammy and is very effective!).

The blue display is really nice. The footswitches are illuminated (very convenient on stage).

You can use the device in two different modes:

- Auto Mode with patches and sound banks (virtually instant switching, however you can hear a small volume loss for a few milliseconds);

- Manual Mode that allows you to switch on each effect with your feet (delay, reverb, modulation, etc.).

The tuner function is not very accurate and must be used playing the 12th fret... Rocktron should improve this, a lot.

I give it 9/10 because of the tuner.

SOUND QUALITY

With a P.A. system or monitor speakers, and the speaker simulation the sound is quite good but a bit too digital. You can easily recognize the typical Rocktron sound (specially with distortion presets). Take enough time to edit the unit: especially with the MEGA preamp, the speaker simulation (mic position: +4, reactance: +4), and good EQ settings (low and high at 9.0, contoured mids), you get the famous "rooaaar" distortion sound I like so much. But the lead sound is much colder than that of my Voodu Valve US with Sovtek 12AX7-LP (there is simply no comparison). It sounds tighter and not so fat, and it has less sustain. Pinch harmonics are not as easy and their sound is less musical. On the other hand, sharp rhythm parts (a bit too cold) sound better than with the Voodu (which has a more vintage sound...).

With a guitar amp the distortion sounds a bit digital too and if you add the speaker simulation you get a warmer but less dynamic sound. With a tube amp, the sound is ok but still digital... It has not enough punch and it is too clean.

Like most Rocktron racks, I think this unit will really show what it can without speaker simulation, but with a good power amp (Mesa 20/20 or Velocity 100/120/150 for people with smaller budgets) and 12" speaker cabinets.

If you use it with a guitar combo:

- Don't connect the FX loop return (serial loop mode) to the amp input;

- Another solution: the 4-cable wiring. Connect the guitar to the footboard's input, the footboard's FX loop send to the amp's input, the amp's FX loop send to the footboard return and the footboard's output to the amp's return. That way you'll be able to use the distortion of your amp and the footboard's effects (boost function included).

I give it 8/10 because of the cold distortion sound. Use this unit with a power amp to get the best results.

OVERALL OPINION

I've been using it for a few days only so I will update this review as soon as possible.

This unit sounds much better with my monitor speakers and the speaker simulation than with my guitar combo (even though it's all-tube), except when I use the "4-cable wiring" to keep the preamp stage of my amp in the signal path... which is possible thanks to the footboard FX loop. The unit sounds best with a power amp and guitar cabinets.