For over a thousand years (maybe even two thousand!), the practice of bloodletting has been piercing human skin all over the world.
What in Les Paul’s name does that have to do with the Digitech GSP1101 Guitar Preamp?? Stay with me…
Physicians usually used leeches for bloodletting – just plop them on the skin and let ’em suck. What could be easier?
Thankfully, we were born after the 1800s, so we know that having “too much blood” is probably not a valid reason for our ailments. So these days… all “suckers” are banished (too many years late for George Washington unfortunately)!
So I asked you then… why should we still let “sucking” happen with our guitar amps??!
Enter the GSP1101! It was also created post-1800s, to disallow for such travesties of tone. It’s been part of my main rig for almost a decade now, and I still wouldn’t have it any other way.
Wonder why?? Ohhh, that’s easy… !!
The Sound of Not Sucking
The GSP1101 was created for guitarists with great amps, plain & simple.
For players, like myself, who already love the tones we get through our Fender, Mesa Boogie, Vox, Marshall, Hiwatt, EVH or other amps, we merely want good effects to complement them, from a unit that WON’T SUCK TONE!!
I mean, if you’ve worked for years, maybe even decades, to find just the right amp for your signature sound, you don’t want some over-indulgent, blowhard of an effects unit to cover all that richness up, right?!
Getting this kind of transparency has been available for some decades, but it was usually at a high cost.
Then one day in 2006 along comes the 1101. Retail price? $499! Real “tone preservation” and clarity in a guitar processor was unheard-of that time, for that price.
In fact, it still is.
Gsp1101 is no longer made by DigiTech, and it’s really left a gaping hole in guitar processor marketing. There’s just nothing left that’s as good at staying out of your tone’s way at a low, reasonable price point.
The 1101 is a powerful unit from the get-go. Here’s a brief overview:
- Intuitive user interface with dedicated amp controls and LCD display
- 99 factory patches that don’t change
- 99 User patches for you to manipulate, or create from scratch, your own sounds
- Over 120 amp, cabinet, preamp and effects models including vintage stomp boxes and pickup modeling
- Stereo effects loop
- 40 Tone and 40 Effect Chain Libraries – 1600 exclusive DigiTech combinations
- Global EQ
- Balanced stereo XLR and 1/4″ outputs
- Chromatic tuner
- USB with audio streaming Editor/Librarian software included
- MIDI In / Thru
- Internal power supply
- Front panel guitar input and headphone output
- Footswitch and expression inputs
- Seamless preset changes
If that’s not enough, meaning you’re a “Super-Tweak! Super-Tweak! You’re Super-TWEAK-yyyyyy!!”, CLICK HERE to view the 1101 Manual!
Any mention of the 1101 to players who use it will uncork a gushing fountain of superlatives.
To see what I mean, go to any guitar forum and just type in ” gsp1101″. You’ll immediately see what I’m talking about.
Rave reviews! 5 star ratings! Pages of owner-created patches and “Impulse Response curves” for you to upload… usually for free!
DigiTech has created a real family around this piece of gear. It’s become kind of what the Yamaha ns10 speakers used to be in studios worldwide – preferred and ubiquitous!
But there’s a reason for us Avid fans, and it’s simply that DigiTech promised exactly what this unit delivers – top quality effects that never compromise your amp’s unique, throaty voice!
When I’m playing live, I never use any of the amp or cab modeling. I totally bypass all that, only using the typical effects that are needed in the pop/rock genre that I usually adhere to.
Instead, I let my amp’s tone, crunch, distortion and wailing lead gain structure fill the void with its signature EVH magnificence!
In the studio however, I often dial up plenty of emulated amps and cabs, seeking to find that perfect match of amp voice to song style and EQ.
The 1101 has never let me down on either front.
Your Effects Options!
The GSP1101 is chock-full of amplifiers, cabinets, stomp boxes, and digital effects.
Here’s the complete list of effects in the GSP1101:
- noise gate
- amp model
- cabinet model
- parametric EQ
Now, you don’t HAVE TO use the amps & cabs & stomp box effects that are in this puppy. After all, the reason most choose this unit is that they like the sound of their own amp & cab and only want to add some effects to their golden tone.
In that case, yes, you can simply turn off its amp and cabinet simulations globally and never have to deal with ’em.
But if you want to get daring, as I do occasionally, and use a sound that is completely different from your amp, leave ’em available, ‘cuz MAN, do you have choices!
Just in amps alone you get 36 different models! These emulate the famous tones that have come from amps by Vox, Fender, Marshall, Carvin, Mesa/Boogie, Matchless, Soldano…
Digitech also threw in some amp models that they designed themselves to round out your selection and give you more to choose from.
And cabinets? You can choose from 23 different cab types there, including:
- Fender Tweeds
- Vox AC15
- Vox AC30
… and more!
Editing on the Fly
To show you how simple, easy and effective editing on the fly is with the 1101, I’ve done this short video.
Once you get familiar with how these simple menus operate, you can really fly through any changes you need to make.
Check it out:
4 Cable Setup!
The 1101 is by far better suited for using the 4-cable Method of signal flow than most other processors in its price range. The engineers had this exact option in mind when they designed it, since the market for this unit was to be, came to be, and still IS, players that want the tone of their amp to shine through.
If you want a real detailed understanding of the 4-cable method, and why it’s the preferred route to go if you dig your real amp’s sound, spend a couple minutes with THIS POST. You’ll have all the info you need!
Suffice it to say this method was a breeze on the 1101. I think I may have been spoiled, it’s so easy.
The Controlling Foot
In the age of stage-encompassing guitar pedals, we would be remiss to not mention the outstanding foot controller that was designed for the GSP1101 – the “Control 2”!
I can’t imagine playing through my 1101 without this foot controller. Yes, you could have it on stage with you and manually change the settings or patches. Yes, you could have some MIDI controller that switches it all for you once you’ve spent a lifetime programming that.
But it’s soooooo much nicer just having all the controls right at your footsie-tips!
Everything is laid out so ergonomically on the control 2. Without a manual, makes sense in an instant just looking at it.
If you have a patch all pre-programmed with four or five effects, once you start to play through it you can take any of those effects in or out at the touch of a button.
The foot pedal also works really well. You engage it by pressing down at the top of the pedal.
I use the pedal mainly for volume swells and wah effect, though sometimes I still throw a Hendrix Dunlop wah at the top of my signal chain if I want Jimi’s particular wah vibe.
One excellent bit of engineering is that the cable they chose to connect the 1101 to the Control 2 pedal board is a Cat5e cable. You may have seen this cable type in use for Ethernet hookups.
That’s great, because those cables have NO deterioration of signal flow over long distances. I’ve got a 30-foot cable comin’ out of my 1101, and my footswitch presses are always immediate, no waiting at all!
The Control 2 remote controller retailed for $299 when it was still in production. These days you can still find them online occasionally, but they are harder to locate than the 1101.
You’ll also find that typically people are asking a lot more money for the controller than they are for the 1101.
It just goes to supply and demand. Lots of people bought the 1101 without the controller, easy to program from the face plate.
Best thing to do if you want one? Program a search into eBay that will send you an email whenever a control 2 appears. I’ve managed to find a lot of great gear at outstanding prices by doing this.
Can’t hurt, right? 😉
Take it… to the Limit… One More Ti – ime!
Very few pieces of music gear are perfect, and this preamp shows that it does have limits, mostly in that it can’t do EVERYTHING.
For example, if you want to use CHORUS, while at the same time using the WHAMMY or IPS effect… you’ll won’t be able to. That’s because those particular effects are within the same “block”, called “Chorus/FX”, and can’t be separated.
Also, you cannot run multiple blocks of the same effect on this unit . Once you have a delay engaged, for example, that’s it. You can’t add another delay after it.
Finally, although most sounds coming out of the 1101 sound amazing, there are a couple amp emulations that I think sound terrible. I have found an easy work-around though. Wanna know what it is??
Just DON’T USE ‘EM!! lol
For me, these were all trivial issues ‘cuz I’ve honestly never needed ’em. I’ve played thousands of songs in disparate genres and what the GSP brings has always been more than enough. But hey, YMMV.
Bye, Bye, Mr. Software Upgrade Guy…
No more upgrades on in the pipeline (unless Digitech employees fiddle around some more and upload some on “mustbebeta.com” (which for some reason is temporarily down as of this writing).
The last, greatest upgrade – version C63 which I have, added a whole new slew of user cab Impulse Response curves that really help to shape amp emulation tones down to exacting details. It also now can accept up to TEN custom User Cabinets IRs from other guitarist programmers. Real cool.
Most of us who’ve played through the 1101 for years think this upgrade is the reason why it’s stayed in the marketplace for so long.
You CAN, however, still upgrade and tinker with perfecting your tone for years to come, using IR sites like “Ownhammer.com”.
If you’re at all hesitant to get a piece of gear that’s no longer being made, I feel ya. It’s true that after a piece of pro audio gear goes out of production, you will no longer find much help from the manufacturer if trouble arises, unless you by luck score a new one that still has a warranty card. Then you’re set (Amazon has new ones today).
HOWEVER, there are so many 1101 fans on so many forums online that if you ever have an issue there’s probably someone there that can help you.
Repairs are another story. If you’re lucky, the company has lots of parts for repairs on a certain unit. Other times they have none. It really all depends on what they’ve kept in stock.
I had an 88-key Roland keyboard controller with weighted action keys a few years back, for example. When three crucial keys in the middle of the keyboard stopped working, I called Roland only to find out they had no parts. Zero. Zip. Nada.
Whether that’s true or not for the gsp1101, only time will tell. The good news is, after 10 years… my 1101 is still pumping out the jam with slick perfection!
So Many Sharin’ the Love…
There are SOOOO many people who think this unit is the fizzle-mo-shizzle! Just type in “GSP1101” into Google and read any of the Forums that come up there. From GearSlutz.com to Sevenstring.org, UltimateGuitar.com to theGearPage.com, you can read rave after rave about this unit.
One favorite thing players like to mention about this unit is the ability for effects tails, like reverb washes, to continue after you switch patches. It’s called “seamless preset changes”. This wasn’t available when it came out except for LOTS o’ cash.
Hard to believe it’s taken so long for all companies to make this standard, which it is mostly these days. Who wants your effects to suddenly STOP when you change patches?? Come on, people!
A Test for Your Ears!!
Okay, let’s have a bit of fun, shall we?!!
Today I found a video that puts the GSP1101 up against two of arguably the BEST guitar rigs on the market right now – the Kemper Profiler, and the Atomic Amplifire!
These three go head-to-head, recorded at the same time, via daisychaining the signal, and the results… well, let’s see!
I’ve downloaded here the AUDIO ONLY just for you. So do this: listen to these sound excerpts with a pencil & paper in hand. Each time a different set of three chords or licks plays, write down which of the three YOU thought sounded best. Let’s rock!:
Did you score ’em?? Okay, now that you’re done, go back and this time WATCH it. Write down which processors you actually chose.
Well?? What did your ears tell YOU was the winner??
Come back and tell us in the Comments! We’re dyin’ to know your final tally!!
What was mine? Well, let’s just say either I’m a creature of habit, or I have good taste. 😉
I prefer to think it’s the latter. Lol
Here was my final tally:
That makes the final score:
- GSP1101 with SEVEN points
- Kemper with FIVE points
- Amplife with TWO points
Is it any wonder I haven’t changed preamps in years??! Lol
The Crunch Chord Ending
That was fun. I think I’ll make more o’ those puppies. Fun, right?!
Well, when I first wrote this article, the Digitech GSP1101 was still, after 11 years, being sold on Amazon!
I just checked today though (March of 2019) and it looks like they’ve finally depleted all their 1101 inventory. I checked all the other other pro audio retailers and found the same thing.
I spoke with DigiTech and confirmed that they stopped production on the 1101. They also said that there is no design arriving soon to take its place.
That’s a shame because DigiTech had a real corner on the market with this ” save your tone” thing.
Moment of silence please.
One thing’s for sure: the gsp1101 will still be talked about for years to come. And, at least in my studio and live concerts, with my EVH 5150III,… it’ll still be HEARD!!
So are you thinking about getting a gsp1101?? Or maybe you found one for years and are a DigiTech veteran??
Whichever is the case, let us know by leaving a Comment. And don’t forget to tell us how you scored on those three preamps when you took our little survey.
For now though, keep chasin’ tone and keep dreamin’ big. ‘Cause you never know…
… with the right gear you can accomplish anything!!
Now, go… make… sounds!!