Roland GR55 guitar synth, now modified

I don’t play keyboards well so a guitar synth is useful for making all those non-guitar sounds from a guitar.  Even better if it can toggle between those and guitar sounds.

I had a Roland GR33 which was pretty good, especially with a Line AX2 212 combo I had at the time.  Not only did they converse via midi, but the guitar out went into the guitar input and the synth went into the full-range line input and both could be mixed.  It was a great gigging combination, very powerful.

Anyway, I sold the GR33 when I head about its successor, the GR55.

Roland GR-55 guitar synth

It took a while to source one – the Japanese Tsunami allegedly slowed production. H’mm. But it was worth waiting for.  It has four parallel channels : two synths, Roland’s COSM guitar modeller lifted from their ludicrously-priced VG-88 product, and guitar direct.  The processor is pretty powerful so the synth sounds and models are excellent.

You can use the unit as a guitar-driven synth, a good modeller and a multi-fx unit for guitar. All at once or individually.  The display is really big and visible for stage use, and for programming the user interface is much simpler than the GR33’s despite the unit’s much greater flexibility and processing power.  The tracking is spot on too – I usually play (much too) fast and I can’t shake it.

It’s a breeze switching from church organ to acoustic guitar to overdriven lead solo within a single bank of patches.  And you can output the guitar to your amp and the synths to the pa.  Good, thoughtful design. I  drive it with my trusty Roland-ready Strat with inbuilt GK2a hex pickup.

Then I read that you could modify the unit to accept regular guitar signals as long as you also added a small buffer to match impedances and maintain a decent clear tone, so I got 633 Engineering’s Cliff Brown to kindly to do the fairly straightforward mod for me, and here’s the result.

GR55 new inputsThe Roland blurb shows that the ‘guitar out’ jack is after input (obviously!), guitar and amp models and guitar fx, so in theory you can use the GR55 as a floor fx box.  In practice, this is NOT the case – the guitar out only carries the regular guitar input and any modelled guitars – not the amps or fx.

Nevertheless, in triamped combination with my Blackstar Series One 45 and my two Hughes & Kettner  Switchblade 50’s, it still provides a very good sounding and flexible setup.  An extra ‘out’ has also been added to an external stompbox – like a really good drive – can be added to the rig when using the Roland-ready Strat with the hex pickup.

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