2019 is, thus far, the peak year for compact modelers. Once upon a time, if you wanted good modeling sounds and features onstage, you needed, at least, 2 rack spaces and a separate foot controller to switch. Fast forward to today, and there are a plethora of options on the market that are contained inside ever-shrinking footpedals, and they’re easier to use and sound better than ever.
One such option is the new HeadRush Gigboard. The smaller cousin of the full-size HeadRush Pedalboard, it boasts the same sounds and effects, with the only major differences being less I/O, fewer footswitches, and no built-in expression pedal (although there is a jack for you to use one of your own).
First, let’s take a look at all the things about the Gigboard that I liked. I’m immediately struck by the price – at $649 street, it beats out the larger Helix LT by a bit less than half, but is slightly more than the HX Stomp, which is significantly smaller and only has one fewer footswitch. It’s a lot of tech for your buck, and I think it will get the demographic of player who didn’t want to drop $1000+ on the Helix/HeadRush Pedalboard/Fractal AX8 into the game. It has a gig-friendly 4-button layout (I personally don’t need more than 4 patches per song, usually more like 3 – some people need more) with the option of 2 different layout styles (as of the most recent firmware update).
The touchscreen on the HeadRush Gigboard is off the fucking chain. I honestly didn’t even think to check to see if there was a desktop editor for like a month after I got it (there isn’t) because the touchscreen is so intuitive, responsive, and easy to use. The screen even looks amazing – it’s big, bright, colorful, and it jumps to carry out your commands. I feel like I could watch a movie on it and not be disappointed (next firmware update maybe?). There are only two knobs on the whole unit because there’s no need for more, you can do everything on the touchscreen, and you can do it fast.
So now let’s talk about the things that could be improved on the Gigboard. First of all, I think that on a modeler this size (which is small, but not that small in comparison to something like the HX Stomp or Mooer GE-200), XLR outputs could easily fit, and would increase the unit’s gig-readiness quite a bit. The ability to unplug the club’s cab mic and plug the XLR cable straight into your modeler would be a very useful upgrade.
Although the website describes how both HeadRush models are built around the Eleven HD Expanded DSP, and how the amp models were built practically from the ground up using only the “values from the measurements that were calculated when creating the original models”, the sims are still a bit stale sounding to my ears. All the amp models are of the same amps from the Eleven rack, just with the limitations of the old hardware lifted and refitted to the new DSP. I can’t imagine that they couldn’t have done some fresh modeling of those and other, new amps with new Possibly the most glaring omission is any kind or variation of 5150. There just – isn’t one. Nobody on the team creating the amp sims between when the Eleven Rack was released (2009) and when the Gigboard was released (October 2018) ever stopped the meeting to say, “Hey guys, we REALLY need to include one of the MOST POPULAR AMPS OF ALL TIME in this update, whaddya say?”. Like, they took the time to rebuild the entire architecture from the ground up but didn’t think to add or change any of the models? I’m not a programmer of any kind, so I don’t have a proper understanding of what it takes to do something like that, but let’s just say that in this area, in particular, I AM NOT IMPRESSED. (Update: they are apparently working on one for the coming firmware update.)
Although the touchscreen is the bomb, I think the way the amps and effects look on the screen could use some punching up. With how pretty and HD the screen looks, I was kinda disappointed in how the stompboxes were represented visually. Doesn’t affect the functionality at all, but maybe something worth investing in for the next update.
The HeadRush Gigboard is reasonably compact, competitively priced, and super, SUPER easy to use. I think it could use a couple improvements, but overall, for $649, it does pretty much everything you can do with the larger hardware modelers with style.